lead/marke NET: Drew Neisser > Don’t Get Those Summertime Social Media Blues

Note: This article ran also on MediaPost earlier this week. Please enjoy!
(lead/marke NET proudly features Drew’s inspiring posts on a regular basis.)

As we enter August and our shrinks go on vacation, it would be easy to go crazy over all the dour news related to social media. Fortress Facebook is showing cracks as 170,000 or so 26-34 year-olds defected from the network in June according to Inside Facebook. Fast-growing Foursquare, which reached its 100 millionth check-in milestone in July was doused by a Forrester study that recommended a “wait and see” approach. And 24 hours after the most beautifully orchestrated social media stunt since BK’s Whopper Sacrifice, several respectable publications were asking, “Yeah but did it sell bottles of Old Spice?”

Admittedly I do find the Facebook news a bit troubling because no one seems to know where these young folks are defecting to and if it was a temporary aberration or genuine trend. [Note: Facebook grew again in July.] As for the Forrester’s study that recommends a cautious approach to Foursquare, I’m delighted since this will leave it open for the innovators while the wait and see types sit by the sidelines and lose early adopter advantage. And just in time to restore order in the creative universe, Nielsen reported that Old Spice sales were indeed up 107% in the last month. All this said, I’d like to offer a little pep talk in what otherwise might be the dog days of social media.

Don’t Give Up on Facebook Just Yet

Considering the sheer massiveness of Facebook, it is quite likely your target is still actively engaged on the largest truly global social network. According to Comscore, in June 2010 over 130 million people within the US used Facebook. With that kind of reach, its easy to understand how some brands are using Facebook as their only website while others create ecommerce stores within the network. So the real challenge is figuring out the Facebook strategy that is right for your brand.

Venerable print pub National Geographic has attracted over 1.4 million fans on Facebook by providing a steady stream of interesting factoids. Offering his own pep talk at the Supergenius WOM conference in NYC last month, National Geo’s VP of Marketing Brendon Hart advising having a “fan first” approach specifically for Facebook. Hart advised testing a wide variety of content in order to zero in on what drives the most likes and comments. If this old brand can make hay on Facebook, certainly yours can too.

Innovative Brands Should Be Testing Location-Based Services

While the installed base of Foursquare users is admittedly small at about 2 million, now is the time for innovative brands especially those targeting millennials to be testing this and other location-based services like Gowalla, Loopt, and GetGlue. Not only will experimenting now give you a leg up on your competition when these services are more mainstream, you’ll earn special points with millennials who love the competitive nature of location-based social networking games.

Ramon DeLeon, the owner of six Domino’s Pizza restaurants in Chicago, is a legend in the social media world and an early adopter of Foursquare. Speaking at the Supergenius conference, DeLeon explained that he’s had fun experimenting with Foursquare and with letting his “mayors” take charge at his restaurants. Noted DeLeon, “I invite our mayors to do whatever they want, to make their own pizzas or eat for free.” Adding Foursquare to his already broad mix of social media including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and a blog was a “no brainer” as DeLeon wants to part of the conversation wherever his target is talking.

And Yes, This Social Media Stuff Can Drive Your Business

While the Old Spice guy making customized YouTube videos for a select group of his Twitter followers is a spectacularly innovative case, other brands are using social media to drive their businesses every day without as much fanfare. The challenge to figure out your overall goals for social media and then determine how to make the most of each of particular channel, especially the over-hyped and often misused Twitterverse.

Paull Young, Director of Digital for CharityWater.org, reported at the Supergenius conference that his organization has grown almost entirely through word-of-mouth, raising $20 million in 4 years. As the first charity with over one million followers on Twitter, CharityWater.org has inspired a “long tail” of givers, from well-known celebrities to precocious 8-year-olds, all attracted to the mission of providing clean water to the 1/6 of the world who doesn’t have it. Young noted that a Twestival to create clean water wells in Ethiopia raised $250,000 despite the fact that “[they] never ask for money directly.”

The bottom line: don’t let the summertime blues affect your vision, use this time to assess your strategy via a social media audit and get ready to break new ground this Fall.

Drew is the CEO of Renegade, the digital & guerrilla marketing agency from New York City that helps clients make more out of less by transforming communications into “Marketing as Service.” @DrewNeisser