Why Flash Mobs?

What’s a Flash Mob?

A flash mob, defined by Wikipedia as “a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse.”

They’ve been used large companies and non-profits alike, as a non-traditional presentation that is used to generate buzz. T-Mobile coordinated the flash mob below to promote its “Life’s For Sharing” campaign, as you’ll see below. This video currently has nearly 14 million YouTube views.

While a flash mob caused a big stir about T-Mobile, they aren’t just something only huge companies can pull off. Flash mobs don’t require a lot of money, making them an ideal tactic for a small business or non-profit. Below you can see video of a flash mob done for a non-profit, Donate Life.

Flash mobs can be as simple as chasing something. Check out the “Official VT Flash Mob Banana Chase” video below. While it looks like something college students did for kicks, if Chiquita or Dole was associated with the coordination of this flash mob, they would have generated a ton of online buzz about their brand.

A coordinated dance, simultaneous freeze or banana-chasing aren’t the only things a company can do to generate some buzz non-traditionally.  Guerrilla marketing, an unconventional and unexpected method of generating buzz, is an umbrella term for pretty much anything non-traditional you can do to get people talking. There’s no rule book for guerrilla marketing; it just takes one objective and a lot of creativity.

The Benefits

  1. Break the noise- Flash mobs and guerrilla tactics a fun way to get people talking about your product or service. The average American is exposed to thousands of advertising messages a day.  While traditional advertising is a critical part of most campaigns, if you really want to get your point across, you absolutely have to break through in an unconventional way.
  2. Captivate your audience and generate traditional word of mouth. Flash mobs and guerrilla tactics are fun for the audience to watch and interact with. If you give your them something entertaining, they are likely to take their own pictures and video, and tell their friends about it.
  3. The beauty of flash mobs and guerrilla tactics is their potential to go viral. They provide entertainment that people want to watch and share. If T-Mobile’s Flash Mob was not recorded and uploaded to YouTube, then 14 million people would have not been exposed to its message.

At The Cyphers Agency, we have an entire WOM team that lives for these kind of projects. And that creativity thing? Yeah, we’ve got that covered.

United Airlines- Too Little, Too Late

Social media empowers companies to connect with customers. It enables companies to listen, respond and promote itself, among a plethora of other things. Social media, however, also empowers customers to get back at brands, as we’ve seen this summer in the United Airline’s “United Breaks Guitars,” debacle.

Last year, when United Airlines’ workers broke musician Dave Carroll’s $3,500 Taylor Guitar, the airline refused to compensate him for the damage. The repairs cost $1,200. In a final offer, Carroll even said he’d accept $1,200 worth of flight vouchers, in compensation for repairs. United Airlines still rejected the offer.

Fed up with nine months of battling with airline representatives, Carroll realized he was not going to win the battle. During his last call to United Airlines, he made a promise to do something that would cost more than the guitar’s worth to company’s reputation.  In fact, some claim that what he did could have cost United Airlines $180 million. His weapon for bringing down United? YouTube.

Not only did the musician use YouTube to trash United’s reputation once, he did it twice. And he plans to do it a third time. His first video now has more than five million views, and the second, released two days ago, has surpassed the 100,o00 mark.

Of course, United contacted him immediately after the first video, offering compensation for the broken guitar. But it was just too late.

There are two important lessons to learn from this.

First, web-savvy customers have the power to use social media just as effectively as big brands do. Two videos can be detrimental to your online reputation. And if the customer causes a big enough stir, the story will get some play time outside of the social media realm.  When Google-searching “United Airlines,” on the first page you’ll see Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars” videos. On the first page of the “Southwest Airlines” Google search, you’ll find Southwest’s blog “Nuts About Southwest,” which is  highly interactive and an example of outstanding social media execution. Lesson learned? A customer who knows a thing or two about social media can trump your company’s social media efforts.

Second, customer service is still king. With a pretty impressive following of 31,000 on Twitter, and a meager Facebook presence, United Airlines is doing OK on social media. Social media provides a platform for a brand to listen to and interact with customers online. Listening online, though, is not enough. Social media isn’t the end-all be-all. Brands  need to focus on a comprehensive strategy. One that includes social media AND outstanding face-to-face customer service. United Airlines didn’t do that, and now it is the one paying the price.

Using Social Media to Debunk Myths and Inform

Barack Obama (or as we like to call him, WOMmander in Chief) first used social media to help win an election. Now that he’s in the White House, he is using it to try to win approval for the health insurance reform. This week, Obama’s team launched the Health Insurance Reform: Reality Check Web site, which will give Americans clear answers about the reform, and what it means to them.

The front page of the media-rich site has videos of six individuals who explain different aspects of the reform. In the video below, Kavita Patel, who works in the White House and is a former physician, debunks the myth that reform will lead to “rationing.” In the video, she directly reads e-mails from individuals who are skeptical of health insurance reform, and responds with an explanation and information about what the reform plan could mean.

Each video features one individual talking in a a casual office setting. There’s no backdrop, heavy make-up or bright lights. The simplicity of these videos is a great example of how social media does not need to be scripted and excessively edited to be effective.

The site also has a FAQ section and a “contact us” button, which invites users to ask questions about health insurance reform or make suggestions on what topics should be addressed next. The initiative to educate Americans about health insurance reform is  social-media laden. When it’s combined with face-to-face interaction such as town hall meetings, it’s an exemplary model of properly executed word of mouth. As the President speaks in this afternoon’s town hall meeting, the White House is streaming video live on whitehouse.gov and on Facebook–with a live discussion to accompany it (WOM bonus points!).

The White House is doing a good job getting the message out. With more than 900,000 Twitter followers and 300,000 Facebook fans, it was exposed to more than one million viewers through those two outlets alone. Yesterday afternoon, the site was voted to Digg’s homepage and now has been “dugg” 1,425 times.

There is a lot of confusion and division on the subject of health care reform. Obama’s initiative will inform Americans about what his plan will include.  And informed people can make decisions based on the facts, not myths.

What will become of the health insurance reform is still unknown. One thing is for sure, though, the Obama Administration sure gets WOM.

You’re Hired–Via Social Media

In a year of joblessness and disheartening economic conditions, Julianna Wittig was among many individuals who were laid-off and forced to begin the job search.

In her search for a new job, Julianna, who is now The Cyphers Agency’s newest Account Executive,  headed straight to her computer. In her online search, however, Julianna didn’t rely on typical job search sites such as Monster and Indeed.  Using social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, Julianna took a proactive approach to finding a job. She kept her profile updated and her eyes open for any opportunities she found on those sites.

While Julianna was searching, Darren Easton, Vice President and Creative Director for The Cyphers Agency  was using social networks to find a candidate to fill an Account Executive position. For the position, Darren wanted to find a social-media-savvy individual, who could handle several accounts in the agency’s Push-n-Pull division.

Julianna saw the posting on LinkedIn and began researching The Cyphers Agency–checking into the culture, environment, clients and other employees. Darren was researching too. He asked others online if they knew of Julianna and if they thought she would be a good fit for the Account Executive position.

Thanks to word of mouth and social networks, Darren told Julianna in the interview that he “already knew everything he needed to know about her.” It was clear that Julianna knew how to effectively market herself online, therefore, Darren knew she would certainly be capable of marketing clients online.

Social media has impacted so much of our daily lives. It changes the way we do businesses, network, communicate and even find jobs. The days of faxing resumes and mailing resumes on crisp resume paper are done.

Job seekers can use social networks to search for jobs, interact with potential employers and create online profiles that display their skills. Employers can social media to post jobs, find qualified candidates and ask others about these candidates.

We’re glad social media enabled us to connect to Julianna. Welcome, Julianna, we’re happy to have you here at The Cyphers Agency!

Little Debbie Rewards Intern Heroes With Muffins!

What do you get when you combine a contest, free food and interns? Little Debbie Muffins. I heard about the Little Debbie Intern Hero contest a few weeks ago (via Twitter, of course). My ears always perk up for the opportunity to get free food, and as a word of mouth intern, it’s only natural that I told everyone I knew about the opportunity (as you can see from the snippets of conversation in the picture below). This photo was featured on the Little Debbie Intern Hero site last Thursday.

The Intern Hero contest makes everyone happy.  The Cyphers Agency got free publicity, the whole office will get Little Debbie muffins, and Little Debbie has social media-savvy interns across America filling social networks up with buzz about Little Debbie muffins. Thanks, Little Debbie. We are all looking forward to our muffins!