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P&G's digital summit socially adept

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Article from Cincinnati Enquirer about the P&G social media event

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March 11, 2009

P&G's digital summit socially adept
By David Holthaus dholthaus@enquirer.com Executives from the evolving world of social networks had a meeting of the minds with Procter & Gamble executives Wednesday evening, as the 172-year-old Cincinnati-based giant held a four-hour, reality-show style exercise to help it figure out how it can best use rapidly growing online destinations such as Facebook and MySpace to target consumers. With a potential audience of more than 300 million people and still growing quickly, social networking sites are seen as the newest frontier in advertising. About 40 executives from major social networking companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere were invited to P&G’s downtown headquarters to meet with about a hundred P&G marketers to help them unlock the potential of these online sites to reach consumers. P&G set up an exercise creating four teams whose goal was to see who could sell the most Tide T-shirts in four hours, starting at 5 p.m., with the money going to charity, using only the Web and a $1,000 budget. With team members hunched over laptops in four conference rooms, they used Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube to appeal to potential T-shirt buyers. The group used their professional and personal Facebook accounts and also their Twitter accounts among many social media tools. To follow the Twitter effort you can http://www.hashtags.org /tag/pgdigital">link here.. The group also launched www.tide2.com"> www.tide2.com as part of the effort. Two hours into the exercise, they had sold about 600 T-shirts at $20 a pop. “We need to become skilled and effective at social communication,” said Lucas Watson, who organized the event as one of P&G’s digital team leaders. Notably absent from the evening was anyone from Twitter, the explosively growing site where users can update what they are doing, in real time, in short takes. “They’re growing so fast they haven’t had time to think about the commercial aspects of their company,” Watson said. But Twitter was one of the main methods the teams used to sell their T-shirts digitally. Using traditional advertising methods to reach consumers on Facebook and other sites won’t work, Watson said: “You have to be invited in.’’ The potential for advertisers like P&G is enormous. Time spent on social sites is growing more than three times faster than the rate of overall Internet growth, according to a new report from media tracker Nielsen Online. Just as importantly, the audience is becoming older and more globally diverse, Nielsen found. Social networks started out with a young audience of college age and younger, but has become more mainstream over time.

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This shift has been driven by Facebook, whose greatest growth in 2008 – a gain of more than 24 million users – came from people aged 35 to 49, Nielsen found. “Facebook and social networking is actually becoming more popular then e-mail,” said John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen Online, who participated in the Wednesday night event. The audience is a marketer’s dream – it’s considered engaged, diverse, global and relatively youthful. But experts say tapping into this audience is more complicated than advertising in the traditional media of television, radio and print. Users of Facebook and other social sites are usually online to communicate with each other or for entertainment. They aren’t accustomed to finding advertising there and aren’t very tolerant of it, says a November report by IDC, a technology research firm. Of all the Internet users in the U.S., only 3 percent would allow the sites to use their contact information for advertising, IDC’s survey found. “To understand the social media space, you really have to step into it,” said Pete Blackshaw, an executive vice president with Nielsen Online and a team leader in the Wednesday exercise. That’s what P&G Digital Night, as it was called, was all about. “Any social media environment is space where consumers are choosing to spend their time,” Watson said. “We need to learn how to connect with them there.”

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