Monday, September 13, 2010

Sharing Secrets with Friends

"Sharing secrets with friends" appears in the latest issue of Social Media Marketing magazine.  Check it out at

One thing friends just love to do: share secrets. But what if you've got a million friends? All the better. For many consumer marketers, sharing secret behind-the-scenes videos, short films on the making of commercials, and exclusive interviews with celebrity spokesmen has become a great way to engage customers in the social media space.
Hollywood has been doing this for years, since long before the advent of social media. Celebrity interviews and behind-the-scenes videos are de rigeur in the pre-release marketing of any film. Check out the YouTube video on the making of Avatar to see a great example. Film producers understand that engaging moviegoers with the actors and filmmakers creates a more personal relationship that ultimately helps to generate buzz and ticket sales.

Some retailers have borrowed a page from Hollywood's book. For example, for its holiday television shoot, Victoria's Secret spawned no fewer than three separate, behind-the-scenes videos, plus a digital greeting card with the lingeried beauties expressing their holiday wishes exclusively to Facebook fans. The Victoria's Secret strategy is clearly working: their Facebook page has amassed two-and-a-half million fans.

It's a bit of a surprise, actually, that more television advertisers are not sharing behind-the-scenes videos from the making of their commercials. What many are doing, ineffectively, is inviting consumers to "preview our new commercial." Not particularly exclusive or viral-worthy, unless it's a banned commercial—like the PETA spots banished from last year's Super Bowl or its more recent Thanksgiving effort—or one that's just plain steamy, like the Kim Kardashian spot for Carl's Jr.

Even if the finished commercial is too self serving to have genuine viral potential, outtakes versions often do. Consider the huge success of E*TRADE's hilarious outtakes video of their well-known "Babies" spot: more than five million views, with a five-star rating. And Sears generated several hundred thousand views of its Brett Favre spot outtakes pitching big-screen TVs.

While movies and TV commercials provide an easy transition to behind-the-scenes videos, some marketers have had to think more creatively. Book publisher Simon & Schuster invites readers to get "the story behind the story" on, housed on YouTube. Authors talk about their lives, their inspirations, and the challenges they faced in writing their books, an opportunity previously available only to the precious few who landed a talk show appearance.

Hallmark, another consumer retailer playing almost exclusively in the world of print, had a unique idea in the development of its 100th anniversary blog, designed to give consumers a peek under the tent at corporate headquarters. However, instead of posting interesting features about how cards are developed, facts about card giving, the most popular cards ever (and the like), the site disappoints with videos of talking-head executives and photos of the anniversary cake. One entry, "High-Tech Hallmark," comes the closest to having real consumer appeal, but it leaves viewers wanting more.

Which brings us to the Golden Rule for marketers who wish to share behind-the-scenes secrets in social media: share material that consumers find interesting. As simplistic as that sounds, a sizeable number of consumer marketers seem to think that we're intrigued to know that they are running out for a latte or are keen on viewing the CEO's speech. Avoid the mundane; the best secrets are juicy ones.

And a final thought. Sharing behind-the-scenes material can be highly effective, but be sure to give fans and followers an opportunity to comment, question, and respond. Remember that there is a social part of the social media equation.