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Ten Seconds Or Less

SnapChat is like The Little Engine That Could. Its rivals pulled out all of the stops to buy it, duplicate it, replace it and eradicate it – yet the network is still popular.

What’s interesting about SnapChat is its perception, which, for lack of a better term, snaps back and forth in terms of good and bad press.  The early days of SnapChat led many to believe it’s purely an app for all kids to “sext.” And every few weeks, there’s some sort of SnapChat privacy story – various articles on how safe those snaps are (or aren’t,) an actual data breach, or how legal the content of snaps may be.  In a post-Snowden world, these types of privacy breaches would be a kiss of death. Yet the network continues to persevere for its users.

Last week, SnapChat’s founders were on the cover of Forbes’ 30 under 30 – among other things, sharing how Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg essentially bullied the founders to sell to him or face extinction through Facebook’s version of the app Poke. As we now know, Poke fizzled and SnapChat thrives.

Now the startup, like many other networks in the space, is looking to monetize through advertising.  Yet the network needs to find a genuine way to make these ads happen, with content that people actually want to see.  HBO, always one of the boundary pushers in new avenues for social advertising, launched a SnapChat account tied to its popular show “Girls.” The extension is perfect for the show, as one can easily imagine the characters attempting to decipher what their potential suitors are implying by snapping emojis of pandas and guns.

While many critics, professional and amateur, are quick to remind everyone that SnapChat’s founders each passed on more than $750 million in Zuckerberg’s buyout offer, the network’s popularity among users is as great as it’s even been.  It goes to show that a brand can overcome bad press and a potentially bad reputation by sticking to the company’s brand and messaging. Yet so far, SnapChat may need to work on its sincerity when accepting its flaws, and there have been more than a few instances recently.  One could chalk up this up to the brashness of Silicon Valley hotheads – call it growing pains. Finding your voice and credibility is not easily done in today’s hyper reactive world – particularly when there can be so much on the line – and minor stories can explode into “national scandals.” That’s not to say every brand can survive bad press; it requires buzz, a dedicated following and a little bit of luck – but it is indeed possible.

We’re looking forward to following SnapChat’s business evolution in the coming weeks and months.

The Holy Grail of Social Media: Creating Relevant Content in Real Time

The curious thing about social media marketing is that there is no right way to do things. There’s no wrong way, either. It’s still very much the Wild West – with no Sheriff in sight.

I wrote earlier this year about the Oreo “Dunk in the Dark” tweet as the most-talked-about branding execution of the Super Bowl. This one tweet in fact amplified the conversation around “Real-Time Social Marketing” – with nearly every conference of the year including some panel discussion about the hot topic.

However, real time marketing isn’t new; we’ve just never had the tools to make it as easy as it is now. If anything, Disney recognized the power of original, brilliant real-time marketing during major events – including the Super Bowl – before social media existed. For instance, the “I’m going to Disney World!” spots, which would air immediately following national sports championships with in-game footage and jubilant cry, represents a simpler era in real time marketing. 

Times have changed, and it’s now much simpler and less expensive to create content in real time that can be buzz worthy. Yet, as brands try to insert themselves into the conversation of non-branded events, one has to ask if they should. Everything from the birth of Prince George, to the anniversary of September 11, to the finale of Breaking Bad sees brands trying to catch the lightning-in-a-bottle effect that Oreo captured in February. Such activity begs the question though: What is the exact relevance?

I’m not suggesting brands should stop, because it’s well known they won’t. Brands must, however, think about what makes sense for what it already stands for as well as its target demographic. Like PR, there is a time and place to be part of the conversation, but it shouldn’t be for every single event. For instance, Chips Ahoy tweeting about The Walking Dead just doesn’t fit in.

What might make more sense is for Hyundai, which is a sponsor for The Walking Dead, to tweet about its car and marketing campaign tied to the show. While Chips Ahoy is trying to be a part of the buzz without being an official sponsor, it doesn’t come across as an authentic, unique and relevant integration. Instead it feels like a brand forcing itself on you and, in some circumstances, embarrassing themselves.

At the end of the day, the Holy Grail of digital, social, and really all marketing/PR initiatives is to achieve the “viral” recognition – for the right reasons. So very few achieve it, and more brands achieve it for the wrong reasons.  While that doesn’t mean not to try, it needs to be an acceptance of all the varying factors that play into viral success – many of which are completely out of your control. There is no one formula for success (or failure) but with a little bit of luck, you might just pull off something amazing.  

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