Social Media Showdown

As I mentioned in the last post, the MBA students in my Internet Marketing class this semester completed a social media project. In the project, they observed the social media efforts of two competing companies over the course of three consecutive weeks. It is not possible to repeat all the 20-page reports in a blog post, but I thought it may be fun for you to see which company within each pair was considered to be better. By better, I don’t mean what the companies have but instead what the companies do. In other words, we don’t use the sheer number of followers, fans, etc. as the judging criterion, as that can be easily skewed by the company’s existing market position. Instead, better is defined in the sense that the winning company is doing a better job interacting with and engaging consumers through these social media channels. In most cases, the social media channels observed were three of the following: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and company blog.

Before getting to the results, I’d like to thank the 21 students who put their hard work into the project and made this information possible. You guys/gals rock!

Now are you ready to see who won the showdown? Here you go!

IndustryOpponent 1Opponent 2Winner
AirlineDeltaAeroflotDelta (barely)
EntertainmentTiestoDavid GuettaTiesto
EntertainmentThe Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)Bellator Fighting ChampionshipUFC
FinancialTradeKingE*TradeE*Trade Baby
Food & BeveragesPizza HutDomino'sDomino's
Food & BeveragesPanera BreadSchlotzsky_sPanera Bread
Food & BeveragesRed BullMonster EnergyRed Bull
Food & BeveragesStarbucksGreen Mountain CoffeeTie
HealthWeightWatchersJenny CraigWeightWatchers
MediaMartha Steward WeddingThe KnotTie
Non-ProfitSaddleback ChurchFellowship ChurchSaddleback Church
Online ServiceMatch.comeHarmonyeHarmony
Online ServiceLiving SocialGrouponGroupon
SportsNikeUnder ArmourNike, though both are doing a good job

Do you agree with the students’ observations? Please tell us what you think!

WeightWatchers Social Media Use – Conversation with Lauren Salazar

In my MBA Internet Marketing class, I ask my students to complete a social media project, where they observe and evaluate two competing companies’ social media efforts over the course of three weeks. It is always fun to see what comes out of that project, and to witness how competitors try to edge each other out in the social media space (or one excels while the other one totally flops). This semester, one of my students went above and beyond what was required of the project. Instead of just doing his observation and own evaluation, Rich Radford decided to contact the companies’ social media team in order to get a first-person perspective on why they do what they do. It was not easy, as his story will tell. But with his journalist background, he persisted and eventually got to speak with WeightWatchers’ social media director Lauren Salazar about the company’s social media initiatives. Below is a guest post from Rich about his interview.

WeightWatchers Key

Image by Flickr member slgckgc | CC 2.0

Note added on April 17, 2012:

After posting Rich’s guest post yesterday, I received an email from Lauren Salazar describing the circumstances under which she agreed to the interview with Rich. Apparently there has been a misunderstanding. She shared information with him with the pretext that it is for his class project only and that the information discussed would not be shared publicly, such as through a blog like mine. Because of this prior agreement, I have decided to honor WeightWatchers’ request and remove Rich’s post.

My take on all this? I still think Rich did a fantastic job trying to reach out to the companies themselves (and he wrote a really engaging post too). What’s interesting from all this is that, even though we think of social media as an open space, it is still sometimes too open to be comfortable for companies. There is still a lot of this “eggshellish” mentality, either from an individual perspective or from a company perspective. With the severe consequence that can result from a single sentence (or word) one says in social media, it is understandable why this eggshellish mentality may be the case. Even in personal interaction, there are often implicit but well-known boundaries of what you would disclose about yourself and what you would not. I think that, for many, this boundary in the context of social media is still very hazy. It is something that will need to be more firmly established for both companies and their employees in the near future, if social media marketing were to rise to a more central role in the enterprise.


1 Point Per Dollar or 100 Points Per Dollar?

When designing a loyalty program, have you ever wondered whether you should give customers 1 point for each dollar they spend and require 100 points for a free reward, or if it’s better to grant 10 points per dollar and require 1000 points for the reward? On the surface, these two setups require the exact same effort from consumers and should make no difference to the effectiveness of your program. But an article by Professor Rajesh Bagchi and graduate student Xingbo Li published in the Journal of Consumer Research says it’s not quite as straightforward as you may think. Which option is better depends on whether you have a straightforward single point structure or a mixed structure, and whether your focus is on encouraging low spenders or rewarding heavy buyers.

Photo by Flickr User twitchcraft | CC 2.0


The authors conducted two lab experiments. The first experiment was based on a grocery store loyalty program and involved 246 undergraduate students. Various aspects of the loyalty program were manipulated, and the respondents reported how likely they would recommend the program to others and whether the program would increase their loyalty toward the store. In the second experiment, 375 student and non-student respondents made simulated purchases given a restaurant loyalty program. At the end of the simulation, they also reported their recommendation likelihood and perceived loyalty effect. Read More »