Top 5 Communications Experiments to Consider

As part of the continuing series co-written with Steve Farnsworth, Lou Hoffman, and Paul Roberts, today we’re looking at the top-5 communications practices to implement right now.

Here’s the thing.  You already know you ought to be monitoring the socialstreams for mentions of your brand.  You already know you ought to be participating.  You already know you ought to be benchmarking and measuring your efforts.

IStock_000002646994XSmallSo instead of telling you what you ought to IMPLEMENT right now, I’m going to suggest some things you ought to EXPERIMENT with now, so you can get ahead of the pack as these concepts become more mainstream.

Experiment with Facebook Ads. We’ve used Facebook ads with clients, and plan to do a lot more with it … but sometimes the usefulness of something only really hits you when it hits YOU.  We recently used Facebook ads to help with a recent recruitment drive at SHIFT, and once again were pleased with the facility and cost of the tool.  You can really target this stuff pretty narrowly and as you experiment you’ll soon see opportunities to impact your own clients or brand.

Experiment with Flowtown. I’ve met and liked the guys who run this Silicon Valley startup, and more importantly I’m intrigued by what they’re up to… using Flowtown, you can “discover who your customers really are and what they’re doing and saying on social networks.”  Think about that for a second.  If someone told you that they were offering a single interface from which to explore the socialstreams of your most influential customers or prospects, wouldn’t you get excited?  Get excited.

Experiment with Booshaka, Twithority, IceRocket, etc. There’s more to Social Media Monitoring than Google, folks.  These are just a few tools you could be using to see how your brand is being talked about across the social graph, including Facebook (which is a closed system unavailable to Google, and yet hosts the discussions of 500M people… maybe you oughta look into that?)

Experiment with video. Approximately 85% of the total U.S. internet audience regularly view online videos. 46M videos were viewed on Facebook alone in July 2010, ranking it 3rd behind Google sites (such as YouTube) and Yahoo.

Experiment with your employees. This sounds freaky but what I’m suggesting is that the Marcomm folks who tend to “control” the official socialstreams of the company identify 5 – 50 – 500 potential evangelists from within separate parts of the organization to aid in the monitoring and participation of the brand online.  Set ground rules.  Know that some things will get effed-up in advance.  Watch what happens.  My guess is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

What would you add to this list of experiments?

Posted on: September 29, 2010 at 8:45 am By Todd Defren
23 Responses to “Top 5 Communications Experiments to Consider”


  • Great post! I’m excited to check out Flowtown.

    Another experiment to add to the list:

    If you want to test out your social media news release traction with traditional reporters, do this.

    Create a PitchEngine (my favorite platform) SMNR, and include the link in your pitch to only reporters. Don’t tweet or post to Facebook yet. You’ll be able to count how many of your targets opened the link with PitchEngine’s page views feature.

  • Hannah Stern says:

    This list is to the T. I am currently a journalism student at the University of Kansas and these exact things are what they are pushing us to everyday.

    The two that stuck out the most to me were: experimenting with employees and with video. We talk about how employees are one of your top stakeholders of your brand. They are the ones that are going to be able to give you the best feedback and suggest the best improvements for your brand, because well.. they represent the brand. With the second, the first things that came to mind is Blendtec’s Will it Blend? Blendtec transformed their brand by using videos and social media. Being able to see something and relate to it will help the brand expand..

    Really enjoying following your blog!
    Awesome suggestions, thank you!

  • A key skill for succeeding in the digital age is have a competency to quickly assess and integrate new ideas and technologies. That begins with experimentation, as you suggest, but how I struggle with this! It is difficult to schedule time for experiementation but it is really the only way to grow, isn’t it? I think that is what I take from your post even more than the practical tips. Well done Todd. Thanks.


  • Peter says:

    These are all great ideas and I’d like to add to them just a little.

    I’ve found that experimenting with many types of media and finding the one that works best for your product/site/whatever can make or break a marketing mix. I’d like to thank the internet for making it so easy to try everything out. If you can find a way to incorporate multimedia into your advertising without being annoying(read: closed, paused or muted), you’re going to be ahead of a lot of people. Marketing a product properly means creating a quality presentation. The vehicle is just as important as the content. That actually brings up a good point concerning ethics.

    Communicators should always be mindful of more than just their company’s bottom line, they should think about their company’s ethics and values too. Our worth as communicators is directly connected to our reputation, so we have to strive to work in ways that are ethically sound as well as profitable. I don’t want to sound preachy. If I do, blame my college ethic class for doing a decent job.

  • paul Roberts says:

    Thanks Todd. It has been an educational and fun experience participating in the blog series with you. As I said to Lou Hoffman, I read your blog prior to this series but sharing the same topic with you really provided a unique perspective.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts and look forward to checking out some of the resources you mention above. Admittedly I’ve got some work to do to keep up to date.

  • Renee Malove says:

    I like the thought on this, particularly with emphasis on the involvement of Facebook. There are very few purchases I make in a week that don’t appear on FB, and usually by the end of the day we’re all talking about them. Some people love it, some people don’t. Some offer great ideas on how to use it better, some people couldn’t care less. The point is, you’re there, you’re involved, and you’ve got a front row view for what people have to say.

  • I like your experiment suggestions, I especially like the last one, having employees be your own evangelists is a powerful weapon to show the human side of your business. A social media manager educating employees to be the “voice” of a brand is the best way to achieve that.

  • sjkato says:

    Wow, this was a fascinating read.
    It is amazing what you can get if you experiment, those suggestions you made are very interesting and definitely worth trying, though there are others you could potentially try.
    Like with video’s, you could try experimenting with audio, maybe even a podcast of sorts? that could get peoples interest potentially.

  • Kneale Mann says:

    Love this list – especially the last one. Far too often we build teams so everyone can pitch in so everyone does everything halfway. Look at everyone in your fold and determine strengths and weaknesses. I may suck at something you love to do and do well and visa versa. The coach doesn’t make Sydney Crosby play in net. Experiment!

    Another great post, Todd.


  • I would add that communicators need to experiment with ways of influencing not just the company message, but the company policies and practices. So often in this field the communicator is viewed as the carrier or shaper of the message. But with social media, much of that control is relinquished to the crowd. This makes it even more imperative that we think not only about how we communicate, but how we can shape the way our company delivers its goods and shapes its customer experience–which is, after all, the substance of our message. In other words, let’s give them something to talk about.

  • 40deuce says:

    There’s some great ideas in here.
    Experimenting with new ideas and new technologies is a big passion of mine. Reading stuff like this makes me want to start thinking up new ways to experiment with some new ideas for my personal and my companies social media plans.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  • wOROB says:

    Good tips here. Thanks for providing.

    PR at Sunrise –

  • Great ideas, Todd, especially No. 4 about experimenting with online video. Online video represents a HUGE area of digital growth for many companies, both in terms of content creation and sales/marketing leads, yet, it’s an area that still far too few communicators and PR people are up to speed on or even interested in trying out.

    As for my own suggestion, I’d say try to rejigger your efforts every 4-6 weeks. Yes, keep the broad, strategic plan in place for your blogging, social media, media relations, or whatever initiative you may be engaging in at the moment, but much like lifting weights and exercise, your mind and your client initiatives tend to respond better when you try something new every once in a while to see what works and what needs to be refined.

  • Jon clements says:

    Play with audio. Better still, play with Audioboo.

    It’s a cost-effective and portable method (via smart phone) to get some quick and not-so-dirty audio content to upload, share and measure.

    The Audioboo gang are nice and responsive chaps as well if you encounter problems.

    And, you can embed the code nicely on your blog as a player.
    Look here:

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