I spent my childhood in front of the television set, and it shows.
I still know the number of meows in the Meow Mix jingle, associate Mentos with pin-striped suits, and hear a voice screaming “EAT ME!” every time I spot the Slim Jims at 7/11 (9 out of 10 times, I do eat). Today, however, you can’t even get me to sit in front of a TV for longer than five minutes or convince me not to mute my computer when Hulu allows their sponsors to interrupt my precious 30 Rock.
At a basic level, it’s safe to say the cause lies within the rise of the popularity and accessibility of the Internet in the mid ‘90s. More accurately, the rise of social media in the early 2000s paved the way for my disinterest in TV. It was this rise which would shift the way we all interact and go about our daily lives, trickling down to the way we spend our money.
According to Teressa Iezzi’s Idea Writers, “Consumers aren’t just consumers. They’re producers, they’re critics, they’re creatives.” Indeed, we are all given a voice and a right to disseminate whatever messages we please via the web, whether others are listening or not.
The same holds true for brands. Now, more than ever, your brand holds the same potential to shape and develop a personality; to engage in conversations using your brand’s ears and voice. But, this comes as a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is much easier for your missteps to become the next viral sensation, or for consumers to avoid a brand altogether because your site is not optimized for mobile.
On the other, you stand the chance of being respected and even loved beyond ways you can imagine. Furthermore, as demonstrated through Amanda’s social media conversion case study, it’s not only important, but crucial that two-way communication occur at all possible levels, including in content marketing efforts.
But how do you even begin to learn the juggling act of capturing a consumer’s attention and keeping them entertained, all while staying relevant?
The key lies within a shift of focus from your brand to your audience being the center of attention. Surveys and crowdsourcing are just two of several methods for providing something of value while keeping consumers in the middle of your brand, but the one I find most exciting right now, is the Facebook Connect Interactive Experience!
Features of Facebook Connect
Facebook Connect, released in May 2008, enables sites to “implement and offer even more features of Facebook Platform off of Facebook – similar to features available to third party applications today on Facebook.”
A few features of Facebook Connect:
1. Trusted Authentication
2. Real Identity
3. Friends Access
4. Dynamic Privacy
Please note, other similar sets of APIs exist–for example, Google Friend Connect, Sign In With Twitter, and Myspace Data Availability.
Facebook Connect and the Fundamental Change
Facebook Connect truly sparked a monumental change in the way people surf the web. Now, social is integrated into everything we do online because it makes things easier. For example, with the click of a button, I can now simultaneously comment on well over two million blogs that I would never have bothered to engage with before. In the past, I didn’t feel like wasting my time coming up with a unique screen name and waiting for a confirmation email just to post one simple comment. Hint: If people have to go out of their way for YOU, it probably isn’t working…
Interactive Experiences — The Latest Push of Facebook Connect
No Facebook Connect Interactive Experience is ever the same, but the general practice is as follows: you agree to connect to a site via Facebook, and a story plays out with you as the central part of the experience. Often, the experience will: point out certain photos, look back at old status updates, and name-drop your friends. But best of all, the experience may also draw conclusions about you. Oftentimes, the algorithm falls short, stating some ridiculous lies about you with a matter-of-fact tone. However, this doesn’t matter, because it just adds to the entertainment of the experience.
So while commercials may not be as effective as they once were, there is still room for visual entertainment, encompassed with whatever brands would like to feature: wit, humor, nostalgia, anger, and even sadness.
If the concept seems a little hazy to you, check out Grey Poupon’s Facebook page right now before you continue reading. But, just so you know, they may not accept your friendship. Before you can be accepted into what they refer to their Society of Good Taste, a discerning Facebook Society that rewards those who spread good taste, you must connect via Facebook. Then, Grey Poupon performs an “audit” of your grammar, education, job, photos and status updates to decide whether you have good taste. If you do, welcome to the club. If not, you are politely declined and invited to apply another time.
Making Your Audience Part of the Story
Grey Poupon’s exclusivity may seem counter-intuitive. Why the snobbery? Perhaps this ‘80s commercial can help you understand their original message. (Extra points if you remember the Wayne’s World parody!)
Keep Your Story, But Make it Interactive for the Social Space
They’ve told the same story all along (being the authority on good taste), but have revamped it for a social space by including their audience in the plot. And, while other brands are begging for people to “fan them,” Grey Poupon is doing the opposite — and it’s really working to their advantage. If you haven’t tried this yet, you may be thinking, “I wonder if Grey Poupon thinks I’m worthy…” thus further proving the effectiveness of this method!
Play the Part Across All Social Media
Grey Poupon’s fancy voice does not end at the primary audit. As Erika talked about earlier this month, when managing their Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest accounts, they are consistent in using proper language, dry humor, and big words.
Getting Inspired By Other Facebook Connect Interactives
This is an interactive experience in which a fictitious predator creepily studies your Facebook, and pays a visit to their current town. This plays as a reminder that whatever you post on social media, no matter how “private”, it has the potential to be viewed by those you do not know.
In this interactive experience, you’re placed in the post-apocalyptic world of TNT’s Falling Skies. With alien invasion looming overhead, messages from Facebook friends warn of the oncoming conflict. You’re forced to make choices which will cause some friends to die. The whole experience centers around a journal that features the personal story of your experiences.
This is an interactive music video by Canadian band Young Empires features your Facebook photos as a main element of the video. By asking you to choose your closest friend, it uses this information for the ultimate personalized, emotional grabber. I challenge you to not shed a tear as you watch your best friend’s profile photo burst into flames.
In this final experience, Trident’s Bureau of Fun performs an audit of your Facebook photos to determine whether you are truly having fun or not. This nifty app can even identify certain scenes, such as beaches and weddings. You’re typically praised by how well you let loose. At the end of the experience, a coupon for Trident is presented– a nice present to you for checking out the interactive experience.
6 Takeaways From Interactive Experiences
1. As times shift, so must the marketer.
2. Social media is integrated into almost every part of our lives. Marketers must engage socially with consumers, both quickly and personally.
3. Just as technological advancements typically attempt to provide ease and value to consumers, so should effective, contemporary marketing campaigns.
4. Marketers must realistically consider the lives of the consumer, creating a campaign that easily fits into their lives. Typically, consumers will not go out of their way for a marketing experience that doesn’t provide value to them.
5. If a concept does not provide a clear benefit to the interactor; does not prove to be widely conversation-worthy; or seems too far-fetched, then the concept may need shifting.
6. An entertaining experience from a brand proves to be more powerful and effective than a blatant “call to buy.”
That said, I invite you to check out the examples above, and to check out more of Markham’s work. Also, feel free to share any of your favorite interactive campaigns in the comments below!