Immediately following the conference, one of the most interesting uses of social media endeavors began. Jim Beam Brands sent Jason Falls (disclaimer: personal friend) to cover Robby Gordon during his NASCAR and Baja 1000 races using all the popular 2.0 tools (Twitter, Flickr, video, etc). I know Jason had high hopes for a major brand like Beam to insert itself into the "conversation" (as the consultants like to say).
Was it a success? I think so and Jason's data proves it, given they had over 360 followers in a matter of days. My concern is not the size of Beam's success, but the few missing pieces of coverage for this creative venture.
Jim Beam introduced Twitter into the world of racing, specifically one of the fastest growing sports, NASCAR and a very niche, but loyal crowd in off-road racing. Do you think NASCAR fans are using the latest 2.0 tools? Maybe some, but the majority probably aren't. Twitter missed an opportunity by not promoting Beam's efforts to their users. They didn't even post it on their company blog. Yes, Twitter still is growing at what seems to be a fast rate, but they should elevate the visibility of brands using their tool.
The social media industry, like traditional media seems to be very territorial. Management consultants would describe this as working in "silos." Each media outlet has its sources for new stories and breaking into that trusted group is tough for anyone pitching a story. It's my belief, pitching a blogger is becoming just as difficult. Bloggers (like print journalists) like to find their stories from a few sources and since so many do it incorrectly, they become less interested in new sources or stories.
Since the social media industry is in its early stages, there are a few influencers driving the popularity of new stories and trends. It's well documented that being twittered by Jeremiah Owyang or blogged about by the numerous PR bloggers will boost your traffic (I'm purposefully leaving their names out). The story received a good amount of coverage, but didn't reach its visibility potential (in my opinion) because the social media influencers didn't rally around a new source's story (yes, most of the big names knew about it).
If we don't support the big brands when they enter, experiment or dedicate resources to social media, we'll struggle to truly build an industry. We're all focused on our own or clients' projects (rightfully so) and those we know and admire (understandable), but we must start promoting and applauding the corporate uses of our tools. If we don't, our tools become our toys and not vehicles for business expansion.
Truthfully, we're more likely to tell a brand how bad they executed the use of social media than applaud their efforts. My gut tells me if brands fear our wrath for experimenting, they're even more unlikely to try our "new" industry. We should rally behind brands and individuals testing our waters, if we don't, how will all these newly-termed social media consultants make any money?
Photo credit: Sydney Morning Herald