I'd like to start out saying how I am honored to be asked to regularly contribute to CATScan. I am currently a Flash Developer at Firstborn Multimedia in NYC, which means that I spend most of my day immersed in code. Not to worry though, I promise not to get too technical in any of these posts. For now, anyway.
For my first post, I'm going to share an online experience I had recently involving small business using Twitter.
A few weekends ago, I planned on going to The Rubin Museum in NYC after reading about an exhibit there I wanted to see. I was curious about the museum, since I wasn't as familiar with it as some of the larger ones in Manhattan such as MoMA or The Guggenheim. So I casually made a comment on Twitter that I would be visiting and asked if anyone had been before. I was surprised to find that within about 15 minutes, I had gotten a tweet back from the museum itself saying "Hey @airdeck—if you're coming to the Rubin with a friend, use this to get 2-for-1! http://bit.ly/bjYaxv."
I had no idea that the museum had a Twitter account. My first assumption was that the message was autogenerated by a bot that would periodically search for mentions about the museum's name and then respond to the author with a coupon link. However, the message seemed too personalized for that. So I checked out the museum's Twitter account, expecting to see nothing but coupon offers to different users. Instead, I was surprised to see that there were no other mentions along the same lines—I was the only person they had offered the coupon to (well, recently anyways). Basically, that means that someone was keeping an active watch and uniquely responding to users.
I had a similar experience about a week later. I'm a bit of a beer geek, and regularly try to seek out unique craft beers. I had recently learned about the Sixpoint Craft Ale's collaboration with The Modern (MoMA's restaurant) to create a special beer. The idea was to use an ancient technique called Stein brewing that is no longer used, in which hot stones are thrown directly into the beer in order to cook it. It sounded really interesting and unique, so naturally I need to sample a pint or two. So again, I had mentioned on Twitter that I was planning on heading down to The Modern to sample this beer, which is appropriately named Dr. Klankenstein. And again, within about 15 minutes, I had a response from Sixpoint, informing me to "let it warm up for a bit...its best around 55 degrees." Again, another personalized message from a small company. And looking at Sixpoint's Twitter stream, you can see that the brand is very active in communicating with its audience. (At time of writing, Sixpoint is currently engaging its fans as to whether or not they should use canned or fresh pumpkins in the incoming pumpkin brew.)
I have to say, both scenarios caught me a little off guard. In both examples I only mentioned the businesses by name, and not by direct user name that would show up to them as a "mention." It might sound cheesy, but I did feel a little more connected with these two companies after receiving a personalized message. It got me thinking what would happen if a large corporation tried this. If I had mentioned something along the lines of "I am currently enjoying this Brand X Cola" and Brand X immediately responded to me, personally I think I would brush it off as spam rather than a genuine connection. Could a large company even use this approach to effectively reach consumers?
So does this open up larger questions about social media and marketing? If social media, from a marketing standpoint, is all about connecting to your consumers, does it even make sense to have a huge conglomerate try and act like a small start-up? I don't have an answer, but I suppose it's food for thought.
If you're curious, you can learn more about the Stein beer here.
And if you're interested in art of the Himalayas, check out The Rubin next time you're in NYC.
Eric Decker is a Flash Developer at Firstborn, where he's helped create award winning digital experiences for brands like Doritos, SoBe, and AirTran. When he's not knee-deep in development, Eric spends his time home brewing beer in Hell's Kitchen.