Tag Archives: Social media

What’s the Buzz about Buzz Marketing?

Buzz Marketing is not a new marketing technique for getting the word out about your product or service. Simply put, buzz marketing is the practice of having volunteers try what you are selling, then having them create a “buzz” about it by chatting about their experience with the people they interact with in their daily lives. With the addition of the internet and social media, creating exciting buzz campaigns can be sensational or engaging.

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This type of marketing is a word-of-mouth technique on steroids, and sometimes great campaigns go viral and the buzz-maker’s opinions become very influential. According to University of Pennsylvania’s Marketing Professor Jerry Wind, “People recognize the power of word-of-mouth in convincing, influencing, affecting consumer behavior, since it has more credibility than traditional advertising. But, it’s a fairly recent development for companies to try to create a structure around the practice, to harness and direct the way that word-of-mouth spreads — and to attempt to measure its effect on sales once the ‘campaign’ is complete”.

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When depending on people to engage with potential consumers by talking about, posting opinions about or blogging for companies to influence purchasing behaviors, ethics may become an issue for some. The Ford Focus Buzz Marketing campaign discussed as a fine example of buzz marketing included giving volunteers a “free” Ford Focus for 6 months in exchange for the promise to engage with potential consumers. I believe that Ford walked a fine line between what is ethical and not with their Focus campaign.

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According to Automotive News, “the 2014 Fiesta campaign will recruit 100 people in May and give them a new Fiesta for a year to create digital content about the vehicle, including tweets, blogs, photos and videos to be shared via social media. Ford calls these people influencers. But this time, the influencers — not Ford’s ad agency, WPP’s Team Detroit — will generate all ideas and content used in traditional advertising”. This strategy depends on the belief that consumer behavior is shaped and influenced by peers and other consumers.

What was the result of this campaign? According to Gearoid McKendrick at UCD Dublin, the campaign received 6.5 million YouTube views, 6,500 follower on Twitter and 3 million Twitter impressions. There were 540,000 views on Flickr, over 15,000 fans on Facebook and almost 1 million Google search results for ‘The Fiesta Movement’. 27,000 blog posts were created and pre –launch awareness of the Fiesta rose to 37% among 16 – 24 year-olds. Most importantly Ford received 50,000 requests for information about the Fiesta in the first 6 days of sale. 97% of these leads did not own a Ford car. Very impactful!

With these tactics in mind, one of the best buzz marketing campaigns out there today is the Syfy channel’s Igniters campaign. This oft-laughed-at, science-fiction-based television channel has grown and expanded into a massive imagination based interactive conglomerate. Syfy now includes all manner of engagement: Interactive TV programming, interactive websites, mobile apps, videos, games, blogs, social media sites which pushes the limits of imagination, science, tech, art & design and creativity. The Igniters campaign seeks and finds early adopters, influencers and the coolest of the coolest fans of Syfy who they all igniters.

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According to the Syfy website, in conjunction with marketing firm PSFK, in order to become an  Igniter, one must be passionate in three areas:

  • FINDING THE NEW: Insatiable need to constantly be in-the-know about the latest and greatest everything, from nutrition and diet to electronics
  • DOING THE NEXT: Must-have mentality drives them to try, do and buy the next big thing such as new stores, styles, drinks and food
  • SHOWING THE REST: Vocal in telling everyone about their latest finds. Because they’re at the forefront, people listen to what they have to say, whether it’s financial matters to car buying

People who are chosen to be Syfy Igniters are not paid promoters, but influential advocates for the Syfy brand. According to the Syfy Igniters website, Syfy hopes that “by opening doors to new ideas, and opening eyes to thrilling new perspectives, Igniters will make the unbelievable…believable”.

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Igniters influence viewer/consumer behavior by posting opinions, promoting programming ideas, sparking trends, blogging and engaging with other Syfy fans. Since its debut in 2012, Syfy reports that Igniter’s “insatiable need to be in the know and to tell others about it” has created an undeniable buzz within the Syfy community and beyond. This direct engagement solidifies the relationship between brand and consumer, and today the campaign is strong and vibrant, just like the Igniters. An effective buzz marketing campaign indeed.

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Of course, ethics should always play a part in who influences who and how. Since this campaign does not monetarily compensate their Igniters, and it is the pure joy of the power of influence that drives these brand advocates, opinions and ideas should be looked at from that point of view. Brand advocates do not usually post anything negative, so the people engaging with Igniters should keep that in mind. Is the Syfy Igniters campaign ethical? Yes, I believe it is, as long as there is full disclosure on who they are and what their objectives are, everyone involved will be happy.

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Competitive Intelligence: Is it Ethical?

Competitive intelligence (CI) is very important in the fast-paced world of business. According to the Entrepreneur website, CI essentially means “understanding and learning what’s happening in the world outside your business so you can be as competitive as possible. It means learning as much as possible-as soon as possible-about your industry in general, your competitors, or even your county’s particular zoning rules. In short, it empowers you to anticipate and face challenges head on”.

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Key points of this definition, as pointed out by Stephen Haag, author of Management Information Systems for the Information Age:

  1. Competitive intelligence is an ethical and legal business practice, as opposed to industrial espionage, which is illegal.
  2. The focus is on the external business environment.
  3. There is a process involved in gathering information, converting it into intelligence and then utilizing this in business decision making. Some CI professionals erroneously emphasize that if the intelligence gathered is not usable, or actionable, then it is not intelligence.

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Ethics does come into play since there is a fine line between using the intelligence you have gleaned illegally or not-so legally. Using information that was gathered legally through many sources, like Spyfu, SEMRush, Ispionage and KeywordSpy are considered legal, since it is public knowledge you are researching and getting analytics about. Illegal information gathering and usage includes exploitation and exposure of trade secrets.

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Take the case of the five HTC employees who used competitive intelligence to learn how to better use their technology to meet the needs of their clients. They used external information to create a new product to gain a better share of the saturated and highly competitive smart phone market for HTC. Little did HTC know that these five employees planned on taking this intelligence, along with trade secrets to “start their own design firm, and had been showing-off internal projects – supposedly resources from the upcoming Sense 6.0 – as a way to demonstrate their creative portfolio to investors”, as reported by Pocketnow.com.

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 It seems that these highly-respected designers and engineers took the external intelligence they gathered to the extreme, and thought they could use that information, in combination with what they knew to be HTC trade secrets to best the company they worked for. The Pocketnow.com website reported that they even went further by “embezzling more than one million dollars, submitting phony expense reports and fraudulent supplier invoices”. They were all arrested and HTC is tight-lipped about what secrets were absconded.

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 In the end, competitive intelligence is very important in the business world. How else would any company be able to be competitive without knowing what their competitors are doing, what external factors of their industry may affect their decisions and how to act upon the information gleaned. Just make sure that ethics are in the fore-front before jumping ship and going the illegal and unethical route.

 

Calvin Klein Ads: Too Hot for the Public?

When I think of advertising that stretches the limits of what is decent, I think of the Calvin Klein brand. In Australia, public billboards portraying carnal activities or mostly naked models are banned. Some can understand why. Several advertising campaigns in the last few years alone have raised a lot of eyebrows: CK

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  ck 3 There are scenes of sexuality in various state of action with more than one partner at a time, where lines are blurred and the brand is displayed in a very overt way.

Personally, this type of advertising does not offend me. The heavily-sexual overtones, the erotic innuendo and aggressive themes of the advertising is shocking to most, which is the objective of these real “attention-getters”. Look closely at each ad, and you may find hidden clues to the intention of the participants in the ad.

It is widely known that sex sells, and some of Calvin Klein’s ads are hot, sexy and alluring. It is just what the Calvin Klein brand wants their target consumer (14 to 50 years olds who
desires modern fashion forward products) to think of when they think of Calvin Klein. It is intriguing to see a brand accept alternative lifestyle choices, however, these type of ads should be thought of as provocative and controversial, since they are, and left to adults to ponder, admire and/or repel in a less public setting.

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However, as a proponent of the First Amendment, it is Constitutional to advertise your brand as you see fit, as long as it is legal. Moral advertising is a much grayer area, however. What is considered proper by some may be thought of as offensive by others. Displaying a giant billboard of any of the ads shown in this post could be considered depraved, since young eyes may view these sexually-charged ads. Many people agree with this view, since Calvin Klein has had massive push-back from the public at large where public and massive billboards were exposed in New York City (and as previously mentioned, banned in other places).

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So why would the Calvin Klein brand insist on displaying an advertisement that will certainly bring negative responses from the public at large? In advertising,  the old adage rings true…”there’s no such thing as bad publicity” – which is the same as “any publicity is good publicity”. Controversy is contagious and memorable. Calvin Klein is making use of sex to sell their brand through their advertising, using both traditional and digital methods, and they are doing it very well.

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A browse through the Calvin Klein website and a visitor will find a section where the “average” CK underwear-wearer can post their own photos. A giant billboard also pushes the #mycalvins hashtag feed to everyone who passes by, the very same billboard that is banned in Australia. But talk about acceptance and engagement within their target group (and beyond), since hundreds of photos are posted and shared.

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Calvin Klein has embraced on-the-edge advertising,  just as other companies have, like Tom Ford and Dolce & Gabbana, using sex and suggestion to solidify their brand and sell product. If popularity of Calvin Klein continues to grow, stimulating and controversial ads will continue be made and displayed in public, too hot or not, for the public outcry against the brand has not been as strong as the positive reception with its consumers.

Hershey’s Nuggets Dilemma

Hershey’s Nuggets Dilemma 

Recently, two friends of mine opened a bag of Hershey’s Nuggets Assortment, looking for their personal favorites. I listened to the two of them as they had a hard time finding their much-loved chocolate nuggets, which was intriguing. This is where the ensuing dilemma unfolded over the next hour or so about Hershey’s marketing flaw, and ultimately, their packaging mistake.

My two friends were a (albeit small) focus group for this particular Hershey’s product. Set out on the table was the contents of the Hershey’s Nugget Assortment bag, with four little piles of nuggets clustered together. There are four different types of chocolate nuggets in this assortment bag: Milk Chocolate, Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Almonds, Milk Chocolate with Almonds, and Special Dark Chocolate with Almonds.

For almost an hour I listened to the two of them talk about the quality of the chocolate, their favorite flavors offered and what they would like to see in the assortment, as well as why Hershey’s decided to put such similar wrappers on the four different chocolates in an assortment bag. This is where my marketing ears really perked up and I had to see for myself what they were talking about.

Upon closer inspection, they were right. The two girls separated the chocolates into piles because they could not discern between the flavors by simply looking at the wrapper.  A marketing flaw was being exposed: the company did not do enough consumer research to know that the packaging was confusing and not well-liked, as least not by these two Hershey’s lovers. My friends stressed that the chocolate is awesome, a great two-bite piece of joy, but finding her favorite flavor wasn’t easy when looking into the bag. Here’s a photo of the four different nuggets:

                                         HERSHEY NUGGETS ASSORTMENT

As you can see, three of the chocolates are in gold wrappers, with the Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Almonds and Milk Chocolate with Almonds almost indistinguishable from each other, unless you carefully inspect the tiny writing up close. Only the silver-wrapped Milk Chocolate is discernible from the rest.

Looking at both my friends sitting with their glasses at the edge of their noses, trying to read the wrapper to put the chocolates in the right pile…what a site! I thought to myself, this is a packaging mistake that came out of a marketing flaw. Even the colors associated with the chocolates on the exterior bag didn’t match the chocolate’s wrappers on the inside…see Red, Orange, Silver and White on the exterior of the bag:

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Unless the consumer speaks up and lets the company know that they love the chocolates, but the wrappers need to distinguishable (without offending them), how can this mistake be changed? What a dilemma.

I chose to go the proactive consumer route and write this to let Hershey’s know that their Hershey’s Nuggets Assortment chocolates are loved, but their packaging is not. And as a writer of the Wilder side of marketing, I suggest adding a bit of pizzazz to the wrappers:

Milk Chocolate:

METALLIC SILVER

Extra Creamy Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Almonds:

METALLIC GOLD

Milk Chocolate with Almonds:

METALLIC BLUE

Special Dark Chocolate with Almonds:

METALLIC RED

Once the color scheme (whether it is with these four metallic colors or four other easily identifiable colors), the color theme needs to be carried through onto the exterior packaging as an assortment bag or when sold separately so everything is cohesive. Confusion gone, consumer happy.

In the end, my two friends will not stop buying or enjoying Hershey’s Nuggets Assortment bags, but until the packaging is changed, consumer confusion will remain.

The Happy in 21 Challenge

My Social Media Marketing professor at SNHU, Leila Samii, told me about a campaign her undergraduate class created called “Happy in 21”. The concept is simple: It takes 21 days to make positive changes. Their mission is “spreading happiness through positive vibes in hopes to create a happier world, one person at a time”. The campaign focuses on happiness habits, encouraging quotes and motivational reinforcement themes, all with the intention of making the reader happier. The campaign has a twitter feed: @HappyIn21 and a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/HappyIn21 with a good following for a new campaign #HappyIn21, with active participation.

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I liked this movement since I already practiced daily affirmations with the theme of “Every Day is a Gift”. On April 15, 2013, the city of Boston suffered a terrorist attack at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I was deeply affected by this horrifying act. I did not know any runners or victims of the bombing, but after listening to the heartbroken words from Krystal Campbell’s mother after she learned her daughter died from the blasts, I knew right there and then that I should be thankful for what I have and to hug those I loved.

Two other people died that day: Lu Lingzi and Martin Richard (extremely sad situations) and another man was shot and killed (MIT officer Sean Collier) during the manhunt. The way I looked at life changed that day. I was going through a very difficult time in my personal life, but my problems were not as massive as the people touched by the terrorist attack. I decided to change my outlook.

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Every day when I get up, no matter how bleak things may seem or how problematic times may be, I am thankful to be alive (it certainly beats the alternative), and I try to find the gift of the day (something to be thankful for or happy about). The gift can be small, like a ray of sunshine after a rainy morning, a smile from my granddaughter, a well-written blog, expertly made sushi for lunch, a good-hair day or few minutes playing with my dog. Or the gift can be big, like the good health of my family, a promotion at work, the great friends in my life or the stable relationships I have. This declaration seems to be popular with millions of people, and I was happy to be on board.

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I bring all this up to get to the Happy in 21 Challenge I decided to take on, which expanded my daily affirmation to include 3 positive thoughts PLUS one genuine “thank you” to one person a day. To say out loud what the gift of the day is was very different than writing them down. For 21 days starting on April 3rd, I wrote down my 3 statements and my 1 “thank you” on my calendar. At the end of the three weeks, I felt happier, more optimistic and less stressed out. I decided to continue the challenge for 2 months. The  results are amazing! Check out my CHALLENGE CALENDARS.

I am a very positive and confident person in general, with an optimistic outlook on life. Although this past year has been one of the most difficult in recent years for me personally, this challenge has helped me put things in perspective. By changing my internal voice to always chant a strong motivational mantra and by reinforcing what gifts life offers in writing and in my thoughts, I can definitely say that I am a better person and happier for it! Every Day is a Gift!

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Bravo Avocado!

 I love avocados. They are my favorite fruit. Creamy and buttery with a subtle but complex earthy flavor. Delicious. When I was younger, I used get so excited when the dark, ripe fruits were available in my local market, after waiting months during the winter absence. Oh the joy of those first few fabulous fruits of the season. That was twenty years ago and a lot has changed since then. Today, thanks to the year-round growing season in Mexico and the creation of the Haas Avocado Board in 2002, these tasty little darlings are available to the average shopper any time of year.

Although I am a big fan of the succulent fruit, not everyone enjoys eating them.  It has been a challenge creating new ways of incorporating the wonderful avocado into my weekly meal plans that are appealing and tasty. Usually avocados are relegated to the role of guacamole side-kick or chip-dip. The new animated commercial from the AvocadosFromMexico.com created a cute dancing avocado TV commercial to show that avocados can be eaten for BREAKFAST:

http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7fte/avocados-from-mexico-rise-and-shine

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Now, I have been eating avocados for breakfast for many years, like millions of people world-wide. But for those who never thought of eating avocados in anything else but guacamole, this sticks-in-your-mind, pretty ditty sends home the message to try something simple like avocados on wheat toast with a little salt for breakfast. It is just wonderful marketing.

At the end of the 15 second spot, the call to action is to visit avocadosfrommexico.com website, which I did to check out their other marketing efforts. They have nutritional information, extensive recipe listing, prep tips and delicious celebrity guest shots (read: Mario Lopez), all promoting the greatness that is the avocado.

If this short but sweet TV spot can change one person’s mind to try an avocado, either for breakfast or by itself, then it has done its job. I personally think that this type of marketing will broaden the reach and awareness of the amazing avocado, and sharpen focus on the Avocados from Mexico brand. Bravo avocado!

I was motivated to write about the effective ad and post my favorite breakfast recipe in solidarity with other avocado lovers everywhere. These easy to make Popeyes are delicious and good for you. ..give them a try!

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Scrumptious Avo Popeyes

  • Per person:
  • 3 slices fresh, ripe avocado
  • 2 slices cooked bacon (preferably maple flavor
  • 1 slice of your favorite bread
  • 1 large egg, 1 slice ripe tomato (preferably plum)
  • A few baby spinach leaves
  • Butter spray
  • ———————-
  • With each piece of bread, remove a half-dollar size hole (set aside holes for another use).
  • Put some spray in a skillet and turn up to medium heat.
  • Put the bread (with a hole in it) in the skillet to toast.
  • While the bread is toasting, crack open an egg and gently drop it into the hole in the bread.
  • Once bread is toasted, gently flip over to cook the egg on the other side.
  • Remove from the skillet when the egg is done and place on a plate, egg side up.
  • On top of the egg, put a few baby spinach leaves.
  • On top of the spinach, place a slice of tomato.
  • On top of the tomato, put 2 slices of bacon.
  • And the best part…place 3 slices of avocado on top of the whole Popeye.
  • Eat and Enjoy!

 

Helpless but not Hopeless

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Faced with the challenge of connecting two films that have wildly diverse themes: Isolation from human interaction and digital interaction overload, I settled in for a night of movie watching and note taking. To represent the theme of isolation, the film Life of Pi was chosen. To represent the theme of interaction overload, the movie The Internship was on deck. What I experienced that night made me laugh, cry and in the end, left me with the belief that just because you are helpless, it doesn’t mean that you are hopeless.

The main character of the Life of Pi is a boy named Piscine “Pi” Patel. Pi overcame bullying and religious confusion during his primary school years, to become a young man who “just wanted to love God”.  While growing up on the family Zoo in India, he was a Hindu vegetarian who recognized parts of the Islam and Christian religions to love God in his own way. The sale of the Zoo and transport of the animals, one of which included a special Tiger named Richard Parker, and Pi’s family to Canada on a Japanese tanker, resulted in a life changing experience.

A shipwreck caused the Japanese tanker to sink. Pi found himself adrift in a lifeboat with a zebra with a broken leg, a hyena and an orangutan. Soon, the hyena attacked the other animals, as hyenas would normally do in the wild, only to be eaten by Richard Parker the Bengal Tiger, who was hiding under the lifeboat’s tarp. I wiped away tears as I watched this poignant and mesmerizing film unfold. Pi felt helpless when he realized that he was stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a man-killing Tiger. But was he hopeless? No.

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Switching gears to The Internship film, a comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as salesmen co-workers, I also wiped away tears, but from laughter. These two forty-something salesmen lost their sales job when the watch company they worked for went out of business. In desperate need of employment, they realized needed to be part of the new digital era. An application for an internship at Google accepted by the Google panel when the men used an “out-of-the-box” method of thinking. I thought to myself, they were employing traditional sales tactics of changing a negative into a positive with genuine enthusiasm. Funny interview and well done. They were on their way to Google.

Billy (Vaughn) and Nick (Wilson) quickly finds out how complex and competitive the new digital era is with strange, new rules. What do you mean you can’t take home from work salsa, chips, pudding, sushi, ice cream and pizza? No drinking with the boss? Or dating co-workers? Very funny Green Paddle, Red Paddle scene. Predictably, the weird old guys were left out when voluntary groups were assembled, along with other (more) geeky interns. These quirky salesmen felt helpless amongst this group of young, misfit techies. But were they hopeless? No.

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In both movies, although they are grossly different, they did share a common thread: overcoming adversity. Hope, perseverance, determination and sheer will motivated the men to survive. Pi survived the shipwreck and 227 days isolated at sea. Billy and Nick survived the slow death of watch salesmen and embraced the digital era. The men may have been helpless, but not hopeless, which made them stronger people in the end.

Welcome to the Modern World

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Have you seen the new Esurance commercials where they claim that in just 7½ minutes, you can save money on car insurance? The newest ad stars Beatrice, an “offline over-sharer” who “posts” her vacation photographs by literally taping them to her living room wall, which she thinks is saving her so much time and is so much quicker than (snail) mailing them. Quick like getting a quote for car insurance in 15 minutes. Beatrice’s baffled friend says that she can save more than that in ½ that time. Beatrice “unfriends” her since she doesn’t understand. But it is Beatrice who does not understand that is not how any of the things she does works. The commercial is funny and effective.

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The Esurance online insurance company, backed by Allstate, has been trying to position itself as a modern insurance company, with better services and savings.  To anchor into the consumer’s mind that Esurance is the better way to do things, the advertising stresses that it NOW only takes 7 ½ minutes to get a better insurance quote. Exactly HALF the time it takes Esurance competitor Geico.  This is a more modern approach and memorable.

The integrated marketing campaign Esurance created puts some teeth behind its slogan “Insurance for the Modern World” by having several ways consumers can become involved with the Esurance brand: an interactive website, an excellent Esurance blog, a Twitter account, a FaceBook page, a Google + account and a many YouTube postings. The deep penetration into the social media world by Esurance certainly does cement the notion that they are indeed modern. Their up-to-the-minute posts and involved consumer interactions create brand loyalty and trust. I was impressed with their social media strategy and I do feel welcomed into Esurance’s modern world.

 

Do You Trust?

When trust is lost, can it ever fully be regained? There are many ways trust can be broken; through betrayal, theft, lying, disrespect, disloyalty, unfaithfulness…the list goes on. How many times can one have their trust broken before the point of no return is reached? Does a flirtation on Facebook with an old flame constitute betrayal? Does posting discreet photos online equal disloyalty? Can sexting be construed as being unfaithful? Can a husband’s deeply cutting remarks be interpreted as disrespectful?

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All actions that breaks the trust one has with another person has varying levels of hurt and anguish. When sorry will never be spoken, can one still forgive? Can trust ever be rebuilt to its original state? What if a business partner stole from your company? Would you feel the same if it were a friend instead that stole from you? Or re-tweeted rumors on Twitter? Or started false rumors? How about straight-out lying to your face? Or embarrassing you in public? Does breaking a date equal breaking trust? Slander? Talking behind your back? How much one is connected to the person who is doing wrong will determine if the trust can be mended.

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Dealing with people and trust issues is difficult and complex. Social media does not make it easier on people to be faithful, loyal, kind or respectful. Tweets, posts, comments, videos, photos, they all can go viral and complicate matters. Once your circle of friends and family catches wind of disturbing events or gets involved, trust is more difficult to give back. Once given, there is no guarantee that trust will last, be appreciated or be returned. People are only as good as their word, and once crossed, will a second (or third chance) be warranted? When is it time to cut ties and move forward?

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Of course, I am talking about people and not products, (broken trust with products is a topic for another day). I do not have any answers to if trust can ever be rebuilt, mended or regained. That is a deeply personal choice, up to the individual who was slighted. Having the opportunity to blog about this dilemma has helped me see more clearly, even if a solution wasn’t reached. I welcome any feedback, advice or wisdom on the topic of trust.

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A Name To Call Our Own: Syfy

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Since the Sci Fi Channel was born in 1992, many people were mistakenly referring to the Sci Fi Channel with different spellings and configurations: SciFi Channel, Sci-Fi Channel, SCIFI Channel and on and on it went. The brand name Sci Fi was confusing because the network was using a GENRE (Science-Fiction) for a brand name and did not have an original brand name of its own. As reported in the New York Times: “We couldn’t own Sci Fi; it’s a genre,” said Bonnie Hammer, the former president of Sci Fi who became the president of NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Productions. “But we can own Syfy”.

The seemingly weird spelling of the new brand caught many off-guard: Syfy with a Capital S and a small yfy = one-word branding. There were those who scoffed, ridiculed and out-right laughed at the rebranding decision. The Business Insider Strategy Webpage called the rebranding to Syfy a “disaster”, claiming that around the world, the spelling Syfy is slang for syphilis (an STD).

The Syfy Channel did take it on the chin from loyal viewers and hard-core sci-fi fans. Sci Fi president, Dave Howe (and Bonnie Hammer’s successor) defended the rebranding and said in an interview with Fast Company:

“We were very strategic about how we positioned it, how we communicated, how we made sure our audience didn’t think that this was just another excuse to abandon the genre. We were very specific about why we were doing it and about  why we were about creating a brand that was extendable into new platforms. Then we had a whole roster of sci- fi/fantasy shows that reassured people that actually we were going to be a bigger and better sci-fi/fantasy network as opposed to one that was going sci-fi light.”

Michael Engleman, Executive Vice President and Marketing/Global Brand Strategist for Syfy explained that the Sci Fi Channel rebranding needed during an interview with Boston.com:

“We wanted to create a brand that was broader, more relatable. In a lot of ways our branding was catching up to what we were doing with our programming. We were already pushing the boundaries of the traditional definitions of nonfiction with shows like Eureka and Ghost Hunters.’ So how could we recalibrate our brand to be still firmly rooted in the genre of  science fiction but attach ourselves to this much larger idea, which is the idea of imagination? How do you create a name, how do you create a brand that will open doors to audiences that wouldn’t identify themselves as science fiction fans”?

VP Craig Engler discussed in an interview with Tor.com that the brand had three key reasons for a change:

1. We needed a brand that’s portable and can work in places like Netflix, iTunes and on DVRs. In those environments we can find ourselves competing for space on a text-based menu system where “sci-fi” and “Sci Fi” are indistinguishable.

2. We needed a brand that can support new businesses

3. We needed a brand that’s seen as inclusive to potential new viewers, and a brand that reflects the broad range of imagination-based entertainment you’ll find on our network.

To help with the rebranding task, the executives of Sci Fi channel went to Proud Creative, the self-described creatively-led multidisciplinary design studio based in London. Their website boasts being known for “delivering appropriate and memorable solutions”.

In collaboration with ManvsMachine Studio, Proud Creative listened to what the Sci Fi channel wanted “an ownable and distinguishable brand identity; retaining the positive associations from the genre of science fiction, whilst appealing to a broader audience and embracing the benefits of imagination”.

Well, it looks like Proud Creative did just what the executives asked for and helped deliver a memorable logo and new branding that encompassed their genre, audience and ideas of imagination with Syfy.

The name change also came with a new tagline “Imagine Greater”, instead of the Saturn-like planet logo of the Sci Fi Channel. This new slogan encompasses all that the brand thinks of as imagination boasts the Syfy website: the full landscape of fantasy entertainment, the paranormal, the supernatural, action, adventure and superheroes.

This new brand is memorable and could be trademarked, a giant advantage over the old Sci Fi name that could not be trademarked due to is broad genre attachment, and trademarking can lead to other associative branded Syfy Ventures (like Syfy Games or Syfy Kids).

When researching how and when the Syfy one-word name spelling was first thought of, then Sci Fi VP Craig Engler discussed in the same interview with Tor.com that the origin of “Syfy” went as far as a year back, when a new hire Michael Engleman was brainstorming one bleary-eyed night:

“We specifically began considering Syfy about a year ago, when Michael Engleman joined the network as our new VP of Creative. It was a great time for us to get the perspective of someone new, and Michael happens to be a creative genius, which helps enormously”.

In Michael’s own words in an interview with Up-Load.com:

“I knew how important our roots are, and knew where we wanted to go in the future, and I asked myself a simple question. What if we could change the name without ever changing the name? Five minutes later, with a ballpoint pen and a piece of scrap paper, Syfy was born”.

A creative genius indeed. The Syfy rebranding is a success. And now it is on to bigger and better things. The “Imagine Greater” slogan and what it means to encompass all things imaginative from using social media to choosing programming diversity for a broader audience and a bigger marketshare for the Syfy Channel will be discussed further in my next blog.

I’ll be back, Geeks!

Syfy: Not Just For Geeks Anymore

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The programming and offerings at Syfy has changed throughout the years, but was always, and still is, based on imagination (hence their tagline “Imagine Greater”).

In 1992, the newly formed and originally named Sci Fi Channel had a programming mix that included genre movies, classic science-fiction TV-shows and a spattering of monster movies.

Soon the programming changed to meet the customer’s needs and budget of the network at that time. A snapshot of programming milestones is displayed below and gleaned from the innermind.com website:

1992: The original Sci Fi Channel aired for 24 hours, with infomercials 3-7 a.m.to fill air-time.

1993-1994: Infomercials was dropped, which was a move forward for the new network, with 1-3 a.m. block a repeat of the 8-10 p.m. block. Modern sci-fi TV shows added, like Quantum Leap and a science-fiction trends show called Sci-Fi Buzz was created.

1995: The original Sci Fi website was created called the “Dominion” now called syfy.com (which is fantastic), as well as the Science Fiction weekly on-line magazine and the Sci Fi magazine for geeks looking to read about sci-fi. The 1st annual Twilight Zone marathon for the New Year began (with much delight for the viewers).

1996-2000: Anime dubbed in English was added, with original programming showing up in the line-up. Horror was becoming a regular featured genre.

2001-2008: These were big growing years for the Sci Fi Channel… Sci Fi Pictures is created to make original B-movie films that let the viewer escape into fantasy or fun-bizarre non-reality experiences, and with titles like Dinocroc,Frankenfish and Mansquito how can you not have fun?

Delving into disaster movies of the peculiar variety were also made, like Polar Storm and Deep Shock, along with horror movies like Rock Monster and Boogeyman, along with a handful of alien and space danger movies. Successful mini-series productions by Steven Spielberg called Taken won an Emmy for best mini-series, and Battlestar Galatica went on to become a 4-year-long running series. Paranormal programming was added with the popular show Ghost Hunters, as well as non-sci-fi programs like WWE wrestling (who signed a multi-year deal).

2009: Sci Fi Channel rebranded to be named Syfy  to encompass a broader view of imaginative programming. Original shows like Warehouse 13 and Haven were produced to add to their original series already popularized like Eureka and Stargate SG-1.

2010-2013: Face Off, what is considered a competition “reality” show, tops the charts as one of the most popular Syfy shows, adding to the list of unscripted programs like Destination Truth and Fact or Faked. Defiance becomes a much-watched show about post-alien invasion Earth, a common theme taken to the extreme.

According to the Syfy website:

“We’ve always defined “sci-fi” a lot more broadly than most people. For us “sci-fi” includes a broad range of imagination-based entertainment, including science fiction but also fantasy, the paranormal, adventure, horror and larger than life personalities, among others.”

The programming seen today reflects this attitude. I believe that with the broad idea of what sci-fi is, Syfy has tapped into a large and involved fan base that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon. I personally love sci-fi, B-movies (the weirder the better i.e Sharknado-combining disaster with monster sharks or Sharktopus-combining a shark and octopus), paranormal, horror, classic TV with a twist (think Creature Double-Feature – a childhood favorite show) and creative competitions.

As long as Syfy keep cranking out programming that reflects both love for the old and new in the sci-fi scope of what they define it as, they will continue to show that they are not just for geeks anymore (there really is something for everyone), and I am confident that they will have continued success.

 

To Go Where No Man Has Gone Before?

To Go Where No Man Has Gone Before?

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Syfy is an outlet I go to and watch when I want to take my mind off of real life. Since its debut on my cable network as the Sci Fi Channel in 1992, I was hooked. The USA Network (a partnership venture at that time between Universal and Paramount Studios) picked up the new channel, which seemed like the perfect match for my geek needs. 

 The original programming included classic science-fiction movies and television shows, like Dracula, the Twilight Zone and Star Trek. The two studios had many shows and movies in their vaults collecting dust which the conceptual designers, Mitchell Rubenstein and his wife Laurie Silvers, believed would find a home with a niche group of fans, like myself, who loved science-fiction, monster movies and the bizarre.

Over the last 20 years, Syfy went through many transformations: changes of ownership, modification of programming and most importantly, a new image through branding. Over the next few weeks, I am going to delve deeper into the each of these categories Syfy dealt with in a new blog posting.

In this first blog, I am going to discuss the changes of ownership Syfy went through to become what it is today. In 1989, a communications lawyer named Mitchell Rubenstein decided to start a cable-TV network. He was not a science-fiction fan, nor was his lawyer wife Laurie Silvers.  They were all about business and the bottom line. Through their research and his vast amount of connections and business prowess, the network idea was pitched as the Sci Fi Channel, but according to the Orlando Sentinel, many challenges were ahead for the new network become a success:

  1. Can Rubenstein get cable operators to carry the Sci Fi Channel?
  2. Can the new Sci Fi Channel get enough advertising support?
  3. Was there enough Science-fiction movies and shows out there to fill a 24-hour network?

The answer to all these questions was a resounding YES! It took only three years to get the USA Network to buy out the network from Rubenstein and Silvers for 8 million dollars.

I believe that the science-fiction based network was a good idea, and so did millions of other people. Once USA Network starting broadcasting the Sci Fi Channel, it “set out to push the limits of possibility and imagination on television”, according to the current Syfy Channel website, which it did do. Between 1994 and 2004, the ownership of the Sci Fi Channel changed hands several times with a myriad of new owners: Viacom, Seagram’s, MCA, Matsushita, Barry Diller (head of USA Universal at that time), Vivendi Universal, GE’s NBC, and then finally settling with NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation, where it stands today.

Comcast Corporation is a huge company with many holdings and diversities. According to the Comcast Corporate website, “Comcast’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) was on June 29, 1972. On that date 430,000 shares of CMCSA were issued at $7 per share. On November 18, 2002, Comcast and AT&T Broadband combined to form the new Comcast Corporation.”

Today stocks are worth $46.06 per share. Syfy may be a small part of the huge Comcast conglomerate, but I believe that it has helped boost profits for shareholders. Today the NBCUniversal website boats that ‘Syfy is a media destination for imagination-based entertainment. With year-round acclaimed original series, events, blockbuster movies, classic science fiction and fantasy programming, a dynamic Web site (www.Syfy.com), and a portfolio of adjacent businesses (Syfy Ventures), Syfy is a passport to limitless possibilities.

Originally launched in 1992 as SCI FI Channel, and currently in more than 99 million homes, Syfy is a network of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies. (Syfy. Imagine greater.)” And I agree…the network has become a booming success. Next week I will discuss the programming changes within Syfy in order to capture and grow a larger audience.

Until then…live long and prosper, sci-fi geeks!

Syfy…Engage!

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In 2009, the Sci Fi Channel underwent a chancy rebranding to encompass more genres than science fiction, space and monster movies. The new name Syfy was a one-word brand that could extend into new platforms and demographics. Today, nearly five years later, Syfy has incorporated action-adventure, mystery, fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, monster/disaster movies, unscripted reality shows and the WWE with the classic sci-fi genre essentials.

According to Craig Engler, Syfy has also integrated social media marketing and viewer engagement into not just something the brand does, but as a part of the brand itself, as a part of who they are. The results are a broader audience, diverse programming and an expanded brand presence, with Syfy viewed in more than 98 million homes.

The success Syfy is enjoying today didn’t happen overnight. According to Dave Howe during an interview with CoCreate:

“We were very specific about how we positioned it (Syfy), how we communicated and how we made sure our audience didn’t think this was just another excuse to abandon the genre.”

Understanding their audience, the psychographics behind why they are watching, viewer behavior, their consumption of media and the way they can accept imaginative ideas was key to identifying and pinpointing untapped markets.

The genre of science-fiction is largely seen as a geeky-white guy thing, but Syfy research showed that women, Hispanics, African-Americans and the under 21 crowds were just ripe for the picking. Show like Being Human, Face Off and Defiance (a video-game/TV show hybrid) has taken hold of these demographics.

According to an AdWeek report, Nielsen showed that this is the current audience and reach:

  • Syfy is in 98 million homes. (Nielsen)
  • Syfy is the best place to reach Igniters. (Simmons)
  • The gender skew of the channel is 56% male and 44% female. (Nielsen)
  • 47% of Syfy’s audience is A25-54; 42% falls into the A18-49 demographic. (Nielsen)
  • Syfy’s original programs rank in the Top 10 in their respective timeslots. (Nielsen)
  • Among 18-34s, Syfy posted double-digit gains for both men (17%) and women (21%) in Q1 2012 compared to Q1 2011. (Nielsen)
  • Syfy has been a Top 10 network for 17 years consecutively. (Nielsen)

In order to capture the essence of Syfy, the slogan “Imagine Greater” was created to identify Syfy as “a media destination for imaginationbased entertainment.” Many interactive strategies for communicating and distributing content online emerged on multiplatforms, including:

Syfy Sync– Live two-screen app which uses audio content recognition to allow viewers to access exclusive content at various points in Syfy shows and socialize it instantly

Syfy House of Imagination – Interactive website and film

Syfy Everywhere – which provides viewers exclusives and full episodes of their favorite shows anytime, anywhere from any device, and will soon be released on Xbox.

Syfy Ventures – which serves as the business development and enterprise unit for Syfy with three key goals:

(1) develop immersive trans media experiences

(2) create robust new revenue streams

(3) launch targeted products and services that exemplify its “Imagine Greater” tagline worldwide.

Syfy’s rapidly expanding portfolio includes four major business lines:

  • Gaming
  • Kids
  • Online & Mobile
  • Consumer Products

From these lines emerge five consumer sub-brands:

In order to expand the brand and keep the brand fresh, a smart campaign aptly named “Igniters” was created. Igniters targets artistic, highly imaginative consumers that not only sparks trends but have a say in “driving consumer behavior for new products and brands by sharing it instantly through social media and portable, everywhere access”, stated a Syfy press release, adding that Igniters are very active in social media, in touch with fans and the base of the Syfy audience, and are innovators who can influence others.

It went on to say:

“Through a custom study conducted in partnership with PSFK, Syfy demonstrates how and why this consumer is more powerful today than ever, creating a new marketplace – The Imagination Economy.

According to Syfy, PSFK and Simmons, Igniters are those who:

  • FIND THE NEW: Insatiable need to constantly be in-the-know about the latest and greatest everything.
  • DO THE NEXT: Must-have mentality drives them to try, do and buy the next big thing.
  • SHOW THE REST: Vocal in telling everyone about their latest finds. Because they’re at the forefront, people listen to what they have to say.

This campaign will not only expand the Syfy brand beyond imagination, but drive the marketplace it created, and I think that’s the idea!

With all this going for Syfy, I believe that viewer engagement, social media activity (Syfy Social provides unique social experiences 52 weeks a year via Facebook, Twitter and other social media) and the creativity of the human mind will keep Syfy, and fans alike, around for generations.

So, let’s make it so!

 

Social Media Demographics and Targeted Strategies

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A study on demographics for Social Media sites was released on the Business Insider website, with some surprising results. According to Cooper Smith, an influencer and author of the study published on October 5, 2013, brands and businesses “need platform-focused social media strategies”, and I agree with this opinion. In my industry, MedTech Marketing, a strategy that will target certain demographics is a sound plan.

For instance, the results of the BI study which showed that LinkedIn is an international SM site and is used by professionals mostly during the day. The World Health Organization (WHO) published a report in 2010 that claimed that the US medical device market is the largest in the world with imports supplying about 33% of the market. Other information on the demographics of SM platforms was brought to light, such as gender, income, and ages of each major social network, mobile activity, activity peaks, and how the international uses social networks. Armed with this information, Medtech brands and businesses can seize opportunities on LinkedIn, target their marketing and messaging and produce more sales.

What was not mentioned was the psychographics, or “why” the user spends time and effort on SM sites. The end-user of Medtech products are patients and the healthcare providers that use them. In addition to knowing the demographics of SM platforms, understanding the psychographic differences in motivations and attitudes toward using the product will help the Medtech marketer with the task of marketing Medtech products across other segments and into new territory without trying to be everything for everyone.

Social Media and the Job Search

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Job searching can be a daunting task. When one wants to break into or advance within the medical or healthcare industry, that task can become overwhelming.  Knowing someone within that facility (or a particular department within a hospital) may be able to help you put your foot in the door, or put a bug in the ear of the right person, however it does not guarantee that your resume will be seen or read.

Social media (SM) has improved the undertaking of job searching by giving both sides of the coin opportunities to get to know each other better through SM sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Yes, resume content can be viewed on most SM sites, but this doesn’t always attract recruiters or those hiring. According to the MedMasters, candidates need to “develop a brand”. I agree with that assessment. I believe that if a person maintains a SM site and creatively brand themselves, the chore of job searching can be less of a chore.

A personal brand is developed over time to reflect the type of person you want others to see. To start with the task of developing a personal brand, one must first think of your personal brand as an investment (of time, sometimes money, and effort).  Setting goals of your public image is important because you want to convey who you are, what you are about and what you represent.  Try to keep your brand fresh by adding words of wisdom learned or listing areas of expertise. Keep your skills sharp by continuing to learn what it is you know and desire to know. While maintaining your SM sites, comment on other posts, build relationships, get involved with influencers in your field, and get others to notice you and your personal brand.

These simple (but albeit time-consuming) tips may be able to sky-rocket your resume to the top of the pile and help the recruiters and hiring employers view you as valuable and employable. Just remember that SM sites may be the first-step for job seekers, but building a note-worthy brand and maintaining the SM sites that employers will view you in a different (and more positive) light than not having a personal brand at all.

http://medmasters.com/news/how-social-media-revolutionized-the-job-search/#!

The MedTech Industry and Social Media: Getting Started

When it comes to medical technology, the internet is a valuable resource for medical professionals to do research, share education materials and glean information about new products, devices and equipment. The MedTech Industry, however, seems to lagging behind in joining the wildly popular world of social media for marketing products, expanding brand awareness and involving medical professionals and the end-user consumers, with only 11 percent of medtech companies using social, mobile analytic or cloud technologies to aggressively engage with consumers. Financial resources are leaner today as well, due to the 2.3% Medical Device Excise Tax imposed by the Federal Government, so where to start?

A smaller budget does not mean that a social media campaign cannot be effectively executed. One must first understand the complex infrastructure of the MedTech Industry, as shown in this chart:

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Many MedTech manufacturers utilize IDNs (integrated delivery networks), GPOs (group purchasing organizations), independent distributors or sales reps to get their products and product information to the medical professionals. Marketing materials are often sent from the manufacturing vendor to the distribution channels recipients for promotional efforts, however, little instruction is given on how to market the products using social media.

Before starting a social media marketing campaign, a MedTech marketer must first understand the distribution channels that their particular company utilizes and form strategic partnerships with all essential touch-points to keep the message coherent, ethical and informative.

To complicate matters further, in December 2011, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) drafted recommended guidelines for digital media named the Guidance for Industry: Responding to Unsolicited Requests for Off-Label Information About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices. Simply put, off-label means that a device (or drug) that is not FDA approved should not be promoted nor should information about that product be accessible through digital media. Although these guidelines are recommended avenues of behavior, there is no definitive rules to follow.**

This may leave many in the MedTech Industry at a loss on how to begin the journey into social media jungle, but these condensed social media tips may help those get on their way, before it is too late:

1.  Define Audience and Sign Up:

The MedTech marketer must know who the audience is they want to reach, promote to and eventually sell to. There are many different platforms that medical professionals use to get information on medical technology, like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube that can show videos of medical products in action, proving to be very effective marketing tools. Setting up several accounts and creating a clear message that can be funneled down through the distribution channels is a sound strategy.

2.  Monitor and Engage with Adequate Resources:

Social media platforms are time-consuming to operate and monitor. Posting content, responding to comments or inquiries, engaging with your audience and marketing complex medical technologies is a full-time job. Those involved in the social media marketing process should be allocated enough resources to effectively promote the medical technology and to monitor comments and consumer behavior, keeping communication messages clear and concise.

3.  Keep Ethics in Mind:

Although the FDA released recommended guidelines and not hard-set rules about off-label information, MedTech marketers should adhere to them to avoid any warning letters or backlash from the FDA. Here are some key highlights from the report, explained by MediMedia, USA:

A.  The guidance clarifies the difference between unsolicited and solicited requests in the social media realm. The FDA may consider solicited requests evidence of a firm’s intent that a drug be used for off-label purposes.

B.  The guidance also distinguishes between non-public and public unsolicited requests and recommends appropriate responses. The FDA is also concerned about publicly posted drug/product information, such as product risks, that might reside on the Internet indefinitely even after the information becomes outdated.

C.  The guidance encourages drug/medical technology companies to respond to unsolicited requests that are made in a public forum because other forum participants might not provide or have access to the most accurate, up-to-date information.

D.  Companies should respond to unsolicited requests only if they pertain to that company’s own named product.

E.  Responses to unsolicited requests should not be promotional in nature or tone, and they should not provide links to promotional content.

Posting true and ethical statements that include both possible side-effects/risks of the medical technology as well as the benefits and effectiveness of the products will send a message that the Medtech industry is serious about providing consumers with the best products available while keeping them well-informed.

Policies within MedTech companies exploring social media platforms should detail marketing strategies for their products and stick to them to ensure adherence to FDA ethical guidelines, which leads to consumer acceptance.

By following these three steps to starting a social media marketing campaign, the MedTech Industry may overcome their reluctance to participate fully in the social media realm and become as technologically advanced as the products they promote.

**UPDATE on FDA as reported by Medical Marketing & Media: http://www.mmm-online.com/fda-eases-rules-on-ads-in-social-media/article/329225/