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Say What? There is a New American Idol in Town?

I was always an avid viewer of American Idol ' I watched every season from Kelly Clarkson to Lee DeWyze. But with each passing season, I felt American Idol lost some its charm; while the performance themes and contestants were always different, the show's format had become so predictable. It seemed as if the rest of America had a similar outlook, as the show experienced a steady decline in viewership starting in Season 6 through Season 9. When Season 10 debuted in January, I had no interest in tuning in and I didn't. But recently, my interest in American Idol peaked. So, I started thinking about why. There has been a lot of buzz on the web through social media communities about American Idol's reinvention ' starting with fresh program content to a new judging panel. In addition to all the positive commentary on blog sites, my friends and family have been preaching how the show is much better than previous seasons. Based on everything I have been reading and hearing, I decided that this week, I will be giving American Idol another chance to reel me back in. We hear all the time how powerful social media and word of mouth marketing are. As marketers, we know this is no joke. The impact of today's empowered social media consumer is game-changing. Consumer opinion is in demand, and we listen, trust, and value other consumers' feedback more than ever. Consumer conversation has the power to influence the success of a brand, as well as the failure of one. In addition, recommendations from our most trusted sources of information, friends and family, carry incredible weight. It is important that brands are visible on social media communities and leverage word of mouth marketing, as consumers have the power to evolve brands. While American Idol is a TV show, it is a brand. If I had not read other consumer's opinions about this season or heard such positive feedback from my friends and family, I would not be tuning in this week. But now, because of everything I did hear, I will be. With that said, AI, let's see what you got.

Watch out Groupon, LivingSocial is Gettin' Social

Last week a friend of mine sent me the daily deal from LivingSocial ' one of the many daily deal websites I'm already signed up for ' which offered consumers a $20 Amazon gift card for $10. For those living under a rock, LivingSocial ' like Groupon ' specializes in daily deals where users are able to sign up for discounts at their local businesses which typically range 50-75% off normal prices. Groupon did something similar this past August when they partnered with Gap offering $50 of apparel for $25. Consumers all over ' including myself ' took advantage of this great nationwide deal that ended up selling 441,000 in a single day generating $11 million in sales. Now that's a good chunk of change for one day! On January 19th LivingSocial took this same marketing approach when it featured a deal for Amazon. Funny thing is ' it didn't come from Amazon, despite the e-marketplace's $175 million investment into LivingSocial last month. Yes this 24 hour deal that sold over 1.3 million cards came from none other than LivingSocial themselves. What's more is if you got three new customers to purchase the limited-time special, you got yours for free! WHAT!? Crazy, right? Why would a company want to lose money and pay out of their pocket? While LivingSocial may not have generated large sales on this deal, that doesn't mean they weren't able to profit. The deal ' that operated in 170 markets ' introduced thousands of consumers to LivingSocial. The result ' not only does this raise brand awareness in the daily deal space, but also helps grow a subscriber following who will become customers of their local daily deals. Although I did not partake in this deal ' looking back I should have ' I couldn't help but notice the buzz surrounding it. Not only were my friends and co-workers talking about it, but it's all I saw on my Facebook newsfeed! People were posting the deal like crazy! Despite the fact that I didn't purchase this deal, I did go ahead to send it to numerous friends and family members who I knew would be all over it. And guess what? They purchased it and forwarded on to their friends and family. The deal generated so much hype that it even became a top trending topic on Twitter. '?¦Now that's good word of mouth!

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In case you've been living under a rock, Time recently announced 26 year-old Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and co-founder of Facebook, as its 'Person of the Year'? for 2010. The special issue and accompanying articles go into great detail on the amazing success that Facebook has achieved in the seven years since it was all started in a Harvard dorm room in 2004 ' 550 million members and currently growing at a rate of 700,000 people per day. While the results and achievements by Facebook are startling and well documented (I still need to see The Social Network), it was Zuckerberg's vision for the future of the web that I found the most interesting part of the piece. This vision, labeled as the 'Facebookization of the Web'? in the article, will redefine the importance that the internet plays in helping many consumers make purchase decisions. Before buying, I always first check out the product features and consumer reviews on the web. As marketers, we are all well aware of the power of Word of Mouth and the weight that a recommendation from a friend or family member carries with it. Unfortunately, the major problem with online reviews is that they are made by complete strangers. Maybe the product is great but the reviewer just had a bad day. Or maybe they found installation/setup to be a breeze because they are an engineer for NASA.  How can I trust a recommendation or a complaint made by someone I know nothing about? Zuckerberg plans to change all of this by enabling consumers to utilize their social network as an online resource when doing things like comparing brands, researching potential vacation trips, trying to choose what movie to see, etc. Imagine being able view friends' reviews first upon visiting a site. Consumers will be able to make much more informed purchase decisions by having a social context and a relationship to the reviewer. As Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO states, 'It's a shift from the wisdom of crowds to the wisdom of friends. It doesn't matter if 100,000 people like x. If the three people closest to you like y, you want to see y." Of course, which friends or family members to trust will be completely up to you. Reference: Grossman, Lev. 'Mark Zuckerberg.'? Time December 15, 2010

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