Social Media-Blessing or Curse?

Whether people want to admit it or not, social media plays a crucial part in the world as we know it in 2014. Social media is integrated in almost every aspect of my everyday life, it’s how I access the news, it’s how I read about new assignments for this class, it’s how I keep up to date with my favorite sports icons and celebrities, and it’s integrated in the way I communicate with friends, family, and classmates. Because this is the case for so many people, it is not a surprise that there are many ‘haters’ surrounding the world of social media. There are a large number of people in the world that find this type of social interaction ‘creepy’ and ‘unsafe’, and while I don’t disagree with that to some degree, I also believe that social media is a blessing more than a curse.

Although I try not to admit this out loud, social media plays a major role in my everyday life. Now that doesn’t mean that I post status updates on a daily basis about the different foods I have been trying, or about how cute my dog is (although she is very cute). In fact after doing some in-depth research and scrolling through years of countless memories, I found out that the last status I posted was on November 1, 2011 and to this day it still continues to be one of the most important status updates I have ever posted.

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This story starts a long time ago on September 24, 1993, when the pilot episode of Boy Meets World aired on national television for the first time. Boy Meets World followed a 13 year-old child named Cory Matthew’s as he grows up and faces a variety of everyday problems involving his friends, family and school. The story centered around Cory and his relationship with his family, his best friend Shawn, his girlfriend Topanga, and his nosy next door neighbor who happened to be his history teacher. The show ran on national television for 7 years, and within that time period they were able to gain a substantial cult following of fans. But the fandom didn’t end when the show end, ABC family and Disney continued to play re-runs of the show for my entire life.

The show told classic stories and has taught me numerous life lessons about growing up that I still hold on to today, and because I was such a big fan of the show, during my first year at Western I convinced (forced) my roommates to dress up as the cast of Boy Meets World.

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The next day I decided to go out on a limb and tweet a picture of the original cast and our remake of the picture to Danielle Fishel, the actress that played Topanga Lawrence. Then about 30 minutes later something remarkable happened, Topganga tweeted me back and retweeted the picture of my friends and I. As most of you can imagine, my mind was blown. With just the click of a button I was able to reach out to my childhood crush. While I do believe social media certainly has its downfall, I also believe that the positive aspects of social media are often times overlooked.

Since 2011, Boy Meets World has began to grow in popularity again. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Buzzfeed, and Tumblr has thousands of fan pages and hundreds of articles written about the cast and the iconic roles they played. In 2012 both ABC Family and MTV2 began showing re-runs of BMW on a daily basis.

All of a sudden when I though BMW hit it’s peak, it became even more of a trending topic when Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel announced they were going to reprise their roles as Cory and Topanga in a Disney sitcom about their 13 year old daughter. The show, which is due to air in January of 2014, is created by the BMW’s original creator Michael Jacobs, who has openly said that the reason behind the new show was the overwhelming support of the original. In an extended interview with Good Morning America Michael Jacobs and the cast explained how special they felt that social media was able to keep the spirit of the show alive.

I have been looking for a way to integrate Boy Meets World into my blog for quite some time now so that felt good, but back to the world of social media.

“Growth hacking is a mindset, not a toolkit”

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This week we are exploring this idea of growth hacking. Growth hacking recognizes that when you focus on understanding your users and how they discover and adapt to your products, you can build features that help you acquire and retain more users, rather than just spending your company’s marketing dollars trying to reach out to a broader audience. In simple terms, most products don’t become overnight sensations, vitality come as a direct result of a lot of hard work and dedication. You can’t expect to build something and hope from that point on it will eventually go ‘viral’, you have to continue building and optimizing the product until it eventually meet the needs of each individual consumer. Unlike traditional marketing techniques which have been primarily applied after the product has been completed, growth hacking techniques continue to be applied after the products release because they never consider the product as fully completed. The role of a growth hacker is to “try out a lot of different ideas, ruthlessly optimizing success and quickly discarding deadens,” (Ryan Holiday).

One aspect of growth hacking that stood out a considerable amount was their philosophy of reaching out and learning from their current and dormant users, rather than spending excess amounts of money to reach out and focus all of their attention on obtaining potential users. The author of The 5 Phases of Growth Hacking explained that growth hackers must being to obsess over every tiny element of the customer experience in order to be able to improve the overall experience. They can achieve this knowledge by talking with, and learning from their current users. Running A/B tests, conducting in-depth interviews, and sending out surveys are just a few ways the growth hackers can learn about potential improvements that can be made. All of these efforts will play a small part in the larger picture, which is to build something that is engaging enough to current users to share your product, which will then help you acquire and retain more users.

Explained: The actual difference between growth hacking and marketing was an article written in May by The Next Web. It went into detail about the differences between traditional marketing and growth hacking. They explained that growth hacking is basically just marketing, but it also incorporated a few different goals and techniques. “Growth hackers utilize analytical thinking, product engineering and creativity to significantly increase their company’s core metric(s),” (Biyani).

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If you haven’t been able to notice, through my blogging experience this quarter I have recently discovered what infographics are, so here is yet another infographic to look at. I believe that this perfectly depicts what growth hacking truly entails. After completing the readings for this topic I have found that the ultimate goal of growth hackers is quite apparent, and that is growth. In their various attempts to achieving this goal, they are able to use both their analytic side as well as their creative side. Although they have the ability to utilize tactics such as adwords and SEO, ultimately they will have a chance to look beyond those tools, and begin building a team of creative brains whom can then create a product that people want to use. Once they have finally created a product that people want to use, growth can then be easily achieved due to word of mouth and sharing.

AirBnB is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world. Not only have they created a unique experience that is unlike any other, but more impressively they created this using a variety of different growth hacking tactics. I know you are all wondering how they did this… so let me explain:

1. AirBnB created a seamless integration with the already well established website Craigslist. Having this as an option made it easy to share your AirBnB listings directly on the Craigslist website, which allowed the ad to reach more potential renters. What makes this process so remarkable is that Craigslist didn’t offer an easy way to create this integration, so AirBnB had to reverse engineer how Craiglist’s forms work, and then make their product compatible, without ever having access to the Craigslist codebase.

2. Another way the company used growth hacking tactics was by creating an engaging and easy experience for first time users. Instead of treating first time users like well established users, AirBnB has created a step by step guide that teaches newbies how to navigate through the website like the pros. They offer a ‘tour’ option that keeps them engaged, by showing them the in’s and out’s of the website.

Eva Longoria is all that and a bag of chips

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This week we are talking about the idea of co-creation, and how it is becoming an integral part in the world of digital marketing. Co-creation is when consumers and businesses take the initiative to get the consumers to take a part in the process of value creation. They can do this in a variety of different ways, but perhaps the most common way is through new product development. Hoy defines this type of co-creation as “a collaborative new product development (NPD) activity in which consumers actively contribute and select various elements of new product offerings.” One of the added benefits of co-creation is that ideas generated through co-creation are more likely going to reflect the consumers needs. If the consumers are one of the key driving forces in creating a certain product, it seems obvious that the product will go on to sell.  Not only will it increase sales, but it will simultaneously begin to a build a stronger brand loyalty between the consumer and company. Co-creation doesn’t only add value to companies, but the customer also benefits from the collaboration because it becomes a fun and rewarding way that consumers can be included in their favorite companies.

The example that first came to mind was the 2012 Lay’s potato chip “Do Us A Flavor” campaign. This campaign encouraged the consumers to join the company by allowing them the opportunity to co-create a new flavor of chips that would be sold across the nation. As additional initiative Lay’s was offering the winner a $1,000,000 reward. They teamed up with actress Eva Longoria and began advertising this campaign on their Facebook and Twitter pages. This campaign began to generate a lot of buzz around the company. Thousands of hopefuls submitted their new ideas of flavors, and in March of 2013 they had narrowed it down to their three final flavors.

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Following the announcement of the three top contenders, Lay’s released the flavors into retail stores across the nation, and then allowed America to cast their votes to choose the ultimate winner. After months of deliberations, Lay’s finally announced the winner at a large event hosted by Eva Longoria.

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 4.59.55 PMThis campaign was a perfect example of co-creation because it allowed consumers to take a hands on position within the new product development process. The author of a marketing research blog called Green Book Blog wrote an article about Frito Lay’s co-creation campaign efforts saying, “I think Frito-Lay has executed this program well and other companies should pay attention when developing their own initiatives,” (David Bauer). He also created a 7-step guide for a company who wants to successfully launch a co-creation campaign based off the Lay’s example.

1. Have a simple objective. In this case their main goal was to collect flavor ideas. Social participants are only likely to provide “snack-size” bits of information so don’t expect them to share too much at a time.

2. Bring their ideas to life. After participants submit a flavor idea, it is instantly applied to a Lay’s package with an appropriate image. I’d love to know more about this programming that summons the right image for each flavor. I think this aspect makes the experience more engaging and fun and therefore encourages more involvement.

3. Provide instant feedback and encourage social sharing. People like collecting “likes” and this drives engagement and social sharing. In Do us a Flavor, participants can find out how many people like their flavor and from where in the country interest is coming. They can also share their flavor ideas with their Facebook friends to increase their “likes.”

4. Plan for distractions. As this is social media, there are plenty of people more interested in joking than snacking. Ridiculous flavors are in the mix. Frito-Lay has addressed this, as the default setting is to see the most popular first. Hit “randomize” and there you will see plenty of legitimate ideas along with “Bacon Milkshake,” “Powdered Donuts,” “Lobster Bisque,” and “Pickles and Ice Cream.”

5. Make Sense of It All. As with any research assignment, the toughest part is the brain work needed to sort through the data, remove the clutter, and discover the insights.

6. Hunt for Qualitative Insights. In the Frito-Lay program, each person can share a few thoughts about the inspiration for their flavor.  I’m sure this has the potential to provide an abundance of ideas, but it will take some deep review (and hopefully good text analysis software) to tease out insights that may be useful.

7. Run on all devices. If the program is run through social, it needs to be optimized for mobile devices.