Strategists First, Community Managers Second

I came across this awesome image while wandering the Internet the other day, and right away I was nodding and laughing. “Yep, that pretty much sums it up,” was my thought. Behold, the inner workings of the minds of folks like me, revealed!

The discovery of this kick-ass (and scarily accurate) infographic came on the heels of a conversation I’d just had with The Cypher’s Agency’s Bearer Of All WOM Knowledge, Jocelyn, about the title “community manager” and if it can be synonymous with what we do as word-of-mouth marketers. Finding this illustration just cemented what she and I had concluded: yes and no.

There’s no question that in any given day, our Push-n-Pull team serves as concierges, traffic cops, and yes, even pinatas for our clients’ customers online. We are always at the ready to smash spam and crush trolls to keep communities positive and unpolluted. And there’s certainly a customer service aspect to what we do – we pride ourselves on using online platforms to solve problems for our clients’ customers, or connecting them to someone else who can. But we are way more than Web 2.0 robots sweeping up and spitting out announcements online.

Building, monitoring and engaging an online community to share your message with is vital and does require playing the many parts shown in that awesome graphic. But we are strategists first, managers second. Why we are doing what we do always factors in to how we engage in and shape conversations online. The work we do is much more than just crowd control – its always driving toward the overarching marketing goals for our clients.

When I first started out, I marveled at how cool it was that little ol’ me got to sit in on planning meetings. I had expected to be handed my social media tasks and shuffle along to do my social media work. Now, I understand the serious value of our agency’s approach. Bringing in the digital marketing minds from the beginning means that the “community management” we’re doing will be in a facet of an integrated marketing plan.

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?

Have a WOMderful Thanksgiving!

The Cyphers Agency team is ready to get down on some turkey, how about you? Before we all head off for the long weekend, we thought we’d share awesome finds of the WOM persuasion with you. It’s always a good idea to have some light reading material on hand over the holidays so your social media know-how doesn’t get rusty, or just so you can have an excuse to not talk with Aunt Joan about her newest ailment.

“The Two Sides of Marketing” – We are unashamed followers of the Chris Brogan cult, and for good reason. Brogan has a knack for reminding us marketing folks how psychological our job really is without getting bogged down in research. His anecdote drives home the point about bridging the gap between what people want and need – a worthy read!

Did you know that Facebook now accounts for 25% of all U.S. pageviews? Because it does. Mashable conjectures about what Zuck and company will do to keep up this insane pace. With new Messages and Groups still in their infancy, 2011 could be an interesting year for Facebook!
The headline on this Ad Age article says “From Web Video Phenomenon To In-Demand Pitchman In One Year”. You don’t have to look far to find awesome stories of regular folks using Web 2.0 to showcase their incredible talents. This guy was a bike mechanic and now he’s doing sponsorships and endorsements in his YouTube videos. At the risk of sounding dorky, its stories like these that make me love the Internet.

We’d love to hear what you’re reading over the break! Leave a comment about your favorite blog post of the week or your thoughts on these. Happy Thanksgiving!

Social Good for a Social Media Generation

These days, it seems like everyone is “going digital” and leveraging social media to communicate their message. But, as we’ve mentioned before, it goes way beyond just Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. We’ve noticed that Web 2.0 is emerging as a way for newer generations to change the world without even leaving home. People are already making friends and doing things online based on their interests – its a natural next step to use social networks to connect to causes you care about.

Being A Part of the Online Experience.

Non-profits and corporations alike are embracing the web to get their message to millions of people. These groups can have enormous success by taking their causes online. While non-profits traditionally promote one fundraising event at a time, social media allows charitable organizations to become part of the online experience, enabling more frequent interactions with their audience. And if organizations make it is easy to get involved, people are more than willing to contribute.

It could be on a Facebook page where you can “like” an initiative you’re passionate about. In the case of Pedigree’s “Become a Fan, Help A Dog” campaign, fans can actually make a difference with just one click. Or you could use Twitter hashtags like #AmericaWants to share information with like-minded people and get your cause noticed. You can donate online, and not always just with your money – you can find volunteer opportunities through search engines, message boards and online communities like Jumo. It’s never been easier for people to support a cause.

So what?

Companies are seeing big results from engaging in social good. For example, Pepsi took their Super Bowl advertising budget and turned it into a social good phenomenon. Their Pepsi Refresh program has engaged thousands of regular people by giving them the opportunity to win grants for their grassroots projects. Even more so, Pepsi set aside an additional $1.2 million for projects dedicated to helping the Gulf after oil spill crisis occurred. Since January, more people have voted for Pepsi Refresh causes than voted in the last presidential election. Amazing, huh? And the best part? Pepsi hasn’t suffered from taking their Super Bowl ad money and setting it aside for good – they’ve received a tremendous amount of publicity for encouraging others.

What We’re Doing.

Here at The Cyphers Agency, we’re engaging in some social good of our own by support a local Annapolis grassroots effort, Carol for a Cause. The mission of this community project is simply promoting goodwill, and so we leverage social media and word of mouth tools to engage with people and spread our client’s message. Right now, we’re building some meaningful relationships with bloggers who care about the same things we care about and become ambassadors on our behalf. We’re also running an awesome contest where Carol for a Cause fans can show what “doing good” means to them. The winner will get money towards their favorite charity.

We’re happy to be taking part in social good. We’ve seen some incredible things happen through the web, and we’re glad that we can help businesses use such a powerful and multifaceted tool to make a difference. Have you seen anything like this online? We’d love it if you shared it with us by leaving a comment below.

Going Digital? Don’t Forget Strategy

I always do my grocery shopping at the Safeway just around the corner from my house. It’s location can’t be beat, but if we’re being honest, most of the time their prices can. I regularly use my Safeway discount card, but a few days ago I googled “Safeway discounts”, hoping for a little extra money in my pocket after my shopping trip. Right away I struck gold! At, you can electronically load coupons onto your Safeway card. No printing, no clipping, just click “clip” and you’re racking up the discounts! Alright, I only ended saving about $6, but it was enough to make brag about my discovery to everyone I met.

While coupons may not seemingly relate to social media or WOM, the truth of the matter is that I couldn’t stop myself from telling my friends and colleagues about it. It got me thinking of how something as old-fashioned as a coupon could go digital, draw me in, and create buzz.

“Going Online”

Recently, every company is interested in “going online” to reach their customers and generate more business. It allows for an additional arena to interact with consumers. What we often see is that this foray into the World Wide Web takes shape as a Facebook page or a Twitter account. While those tools can be effective, they might not be the perfect tactic for everyone.

Social media may not be the answer to every question, but there are a multitude of untapped opportunities to reach your customers that don’t involve joining a social network. It may be offering coupons online, like Safeway did. It might involve the creation of an online store to sell your products. It might even be a contest.

Take it to the next level.

Creating unique and different online experiences for your consumers encourages interaction with your product, brand, and messaging. It may even encourage a new audience, who may not have interacted with you in the traditional sense, to experience your brand. And if your digital experience is good enough, it’ll keep ‘em coming back for more. It may even get them hyped enough to tell their friends, just like I did. What company doesn’t dig consumer loyalty and buzz?

Don’t get us wrong, we aren’t saying to abandon traditional offerings. They are still meaningful and worthwhile. However, it is dangerous not to think of ways to encourage online interaction. If you aren’t doing it, know that your competition is. Sometimes revitalizing your brand is as simple – yet revolutionary – as adapting a time-tested marketing technique and turning it into something fresh online.

What ways are you going digital? Are you taking the opportunity to revolutionize your brand by engaging consumers online?