Thursday, 3 April 2014

Social Media As Currency

I learnt a lot about flowers last week. I learnt that you need to snip the ends off cut ones before you put them in water because the ends seal up after a while. I learnt that women like flowers more than kittens in matching puppy outfits and, if for some reason we’re ever strolling through a summer meadow and pass some gerberas, you can be damn sure I’m going to point them out with a smug expression and say, ‘See them over there? Those are gerberas.’ And although you won’t say anything, we’ll both know my basic horticultural knowledge is winning you over.

The reason for my glut of plant facts is that last week ThinkWall was helping Funny How Flowers Do That with a promotional event for the Dutch Flower Council. We were giving away bunches of freshly cut flowers in exchange for tweets and photos of said flowers posted online with the hashtag #FavouriteFlower. The event ran over 3 days and was a great success, lots of people came, many a flower brightened many a day and all the offices in the surrounding area were filled with sneezing as anyone with hay fever was taken completely off guard by the sudden chemical assault.

This idea of giving something away in exchange for a tweet is not new. Marc Jacobs did a similar thing at its pop up store in New York last month whilst, in 2012, Kelloggs’ attempt to promote its cereal ended in disaster after hundreds of tweets saying that ‘some people are standing on a street corner handing out small bags of special k’ unfortunately led to a SWAT team turning up (italics added for emphasis, also I made that last bit up).

There has always been a lot of debate about the value of social media chatter. Since company ROI has always and continues to be measured in shiny shiny gold, any expense that cannot be easily tracked, measured and valued tends to anger the dragons/accountants that sit in the cave/finance dept on a pile of treasure/the event budget.

It may go against the traditional and intrinsic idea of business to trade something valuable (flowers are not cheap) for something as ostensibly free as a tweet. However, the original idea that social media marketing should be free is now long gone due to the fact that so much content now floods onto our screens, competing for our attention, any content, no matter how creative, will be lost in the deluge unless it pays to be promoted during the marketing campaign.

The purpose of social media has always been to connect people and spread conversations and ideas, that is its currency. Although there are now ways of using analytics to track people’s movements from when they see your advert to when/if they buy, they are currently the preserve of companies able to spend thousands a month on social media activities.

What is also true is that, most of the time, people will not buy directly after seeing an advert, but may well come back to it weeks or months later. Comparing swapping six petunias for a tweet to company sales two months later is like blaming the fact that you did not get your mum a nice bunch of dahlias for Mothers Day for the reason that, two months later, she ‘accidentally’ put a red shirt in with your white washing and now you look like candy floss. There may well have been a link between the two and you may have thought you saw her laughing, but you’ll never be able to establish direct causation.

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