The Promise of Advertising in Social Media

In a Web 2.0 world, advertising exists in an interactive environment characterized by user control, freedom, and dialogue. In this context, advertising means inviting the consumption of branded experience, ideas, and knowledge, engaging consumers, and inspiring interaction. It is no longer appropriate to serve up advertising as an interruption in the lives of consumers but, rather, to position brands as contributing members of vibrant, social communities.

Social brands contribute to communities by developing opportunities for interactivity, emphasizing the brand’s relevance to individual members and the community at large, monitoring branded community assets (like profiles in social networks and facilities in virtual worlds) for needed maintenance, responding to feedback, providing new content over time, and always finding ways to show the community that the brand values the relationship. No matter the range of social-media outlets used in a social campaign, whether social news and bookmarking sites, virtual worlds, social networks, or blogs and wikis, brands must remember the community exists for the sake of community-not for the sake of branding.

People do not join a community to interact with a brand. They join to be a part of something. They join to make friends, share stories, have fun, publish creative work, have a voice, and to take part in the relational activities that make life interesting and enjoyable. They join for social support and to feel the comfort of contact. They join to get to know others and to let others know them. For a brand to succeed in a social community, the brand must be part of the community.

How can brands benefit from the social context of online communities? For brands to benefit from this phenomenon, they must invite consumer participation and encourage consumers to engage. Brand democratization is the invitation to consumers to participate in creating and then experiencing a brand’s meaning, particularly within a social context. What happens when brands develop a reputation for embracing a social culture characterized by an appreciation for authenticity, transparency, participation, infectiousness, and advocacy? What happens when brands enter online social communities — social networks, virtual worlds, social news sites, community review sites, and communities of gamers — as contributing members, as sponsors, and as friends? Consumers embrace roles. They become content creators, storytellers, advocates, and communication vehicles. They seek out opportunities to immerse themselves in imaginary worlds, social fiction, and games, which are fortified, sponsored, and enhanced by brands. This is the promise of advertising in social media.

Starbucks Converts Consumers to New Coffee Blend via Mobile

Starbucks is enticing consumers to try its Blonde Roast coffee via a new marketing effort that centers around mobile and social.

The company is running the mobile campaign within Pandora’s iPhone application. Starbucks has used mobile advertising and social media heavily throughout the past few years as a way to reach consumers no matter where they are.

“Starbucks has always been a leader and star in the mobile advertising market- Starbucks is a pioneer in mobile advertising in 2012 and over the past few years,” said Isabella Lin, content director at Appitalism.

“The new Starbucks campaign about its Blonde Roast blend is different from any other campaign,” she said. “It’s literally and actually does drive consumers into Starbucks stores.

“Starbucks’ new campaign successfully uses the mobile platform to generate store sales.”

Ms. Lin is not affiliated with Starbucks. She commented based on her expertise on the subject.

Starbucks did not respond to press inquiries.

Mobile blend

The Starbucks mobile ad reads “Blonde Roast. Converts Wanted.”

When consumers tap on the mobile ad, they are redirected to the company’s mobile-optimized site where they can learn more about the Blonde Roast blend.

At the landing page, users are met with a message that reads “Make someone smile. Send them a light note. Due to popular demand all of our free cups of easy-drinking Starbucks Blonde Roast have been claimed, but you can still share a “Light Note” with a friend to brighten his or her day. Get started.”

From there, Starbucks aims to build a social relationship with consumers by re-routing them to its Facebook page.

By doing so, the coffee giant is building a presence on a variety of channels.

Starbucks is also advertising on Twitter to further get consumers amped up about its Blonde Roast.

Past efforts

Starbucks has been making mobile a critical part of its overall strategy.

The company has been using different channels such as augmented reality, mobile advertising, SMS and QR codes to promote its products.

Last year, Starbucks used SMS to encourage consumers to sign up for its My Starbucks Rewards program via an in-store calls to action.

The company also used mobile and social media to increase in-store traffic and drive awareness through a partnership with foursquare.

Most recently, Starbucks continued to make a name for itself in the mobile space with an initiative within People’s mobile site.

“With this Starbucks campaign, users may click ‘shopping online,’ providing consumers with an extremely convenient option,” Ms. Lin said. “Starbucks’ new campaign not only provides convenience for consumers but at the same time this it is well designed.

“The giant font occupies the entire screen as well as those cute images by the side,” she said. “Those cute images skillfully and naturally integrate with the giant advertising words ‘make someone smile, send them a light note.'”

Rimma Kats is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York

How to Choose the Best Social Network For Your Content

According to a recent report from the Content Marketing Institute, the average B2C marketer uses four social media networks to distribute content, whereas the average B2B marketer uses five—five networks, five distinct audiences.

As marketers, it’s important to be aware that not all social networks are equal. Each network has its own audience, and the content you share on one may not be as relevant as it is on another. To get the most bang for your buck, you must share the right content on the right channel.

How do you choose the best social network for your content? Read more…

RIP LinkedIn Answers

LinkedIn will pull the plug on LinkedIn Answers, its Quora-like Q&A service, on Jan. 31.

The company sent an email to LinkedIn users on Thursday explaining the move. A LinkedIn rep sent the following statement:

“As of Jan. 31, LinkedIn Answers will be retired from LinkedIn. We will be focusing our efforts on the development of new and more engaging ways to share and discuss professional topics across LinkedIn. In the meantime, members can still pose questions and facilitate professional discussions through other popular LinkedIn channels including LinkedIn Polls, Groups, or status update.”

The apparent reason for the move: It was driving fairly limited engagement.

The company introduced LinkedIn Answers in 2007. The product let you post a question to your network (including second-level connections) and let other LinkedIn users provide answers. Questioners could rank the best answers and the person who provided the best answers would carry more weight for future Answers.

Amy Vernon, gm for SocialMarketing for Internet Media Labs, wrote in a blog entry that she’s going to miss the product: “Maybe not everyone who uses LinkedIn uses the section. The people who do use it, however, find great value, and there are many. When I answered a question there after I was laid off from my newspaper job a few years ago, that led to one of my first consulting gigs, which in turn led me to the path I walk now. So, sure, part of it is likely sentimental. I can be like that sometimes.”

The move comes after Facebook announced last October that it was shutting down its Questions product. Like LinkedIn Answers, Facebook Questions never managed to replace Quora, which had around 1.5 million monthly visitors as of last July.

Todd Wasserman, Mashable marketing editor & Scrabble enthusiast

Facebook Cover Photos Are Disappearing

In the scope of a couple of days, several people — including Mashable staffers — have seen their Facebook cover photos disappear without explanation. The issue appears to be a move by Facebook to aggressively crack down on images that are considered promotional.

I first encountered the issue yesterday when Facebook ostensibly removed a promotional still from the TV series Doctor Who that I used as a cover photo. When I attempted to upload another image, I saw this message:

Pick a unique photo from your life to feature at the top of your timeline. Note: This space is not meant for banner ads or other promotions. Please don’t use content that is commercial, promotional, copyright-infringing or already in use on other people’s covers.

Since we published the original article about the incident, several readers have come forward, reporting the same thing happened to them in the comments. In addition, three other Mashable staffers reported Facebook removing their cover photos in the last 24 hours.

When asked if there was some kind of crackdown going on, a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable via email that Facebook’s policies regarding photos and cover photos haven’t changed. Facebook’s terms of service specifies that a cover photo should be a “unique image that represents your Page.”

The exact reason why Facebook removed each cover is a mystery, since the user is not informed, except by the glaring empty space where the photo used to be. It could be due to a copyright violation or that the photo was deemed to “promotional.” Although Facebook removes the photo from the cover position, it doesn’t actually delete the photo itself.

“Facebook is in business to make money,” says Lou Kerner, a former social media analyst and founder of the Social Internet Fund. “The great thing about that is most ways they’re going to make money is by letting people do what they want — as long as it doesn’t break the law. For the most part, if they act in the user’s best interest, they act in their own best interests.”

While I speculated Facebook was removing cover photos to prevent the site from becoming too tacky, one of Mashable’s commenters suggested Facebook was looking to preserve its business model. After all, if brands recruit “ambassadors” by encouraging — or paying — them upload promotional cover photos, that would detract from Facebook’s own tools that are meant to help brands engage with their fans on the service.

Disney, for example, offers fans of its franchises images to download that are specifically formatted for Facebook Timeline. If this is indeed a crackdown, that practice could cease.

“That seems more heavy-handed than Facebook generally acts,” says Kerner. “That sounds very egregious to me in terms of how they want brands and people to interact. I don’t see how Facebook benefits by not allowing a brand’s fans to engage with the brand like that.”

How widespread is the practice? It’s hard to say from the evidence so far, but based on Twitter reactions over the last day, it’s definitely been happening regularly. Although some users say the removed photos were their own, the pattern that seems to be emerging is that the photos are either promotional or violate copyright.

Pete Pachal is a Tech Analyst at Mashable.