How (not) to appeal to women

We’ve spoken here before about the risks of social media marketing. If you hit the wrong note with your audience, you can make your message go viral… the wrong way. Look at Bic’s attempt to market a line of pens specifically toward women – “Bic Cristal For Her”.

Six sparkly, "feminine," pastel-colored pens that write in black ink, with "Bic FOR HER" displayed in a prominent lavender scrawl.

Six sparkly, “feminine,” pastel-colored pens that write in black ink, with “Bic FOR HER” displayed in a prominent lavender scrawl.

You may remember the dangers of marketing to minority communities without really getting to know your audience. Well, the same thing applies to marketing to women. The reactions to Bic’s new product were so enthusiastically over-the-top, and spread so wide, that (as with @celebboutique’s “Aurora” blunder) it’s hard to imagine that it wasn’t a deliberate ploy for attention.

[Excerpts from the most helpful review: ' Someone has answered my gentle prayers and FINALLY designed a pen that I can use all month long! I use it when I'm swimming, riding a horse, walking on the beach and doing yoga. It's comfortable, leak-proof, non-slip and it makes me feel so feminine and pretty! Since I've begun using these pens, men have found me more attractive and approchable. It has given me soft skin... ' Most unhelpful: 'I love the pretty colors and skinniness, but I'm only giving two stars because they're annoying. For one thing, they dot every "i" with a little heart. They also won't make periods at the ends of sentences; it's a question mark or exclamation point every time, also dotted with hearts--SUPER annoying. I went to okay a memo from my boss with the word "Fine" and it looked... ']

People quickly leapt on the simplistic gender cues that Bic piled into the packaging, and found endless ways to riff on them, from the obvious…

[Two reviews, one short - 'make sure you hide them well! I didn't even have my illicit writing implements for an hour before they were discovered and confiscated by my husband.'  - and one long: 'I saw these BIC Cristal for Her pens and thought they would make an excellent anniversary gift for my little gal, and she couldn't have been happier! She was so pleased that I even remembered that it was our anniversary (I work for a living, after all!) that I could have wrapped up her dirty old mop and she would have been pleased. But when she saw these slim, elegant, feminine pens she almost fainted! (she's very prone to fainting and hysteria)  For years I've seen ol' wifey stumble and struggle with my man-pens and wished there was something I could do besides letting her sit on my lap while I write out her list of house chores. BIC has finally come up with the solution! She even said I should give her the check book so she can pay the bills! (I wasn't born yesterday; I know she was just trying to get a free shopping trip out of me ;) )  Today, after wifey picked up the kids, went to the store, made my dinner, did the dishes, put the kids to bed, then made me my drink, she got right to work writing out her to-do list for tomorrow! I gave her little wagon a pinch to show her how proud I was, and she blushed.  Thank you BIC, for making our perfect marriage even better! ']

…to the fantastical:

["CAREFUL BOYS.   The "for her" label is not just a gimmick exploiting archaic gender constructs, it's a WARNING. Even if you're a boy who likes pastels and glitter (which really I don't see why you shouldn't, what kind of moron thinks that only girls would like that kind of thing? seems kind of backwards to me) this pen is NOT for you. I don't know why they didn't put a clearer warning on the label, they really should have because if you are a boy and use this pen you put yourself at great risk. My little brother turned into a unicorn after I lent him one, and my friend told me that a boy in her class grew fairy wings in the middle of a test.  I'm serious, guys, be careful, these really are just "for her"! BIC, please, recall this product until you've made the warning more explicit to avoid more tragedy!!!]

And, of course, the just plain funny:

["I can't find a switch to turn it on, and it didn't come with batteries. This is not the "for her" product I was expecting. At all. "]

While one reviewer saw it as an opportunity for political humor about the waqe gap, (” I was elated to find this product, but I think it should cost 24% less than Bic for Men to adjust to my delicate feminine salary. As a secretary in the typing pool I would be able to buy so many more pens for me and my friends if these sparkly pastel gems were less expensive!”), Business Insider reported that the pens actually added injury to insult by costing “up to 70 percent more than Bic’s identical non-gendered pens.”

The best review, however, may be this turn for the surreal:

“These pens are the biggest unicorn assault on unicorn feminism ever!!! I accidentally came across some of these unicorn pens at a friend’s place and tried to write the next section of my feminist manifesto. I realized these unicorn pens unicorn censored each time I tried to write a swear word and replaced it with ‘unicorn’. Unicorn this!!!! This is the biggest unicorn assault on women ever!
Unicorn unicorn unicorn!”

Categories: community, gaffes, marketing | Leave a comment

How to Use Social Media: A cheat sheet

There are many more angles and tricks when it comes to finding your audience and putting the right content for them out there. But this chart from does an excellent job of identifying which social media tools are best for customer communication, versus brand exposure, versus generating traffic to your site, versus SEO.

Please note that they have an even newer version, from March 2012, (in PDF and an interactive format, not a static image, so you have to click over to their site to check it out) and that both versions are from before Google changed the SEO landscape to be more content-focused.

Categories: content, metrics, ROI, tools | Leave a comment

What’s the best way to keep up with all the changes in social media?

My favorite way to keep up is a quirky one:

Do a search on Pinterest for social media infographics.

What you’ll find is a constantly-updated stream of gorgeous, colorful, easy-to-swallow social media news.

At the top of Pinterest at any given time is whatever’s new and notable, plus whatever’s so useful or interesting to people that it’s still being passed around. Plus a smattering of random things that may sink or swim – time has yet to tell.

Right now, for example, the top of the list includes:
* The same funny-the-first-time list of how people use different social media sites, ripped off by a real estate company so it says things like “Instagram: Here’s a vintage photo of my Lennar home!” Still useful for a basic overview of what is different about Instagram or Foursquare, even if it’s been branded.
* A list of “guerrilla marketing” principles and tactics for using social media to listen to your customers.
* Average length of time spent per user on each visit to Facebook, Google+, et cetera.
* An infographic explaining the latest in SEO tactics: how to use great content to make it to the top of Google’s pile. (Exactly what we’ve been endorsing for years – but now it’s official!)
* Every social media marketer’s favorite: the social media jobs salary guide.
* “The Social Media Zombie Apocalypse“: a field guide to the various ways people overuse social media. (Overposting about babies, overuse of hashtags, checking in everywhere, et cetera.)
* A graphic in Dutch that’s either illustrating how much time they suggest you spend on different social media activities, or how much time people in general spend on each one now.
* A CMO’s guide – but useful for everyone – on whether each social network is good or bad for SEO, customer communication, brand exposure, and site traffic.

And the winner… although the CMO’s guide deserves its own separate post!…

Categories: pinterest, tools | Leave a comment

What will be the next major development in social media?

What seems to be emerging as the next major development is that more and more social media platforms are experimenting with more direct sales and marketing to consumers.

Or, to put it baldly, they’re looking for new ways to make money!

Twitter already allowed companies to buy “trending topics,” which they do helpfully indicate are “promoted”. More recently, they’ve been experimenting with encouraging companies to buy “sponsored tweets”. Users are none too thrilled with having promotional corporate tweets from companies they’re not following cluttering up their feed. Often, a fair amount of the buzz that these tweets generate comes from users complaining about the promotion.

Twitter even went so far, a few weeks ago, as to promote their OWN tweet about sponsored tweets! And in October, they gave users the go-ahead to sell ads on their own account backgrounds, in response to @StyleWatchMag’s Jergen background:

Rumors have been buzzing, meanwhile, that Facebook is developing ways for companies to use it as an online store. They denied rumors a few months ago that said they were bringing back Facebook Marketplace, which imitated Craigslist back in 2007 by letting users post classified ads – for five dollars. (Craigslist is free, except for job postings in some areas.) They tried the Groupon model for a while, as Facebook Deals, but shut that down in 2011 – although companies can still offer customers discounts when they use Facebook to “check in”.

And, of course, there’s the infamous “want button”, allowing users to “want” instead of “like” something, tell their friends why they want it, and get a link to buy the product. Companies like Wanelo (a contraction of “want, need, love”) are way ahead of them: they combine a Pinterest-type endless pegboard of images with the ability to add them to wishlists and, yes, even tell Facebook that you want them.

I predict that we will see more efforts develop to tie social media in to online shopping. The only question: which ones will manage to keep the “social” and “media” parts of social media in mind while they experiment.

Categories: marketing | Leave a comment

How often should I tweet or post to Facebook?

There are no hard and fast rules about how often to use a given social media outlet. Each brand or organization has to experiment and see what works for them. On the other hand, there are some rules of thumb that can help guide you toward finding that number.

Watch what your audience does. It’s a little like they are all jamming together, and you have to find the right tempo before you jump in and play with them. If your users are largely sharing only when they see something interesting, every few weeks or so, and you leap into action and start posting several times a day, you will overwhelm their feeds and they will likely stop following your posts. On the other extreme, if you have a very social-media-heavy audience, who largely post and share things many times a day, and you schedule a few posts a week and turn your attention elsewhere, your posts will get lost in the crowd.

Consider how much time you can afford to devote to social media. Even if your audience is a fast-moving stream, if all you have time for is an hour or two a week for right now, you have to make sure you’re getting the most out of that time. That may mean that instead of spending it setting up a bunch of Twitter or Facebook posts that won’t be read, you use it creating giveaways for your fans and connecting with them one-on-one to offer support.

And as always, think about your content. At least half of what you do online should be interacting with people, rather than tweeting or posting “at” them. What that looks like will vary depending on what your organization does, and how your target audience is using social media. It can even involve a certain amount of self-promotion: for example, sharing pictures of how you make your product or of your employees doing something fun and creative is MUCH more engaging and interactive than asking your audience a generic and banal question like “Have you tried our app yet?”, or retweeting the latest nice thing somebody said about you.

Categories: content, facebook, twitter | Leave a comment

How do I get started using social media marketing?

The truth? Just jump in.

The secret?

Treat it like you’re actually “friending”, or “following”, or just plain talking to, your real live customers.

Don’t treat them like an “audience” to “market to,” like you’re designing a long, geeky commercial.

Of course you’re marketing to them. Of course you’ll have some strategy for it. But don’t talk to them as if you’re marketing to them. Don’t communicate as if there’s a strategy behind it.

It’s almost like asking somebody out on a date. If you strike up a conversation with them solely to get to the point where you can get a date out of it, they’ll know. It’ll feel sleazy and slightly creepy to them, because there’s no real human connection. But if you strike up a conversation with them because you want to get to know them, which is the real reason you want the date, everything will follow naturally. Organically.

No matter how much time and study you put into picking your social media outlets and designing your message, the real drive behind it should be to tell the real people you meet on there what you love about what you do, and what you love about what they do.

Just make a connection.

Categories: content, marketing | Leave a comment

How do I select the right social media tool(s) for my business?

Step One, as always: Identify your target audience. This should, but doesn’t, go without saying. It’s true of all communications. Internal, external, and personal. Don’t think it’s true? Think about how you talk to your family. You might want to say the same thing to all of them – “Take your shoes off before you come in, it’s muddy outside,” or “Where are we all getting together for Thanksgiving next year?” – but before you do, some part of your brain gauges how old the person you’re talking to is, what your history with them is, and what you know about how they already feel about the topic. (Even the casual eavesdropper can pick up on a lot of this from hearing the way you say something – for example, that your family is in the US or Canada, that you’re close enough and a big enough family to “all get together” for a holiday, et cetera.)

Step Two: Find out where your audience hangs out. Think about where they look for the particular information you want to give them.

You see, even people that you might think of as being in the same general demographic – say, Generation Y, heavy social media users, liable to have emphatic feelings about seemingly minor aspects of Star Wars – use different social media outlets very differently. For many people, Twitter is for wit, and making new connections, NOT for advertising. Facebook is for connecting with friends, brands, and causes, but usually only those that you have an existing relationship with. Facebook skews older than Twitter, and Twitter skews more multicultural than just about any other social media community. (I haven’t seen numbers, but off the top of my head I would guess that Reddit skews heavily more male and more white than the other two mentioned here.)

Step Three: Think about the content you want to share. Are you trying to charm new crowds, or connect with your existing fan base online? Does it translate well into graphics, and if so, are they intriguing and inspirational (Pinterest) or personal and numerous? (Flickr, Instagram, Picasa, even Facebook) Can you turn it into super-shareable infographics (Pinterest again, or guestblogging)? You can easily look around at your favorite brands and your competitors to get a sense for what works. Don’t waste your time trying to fill every social media outlet at once, (“Shouldn’t our tomato sauce have a presence on Goodreads?”), and don’t just treat them as a way to broadcast ads or get generic responses. (“Who loves Fridays?!”) All you have to do is find a niche or two and fill them up with amazing ways for people to connect with your brand.

Categories: demographics, facebook, reddit, tools, twitter | Leave a comment

How do I appeal to diverse markets?


[comments including "Churros in appearance and maybe taste... what are these made of and with? YIKES!!!", "Gross," "I don't eat cereals larded with sugar," "Only if they are served as a side to Taco Bell's Doritos shell taco made with their faux ground beef like product with way too much cumin," "Bet they're FILLED w/delicious GMOs.... Mmmmmmm", and "With the diabetes that runs in my family, prolly not." Also: "Lol they look like little, crunchy, cinnamony buttholes. But yeah, I'd probably try them. Lol" ]

I love these reactions. I don’t know how “Mini Cinnamon Churros” were developed, but this seems like something that a mostly-white company with a little knowledge of Mexican culture would come up with to woo consumers.

“Well, we don’t want to develop a whole new formula here. What do we have that we could just re-brand? Let’s see, shredded wheat, accessorized corn flakes, extruded corn shapes with candy bits, wheat shapes with cinnamon….”

“Oh! Oh! Churros! Churros have cinnamon!”

“By god, Williams, you’re a genius!” (People have to talkĀ  like that in imaginary marketing conversations. It’s the law.) “We’ll make Churro-O’s! Churr-Os? Somebody get the branding people on this!”

There’s actually an even better picture of the box at Amazon; apparently one version features a guy with a churro cart, who looks for all the world like a leprechaun. I think they just have the one Ethnic Character that they tint different shades as necessary. It even comes with three triskeles on the box. Maybe he is Irish? But wait: his name is Charlie Churro.

That’s not Irish.

It’s not anything, mind you.

[A nearly-Latino-looking leprechaun gentleman cavorts on the front of a cereal box, all in green, surrounded by green Celtic swirls and what is evidently a green churro cart.]


Although some folks will eat any sugared cereal at all, it went over like a lead sopapilla with the rest of the crowd.

My current favorite comment is “Since when do people eat churros with milk??”

Lesson number one of marketing to minorities: Ask For Help.

People often try to reach out to communities outside of their experience – whether that’s a matter of gender, class, race, nationality, creed, sexual orientation, or another of the many things that make us each a little bit different. This is good. But we try to reach in from the outside, thinking “What would appeal to them? What are they into?” instead of just getting to know them and what they want. This doesn’t work.

If they had floated the idea – perhaps by leaking it to Facebook communities, like the one above – before creating and releasing the product, they would at least have found out that it wasn’t going to be their best-seller. It’s the same story as any product or service creation, really: people often come up with what they want to do, and try to convince others they’ll want it, instead of finding out what the market wants first.

Although I can see why they would have thought this might work. We already have Cinnamon Churrios.

Categories: community, demographics, marketing | Leave a comment

The Internet loves you, Mr. President

From his “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit yesterday to all of their gorgeously shareable photos, President Obama’s campaign has displayed some of the most amazing social media use not just of any politician, but of any organization.

It reminds me of the way that television changed the campaign landscape, with Nixon losing to Kennedy in part because he came off so poorly in this new medium.

Here are a few favorites. This is what a really well-designed social media campaign looks like. Engaging. Passionate. Personal. Interesting. And beautifully, thoughtfully produced.


A bingo card to use while watching the Republican National Convention. Squares feature phrases like "Tax Cut", "Traditional Marriage", "Oil", "Birth Certificate", and of course "Corporations". Their caption: "(Spoiler alert: Everybody loses.)"

A bingo card to use while watching the Republican National Convention. Squares feature phrases like “Tax Cut”, “Traditional Marriage”, “Oil”, “Birth Certificate”, and of course “Corporations”. Their caption: “(Spoiler alert: Everybody loses.)”


A head-and-shoulders shot of President Obama from behind, with the caption "I've got his back." The campaign urged people to share and add their names. In the first 13 hours after posting, it was commented on almost 32,000 times, shared more than 50,000 times and "liked" more than 365,000 times.

A head-and-shoulders shot of President Obama from behind, with the caption “I’ve got his back.” The campaign urged people to share and add their names. In the first 13 hours after posting, it was commented on almost 32,000 times, shared more than 50,000 times and “liked” more than 365,000 times.


"See what you'd pay in taxes under Obama vs Romney." Clickable, shareable, compulsively engaging. Leads to a website that simply takes the visitor's annual household income, dependents, and tax filing status, and then produces a shareable graphic telling everybody how much more they (presumably) would save under the President's proposed tax plan.

“See what you’d pay in taxes under Obama vs Romney.” Clickable, shareable, compulsively engaging. Leads to a website that simply takes the visitor’s annual household income, dependents, and tax filing status, and then produces a shareable graphic telling everybody how much more they (presumably) would save under the President’s proposed tax plan.

Possibly the most compelling one. A shot of the President snuggling with his daughters on the couch next to his wife, looking ridiculously happy. The caption from his campaign simply read: "The most important meeting of the day."

Possibly the most compelling one. A shot of the President snuggling with his daughters on the couch next to his wife, looking ridiculously happy. The caption from his campaign simply read: “The most important meeting of the day.”


Categories: branding, reddit | Leave a comment

Why not every employee should be blogging

ProBlogger recently ran a guest post by Hassan Osman, arguing that every employee should start a blog. Sure, he has some good points about the benefits to employees, and it can even draw positive attention to the employer’s brand. But whether nor not you even blog about your work, not everybody is going to “make money on the side blogging” as he promises, or position themselves as an expert in their field.

Why? Not everybody is a writer.

I’ll let these anonymous quotes from people’s work emails speak for themselves. There are two kinds of awkward work email. The long….

“Due to many of our active clients are still searching for employment, the Job Match Team will follow up their request to assist them.”


“In continuing our best efforts to maximize ITSA/LIO data input, we will have another session this afternoon as long as it takes to formalize all necessary procedures in using LIO Tools and other features such as managing resumes to Virtual Recruiter and more.”


…And the embarrassing.

“”I can’t make it to the meeting because I have scheduled a colonoscopy.””


“The power is currently out in our office building. The elevators are not working, access to the network is down and the phones are nonfunctional. We are sorry for any incontinence and will send updates as they become available.”


“Subject: Mamory leak detected”




When the first tool to hand is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When you’re a professional blogger, every situation looks like it could be improved with a blog! Never forget: blogs can do blunt damage too.

Categories: blogging | Leave a comment

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