Pepsi’s ‘Social’ Vending Machines #notaJoke

Anything Pepsi does would be so much better if only it was a better drink to begin with… We all know that Chuck Norris doesn’t like Pepsi, Coca-Cola it is!!! 🙂

Pepsi’s obsession with anything “Social” is fast turning from tragedy to farce and almost hit the rock bottom with their latest experiment of ‘Social’ Vending Machines.

It would have been something if at all it were “social”, I mean like if it really gave consumers a chance or a platform to connect or interact with others which is not the case here. So Pepsi’s ‘social’ vending machines are “social” only in some other sense of the word.

What it does is, allows users to buy a soda and then send a text or a video message from the vending machine, apparently enabling consumers to gift drinks to their friends and strangers.

Now how ‘Social’ is that???

I mean how it really enhances my overall experience of buying a soda from a vending machine that allows me to record and send a video, is there nothing better I possibly could have asked for? Have I been dreaming of it, always?

Next time I am thirsty and approach a Pepsi’s ‘social’ vending machine I might actually punch a 15 year old trying to record a video in front of me for delaying the whole process of me getting a Pepsi (if at all I ever want). At that point I am less brand and more product needy which gets messed up and is quite socially repelling. I mean I don’t want to be punching kids in Pepsi’s effort of going ‘Social’.

Pepsi is pulling out every cliche in I believe ‘Dummies Guide to Social Media‘ playbook to explain the nonsense. The purpose of the new vending machines is…

“…to empower consumers and create new ways for them to engage with our brands”

Yeah right! I have always felt so powerless when it came to engaging with their brands which I always wanted to do.

Now with this super capability of recording videos and sending SMS or gifting drinks to friends & strangers (because I want them dead – encourage them to slowly kill themselves via unhealthy lifestyle and diet choices), I am the new super-hero all geared up to… well, I don’t know, do that!… what you do when you’re empowered 😐

Well there is a lot of buzz around this essentially because for most of the people across world vending machine is nothing but a pay refrigerator. Now with this enhanced capability its almost like some form of mystical deity that must be wowed at… As far I can see once these machines are installed and begin to screw-up like everything else of their’s, there will be blood in the hallways 🙂

Do we learn, ever?

The Social Media as understood by Pepsi was best displayed to create the “Pepsi Refresh Project“. Pepsi Refresh was an online social media initiative in which Pepsi gave out 20 million dollars. They also spent many millions more in support of this initiative.

That was indeed the largest Social Media initiative ever undertaken for you, the consumer, to engage with Pepsi by voting for the “Refresh” projects you deemed most worthy. There were also other opportunities to engage through an enormous online effort — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, website, blogs.

Millions of dollars were also spent in what might be called “traditional advertising in support of social media.”

The result – It was a disaster

  • The Wall Street Journal reported that Pepsi-Cola and Diet Pepsi had each lost about 5% of their market share in the past year.
  • For the Pepsi-Cola brand alone this represents a loss of over $350 million. For both brands put together the loss is probably something close to 400 million to half-a-billion dollars.
  • For the first time ever Pepsi-Cola has dropped from its traditional position as the number two soft drink in America to number three (behind Diet Coke.)
  • In 2010, Pepsi’s market share erosion accelerated by 8 times compared to the previous year.

This was in spite of the accomplishments which were over 85 million votes registered on the program; over 3.6 million “likes” on the Pepsi Facebook page and almost 70,000 Twitter followers.

It achieved all the false goals and failed to achieve the only legitimate one; Sell more Pepsi products! and yet ‘Social’ Vending Machines.

The Issue Here…

is with the understanding of Social Media. Its indeed a great tool to engage with your audience and establish communication channel to receive feedbacks, insights, suggestions and learning to be implemented as they go along. Both the above programs lack that.

What did Pepsi find out about their customer with ‘Pepsi Refresh‘?

They found out about charities they cared about. What did Pepsi do with this information? They gave money to the organizations that got the most votes, thereby alienating customers, whose charities didn’t make the cut.  It had an outbound marketing approach and could more aptly be labeled, “Let’s piss off many of our consumers and see if we can increase our market-share“.

What will Pepsi find out about their customers with ‘Social’ Vending Machines?

Nothing!

While the bigger issue indeed is that its almost pushing sales that doesn’t really work with most consumers.

Pepsi will have to follow strong privacy guidelines in the program which prevents them from storing any information submitted on ‘Social’ Vending Machines completely destroying the possibility of extracting anything valuable off the data otherwise would have been accumulated.

Its time that Pepsi learns to explore the low cost methods on social media platforms to engage with users online enabling themselves to learn about consumers and gradually build trust and loyalty. Their folly is seeing social media as a replacement rather than an add-on.

Anubhav Sharma

Google +1 – A Potential Game Changer?

A while back Google uncovered its own version of the Facebook “like button” called Google +1 or the “+1 button”. This has received a lot of interest lately however several web owners/marketers, including myself, tend to be cynical.

Through the years Google has continually ended up perfecting improvements on their search algorithm. Google has accumulated records from click-throughs in order to get a resolve on what end users liked and what many others did not. Therefore it makes a perfect sense for them to pursue a means of eliciting direct suggestions from users.

The problem is, similar to Google Wave, which lived a short existence, Google +1 may be headed to the identical fate and here’s why i think so…

Launch Strategy:

The primary concern is the launch strategy. Since the “+1” switch for internet sites aren’t going to be readily available for several months and not just weeks, so users are eventually left to “+1” content in search results alone which is pretty vague. None of us actually have an occasion where we are like, “Wow! That is an excellent Meta description. I really like this website already!”

Do they really expect me to go back from the website to the search results (following that decision) to exhibit my endorsement?

I don’t think so. Something else interesting has already sprang high on Twitter or one more of my social networks, and I am on my way over there.

The Trouble is – Individuals do not have that kind of Internet Attention Span anymore.

In the months which it takes to get the +1 button out to web-masters, the Google social “haters” will be loud on about an additional huge social failure by Google, making the release of the button much less significant with every passing day.

In the meantime, just about every SEO specialist on the planet will probably be creating countless Google accounts and “+1-ing” all of their clients. (In fact, that could be a fantastic short-term income opportunity 🙂 )

Google does indeed search well – Social, not really

Google has long been experimenting to be able to launch a social-oriented solution, for instance Google Wave, that were not well received. With social sites like Facebook and Twitter already on the scene with vast sums of users, it will be hard to convince people to interface his or her social networks/contacts over in order to fully benefit from +1.

Google cannot do social. From their post announcing the new feature…

“When you do a search, you may now see a +1 from your slalom-skiing aunt next to the result for a lodge in the area. Or if you’re looking for a new pasta recipe, we’ll show you +1’s from your culinary genius college roommate. ”

The issue is that I’m not connected to my slalom-skiing auntie or even my cooking genius college roomie on Gmail. I’m linked to them on Facebook.

Electronic mail isn’t “social” any longer. It really is for business. The people that I am connected to on Gmail are my co-workers and also clients, and they do not essentially provide the exact same value of “liking” information which my buddies on Facebook would certainly.

How Social is that?

Unlike various other social networks, Google’s social encounter doesn’t have a central library where all your +1’s can surface for other users to consume or interact with. Basically if I strike the Facebook Like button on a news, that ‘Like’ shows up inside the news feeds of my friends. Therefore I know that when I share something on Facebook there’s an excellent chance that my Facebook friends will see it and there is high likely hood that they would comment on it. The same could be stated with regard to Twitter and even Digg.

However, that’s not the situation having +1. When you finally +1 something that’s the end of the social interaction. There’s no method to have your Google Social Circle comment on the actual recommendation or even strategy to share the information with a specific group of individuals.

It could be that Google plans on allowing people share their +1 recommendations in a much more centralized fashion in the near future, but at this time +1 is not really that compelling.

The heat is approaching

And by ‘heat’ I mean a Facebook – Microsoft Bing alliance.

Google’s golden egg is without a doubt it’s search engine which they are attempting to improve by using social search, however, they would have been in an incredible partner to be able to align with a highly effective social network such as Facebook. Instead, they have chose to compete with Facebook’s “like button”.

They may not before long have it over their heads if rumours are legitimate that Facebook will offer search powered by Bing. Facebook’s ‘like’ buttons already permeate the internet, why should we all change now because Google says we should?

What do you think?

Anubhav Sharma

Monitoring Competition on Social Media

Looking for competitive edge was never simpler with Social Media serving as an effective Marketing Hack that reveals much of what your competitors are up to. Using Social Media and various available tools to monitor your competitors not only reveals their strategy but also the reaction from their audience/customers to the same.

Once you have such insights it indeed allows you to permute/manipulate the gathered data to offer better strategy and drive home results.

Monitoring Competition on Social Media

With the right approach and tools that are available Monitoring Competition on Social Media is not difficult at all with inherently giving anybody an access to lot of information available on the social platforms. The best part is that you also get know how users are actually reacting to different type of gimmicks/strategies being run with.

Monitoring on Facebook

Facebook – With over 500 Million Fans to connect with, the potential here is huge and that indeed makes Facebook one of the top social networks for businesses. It also makes it easiest to find out a lot of information on about your competitors’ strategy and fan interactions.

Finding your competitors on Facebook is as easy as visiting their websites and clicking on the link to their Facebook Fan Page. The same is displayed with much passion making it most convenient for you to track. However, if not available than head either to Google Search or Facebook Search which gladly will reveal the competition’s presence on the Facebook.

You can also use the Browse All Pages directory on Facebook to find companies in your industry that are using the search or the category types listed, such as products, services, restaurants and more.

What you can Learn?

There are lot of strategic elements that are exposed when you are looking at the Page however to dig deeper you may have to first Like their page and become fan with your personal profile.

Once you are a fan, you’ll be able to see all sections of their profile. You will be able to find out if they’re using their Facebook page as lead generation through gathering email addresses, feeding other social media accounts or blog posts through their page, gathering and using customer reviews, creating & running contests, releasing Fan only offers, or if using additional premium applications like Involver or North Social.

You also want to check out as to how they use their wall for fan interactions. Are they posting their latest offers, discounts, videos, blog posts, relevant industry news, photos or other items?

Why is this valuable?

Because not only will you see their activity, but you’ll also see how it is running with their customers.

However digging deeper is little tedious to see the fan response or lack of it you would require to go through individual items on your competitor’s wall.  However it does give you great insights and so is a great way to measure what fans in your industry like the most. From contest to discounts to random status updates to photos or is it videos etc. and what type are these.

The above 2 images do indicate that how users tend to interact more when it comes to Contests or Deals that are offered via brands on the Social Media Channels.

Or Like in this case of ESPNStar.com where it clearly indicates that Cricket as a sport generates more response or interactions as compared to news relating to Football.

Visiting multiple Fan Pages within your niche can so give you lot of insights to work upon and get head-on advantage over your competitors as you would know what’s not working while they learned the same by first executing it.

Does being Early Bird really Matters:-?

Since Facebook fan page owners can also add other fan pages as their favorites it is important to go through your competitors’ additional pages through Favorite Pages or brand name searches.

This is a key area to check out, as it may lead you to find more competitors’ fan pages, revealing more of their overall Facebook strategy.

Monitoring on Twitter

Twitter is a great source of information, here not only can you view in REAL TIME a Brand’s tweets but also that of their followers and the conversation that’s taking place.

Finding your competitors on Twitter is easy, the best would be to visit their website and look for a Twitter icon mostly in a header, footer or most recently and commonly in the sidebar. Alternatively, you can Google the company name and Twitter to find the account.

What you can learn?

Looking at competitor’s tweets one will be able to make out their strategy (at present).  You would know if their strategy includes promoting discounts/special offers; engaging followers using contests and deals, driving traffic to their Facebook pages and engage there, handling customer queries and complaints, direct replies to their followers, or sharing articles, fun facts or other kinds of tweets.

You can judge the success of their strategy simply by looking at their follower counts (not really though, we will cover that separately). However for now, a better judgment of their success on twitter can be measured using a tool called Klout.

Klout is a tool which measures the influence of an account (brand in this case) within Social Networks and includes besides twitter, Facebook & linkedin.

The scores range from 1 to 100 and higher the score more is the influence that does indicate effective strategy as compared to one with lower score.

So in example above 2 competitors have huge gap in their influence clearly indicating that one has a better engagement strategy in comparison to other.

Audience

Getting to study Twitter Followers is almost like seeing your competitors’ clients (prospects) list and Twitter allows you to do so by simply clicking on the twitter handle of the followers, even better with new Twitter design which displays the follower’s short bio, recent tweets, location, and followers/following counts.

Clicking on a name of any followers reveal his/her bio, location, followers-following count which is great to judge what kind of users are they interacting with. It also offers you access to relevant people and start following them immediately to begin with 🙂

Alternatively, you can get an overview of a user’s followers by using Twitter Tool like Tweepi, which allows you to see every follower details all on one screen in tabular format that includes short bio information, location, number of followers and following, number of updates and when they last tweeted (active/inactive).

Digging Deeper

On Twitter number of Followers or one sided Tweets (from competitor’s account) does not reveal how their customers are reacting to them. For this you need to head straight to http://search.twitter.com.

Here all you have to do is type “@yourcompetitor’s twitter handle” in the search box and you will get as results what customers have to say about your competitors.

So in an example, you get to know that their customers are facing much issues with refund and deliveries and if in same niche you would want to find and pitch solution for the same.

Continuous Tracking is Easy!

Twitter is great at this essentially because it allows users to create their own Lists by putting other users into groups and access a stream only from them. You can cleverly use this as a hack to make a private List of all your competitors and have one click access to all their streams.

The tools like Twellow and WeFollow are great to find and follow such pre-compiled streams by others.

Other Tools:

socialmention*: A powerful & Real-Time Social Media Search Engine is another easy way to find your competitors on multiple social networks and view mentions about them by social media users.

SocialMention goes much beyond Facebook & twitter to dig you relevant information about competition that includes mention for your competitors on linkedin, youtube, blogs, questions, mentions, bookmarks, audio, images and more.

While researching however its only imperative that one does not only focus on popular Social Media platforms but goes much beyond.

As we understand that Forums are very strong and focused community of members continuously talking about products and services hence it is important to extend research to include this data. The fantastic tool to research within forums is boardreader that allows you to find your competitors and any talk about them on forums and message boards throughout the web.

Have you used Social Media to research your Competitors???

– Please share more tips, tricks you engage to research your competitors below and your important learnings…

Anubhav Sharma