Cause marketing: A bra by any other color

2285544109_0aab5b967aI was too busy watching college football last night (priorities!) to notice all of the Facebook “bra color” status updates from my female friends. But I caught up on the meme this morning via Stephanie Smirnov’s post. She raises an excellent point: while it is a fun activity in the name of breast cancer awareness, what does it accomplish? Definitely check out the post on her blog. I left a comment that turned into a post in and of itself, so I’ve repeated it here:

Stephanie – your post brings up an interesting, tangential point. In all likelihood, this probably wasn’t an organized effort by a breast cancer-affiliated NFP. It was probably just one or two women who thought it would be fun and started spreading it among their Facebook friends (which is why it has all the characteristics of a good grassroots viral campaign, as you pointed out).

While we’d hope (and expect) that a planned marketing tactic from a large organization (NFP or not) would have a little more strategy behind it, including a call to action or other way to induce a behavior change among participants, this underscores that through social media, ANYONE can start a viral campaign in the name of “breast cancer awareness” or any other type of cause they’re passionate about.

That leaves the NFPs and organizations formally associated with these causes in an interesting position. In some cases, these homegrown campaigns will be fun and harmless (if not effective). But what if a similar meme were to spread that included incorrect information about a cause/issue? While one of the great aspects of social media is that your customers/stakeholders are empowered to market for you and spread your message across their networks, the drawback is of course that you’re not in control of your brand anymore.

It would be great to see an organization like the Susan G. Komen Foundation jump on this meme to turn it from a fun diversion into an actual force of good. What about partnering with Hanes to donate $1 toward breast cancer research for each color status update posted? Or creating some fun visual graphs of the breakdown of colors being reported and have people try to guess which is most popular (after making a donation or watching a short video on the importance of mammograms, e.g.)?

A lot of grassroots cause marketing like this meme probably won’t be as sophisticated and strategic as if an organization had thought through it as a campaign and defined goals for behavior change or donations or any other metric. But these “campaigns” can still draw a lot interest and participation and are a great opportunity for nonprofits and cause-related organizations to leverage the buzz created and transform it into community action.

Yes, I used the word leverage (cringe). But that’s exactly what organizations, especially nonprofits with limited marketing budgets, should be trying to do. If something like a Facebook bra color meme surfaces and becomes wildly popular– and is even slightly linked to breast cancer awareness– then breast cancer organizations should capitalize on it and give the meme the teeth (a call to action) that it currently lacks as a cause marketing campaign.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Image via Flickr user QueenBlingerie

Anatomy of a social media product launch: Screenr

Ever try to explain to someone over the phone how to do something online? Or try to walk someone through a Web-based process without being able to really show them what you’re talking about? I’ve used products like Adobe Captivate before to record screen activity, but it’s expensive and a bit cumbersome for simple screencasts.

screenr_logo_smallScreenr, which launched last week, is a free, Web-based screen recording tool that’s fully integrated with Twitter. But this post isn’t another Screenr review (you can get those from Mashable and a host of other places).

I contacted Gabe Anderson, director of customer advocacy for Articulate, the software company that created Screenr, and I asked him a few questions to understand how the company used social media channels to launch this new product.

Here’s what he had to say:

The launch of Screenr was completely organic; we did not hire an outside PR firm. Prior to the Screenr launch, a number of us at Articulate were already active on Twitter, so promoting a product tightly integrated with Twitter was pretty natural; the buzz on Twitter immediately spread like wildfire and hasn’t slowed down.

For this launch, we did not use any traditional channels like a press release. Along with promoting Screenr via Twitter, I also posted this blog entry, and my colleague Dave Mozealous posted this one, followed by a series of tips. My other colleague, Dave Moxon, also posted this blog entry with Screenr tips the day after the launch.

I asked Gabe how Articulate defined its target audience for the launch and how it approached them:

Our target audience is really wide: Pretty much anyone who uses a computer and has something to share visually with others, which is why Twitter users were a perfect target for Screenr. Key to the launch was the first review by the hugely popular ReadWriteWeb blog, which posted its review in conjunction with our official launch. We also had an existing relationship with @copyblogger (Brian Clark), who tweeted the launch news to his 31,000+ followers. And from there, we watched the tweets fly out nonstop.

Later that day, CNET picked up on the buzz and contacted our CEO, Adam Schwartz, via Twitter for the review and interview that was posted later on the day of our launch.

AdamScreenr

The next day, The New York Times online had syndicated the ReadWriteWeb review. Getting coverage in the NYT is pretty sweet. Not that I doubted it before, but once I saw that, I knew Screenr was going to be a really big deal.

I also had Gabe tell me about how Articulate is using Twitter to follow-up and respond to new Screenr users after the launch and how they plan to keep the buzz once the initial “launch glow” wears off:

A number of Articulate staff, including our CEO, our QA Manager, and I, actively monitor Twitter for all the Screenr chatter, engaging in dialogue directly with users who run into issues. We’re also using GetSatisfaction to collect feature requests and answer technical questions.

[Gabe created a screencast to explain to users how to do this:]

Screenr promotes itself: The more people use it to create screencasts, the more links we receive back to Screenr, and the more new users will continue to create screencasts. Additionally, we’ve already begun to heavily integrate Screenr with our daily interactions with the Articulate community: To answer customer questions via support cases, in our Community Forums, and in our Knowledge Base.

So with essentially no external agency support, the team at Articulate used internal and employee blogs and Twitter accounts to launch a product and within days received coverage from major industry blogs and mainstream outlets like The New York Times.

Not only did the team at Articulate generate some good press and general awareness about their new product, but they’re also continuing to use Twitter to monitor what users think of the service, help those who have issues, and gather feedback to incorporate into future editions. And you can bet that those users who get hooked on the Screenr interface and accompanying customer service may be inclined to try out some of Articulate’s other (revenue-generating) products, as well.

While the Articulate team definitely deserves kudos for a great launch, what does this mean for PR and marketing firms who are/were heavily involved in traditional product launches? Will more and more companies move to this model of an organic, in-house launch strategy? I think Articulate’s culture and tech/social media savvy employees certainly helped here, and many organizations wouldn’t have been able to pull it off as smoothly as the Screenr team did. But it does reinforce that not every organization needs scores of people or big budgets to successfully create buzz about a product.

Thanks to Gabe and Articulate for sharing the Screenr launch story!

Your day-by-day guide to social media

dotwMost of us aren’t lucky enough to have a personal assistant who maps out our schedule for us each week and tells us exactly where to go, when to be there and what to expect. With so much information on social media rip-roaring through the interwebz and changing constantly, it’s hard to keep up! But I’ve got your back. Take a deep breath and refer to this day-by-day guide to help you keep up with popular weekly goings-on in social media:

Sunday

#blogchat, 9 p.m. ET
Started just a few weeks ago when Mack Collier spontaneously added the #blogchat hashtag to one of his tweets, this Twitter chat has grown steadily in the last month. The unmoderated and free-flowing dialogue allows bloggers to discuss topics ranging from guest posting to how to promote a blog to blog analytics to ghost blogging. The most recent chat generated a 71-page transcript (!) that Connie Reece makes available at her site.

Also on Sundays, check out Social Marketing Update, a show on BlogTalkRadio produced by Ken English and Dr. Ron Capps (aka NicheProf) that airs at 12:30 p.m. ET (all episodes are archived at the site).

Monday

#journchat, 8-11 p.m. ET
PR professionals, bloggers and journalists alike participate in this weekly Twitter chat designed for these groups to learn about and from each other. It’s moderated by Sarah Evans, who collects questions through Twitter or e-mail leading up to the chat and then uses the @journchat account to ask selected questions to the group. It moves fast, so use TweetGrid, TweetChat, or a dedicated column in TweetDeck to keep up! The last 30 minutes are reserved for pitching – one pitch apiece, and no spam!

Tuesday

Social Mediasphere TV, 8 p.m. ET
Jim Turner, aka @Genuine, produces this weekly event that’s part radio show, part livestream, and part chat. He’s invited guests such as Amber Naslund, Keith Burtis and Micah Baldwin (who call in via Skype) to discuss topics like personal branding, what it takes to be a social media rockstar, and the ethics of Twitter. Jim’s humor (often self-deprecating), the insights from his guests, and the contributions from those participating via the online chat make this one a must-see.

Wednesday

Reading day
I used to love “reading day” in college, which was a more succinct way of saying “The University is giving you a day off from classes at the end of the semester to study for exams, but it’s really just an excuse for you to go out late on a weeknight and sleep in the next morning.” Spend Wednesday catching up on all the posts that have piled up in your feed reader. Check out Jeremiah Owyang’s weekly digest of the social networking space (published on Sundays) and browse through Mashable‘s feed to see what’s new. And of course, catch up on all those tweets you favorited (as a way to bookmark for later) that include links to great blog posts recommended by those you follow.

Thursday

For Immediate Release/The Hobson & Holtz Report Podcast
This podcast actually comes out twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson have been producing this series for four years. Each podcast episode is approximately an hour long and topics focus on the “intersection of online communication and public relations.” Interviews, book reviews and speeches/speakers from a variety of communications conferences are also often included in the podcast, which you can subscribe to via RSS or iTunes.

Friday

#followfriday
I’ll admit that this Twitter trend has seemed a bit tired lately – especially when people simply tweet lists of follower names with no recommendation or rationale for why you should follow someone. It can border on spamminess. Essentially the idea is that you recommend people you think others should follow by adding the #followfriday hashtag to your tweet containing their user name. I’ve gotten away from doing this lately, but I still do discover new people every week based on recommendations. Twitter has discontinued listing #followfriday as a trending topic on its home page, but you can still check out the stream of recommendations by typing #followfriday into Twitter search, or you can check out TopFollowFriday.

Saturday

Dude, get a life. It’s Saturday. Go outside. Call your mother. Drink a beer.