Wednesday, April 24, 2024

CES 2010: Enterprises Tweet Their Way to Marketing Gold, Grief

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LAS VEGAS — Social media has changed the way people look for jobs, share pictures of their kids and find new love interests, but thus far the vast majority of large companies still aren’t taking advantage of these sites and services to evangelize — and protect — their brands, according to a panel of social networking experts here at the Consumer Electronics Show.

For those companies willing to make the cultural commitment to the instantaneous praise and bashing served up 140 characters at a time on Twitter, the rewards can be considerable.

Jeffrey Hayzlett, Kodak’s chief marketing officer, said that he learned firsthand after the company originally debuted its Zi8 waterproof, pocket-sized HD video camera earlier this year. The critics loved the functionality — 1080p resolution, two-inch LCD screen, safe up to 10 feet in water — but hated the name.

Most companies would either ignore the panning or, perhaps, send the product back to the sales and marketing gurus to come up with a better name.

Kodak didn’t.

Instead, this summer it took the naming process to the people via Twitter, asking the great unwashed masses on the microblogging site to see if they could come up with something better. The winner, or winners as it turns out, were promised a free trip to Vegas for this year’s CES and will have their likeness displayed in some way on the product’s packaging.

From the thousands of tweets received from the crowdsourcing experiment, Kodak combined two fairly mundane suggestions — “Play” and “Sport” — to derive the new moniker “PlaySport.” It’s not rocket science but, according to Hayzlett, it’s a damn sight better than Zi8.

And Mike Colbourn of Williston, Vt. and Jim Culver of La Mesa, Calif. are in town to celebrate their collaborative effort.

“The response was tremendous,” Hayzlett said during the panel discussion. “I’m in marketing. I have to drive sales so I have to have things that do that. When you look at Twitter, it’s a more of a listening and outreach tool. It’s still in the early stages.”

Along with coming up with a new name, Kodak generated buzz throughout the Twittersphere for the new product and garnered tons of free publicity from major media publications.

Robert Scoble, the prolific tech evangelist and blogger who is now busy at Rackspace building an online community called Building 43, said he’s benefitted personally and professionally on numerous occasions thanks to the Twitter community.

Earlier this week during the Google’s press conference for Nexus One, he set up his own live video feed of the purported “superphone’s” debut.

Through the power of tweeting and retweeting, Scoble said some 22,000 people jumped onto his live video feed within minutes.

“Now more than 100,000 people have watched the video in two days,” he said.

Dave Taylor, another panelist who operates the popular tech support blog, said a recent interruption of his Comcast cable service gave him an opportunity to put Twitter’s prowess to the test.

Taylor said he called up the customer support line at the same time he sent out a tweet to report his outage. He said while he was still waiting on hold, a Comcast representative tweeted back to him and set up a private messaging session where they ran a diagnostic scan of his line, found the problem and scheduled a technician visit. All this occurred before anyone picked up his phone call.

While there’s no denying the allure of social media’s immediacy and marketing prowess, the panelists agreed that most fans and foes of a particular person, product or service will be more blunt in their criticism — or glowing in their praise — online than they ever would be in person.

“You have to embrace it,” Hayzlett said. “They are going to say those things anyway. So use the same social networks to track down the people who are saying it and give them a call.”

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