The best social media marketing.

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Image via: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevegarfield/

We recently went through a fairly lengthy process of weeding through hundreds upon hundreds of examples of social media marketing done by companies to find the best for a client presentation. It was tedious beyond belief because there’s actually quite a lot of crap. I’m guessing there’s probably a similar search or two going on out there at the moment, so I thought I’d share our best of list, You may not agree but at least it might save you some time.

We used a variety of different sources. One was Peter Kim’s excellent social media marketing wiki, but mostly we just trawled through our various RSS feeds and so on (surely we can automate this sort of thing one day?) So here goes in no particular order:

Adobe on delicious: http://delicious.com/adobe
This is really smart, basically they’re bookmarking all the best Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, etc. tutorials out there. They’re driving traffic to these content creators from their 2700 fans (and their networks) and they’re maintaining a master list of the best how-to information on their products.

NYT Firefox Plugin: http://timespeople.nytimes.com/home/about/
I think this is smart because they’re turning the experience of reading the Time online into a social one. Using the plugin you can see what you friends are reading and share your stories with them. It unearths valuable data that helps me decide what to read. (The NYT and The Guardian are light years ahead of the pack – while the rest of the industry are whining these two are just getting on with it.)

My Starbucks Idea: http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/
Dell Ideastorm: http://www.ideastorm.com/
Not much to say about these that hasn’t been said but still, they’re very good and even after all this time, fairly well trafficked.

Intuit Tax Wiki: http://www.taxalmanac.org/index.php/Main_Page
This is actually a wiki for tax professionals. I think it’s genius, Intuit offers them a service by helping them stay current and in return gets free tips and advice from tax pros all over the country to help improve its consumer products. This is new marketing thinking at its best.

Urban Outfitters Flickr pool: http://www.flickr.com/groups/79323077@N00/
Urban outfitters customers and fans post pictures of themselves wearing UO gear. While you have to join to post, UO gets a free fashion catalogue with over 4K images from 1.3K members and people get inspiration on how to wear UO.

Comcast on Twitter: http://twitter.com/comcastcares
Again this one’s been covered extensively but having experienced first-hand the help of ComcastBonnie recently, I rate it because they’re using social media to try to sort out one of the worst parts of the Comcast experience.

Run Finder on Nike+: http://nikeplus.nike.com/nikeplus/#mapit
Yes, like everyone else I love I love Nike+ and yes, like everyone else, I hate their slow, flash website, but at least they’re starting to add useful features to it. As a frequent traveler, Run Finder is invaluable and because Nike’s community is so big it even helps me find runs that aren’t on MapMyRun.

Home Depot on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/homedepot
How-to videos for fixing decks or other projects. The Home Depot channel seems really mature and well organised. 1600 subscribers isn’t bad either. This is really a no-brainer for them, it’s help, inspiration and content which can be repurposed a bunch of places.

Open Forum from American Express: http://www.openforum.com/
Business and marketing advice from business and marketing leaders. While this almost doesn’t make the list because it’s a little far afield from their core biz (more on this later) I think that the quality of thinking and writing they’ve assembled there is pretty amazing and is, in itself, a testament to the power of the brand.

Blendtec on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/blendtec?blend=1&ob=4
You may find its inclusion here strange but it’s a product demo that people want to watch! That’s pretty amazing in my book.

Dell Twitter directory: http://www.dell.com/content/topics/global.aspx/community/dell_on_twitter?c=us&l=en&s=gen
Dell have taken the really smart step of segmenting its different Twitter feeds into specific subjects. I think this is a must have for any big company with lots of different lines and/or products. It’s a blessing for people who are looking for very specific information or help, and I think that’s almost everyone when it comes to engaging with companies on social media.

The Official Google Blog: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/
Put simply, this is where they typically launch new products. It’s so obvious but yet still brilliant.

IBM in Second Life: http://www.ibm.com/3dworlds/businesscenter/us/en/
I know this will be controversial, in fact someone tweeted a great quote from Steve Rubel yesterday, “Second Life is digital marketing’s Vietnam.” I’m guessing this isn’t that well used or popular, but I think it’s actually a really smart use of Second Life that is extremely well tied to what I might want to know about IBM as a prospective customer. If Second Life didn’t exist, they might want to roll their own just so they could do this kind of stuff.

Zappos Twitter Page: http://twitter.zappos.com/
An aggregator page that drives up Zappos’ organic search performance. Brilliant.

TJ Maxx on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tjmaxx
Like all discount retailers, TJ Maxx carries designer clothing but isn’t actually allowed to tell you it carries designer clothing. You’re just supposed to “discover” it in the store. Well their Twitter feed has circumvented that so you know exactly when that shipment of Dolce & Gabbana has hit and where.

Walmart Eleven Moms: http://instoresnow.walmart.com/Community.aspx
Walmart is actually making good on its save money claim by crowdsourcing real-world money saving tips from customers and sharing them. I think this is great because they’ve realised saving money isn’t just about low prices it’s about all the choices you make.

You may be thinking this is a strange list, what’s the criteria for qualifying for “the best?” In the beginning, we started with a small set of criteria, but more arose from looking at, playing with and studying these examples. In the end, when we looked at them as a group there were a bunch of commonalities that jumped out for us which I think are interesting.

  1. All of these are very focused, while they bring lots of benefits, they’re really designed to do one thing and do that well
  2. They put the product or service directly at the center.
  3. They are completely customer focused, they aren’t designed to do things that the company may want e.g. build community, evangelists etc. they are designed to serve customers.
  4. They are utilities much more than they are communications.
  5. Simply put, they make it easier for customers to do more business with them.

I think that companies make the mistake of thinking that they can behave like people on social media. The reasons that I follow or interact with people are completely different from the reasons I follow or interact with companies. I may develop a sense of friendship or community with the people behind a company’s social media, but that isn’t the primary reason I’ll start interacting in the first place. These examples above recognise that. They understand that their company is in business to sell or do something for me and they used social media to serve me better.

What are your thoughts, what would you add, subtract to this list?



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