Happy Holidays from the WOM Department

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Happy holidays! Here is to hoping that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season. Don’t forget to see what The Cyphers Agency did to commemorate our time together this past year: Gingerland!

We’ll be back shortly after the holiday to get back into the spirit of social media and to hang out in the wonderland of word of mouth, but until then, enjoy your holiday season!

How Online Has Changed the Customer Experience

Online Consumers Shop Differently Now & Forever More

Over the years, we’ve all grown quite attached to our Internet. We can’t help but use it to find info, connect with friends, or to buy more stuff. You know the phrase “shop in your underwear” rings quite true. So while we move away from heading over to the store and move forward to buying it online, online retailers and companies are finding the importance of creating a comfortable online user experience for their consumers.

Online Consumers Shop Differently Now & Forever More

We all know that the web has become an instant gratification hub. We are so used to firing up Google, reading reviews on Yelp, or asking friends on Facebook for their feedback. Everything is at our fingertips, and we’ve become saavy enough to find pretty much anything we want. And while good ol’ word of mouth has always been part of the equation, the research and buying process has become quite snappy. As consumers, we’ve become spoiled rotten. We’ve got these ideas of what our experience should be like: fun, easy, flowing, visually appealing, and even segmented or customized to our direct needs. It’s no longer just about who’s offering the best product, but who’s offering it the easiest.

A Window into Customer Service

It goes beyond that, however. The customer experience is more than just the interactions that happen at checkout. Now we expect our favorite companies to be present online so we have a direct line should something go awry in any portion of the buying or experiential process (think @comcastcares).

It’s more than just just a tweet.

On the flip side, companies need to do more than just have an easy purchase process or a Twitter account for customer service questions. They’ve got to bring it all together and close that loop: integrate everything from their brick and mortar locations, ad messages, online presence, social network engagement, purchase process, and even post-purchase experiences. And as ad folk, we are continually learning the importance of helping these companies bring that brand experience full circle.

The Future of UX

Needless to say, focusing on creating a substantial online experience is the future. Company sites are going to become more personalized to your interests, needs, and desires. Even more so, companies should focus on creating an interactive experience that encourages sharing, reviews, and feedback. Consumers are already apt to share the things they love with friends and family, so making that an easy option will only encourage interaction with a brand message. To boot, consumers are continually inundated with online options, so companies that create a great user experience are going to have the upper hand amidst heavy competition. And frankly, to stay afloat, there is no other option than to create just that.

How have you seen the customer experience change? What about it excites or frightens you?

5 Must-Haves for Running a Successful Contest

Contest Submission!

Contest Submission!So your company has adopted social media marketing techniques. You’ve been on social networks and built relationships with your consumers, but want to take your engagement to the next level. You’ve heard that online contests can help your business get there, but you aren’t really sure what separates a great contest from the gimmicks. Don’t worry – we’ve figured that out for you.

1. Rules and Guidelines

The first step to having a successful contest is creating a list of rules and guidelines not just for entrants to follow, but also for you to live by. The goal is to create an airtight document that gives you ultimate control in case the contest somehow comes crumbling down around you.

Even with a small crisis, it is still good to be able to refer to a separate, impartial source when answering questions from entrants. Say it with me – “I’m so sorry, but it’s in the rules.” Have your lawyer look at it – we aren’t kidding. Having a foolproof rule book is the way to go.

2. A Great Concept

This one might seem pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how pointless some contests can be. Too often, companies focus on how contests can drive traffic to their Web site, and stop there. But the point of a contest is to engage your audience and bring new consumers into your brand community. Just having participants enter their email addresses doesn’t really achieve that.

Creating a concept that will mobilize your target audience doesn’t have to get complicated – just look at the simplicity of the concept behind the contest we’re running for the National Chicken Council: the I Love Chicken contest. Your concept shouldn’t be so narrow that only a small niche of people want to participate, but it should still hone in on what your audience cares about. The true balance is making the contest easy to enter, but also specific enough that you get great user-generated content to use long after the contest ends.

3. A Huge A$$ Prize

Listen – people aren’t going to enter your contest for a chance to take a picture with the mayor of your town. Okay, a few might, but let’s face it – creative people aren’t going to pass over content they worked hard on – the kind of content that could be really valuable to your brand – for a photo-op.

You’ve got to give people a reason to enter. Money is always a great prize, or something worth a lot of money (think tropical vacation getaway). Personal promotion is also a good incentive (think about all the bands that vied to be the next FreeCreditScore.com guys). Whatever it may be, it has to motivate people to not only enter, but to get their friends and family to vote for them too.

4. Sharing Options

Give participants the option to share their entry with everyone they know on their social networks. It will be easier for them to pass the contest to their buds and relatives, ultimately driving traffic to your site. But it doesn’t just do that – it greatly widens that audience that can now connect with and participate in your contest and your brand. When you make it easy for contestants to spread the word and get votes for their entry, you hand them some power in the outcome of the contest, making them even more excited to be ambassadors for your business.

5. Crisis Communication Plan

Regardless of how well you plan the contest, set up your voting system, and monitor entries, there will be some sort of problem or question. And if you’ve got a great concept that is married to a huge prize, people will do pretty much anything to win, meaning that they will also find anything to call into question or complain about. That is where a crisis communication plan comes in.

Prepare for these often headache-inducing inquires by drafting messaging with the proper responses, tone, references to the rules, etc. While it won’t eliminate issues, it will help you maintain sanity as you launch your contest, making it much easier to respond to contestants in a consistent and professional manner.

Thinking about running a contest? Seems you’ve got a lot to think about. Not sure where to begin? It just so happens that we’ve got plenty of experience. We’d be happy to hook you up.

I Hope This Gets To You (And Everyone Else on the Internet…)

I ran across this video on Gizmodo and, well, just watch it first:

I was immediately struck by this video for two reasons: Number one, it pulled at my heartstrings. I must admit that at first, the “aww” factor got me. My husband and I were once in a long-distance relationship and so I get just how meaningful this will be for the video creator’s girlfriend when she does see it (she hasn’t yet).

But then I noted one small fact that Gizmodo was sure to point out: The guy that made it is in a band called The Daylights. It’s a band I could like judging by this song, but I had never heard of them. Until now. Hmm… I think there is a name for this… oh, yeah. Viral marketing. What better way to get people to pass your band’s music along than fueling it with a romantic story, complete with a call-to-action anyone with a soul couldn’t refuse?

Maybe I’m a cynic. When you work in advertising, you start to think about the motives behind everything. Maybe both romance and exposure for his band was this guy’s aim. While the video hasn’t gotten to her yet, the second part seems to be working out well – Katy Perry has tweeted it and he got an interview with The Village Voice. We’ll have to wait and see if his long-distance love is impressed, though I have a feeling she will be.

What do you think? Savvy social media marketing maneuver, or simply a romantic boyfriend sending a sweet message in a big way?