Tal Siach is a life-long serial entrepreneur who has mastered social media as a guerrilla marketing tool. In my recent interview with Tal, he describes how his actions encouraged Intuit to play nice with Mint. He also describes how he used Digg to discover the ugliest person on Facebook.
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You can watch my interview with Tal below or on YouTube here: http://youtu.be/IW2kQyLeKjQ
What's Intuit Afraid Of?
I began our discussion by asking Tal about his use of social media to blunt Intuit's threatening suggestion that Mint was participating in false advertising regarding the manner in which they were counting "users." According to Tal, "It was a team effort… Intuit (was) trying to sue Mint. What I like about the opportunity is that…Docstoc uploaded the…document and put it on TechCrunch. And then we took this post from TechCrunch. We know that the users looked at this as something that was a bit stupid. ‘Why was Intuit suing Mint with all of its success?'
It was funny to take this post and using social media to show that…this lawsuit doesn't make any sense. (Our goal was)… to show that Mint is legit and everything is OK with it.
At the end of the day, you just need to create a cool story that interests people. You can't just push guerilla marketing stuff without people wanting to see it."
Tal and his team's efforts were successful. In the midst of the embarrassing blowback, an Intuit spokesperson issued a public apology, of sorts. "We'd like to apologize to Mint.com if our letter came across as anything but a simple request to understand how they count their users. Businesses do this all the time and we appreciate their reply."
The apology was weak, but more importantly, the threat of an expensive and potentially damaging charge of false advertising was abated. You can review the original TechCrunch article HERE.
The Doughboy Attacks
Tal and Mint's approach to Intuit's aggression is similar to the jujitsu move that Ben and Jerry's pulled on its much larger rival.
In 1984, Pillsbury allegedly applied pressure on its Boston distributors and retail partners in an effort to deny shelf space to Ben and Jerry's ice cream.
In retaliation, Ben & Jerry's rented billboards asking, "What's the Doughboy Afraid Of?" If it had been during the Internet age, Ben and Jerry would have no doubt used social media tools, such as Digg, Twitter and Facebook (and saved a lot of money in the process).
Even without the power of the Internet, the old-school guerilla campaign worked. The negative publicity generated by the billboards forced Pillsbury to tone down its aggressive competitive tactics and firmly positioned Ben & Jerry's as the industry's darling underdog.
World's Ugliest Facebook Profile
As Tal describes, you can also use social media and guerrilla marketing techniques for a laugh. "Facebook, back then (2008), had a cookie that remembered your profile avatar. You put this long thing into your browser and (you see) your profile picture from Facebook.
So I decided to submit it to Digg as ‘The Ugliest Profile Picture Ever.' So people clicked on this and people saw themselves. 80 – to 85% got the joke, but a lot of people actually believed that the joke was about them.
For two months, people chased me on Facebook saying, ‘What are you doing to me? I am not ugly.' I had to apologize and say, ‘It was just a joke.'
I promised myself that I would never share the pictures of people who approached me. But let's say there was a correlation…there was (some) really, really cool profile stuff."
Of the nearly 1,400 comments associated with Tal's post, this is one of my favorites, "When I first saw this I thought I was an internet (sic) celebrity. I called my grandermother (sic) and aunt in England. I told them to check the front page of digg. I called my friend who is out of the country right now. I told my kindergarden (sic) teacher to $uck off because I made something of my self (sic) despite what she said. Then I realized it was a fake. I cried."
You can view Tal's original Digg post HERE. Hurry, update your Facebook profile photo, before someone posts it to Digg…
Good Day Sunshine
Sunlight is generally an effective antiseptic. Irrespective of your startup's size, do not hesitate to shine a bright light on your competitors whenever they stray from fair and ethical practices.
One way to inexpensively put your competitors into the public spotlight is to leverage social media tools and wage a guerrilla marketing war. By creating an entertaining story out of your competitors' nefarious actions, you may be able to publicly shame them into becoming good, corporate citizens.