The Peculiar Marketing Trends Among The Social Software Industry

The social software space has been conducting some interesting marketing techniques, and I’m here to comment on what I’ve seen.  Being an attendee at dozens of shows a year, also receiving more emails than I can count from these vendors, I wanted to provide a broader perspective, and then get your comments.

In addition to the usual forms of marketing from working with PR agencies, press releases, taking over SERP pages of a competitor,  brochures, white papers, case studies, webinars, and the lot, I’m seeing a few interesting trends in their marketing mix I wanted to highlight:

1) Social Software Vendors Ironically Invest in Airport Display Advertising. While I’ve heard about it, I saw it for the first time in Chicago airport this week, Buddy Media’s print advertising was prominantly displayed, here’s their blog post touting the campaign.  Given their hefty investment raise of $54 million a few bones tossed on display advertising seems like a small play.  Yet Andrew Jones, Altimeter Researcher heard first hand from brands we interviewed that they did not want to see a vendor they would hire invest in that way.  I’d argue that Chicago is ripe for brand managers, agencies and the lot, and because no other vendors are deploying on print, this is a smart play.   Marketing  is, after all, integrated, right?

2) In a bite-sized world, Infographics are the new White Paper. I’ve seen a number of changes as our attention span decreases (first of all, thank you for making it this far in my post) as vendors shift from long form white papers to shorter form content.  This trend?  I say we’re moving away from an appetite of content steak to shish kabob –yet the balance is frequently off.  The earliest pioneer in this space was Mint, which aggregated user data and published financial index data to compare young Gen X males to each other.  Lately, we’ve seen a heavy output of infographics from Eloqua (a client) which is used to reach influencers, tap into their egos, and get them to trigger discussions.  Proof? This Blog Tree infographic is such link bait, and yes Web Strategy blog is an orange leaf (but I ain’t fallin yet).   Their team tells me they show an increase in relevancy from these discussion, all tracking using their tool set, and they work with premium infographics firm Jess3 and DIY infographics for marketers from Visual.ly for the rest of us.  Up next?  eBooks are on the rise.  Wait for it.

3) Female Promotional Models Continue to Lure on Conference Floors. As one of the keynotes at a large software conference, I ventured onto the vendor show floor.  Surprisingly, I found many incumbent software and marketing software firms still hiring promotional models (also known as “booth babes” –which feels dirty even to write), do note that Salesforce doesn’t dictate what happens in these booths, it’s dependent on the vendor.  While these attract cameras, and a certain type of eager male, I hesitate on how this may limit bringing executives who don’t want to be seen near them in our always publishing twitpic world.  Furthermore, we know that many of the Corporate Social Strategists are women climbing in their career, I can’t imagine this would attract them to their booth.

4) Humanizing the Brand with Real World Mascots. Beyond just the cutsy logos of Seesmic, Placast, Hootsuite and beyond, we’re starting to see full costumed mascots appearing.  Yet, often, these mascots appear in the enterprise social space, such as Sassy and Chatty from Salesforce, and Get Satisfactions JarGon, an anti-mascot who highlights old school IVR. We’re also seeing street teams at Oracle and Salesforce conferences do battle over your attention, an old trend, not-unlike any local marketing effort.  While they are great for the conference TwitPic and comedic relief, to me this seems more than ironic as social software is to humanize the brand –so why don’t we use humans?

Now, I’d love to hear form you?  Do you think these four forms of marketing from the social software vendors are sufficient to cut through the noise?   Is airport advertising, infographics, promo models, and walking mascots the future of social software marketing?

  • Great stuff, Jeremiah. And thanks for the shout-out.

    In the “what’s old is new again” category, I’ve also see intricate direct mail campaigns re-emerging. With physical mail slowing to a trickle, marketers see the medium as an opportunity to zig (physical) while the rest of the world zags (digital). Know someone who received a suspicious manilla envelope containing a faux hotel room key with what appears to be a hand-written note. A landing page contains the big “reveal.” Guilty-conscience marketing. -Joe

  • That’s a good one.  Once, an author sent me a hand written note with a URL to a personalized youtube video addressed to me.  I blogged it.  

  • That’s a good one.  Once, an author sent me a hand written note with a URL to a personalized youtube video addressed to me.  I blogged it.  

  • Dave

    The breakdown:
    1) Yes, social is mobile. What is more mobile than airports? If your audience is flying they still have travel budgets and those are the first to go. 😉

    2) Yes, @usatoday invented mainstream info graphics, their readers had short attention spans so they found a way to be relevant. Great fit for promoting via twitter and asking for a follow or engagement.

    3) Yes, the lowest common denominator that sells. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies to software buyers too.

    4) we see humans everywhere, non humans stand out. They also don’t quit and go to competitors.

  • I believe that social software vendor will grow. This is the trend that is why Google had made their own social site to compete with Facebook..

  • To effectively market your tool to me you need to have real meat to your software that can be used effectively by an enterprise and you need a good security model. I think these vendors should spend less on marketing and more on development, especially enhancing multi-language listening as well as support for the channels used in China. 

  • Thanks Jeremiah. 

    We’ve employed a couple of the tactics you highlight, and while JarGon may be the most eye catching I would have to point to infographics as the most effective. I don’t see them as the new whitepaper but they do appeal to people as a base level and as a result they are very effective as a content hook to drive website traffic. We still put out whitepapers and heavy content pieces but the infographics give us the entry point to introduce these denser marketing components.

    JarGon originally started out as something we created for our own team to rally around and then someone on the team had some JarGon stuffed toys made which led to an animated video for a team offsite… and the rest is history. 

    He’s the ideal anti-hero and we are cautious not to overexpose him but respect the fact that he resonates with people who are tired of traditional customer support, not because it’s an IVR system but because it is the essence of script driven call center interactions that we have all experienced. Consumers see through this and want something more and JarGon will someday grow a heart, at which point our mission will be a success. 

    I was interested to read your 1st bullet about display advertising. We run a small retargeting campaign but otherwise stay away from display advertising. I might do search, we’re in 2012 planning at the moment… 

  • Hi Jeremiah-

    You know our space has come a long way when we’re talking about how we’re advertising our products and services! In order to create a great software company (delivered as a service in our case), you need to build the best product, sell and market it with excellence and support it with excellence. None of these are easy. Doing them all is even harder. 

    Our tools are collaborative tools used across the organization. But we’re usually purchased by the marketing team. We think how we market the software is critical.

    Buddy Media has often taken the road less traveled. We were the first to launch a social management system on Facebook. We were the first to integrate a Facebook Page solution with Twitter. We were in the first preferred group for LinkedIn. And most recently were named to Google+’s beta list.

    We have truly walked the walk when it comes to how we have marketed the business. The airport ads are important because many business people don’t know that our space exists, let alone our company. So we’re bringing attention to both the sector and our business. But these ads are just one piece of the equation. We run our own user conferences, support many of the larger events and run print and digital ads that drive awareness and leads, and, of course, we have a robust social media offering that starts with my own personal social media efforts (is there another CEO of a social management system who exposes him or herself more than I do???). Our social media efforts include putting out some of the best research in the marketplace, from our popular data reports to best practices for global Facebook rollouts, stream management and more.

    While we have raised $90M, we have only spent a very small fraction of it and the vast majority is still in the bank. The marketing we do, from the airports to the white papers, have been extremely profitable for us. And it has helped us understand our clients’ needs better. It’s ironic to hear that your analyst says he has heard brands say they don’t want to see us market this way. I’d love to know how we can grow our business faster and if your team has any other ideas about what we should be doing differently to drive real results. I’m all ears.

    Buddy Media is one of the top companies in this emerging sector. I can’t tell you that it’s 100% related to any one of our marketing techniques. But I can tell you that we feel like our marketing mix is working rather well and helping us start many conversations (like this one, after all). And we have a very nice business that we hope to grow in the future.

    Thx!

    Michael Lazerow
    CEO, Buddy Media

  • Agree 100%. The space is early and companies have to make decisions about where to focus. Global and security has been a huge focus for us. We don’t do multi-language listening. Who do you like best for listening platforms?

  • Thanks for the perspective Michael, and the detailed response.  Your investment in marketing is further along than many of your competitors which recently emerged from garages and may not have sizable funding.  

  • Thanks Jeff.  I’ve been seeing the social software vendors run search marketing ads on Google against their competitors (the Community Platform space used to war on each other on SERP), and I’m now seeing it emerge here.

    Display advertising at the Buddy level is a whole ‘nother game that requires significant resources.

  • Dave, great, insightful responses, come back move often.

  • Kudos to you Michael for effectively marketing your company.  There is nothing peculiar about it.

  • JD in the house! Wow. I’ve gotta hang out here more often. No joke. There’s a meme out there that Buddy Media is wasting its money on marketing. And most of the people saying it are marketers. I find it ironic.

  • As an Oracle Marketing alumni, I know the results of Oracle’s “9 out of 10 xyz use Oracle” airport ads. I congratulate Michael Lazerow and Buddy Media for reaching out via airport ads. (WPP, our parent company is a Buddy Media investor)

  • If you’re a company selling social software, wouldn’t the best form of marketing be amazing word of mouth about your performance? Jeff Bezos, I believe, said advertising is the price you pay for having a crappy product. To be fair, if I had the amount of money Lazerow raised, I’d probably buy airport ads, too!

    The other mantra in Silicon Valley or other software companies is to “eat your own dog food”– to use your own software and demonstrate that you yourself can generate a lot of fans and engagement on your page.

  • If you’re a company selling social software, wouldn’t the best form of marketing be amazing word of mouth about your performance? Jeff Bezos, I believe, said advertising is the price you pay for having a crappy product. To be fair, if I had the amount of money Lazerow raised, I’d probably buy airport ads, too!

    The other mantra in Silicon Valley or other software companies is to “eat your own dog food”– to use your own software and demonstrate that you yourself can generate a lot of fans and engagement on your page.

  • Anonymous

    I got that note as well.  It moved me to click on the link which is what  it was designed to do.  Effective.

  • Anonymous

    It may be ironic to invest in airport advertising but if it’s engaging and memorable enough to move your prospects to action then it’s also smart.

    As marketers we shouldn’t limit ourselves to a particular set of tools because of the industry we represent.  If that were the case radio stations wouldn’t leverage local TV to promote their morning shows and Oprah’s magazine would seem antithetical to her wildly famous talk show. 

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  • Welcome back Jeff.  Good to see you.

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  • Interesting view on matters Jeremiah, what i need to give a proper answer to the things you address is the goal that is behind the initiative. What is the aim of Buddy to target an airport and the way the do it just like the rest. Most important thing that comes to mind when reading your piece is practise what you preach. The people that sell a dream but don’t live it theirselves mind have a business issue in the long run.

  • Interesting view on matters Jeremiah, what i need to give a proper answer to the things you address is the goal that is behind the initiative. What is the aim of Buddy to target an airport and the way the do it just like the rest. Most important thing that comes to mind when reading your piece is practise what you preach. The people that sell a dream but don’t live it theirselves mind have a business issue in the long run.

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  • Shane Gibson

    My experience while proactively shopping for these types of vendors has been poor. While they market like crazy, tweeting, buying ad space and hiring booth babes they often forget one basic tenant. Customer service. Trying to book a demo if you’re not an a-list agency or a well known social media rockstar has been more than difficult for many of my clients. Good old fashion customer service training, an enchanting sales process and speedy response times to customer inquiries would be a good start.

    Many CMO’s I know who hold the collective purse strings feel disengaged.

  • this the innovation duration
    everyday people are introduce new devices new idea and new method so there is huge competition between the companies and also with person to person competition 

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  •  You never know what will be the future but now technology has become so advance that we don’t have to promote our business as old days. 90 % of people use internet now days and i thinks it is better to promote all the stuff online, IT is the future..You can use beautiful model although.

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