There is something about this Geico “Pothole” commercial that transcends social, political and gender boundaries: everyone likes it. Does it work to help sell insurance for Geico? I have no idea. But it makes me giggle every time I hear it and I think more favorably of Geico for creating it (and almost forget they are responsible for the Cave Men spots).
Entrepreneurs must be a little more creative if they want to start a new business in a tough economy. As a result, we see more businesses fill niche needs. Enter Rent the Runway, a “Netflix model for haute couture” according to the New York Times:
“The mail-order service, which finishes the testing phase on Monday, allows women to rent dresses from notable fashion designers like Diane Von Furstenberg, Hervé Léger and Proenza Schouler for roughly one-tenth of what they would cost to buy in a retail store.
“The rentals run $50 to $200 for a four-night loan and are shipped directly to the customer’s doorstep. After wearing the dress, she puts it into a prepaid envelope and drops it in the mail. Dry cleaning is included in the price, but damage insurance costs $5, and in the case of outright destruction of the dress, the renter is responsible for the full retail price.”
This is pretty exciting. Granted, rental of dresses has been available for sometime. But local rental selections aren’t always the best and there is that whole physical shopping thing to deal with (I am almost exclusively an online shopper). An online rental that allows for easy returns is definitely a turn on.
The ladies who started this business are smart: they are only allowing for limited “membership” at this point. When you make something exclusive, not only do even more people want to participate, but it also assures that you can walk into a party and know that not everyone there will have seen and shopped the same dresses you did. As the business starts to take off and membership grows, I would like to see an ability to “register” your dress for the event to which you are wearing it, effectively blocking anyone else from renting that same style for the same event. I also hope that they will incorporate customer reviews of the dresses to help those on the fence as to a particular style decide (I love this feature on Zappos.com).
I signed up to be put on the waiting list for membership at Rent the Runway. Sigh.
A few weeks ago, my colleague and I gave a presentation with our predictions for social media in 2010 (you can see the presentation here). One of our predictions: increased localization of social media. Well, this is already happening. Last week, Twitter announced lists and within several hours there were a handful of “Arkansas” lists. Now, Twitter has announced that they will soon launch trending topics by city, state and country. With the new API, users will be able to learn what is happening specifically where they are located. Very cool.
This week, Twitter released a new feature that allows for the creation of “lists.” This makes perfect sense: with the rapid growth of Twitter, it is becoming harder to figure out which people to follow. The amount of data out there is getting overwhelming; according to a CNN article:
“Approximately 25 million Tweets are posted every day; more than 5 billion have been created since Twitter’s launch.
“Facebook users are even more prolific in aggregate: Forty-five million updates are posted there daily. In May, the last date for which we have data, YouTube announced that 20 hours of video is uploaded to its servers every minute. That’s more than three years of content being uploaded to YouTube daily.
“As the barriers to media production fall — cameras in virtually every cell phone, video cameras in iPods, text messaging as a publishing platform — this content tsunami is growing ever taller”
Lists allow for those you trust to create a filter of all this data, by category, for you.
Small businesses are finally starting to figure out how to make social media work them. Take Sprinkles, for example. They were recently highlighted in this LA Times article for their smart use of Facebook:
“Each day on the website, Sprinkles announces a secret word, such as ‘ganache,’ or ‘bunny,’ or ‘tropical,’ or ‘love,’ and the first 25 or 50 people to show up at any of its five stores and whisper that word get a free cupcake.
“‘On Facebook, we can ask our customers what’s the next location they want,’ Nelson said. ‘What do they think of our next flavor? It’s an amazing way to communicate with our fans.’”
This is exactly how small businesses (or even businesses in general) should be using the social media channels: (1) not just pushing information out to their fans or followers, but providing them with a benefit for “friending” or following them, (2) engaging them in dialogue and asking for their opinions, and (3) giving them a reason to come back to your page again and again (or keeping them from “hiding” your brand’s updates from their news feeds.
Social media channels allow small businesses, that can’t afford a website or advertising to drive customers to a website, the opportunity to set up their own space in an existing community. Increasingly, consumers are searching out their favorite brands on Facebook and businesses that are not there are missing the chance to connect with people (and all their friends).
One local small businesses that is using social media well is The House (on Facebook with just over 1300 fans) and @TheHouseBar (on Twitter with 136 followers). The House uses these channels to update fans/followers on changes to the menu/hours, scheduled events and when they reopened after some remodeling invited just its Facebook fans to check it out the day before the official reopening. I don’t think that The House even has an official website: on its Facebook page, the Twitter page is listed as its web address and on its Twitter page, the Facebook page is listed as its web address.
I am sure there are several other local small businesses using social media in a smart way; please send me any examples and I will post them.
Thank you, @DanaDB, for the LA Times article link.
Admittedly, I am an iPhone “worshiper,” but this latest news proves its capabilities can benefit brands, too. In mid-September, Pizza Hut released a kick-ass iPhone app that allowed customers to place orders through the app. As an added bonus, customers that placed orders through the app received 20% off the total price. To date, Pizza Hut has generated $1 million in sales through the app (according to Mashable). I have no idea how much Pizza Hut paid for the development of the app, but they seem to have gotten a return on their investment in both sales and cool points.
In a presentation that we gave on social media last week, someone asked, “what is the biggest mistake companies are making in the space right now?” Our response: “Not being in it.” Social media and mobile communications really go hand-in-hand as social media gets more social with constant improvements to mobile devices. Mobile applications–like those available for the iPhone–are the perfect channel for getting in front of customers. So many brands are just dipping their toe in social/mobile media, timidly trying it out. Brands should take a dive in and consider an investment in an iPhone app. Yes, there are 100,000 apps available in the app store, but many consumer brands aren’t there yet. Just being there will put you ahead of the competition in this social/mobile space (and don’t forget to put a little promotional support behind it; just putting it there will not guarantee it will be found by your customers). This is not a complete list, but some things to consider when developing an app for a brand, it should: (1) do something cool that others haven’t done yet (or do it in a different way; improve on what is already out there), (2) provide a clear benefit to the customer, not just benefit the brand (example: Pizza Hut offered 20% off orders placed through iPhone app), (3) be free (example: not like CNN), and (4) give the customer a reason to use the app over and over (hint: constantly update/improve the capabilities).
Check out a demonstration of the Pizza Hut iPhone app here:
What pizza brand doesn’t get it? Domino’s. Everyone remembers the embarrassing “food defiling” video post by Domino’s employees. It took Domino’s several days to respond, they signed up for a Twitter account to deal with the consumer response (note that they didn’t ALREADY have a Twitter account), and produced a stiff teleprompter-read video from their corporate office. In those same days, Pizza Hut put out an ad for a Twitern. Pizza Hut definitely gets both the digital and social space.