Tuesday, 11 October 2011

So Tell Me... Do You REALLY Like Tweeting...?

I need to seek your help again. I'm just putting the finishing touches to a presentation I'll soon be delivering at a Fragrance Foundation UK event on the subject of social media, and I'd like to get your views on the subject.

As shoppers and perfume fans, what do you think of the ways the industry uses tools such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs? Do you pay any attention to companies' online campaigns? Can you think of any examples of web-based strategies that you think went particularly well or particularly badly? What effect have social media had on your enjoyment of fragrances?

Feel free to leave comments on this post or to email me directly at persolaise at gmail dot com, if you prefer to remain anonymous. Thanks very much indeed for your time. I look forward to reading your responses.



  1. I am not a Twitter person, nor much of a Facebook person. I find the concept of constant "updates" for essentially static topics or of public announcements on daily trivia annoying, at best.
    However, I am a great admirer of perfume blogs. The essays often are extremely well written. The essays often covey a true sense of the fragrance. Unlike beauty magazines, they are unbiased, and not simply a promotion for key advertisers.

    You did not ask about You Tube sources. There are numerous video reviewers of fragrance. Many are rather amateurish both in terms of content and style. However Katie Puckric (katiepuckriksmells.com) is an excellent reviewer.

    In terms of social media and other advertising campaigns by manufacturers and distributors, there are very few which I like. In fact, most use such ridiculous imagery language, and outright lies that, if I pay attention to them all, I do so derisively. (One example of an absurd campaign was for Loud, a not terribly original spicy rose, whose campaign was built around a the image of an LP Record and rock and roll. (How radical, for 1955). The ad campaign suggested that young people might do something new and innovative while wearing the scent, like go out dancing to music.
    One campaign, which I remember from my childhood, was Catherine Denueve, telling me that "Every woman alive wants Channel No. 5." I absolutely believed her, and thought that acquiring a bottle was an essential part of womanhood.

  2. I started joining social media because I wanted a means to keep up with my cousins. Eventually I found some of my perfume friends from Basenotes and other blogs. I am not too impressed with marketing strategies (i.e. Loud). Then again, I record what I watch on tv, so I can skip the commercials. I am just thrilled to continue the perfume conversation. I am not very good at "tweeting" since I am a very casual user and I don't feel like I can express myself with the limited number of characters. I definitely prefer perfume blogs and forums.

  3. One huge round of applause for blogland!!! Facebook is good for on-the-spot conversation, but good heart-to-heart lives at Blog-o-sphere!! :-)AND your presentation will go just fine - Bob Marley`s ``Three Little Birds`` for you!! :-)

  4. I do not use twitter, facebook or any of their ilk. I prefer blogs & forums like basenotes precisely because they are NOT used as tools by the industry. As said above, the blogs are independent & unbiased, & are more honest & reliable sources of information than the advertising claptrap produced by the companies. I too skip the adverts on TV whenever possible!

  5. Anon, thanks very much for writing, and for mentioning YouTube.

    There certainly doesn't seem to be a great deal of love out there for current marketing tactics. I wonder if the corporate pressure currently being placed on Twitter will make it implode.

  6. Arwen-Elf, thanks very much indeed. It's encouraging to learn that people find blogs useful and trustworthy.

  7. Linda, thanks for the vote of confidence. Let's hope all this praise doesn't go to bloggers' heads... ;-)

  8. Teardrop, thanks for commenting.

    Would you say you've ever come across a blog that wasn't as unbiased as it pretended to be?

  9. I'm with Arwen Elf - I use social networking sites to keep in touch with people, not products. I don't generally follow companies, though I do follow interesting independents, bloggers and shops that I respect. However, if they start to annoy me by posting constant streams of guff, I swiftly unfollow or unfriend them.

    I do tend to subscribe to email newsletter lists. If I want to know about a company like Guerlain's latest releases, that's how I'd prefer to hear about it. But unless there is a good reason to contact me, I get cheesed off and unsubscribe if I get bombarded by mails. Once a month is ideal, and a couple of very good retailers (Escentual and Les Scenteurs) send out excellent monthly mailings which I enjoy reading.

    I get my information from forums like Basenotes and trusted bloggers, as they often know more about the perfume industry and what's happening than journalists, and are less likely to be biased - we all know magazine editors are encouraged to review products from their advertisers, and they're unlikely to be anything other than glowing.

  10. I agree with Wordbird pretty much - social networks are better for personal interaction in the main, and I also unfollow shops, associations or even individuals who do my head in with excessive tweeting (unless they are extremely amusing!), especially blow by blow accounts of events I am not at - it just serves to reinforce the fact that you are not there!

    Twitter I find particularly noisy and relentless, like a 24 hour conveyor belt that never stops. Yet I feel that as a blogger I should engage with it or the train will move on without me. I tend to ignore company activities on FB too, and prefer to get sporadic emails informing me of new products.

    Yes, I guess I feel ambivalent about all social media, whether used for the purpose of corporate promotion or for personal reasons. There is a tendency to get sucked in and these media may stop you spending time with your offline friends, because you are afraid that if you are not "on the case" in terms of keeping up with FB and Twitter, the waters will somehow close over your head. It is a double edged sword in my view, though of the two I think FB has a more gentle rhythm and is more genuinely friendly and uncompetitive. There is some great humour there, and as humour is what floats my boat, that may explain why I don't see social media as a good fit for corporate stuff. But I am probably odd in that regard, as in other things!

  11. I am writing to respond to your question about biased blogs. There are a number of blogs which appear to simply repeat the language or press releases. Sometimes they come up when I am searching for reviews of a particular scent. I pay them no heed, and do not return to them.

  12. Wordbird, thanks very much. There appears to be a great deal of mistrust of 'mainstream' journalists' assessments of beauty products... and as you suggest, this lack of trust is often justified.

  13. Vanessa, I appreciate your insights. I was particularly struck by your feeling that you ought to engage with Twitter otherwise "the train will move on" without you.

    It's funny how that switch happens, isn't it? Something that starts out with the intention of being fun (eg blogging) turns into work.

  14. Anon, thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, there do seem to be more corporate-style blogs out there. I just hope they don't start using aggressive tactics to drown out independent voices.

  15. The problem with social media - as a means to social interaction or as a marketing tool - is that is is so new and the possibilities are so many, that no one really knows what they're doing.

    As a marketing tool, companies are all too likely to forget the one thing that characterizes social media - unlike the traditional media of, say, print or television advertising, social media is, well...social!

    In other words, here is an opportunity for a company - in this case, perfume - to interact with their customers on a far more direct level than ever before. They can listen in on conversations like Twitter's #fumechat to learn a little about present preoccupations, they can hold drawings and competitions straight from their Facebook pages, and if they're wise, pay attention!

    But all too often, social media as a marketing tool is translated as 'hip and happening, so that's what we're going to make happen!" Case in point - Loud. Which was misguided as a concept, as perfumes that were neither loud nor particularly hip and as a marketing tool. The MBA marketing sharks at Lauder/Hilfiger forgot that thing about the two-way interaction...it goes both ways!

    Quite a few independent perfumers were not slow to see the potential in two things - the blogosphere, where perfume bloggers share their passion for no other reason than to share it (assuming they're not just regurgitating press releases), and the double threats known as Twitter and Facebook, which are nowhere the same thing and demand two different approaches. Facebook is a richer, more true-to-life interaction, whereas Twitter limits the conversation to 140 characters, but it's still...a conversation nonetheless.

    Bloggers are the best - free! - PR and marketing analysis tool any perfume house can hope for, if they're smart enough to use them wisely. By promoting reviews on Facebook, retweeting mentions and spreading the word in a restrained and civilised manner, perfumers can create a larger brand awareness that works for them as well as for the bloggers who write about them.

    Both Facebook and Twitter, however, demand a bit more of their users - it's not just a question of shameless self promotion, it's also a means to establish a network, to engage in a dialogue and interact directly - so long as both parties remember that the social graces are still very much applicable - in real as in virtual life. Through Facebook and Twitter - much as it might sometimes seem like so much inane nattering - I've had conversations and connected with people I would otherwise never know, because I'm not passing myself off as anything other than myself and because I'm not shy about saying what I think. Luckily, not a few are listening! But I'm very careful to share only what I think is truly pertinent - and it amazes me no end to discover just how much you can say in 140 characters - or less!

    Have a plan. Have some ideas as to where you want your own social interaction to go and what you want to say. And then get yourself out there and say it, why not?

    The whole world is listening - they might even be listening to you!

    As for the rest - they'll soon be left behind

  16. As far as I know, they try, to no avail. See, Twitts and FaceBook accounts owned by companies loose their attraction for social media users know there is commercial purpose behind them.

    Contrast this to the fact that independent blogs are not company-related. As a customer, who would you trust more?

    This does not rule out fans of brands and products following accounts owned by companies, but IMHO, these fans account for a small proportion of the market.

    Thus, in marketing terms, companies are facing a cross road: they would love to resort to social media in an effective way, but their proposals fall in disgrace due to the interests behind them. Add to this panorama reduced ratings, reduced readership figures and the possibilities internet users have when editing contents... marketers are not facing nice times. So, in marketing terms, social media is not the answer, independent blogs are. This meaning in the mid range customers will have more power than marketing managers. A good thing for us, sure.

  17. Being a reactionist, I do not like most new things - so my opinion isn't subjective.

    I think that both FB and twitter are extremely cubersome and unnatural for any meaningful conversation. It caters to those with a short attention span and doesn't suit anything but a very superficial touching on any subject.

    Having said that, I should mention that I'm playing that game - FB, twitter, even Klout (BTW, why aren't you on it? You have not a bad score there ;) ). I have no idea why I do it since I do not see any usefulness for me (probably because I have no real goals but still). But I do it.

    As to the companies using those media for the advertising, I do not think we (as society) are there yet. We're now in a data-gathering state: data of the success/failure of the current campaigns will be collected, analyzed and used to create recmmendations for the best practices of advertising over the social media to sell us as much of a best-in-the-world-product-from-our-company as possible.

  18. Persolaise, you raise a whole other interesting subject in itself of "blogging as work", where a person starts to worry about not posting often enough etc. Going back to Twitter and the notion of "keeping up", I don't feel any such pressure when I am away, and days and days could go by quite happily without my checking into my account. It is something to do with being at the computer in one's home office. As someone who does work from home when not travelling on business, I could tweet more than I do, but like Undina, it doesn't come all that naturally, like any kind of activity with a "sales" angle. It does surprise me that so many people (presumably with regular office jobs?) manage to tweet as much as they do! : - )

    And finally, there is the now established etiquette (which aome perfumers and stores also engage in) of the #ff, which I don't tend to engage in, because - at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly - all that public emoting doesn't sit well with my hardboiled British sensibilities. (It is just a matter of personal style, though, and it is kind of people to include me where they do). To give you an idea, my best friend and I have an understanding whereby we only hug each other every 10 years on a milestone birthday. So instead of all that hashtag business, my outreach to the perfume community takes the form of putting hyperlinks to other people's blogs in most of my posts, where they arise organically, if you see what I mean, though they may or may not be noticed by the blog owners.

    Sorry if I have gone a bit off-topic here and there, but I wanted to raise the issue of Twittiquette!

    Vanessa (Grumpy Old Blogger : - ))

  19. Tarleisio, thanks very much indeed for taking the time to write such a lengthy and detailed response. I can't possibly reply to everything you've written, but I will say that, essentially, I could't agree more with the sentiments you express.

    I particularly like your line about "spreading the word in a restrained and civilised manner." I'd love to see those two attributes being displayed as well, but sadly, they seem to be dwindling away. Then again, we, as readers and consumers, should exercise our power to do something about this. We could easily unfollow or unfriend 'uncivilised' online users... so how come we're not doing that?

  20. Anon, I'm certainly happy to see the rise of independent blogs, as long as they remain independent. I've already seen one too many cases of pressure being applied on bloggers to succumb to various companies' official marketing strategies...

  21. Undina, you may well be right about the current situation being the birth pangs of something that won't reach maturity for quite some time.

    As for Klout, thanks for nudging me. I've been meaning to join for a while... although I'm not sure why...

  22. Vanessa, I'm more than happy for you to go off topic this time. Let's keep the discussion going.

    I know exactly what you mean about Twitter. It's an activity that doesn't come naturally to me either, and I sometimes find myself agonising over something to write that meets the character limit but isn't too personal (I like my privacy) and isn't utterly inane and might either put a smile on someone's face or convey a piece of genuinely useful information... and the whole process becomes ridiculously tortured, to the point where I step away from the keyboard and ask myself, 'Is this really worth it?' But I'll be damned if I start posting tweets of the 'oops, I've just choked on my lunch' variety.

    And as for #FF... I'm sighing as I type these words. I really love the idea of promoting people whose tweets/writing you enjoy, but I just don't think #FF fulfils that objective in any meaningful way. It's little more than a weekly dose of spam now.

  23. Phew, Persolaise, am glad to hear you are a fellow agoniser! I don't end up sending quite a few of my tweets, having applied the Twitter equivalent of that wartime rule: "Is your journey really necessary?" Regarding #ffs the image that sprang to my mind was a flurry of air kissing. To be honest, a large number of hash tags or @ signs gathered in one place offend my eye on purely aesthetic grounds. But I did say I was odd.

  24. I think I agree most with Vanessa's first comment, that I engage in social media primarily so I won't get left behind when the conversation goes on there. And this is just because I really enjoy "the conversation" -- about perfume! I have, however, drawn the line at Facebook, which I despise. I don't use it in my personal life, and I don't use it in connection with my perfume conversations or blog. The privacy concerns are just too great for me. I don't find either twitter or facebook to be very "real" ways to interact, though.

  25. Twitter often seems to me like a series of mash notes passed under the desks in 9th grade, plus lots of commercials disguised as communication. (I'm guilty of that one, I admit it.) Whereas Facebook is more useful, at least to me, as lots of local like-minded people are on it. I find out about events, who's doing what, etc. Howev-ah, a piece of advertising disguised as "news" gets hidden. For real information and communication, I go to the blogs.

  26. Vanessa, oh, I can agonise for hours over what font to choose for a letter...

    I know what you mean with the air kissing image, but at the risk of sounding contrary, I don't that quite hits the nail on the head as far as #FFs are concerned. I'm convinced that most of the people who send #FFs do genuinely mean them, but they don't seem to realise that the sheer volume of the messages renders them somewhat ineffectual.

  27. Anotherperfumeblog, thanks for your comment. Fake is the new real, eh?

  28. Olfacta, thanks for your thoughts. There certainly seem to be quite mixed about Facebook... although there are NO mixed feelings about advertising.

  29. Persolaise, I think that is spot on - it is the sheer volume of #ffs that diminishes their value/impact; en masse they can appear mechanical or glib, when they are most probably sincerely meant.

  30. Persolaise, re: fake is the new real. Maybe?

    I agree with Tarleisio that a lot of these ways of communicating are still too new for anyone to claim to have an accurate read on how they're going to affect communication in the long term. Even to say things which I think are *likely* to be true (like overall, a reader's attention for longer "bites" of information is declining, and friendships are moving online) is risky, because there are reactions against these things as well, and those anti-reactions are being pretty successful. For example, a lot of new websites and magazines are launching with the particular goal of replicating the experience of print media and books (respectively). These are giving new meaning to the phrase "content rich", which I think blogs and social media will need to reckon with. It makes me wonder if social media will have to be the one doing the adapting soon, rather than being the driver as it has been.

    Just my two cents. I hope this is coherent; it's been a long day!

  31. In answer to your question Persolaise, I can't say I've come across any blogs that appeared biased in any way, although it sounds as though you have! I regularly read only around 5-6 blogs that I've grown to trust, so I've probably missed quite a few.
    By the way, excuse my techno-ignorance, but what is an FF#? I'm curious!

  32. Vanessa, the other problem with them is that many people keep putting the same names on their #FF lists every week.

  33. Anotherperfumeblog, you make an interesting point. Certainly, things move so fast on the Net, that today's trendsetters may well be tomorrow's followers.

  34. Teardrop, sorry if I'm telling you something you already know, but on Twitter the hashtag # is used to 'tag' certain tweets so that people can search for them and find them easily. So, for instance, if I were to tweet:

    Shop XYZ is offering 10% off at the moment #shoppingdiscount

    then anyone searching for the hashtag #shoppingdiscount would find my tweet.

    #FF stands for 'Follow Friday' and it's a Twitter tradition whereby every Friday people publish lists of tweeters they recommend as being worth 'following'.


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