Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Things to Watch for in Social Media Marketing in 2011

I’ve been watching prognostications about social media in 2011 and, since 2010 is almost over, I’m going to weigh in now. One of the best things I’ve seen is this discussion of interactive from eMarketer. It’s broader than social and well worth paging through . I’ve adapted the first three of their trends and added a perspective of my own. So here goes—and your comments and opinions are welcome!

• 2011 will be about apps everywhere—and increasingly by everyone. This is not news to anyone, but the development in this space seems to continue unabated. Apple says there are over 300,000 iPhone apps in its store. The fastest growing apps spaces currently are iPad and Android.
If you need proof of the wisespread use of apps, consider these two recent eMarketer charts. Retail shoppers (Dec. 15) use them to find bargains. B2B purchasers (Dec. 29) are using them to find information, with only the oldest group being a real hold-out. The same report says that 27% of this sample feels comfortable making a business purchase on a mobile device.

Footnote: a lot of us talked about 2010 being “the year of mobile.” In a sense it was, but that’s not because of the devices themselves. It’s because apps made them so useful to so many people in so many places.
• 2011 will be about content, not advertising. We’re coming to call it “content marketing” and its aim is to engage and entertain as well as to inform. The writer adds that we need “curation” to help customers separate the signals from the noise. Lee Rainey of the Pew Foundation says that all this content has “created a Bermuda Triangle: Markets are fractured, the marketplace is roiled, metrics haven't kept pace, and there's too much noise, so it's easier for things to get lost in the shuffle.” He has more interesting things to say about the megaphone that is the Internet in this report of a recent speech. Content curation can provide powerful assistance to customers in an era in which we’re all inundated with information.
Writing in the eMarketer newsletter Geoff Ramsey ( December 2, 2010) has 5 useful questions for those of us who create content:
• Is the content unique?
• Is the content useful?
• Is the content well executed?
• Is the content fun?
• Does the content make good use of the channel in which it appears (e.g., social, mobile, video)?
I would add, “Can the content be repurposed for other brand channels?” There’s never enough good content! The eMarketer webinar points out that “Consumers engage seamlessly with content across multiple platforms.” That’s a huge challenge for marketers—the right content in all the places the target audience would like to find it.
• 2011 will also be about location, which I’ve recently written about (1, 2). Venture capitalist Summet Jain belives that location and social commerce will be the driving forces in the year to come and Foresquare will be the driving platform. Take a minute to understand this quote:
Part of the new evolution of mobile commerce will be new developments in near field communications, which involves the use of proximity sensors to guide mobile users through stores and malls. These proximity sensors, said Jain, will be deployed more widely among small businesses in the coming year to allow users to locate specific items down to the very aisle and shelf.
That sounds good, but I wonder if small businesses will be that quick to mimic deployment of this technology in large malls. Small businesses have a lot to cope with just keeping up with their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts!
My Perspective – Converging Trends
When two powerful trends converge, the impact changes the marketing landscape. Here are my two nominations for that powerful force.
• The Ubiquity of Mobile and Use of Social Media. That goes back to apps everywhere on all sorts of mobile devices. When marketers combine that with the growing—almost complete—reliance of younger adults on digital media it creates a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. This is a good presentation on upscale younger adults. Their use of digital, even for content like newspapers, is fascinating and predictive, I think.

• Prominence of Younger Adults and Use of Social Media. Prof. Olivia Mitchell of UPenn is being widely quoted on the number of baby boomers turning 65 starting in 2011 (10,000 a day!). The fact that many boomers are ill-prepared for retirement may retard the rise of younger people in business and professional ranks, but they will continue to gain power there. They are the young B2B purchasers in the eMarketer chart using mobile devices to get information and even to make purchases. As the Gen Y study shows, they are the people who communicate on Facebook and get their news on the Internet. Marketers must be there to meet them.
This is only my selection of the issues I see as being most important in social media marketing in 2011. It's not comprehensive, but I hope it’s thought provoking!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays to All!

I haven't taken time to do a JibJab card this year. Too bad for those of you who were looking for a laugh at my expense!

I was noticing this morning how many holiday cards I had received from non-profit organizations and marketing service firms with whom I've done business. That's nice, but I especially noted that one non-profit sent 2 cards USPS. I'd rather have had one and save the postage on the other for good works.

Then this card from Overdrive Interactive came along. They don't miss a beat, and they didn't with this one. Not only did they not spend $$$ on postage, if you play the card you'll notice that it's posted on YouTube--with an opportunity to subscribe to their YouTube channel prominently displayed!

Happy Holidays and a productive year in social media to all of you!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

What are Branded Community Best Practices?

The eMarketer newsletter (November 10, 2010) called my attention to this study from ComBlu. It is a careful analysis of 241 branded communities. As you might expect, these are leaders by definition, and the report finds 33% of them to be High Performers, but none Stellar Performers (p. 8). That says that most of us are likely on the sidelines or in the very early stages of building a branded community.

Radian6 has a publication for those who are considering or experimenting. It has lots of good ‘how to’ info that is especially strong on the amount and type of resources required. They have 10 good questions that assess whether a branded community is for you. I’ve boiled it down to 4; you might want to read the original (pp. 5,6). Here’s my summary:

• Do you have a business goal and clear marketing objectives that specify what you want to accomplish?
• How will your community add value to the customer experience?
• Do you have the resources and expertise to support a vibrant community?
• What metrics will you use to gauge success?

The ‘resources and expertise’ issue suggests substantial experience in social media—building a Facebook community for example. If that is successful, companies tend to want their own community over which they can have total control, not have to rely on the functionality and rules of the platform. I’ve written about firms that provide community-building services (1, 2) and many other aspects; just search ‘community’

Back to the original subject; community best practices. I found this chart especially interesting. The researchers at ComBlu added 10 best practices to their 2010 list. That certainly suggests how fast the space is changing. It also suggests that there’s a big shake-out to come as we find out which are the 'best of the best' practices!

They, of course, compared adoption of their original set of practices in 2010 vs. 2009. I’ve highlighted the ones that had doubled or more in adoption. If you look at the ordering for 2009 (comments the most widely adopted practice, for example), the adoption of specific best practices has changed hugely over the past year. The suggestion there is a maturing space. Among the greatest changes are fun engagement tools, rich media (which I’d also categorize as engaging) and faceted search (people search on LinkedIn, for example). The ones that warm my heart are integration and site stats! Definitely a maturing space.

How Fiskars Turned Its Fans and Customers into Evangelists, presented by Geno Church from GasPedal on Vimeo.

There’s a lot of detail in the report about best practices by industry that you may find useful. But for those of you who believe it’s only for the large, global brands, here’s a contrary example. I wrote about the Fiskars community in early 2009. It still has much the same structure and is still clearly a customer retention effort. Don’t expect much in the way of acquisition from a community effort although blog posts written for search and tagged will bring in some people who are browsing. Mostly, though, it’s retention, and as the Fiskars example shows, it can be powerful. I ran across the video awhile ago; admittedly it’s long, but the first 18-20 minutes is the presentation and the rest is Q & A. It’s worth listening to; the point being that they’ve been at it—successfully—for awhile in what is definitely a set of niche markets.

The most important point about best practices is that they are still evolving. So don’t run out and try to implement them all. Think about what makes most sense for your customers, your brand. Are emoticons going to remain on the list for years to come? My sense is that items like that are already being replaced with activities with more strategic value!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Location-Based Marketing 2--Check-In Programs

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have both come and gone. Black Friday filled the stores—from midnight on!*!—with shoppers who often used Black Friday websites to locate deals before they braved the stores. Cyber Monday online sales were over $1 billion—the most ever for a single shopping day!

I want to focus in on just the check-in programs as a new and powerful shopper stimulant. There are the “old-fashioned” apps that let you compare prices in the retail store. Apps like TGI Black Friday (DealCatcher the other 364 days of the year!) aggregate coupons and deals from all over. Shoppers find them valuable, but the real action is in check-in campaigns run by individual retailers. Analytics by Mashable show Target far in the lead in terms of number of check-ins. I got there too late to check out the Black Friday tab, but the Weekly Ad page shows the variety of channels for accessing weekly specials and the opportunities for check-in promotions that include contests, give-aways and special deals.

One of the big winners this holiday season has been Sports Authority, mentioned in my earlier post as having a $500 gift card give-away on Black Friday. As this quote suggests, the company considered it a great success—and it didn’t even make the Mashable list of the top 10!

"We saw a lift anywhere from 5X to 20X for the number of check-ins," said Clay Cowan, VP of e-commerce for the Denver-based retail chain. "Every metric of engagement that we tracked went through the roof. Whether it was Twitter posting, Foursquare check-ins, Facebook friend adds and comments...we saw increases."
On Foursquare, the brand had around 400 followers before the campaign and now has almost 4,500. . .”

Three important points. First, Sports Authority has been testing Foursquare promotions since early this year. They had a process in place. Second, they’re not resting on their laurels. They now have a 21 Days of Deals promotion in place. The box from their home page shows strong integration with Facebook. It’s easy to guess that they may have other Foursquare promotions that will be promoted on their Facebook page. That’s the third issue; marketers need to use something timely like Facebook or Twitter (or both) to publicize these short-term deals beyond their mobile app subscribers. This material is too transient for web site promotion unless you’re running a big campaign announced far in advance.

That’s one strategic was of looking at location-based promotions—the specific campaign. There is another—the integration with long-term loyalty programs. According to Fast Company Safeway is testing a partnership program with Pepsi in its California Vons stores. It’s built on the existing loyalty card, the important difference from most of the campaign-type programs we are seeing. When the shopper checks in with her Vons card, she can receive instant rewards (coupons at check-out) on PepsiCo products. It’s possible to set the program up so swiping the card checks the shopper in and rewards are “shouted out” on Foursquare. It’s a bit hard to find the Foursquare page on the Vons site, suggesting local promotion of this test program.

Does this predict that the future of the loyalty card is on our cell phones as suggested by the New York Times? It’s worth considering!

Before you get too excited, though, keep the recent Pew research in mind. A report published in early November says that only 4% of Americans use location-based services at this point. Ok, the target audience is relatively small at this point. The good news is that this market is in its early days and thoughtful marketers have time to test and refine strategies. This space is exploding, though; I’d recommend starting right away.

And as you do it consider an even more far-reaching possibility: The future of convergence may be the cell phone. That will stand conventional marketing on its head once again!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Location-Based Marketing 1--Basics

It seems to me that location-based marketing happened during the summer while I was taking time off from blogging. That’s not quite true, but it suggests how fast this phenomenon has taken hold.

When I first heard about Foursquare (from my students of course!) my first reaction was, “Why do I want anyone to know where I am at a given moment??” My second was that I’m not a twenty- or thirty-something out on the town on Friday evening! I got that. It took me awhile to realize that this was potentially a better option than the mobile couponing campaigns I had been writing about (for example, Ford local campaign; mobile trends). Foursquare and the others provide platforms that provide functionality and reach users.

Foursquare and Gowalla are the two largest location platforms. At the risk of oversimplifying, Foursquare looks to be very attractive to retailers who want to run a specific promotion. Gowalla seems to be attracting venues that want something long-term as suggested by Disney’s recent deal with Gowalla. There are many other smaller and/or more specialized platforms. This short slideshow identifies them and does a good job of explaining their similarities and differences. This space got a big boost in August when Facebook introduced its Places application, making it easy for marketers to tap into the huge Facebook population.

The importance of location-based marketing is emphasized by Chief Marketer:

• 37% of customers who searched for a local business in ’09 ended up visiting the store in person (TMP & comScore, October 2009) • Local search currently represents half of all mobile search ad revenue (Kelsey Group, September 2009) • Younger generations embrace mobile in staggering numbers; 97 million 5-29 year-olds in the U.S., 281 million in India and 255 million in China currently have mobile accounts (The Mobile Youth Report, 2010)

They emphasize the ties between search and location-based marketing: “Search teams should be sure to capitalize on these online-to-offline strategies to capture local visibility and in-store traffic.”

Leading-edge marketers are already onboard. Sports Authority has conducted several promotions on Foursquare, including one on Black Friday, and says, "We like the ROI on the things we've been doing on Foursquare." CNN describes some of the other Black Friday action.

My favorite for sheer marketing creativity is KLM’s recent foray, which is “spreading happiness.” When a passenger checks in on Foursquare, the KLM marketing team uses other social networks to find out about the passenger’s “likes” and about her trip. They use that data to provide a surprise to the passenger and take a photo of the surprised traveler.

The KLM team has surprised travellers with champage, notebooks, a watch, and traditional Dutch foods. One passenger, Willem van Hommel, was going to miss one of his soccer team’s most important matches of the year due to his trip to New York. KLM surprised him with a Lonely Planet guide to New York with all the best soccer bars in the city marked out for him. Another traveller, Tobias Hootsen, was surprised with a package to remind him of home during his long stay abroad.

I checked out the KLM Facebook page. The wall page had the usual flight complaints with speedy responses from KLM. One “surprised” passenger wanted to get a copy of the picture taken in the airport. Actually, it’s right there. There’s a link to the photo album on the wall page and it’s what you get when you click through on “what happened” on the promo announcement. As you might guess, the promo is also big on the I Love KLM page with another link to the photo album. Good follow up and I suspect they are integrating it with other media like Twitter. The downside is suggested by an article that uses the word “spies” in the headline, which is actually quite favorable when you read it. I didn’t see any privacy complaints on the KLM site. Wonder if that’s partially due to the fact that KLM already had an app that allows passengers to make a luggage tag with their picture on it? In any event, it’s a cool app and taken together, it signifies a company that’s deeply involved in location-based marketing.

Mashable has a good post with 9 steps for the marketer who is new to location-based marketing. A lot of the steps are not new to regular readers of this blog. Setting clear marketing objectives and monitoring are critical, for example. One that is especially important is 4 Customize. Each of the platforms offers different opportunities to engage visitors like the badges that can be earned on Foursquare. The marketer must understand the options.

There are other examples and strategy approaches. I’ll write about those in a few days when Cyber Monday calms down and we see what’s happened during these hectic shopping days!

Friday, November 19, 2010

New Source for SMM Best Practices

Recently a social media marketing colleague asked me for a good source for best practices information in this space. When you know that question is coming from a small business that probably cannot afford much subscription research, it’s hard to answer. It’s information that many businesses are willing and able to pay for, so it’s usually paid content.

I had already used and cited the usual suspects. Marketing Sherpa does good executive summaries of its benchmark reports, Forrester releases some information on its blog, and Altimeter is following an open research policy. I’m sure there are others, but for the type of information I’m looking for, those are my usual go-to sources.

Consequently, I was pleased the other day to get a notice—blogger outreach, I assume!—of a new venture that is going to operate in that space. It’s not social media per se as best I can tell. Gleanster says it “benchmarks best practices in technology-enabled business initiatives.” That would seem to include any aspect of Internet marketing and quite possibly some initiatives that play out in the physical world.

Their early publications suggest considerable focus on the social media space. For readers of this blog the summaries of their Social Media Monitoring and Online Customer Communities research are well worth downloading. The communities paper contains a case study of Best Buy that makes my point about their focus. I’ve written about Best Buy and its retail Twelp Force campaign which uses Twitter to provide customer support for their retail customers. More detailed paid reports are the basis for these summaries.

I’ve been tagging posts with “best practices” when it’s relevant, so I hope I’m making a contribution to this important discussion. Maybe a good resolution would be to make more best practices posts; it’s a topic of concern to all of us!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Targeting Your Facebook Ads

Far and away the most popular post on this blog in recent weeks has been one written back in February, “Do Facebook Ads Work?” The answer was a strong “yes,” and research since then, including interesting findings on ad formats by Nielsen, continue to confirm that. A recent article in Bloomberg Business Week recounts the interesting story of the Nike “Write the Future” ad that was huge during the World Cup and goes on to talk about the importance of Facebook friends and the “like” function to Facebook advertisers.

To demonstrate, I wrote a hypothetical ad on Facebook; that’s Step 1. Step 2 shows the main aspects of the targeting process. The advertiser can target by location (essential; no one needs to reach all 500 million Facebook fans!) and by demographics—age and gender only. So far, not different from traditional media advertising, and it works like Google AdWords as far as the setup is concerned.

Then comes the difference! On Facebook, the advertiser can target by “Likes & Interests.” This shows Facebook’s own description of a user profile. The implication seems to be that this is all data that the user has provided on the profile page. Not exactly. Every time the user “Likes” a friend’s post new data is created. What else? It’s not entirely clear exactly what/how other data provided by users like location data is collected and used. Prof. Eben Moglen of Columbia University Law
School says Facebook is “spying for free all the time.” You can read a summary of a recent speech in which he lays out the privacy concerns, but that still begs the question of exactly where the marketing data comes from.

The richness of the data is not in question, however. Nor is the usefulness of the Estimated Reach tool. Each time the potential advertiser adjusts any one of the targeting filters, the ER changes, so the exact effect of each descriptor is known. That data alone can tell you a lot about potential market size in a given region—no cost except expenditure of your time. Farther down on the targeting page, not captured in the graphic above, is the ability to target to your page (or groups) own members and, separately to their friends. Using the ER tool on your own page can give you fascinating insights into the composition of your fan base. Do you see a new market segment representing an opportunity you were not even aware of? Or do you see that you don’t have as many people from your target segment as you wish and need to run a campaign to get more friends.

All this creates a rich stew of research and advertising opportunities. You can access all this information from the Advertising text link at the bottom of your Facebook page, whether you are an individual user or have a business page.

The final piece of good news is that you don’t even have to buy an ad to experiment with the options. Why don’t you give it a spin???

Friday, November 12, 2010

Announcing Internet Marketing, 3rd Edition

I’ve always thought the subtitle of this text says it all, “Integrating Online and Offline Strategies.” That’s what our young marketers need to understand, not only the mechanics of Internet marketing but also developing campaigns and ensuring they are integrated into the overall marketing communications mix of the organization.

I’m more than pleased to announce that work has begun on the third edition of Internet Marketing. This edition has welcome enhancements. It will be published by Cengage Learning, which specializes in innovative learning solutions like e-books. We expect the 3rd edition to be available in both print and electronic formats.

I’m especially delighted to welcome a new co-author to this edition. Debra Zahay-Blatz is the Professor of Interactive Marketing at Northern Illinois University. She is a specialist in CRM and has taught many aspects of interactive marketing. Debra is a prime mover in the interactive marketing program at NIU and will bring both classroom and practitioner experience to the text.

We are also pleased to announce that we will be joined by Lauren Labrecque who will be helping with the all-important textbook supplements that are distributed to professors who adopt the text. You can see bios of both Debra and Lauren here.

The 3rd edition will incorporate major revisions that reflect the maturing of traditional digital marketing and the explosion of social media marketing initiatives. New chapters will focus on social media marketing and promotional and lead generation programs in B2B markets. Recent developments in Internet marketing will be reflected throughout the new edition.

College instructors who are current or potential adopters of the text should contact their campus sales representative or visit the listing on the Cengage site.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Social Media Marketers Prep for the Holiday Season

Have you already walked into a retail store and thought, “Christmas decorations and gifts already—and it’s not even Thanksgiving!!!” If you haven’t, my guess is that you haven’t been shopping for the last couple of weeks. It appears to me that as soon as Halloween decorations went out, Christmas merchandise came in. Whether you like that or not, it is time for retailers, large and small, to get serious about planning holiday promotions if they are not already in high gear. See a good article from Ad Age Digital (free registration required).

I recently ran into a good post on how to prepare your social media channels for the holiday season. Here are the recommendations:

1. Give your social media profiles a makeover. That includes making sure your profiles and maps are complete and correct on Google Places and Yahoo! Local Search.
2. Build your followers and connections. They are valuable themselves; they also offer connections to their networks.
3. Get more reviews. Product reviews are incredibly important, whether on your site or on third-part review sites. Encourage your followers to review your products or services and to share them.

4. Special offers for your followers. What can I say? The Target site already has offers up. Many of these are appropriate to both large and small retailers. It’s interesting that they seem to be focusing on Cyber Monday instead of Black Friday.
5. Engage in the conversation. Do you have a Facebook page? Are you responding to customers when they complain or ask for information? Take a look at some of the recent traffic on the Hanes Wall on Facebook. They answer information requests, apologize for things like out of stock items and thank people for compliments. All good!
6. Integrate social media with other marketing. That’s essential, whether it’s your website or broadcast or print advertising, or some combination. Integration is key to getting the message out and experiencing positive results.
7. Commit to creating some quality holiday content. I was in a local retail store over the weekend and heard a video featuring Ming Tsai, one of my gurus. I think he was promoting a line of cookware. The one-unit local retailer has a good website, but I didn’t see any evidence of product videos. My guess is that Ming would have been glad to have them link to or upload his promotional video. Make use of whatever good content is available and create your own when necessary. This store also has some acceptable local TV advertising; no ad videos seen on the site. Opportunities missed!

Also be sure to inventory your search marketing, whether optimized pages or PPC. According to a recent report:
• More than three-quarters of respondents search to learn more about a product or service after seeing an ad elsewhere. • Before moving on to a different information source, searchers will modify their search and try again (89%), try a different search engine (89%), and go through multiple search results pages if necessary (79%)

Is this all worth the effort? According to Ad Age:

Nearly 80% of consumers plan to do at least some of their shopping online this season, according to the National Retail Federation and BigResearch. One-sixth will do more than half of their holiday shopping online.

That’s a target audience worth cultivating!

Still looking for advice? Here’s a helpful report on holiday email marketing and two more good recent articles.
• Retail Email Holiday Guide
Holiday Hit List
Get Prepared for Q4 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nokia's Vision for Social Media Marketing

Nokia generally shows up on lists of the top global brands. This year it was 8th on Interbrand’s annual survey. The report describes today’s consumer as “skeptical, social and savvy” and has good content on branding in that environment. Nokia’s response on their Conversations blog is also worthy of note by social media marketers.
It’s Nokia’s vision for what’s really their integrated marketing communications strategy, not just their social media strategy, that I find compelling. Their emphasis on getting away from isolated campaigns (“big bangs”) in favor of continuous engagement in earned media represents clear understanding of communications in a global, connected world. Forrester defines “earned media” as customers becoming the channel as a result of a sustained and well executed social media strategy in paid and owned (branded) media.

But even if you are a big brand with a lot of resources things will sometimes go wrong as they recently did for Nokia. However, they managed to turn a distinct negative into something reasonably positive.

It’s a story of a sports blogger being approached by Nokia’s PR agency with incentives for participating in one of a set of sports events as part of an outdoor-themed campaign. There’s more to it and you should read it for yourself, but the bottom line is that the promises to the blogger were simply not kept. Is that more likely when the campaign was outsourced? You can decide that for yourself.

The story was published on the British Econsultancy blog on October 12. Nokia’s response wasn’t fast (see the October 20 comment), but when it came social media director Mark Squires took responsibility for the fiasco and made it clear that Nokia tried to make up for the failure. When you screw up, that’s about the best you can do.

The good news is that it seems to be a relatively rare screw-up by a company that generally does its social media marketing well. In fact, the early October interchange with Econsultancy appears to have resulted in a late October interview with Mark Squires that’s worth reading for insights into how Nokia’s strategy has evolved within the organization.

While researching this post, I came across an interesting conference presentation by Molly Schonthan who was then head of social media for Nokia in North America. The section on their complex and apparently effective program at SXSW2010 is especially interesting. If you don’t have time for the 30-minute video, page through her presentation for more interesting insight into a company that takes social media marketing seriously.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Can We Define Social Media Marketing?

There’s still a lot of confusion among marketers and managers in general about what social media marketing really involves. We all know that some businesses (and non-profits) are seeing great successes in social media while others are merely nibbling around the edges, and still others remain firmly skeptical.

With that in mind the other day, I searched for a definition of SMM. I didn’t find many and what I did find was a bit disturbing. It boils down to the fact that most of the definitions were platform oriented. Everyone who “gets” social media marketing strategy understands that platform should be the last decision when planning a campaign, not the first.

So, in my usual fearless fashion, I developed my own. Here it is. I’d welcome all comments and suggestions!

Social media marketing is business use of selected social media channels to understand customers and to engage them in communication and collaboration in ways that lead to the achievement of ultimate marketing and business goals.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ways to Engage Your Customers

I recently ran across a video that’s too good not to share. In fact, it’s so good that it got me thinking about ways in which businesses are engaging their customers. Just thinking didn’t do me much good; all I came up with was the usual suspects, from uploading photos and videos to running contests.

First I took a look at Super Bowl 2011. Not ready to hear about the Super Bowl yet? Neither am I, really, but if you are going to do a social media promotion you have to start early. What I found was a list of contests:

Doritos is back with what appears to be the 5th year of “Crash the Super Bowl” video contest according to a good post on how these things are run.
• Pepsi concluded its not-for-profit effort from last year and is running a video contest off the same “crash” site; good leverage
• Go Daddy, famous for over-the-top ads, is running a contest this year. Wonder what kind of entries they will get??
• This one is worth including for Troy Polamalu’s hair alone, although the sweepstakes appears to be more tied to the NFL season than to the Super Bowl.

• GM is giving weekly winners tickets to the Super Bowl and one Sierra Denali pickup. Seems to me they would have gotten more brand buzz if they had reversed that, but I guess even Super Bowl tickets are cheaper than a truck, even if you are GM!

Then fast forward to today. Just as I was beginning this post I saw an article on Subway’s new Facebook based-promotion. It is described as “a new crowd-sourced entertainment program… dubbed Subway High School Heroes.” At its heart it is a contest to nominate people who have been influential in the lives of teens—a worthy endeavor—but it has entertainment elements beyond the usual contest. Check it out.

Back to my starting point. The Tipp Experience video has been achieved viral status this fall. While that’s difficult to do, if you’ll just take a minute and play (with) this video, you’ll see the heights consumer engagement can reach!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Business Thought and Practice Met at Combi2010

The October 7-10 conference in Vantaa, Finland, hosted by Laurea University of Applied Sciences was successful and enjoyable. The official theme was “Partnering for the Future.” The emphasis was on innovation of all kinds; in economic development and environmental sustainability partnerships, in business models of all kinds, and in distance teaching and learning. The audience was diverse and fulfilled the promise of extensive participation of both practitioners and academics.

The emphasis on innovation was timely as evidenced by an editorial I read in the Financial Times enroute. Discussing the global economic malaise, it argued that monetary policy has used up many of its available tools. Fiscal policy is moribund; consider the strikes and protests in Europe as governments try to impose structural changes and the fact that the political system in the US doesn’t have a coherent thought about fiscal policy. The point was that we have to innovate ourselves out of the economic mess we’re in. A talk by Dr. Toshiyasu Ichioka of the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation illustrated some of the possibilities.

Referred papers were presented in concurrent sessions, so it wasn’t possible to hear them all, but you can see the entire schedule here. I was particularly impressed with a paper entitled “Environmental Strategy and Organizational Capabilities: An Exploration of the Natural-Resource-Based View with a Focus on Columbian Firms” by Professors Mantilla and Rodriguez. It had a sound research design and good data that suggested a real difference between firms that include environmental sustainability as part of their strategy and those who do not. Innovative communication models were discussed in a session on “Multisensory Cultural Experiences” and another that featured faculty and doctoral students from the host institution, Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Read these and other papers in the Conference Proceedings.

It was a pleasure to hear an invited talk on customer co-creation of value by Professor Evert Gummesson, one of the originators of the services marketing discipline. I also particularly enjoyed a rousing call for “Stimulating Entrepreneurship and Creativity” from Professor Alan Barrell of Cambridge University.

As these few examples suggest, the conference was truly global in its scope. That is a major achievement and one that future conferences will hopefully be able to emulate. Next year’s conference will be hosted by HAMK University of Applied Sciences. Keep your eyes open; this conference is worth the time and effort!

Monday, October 4, 2010

ROI From Social Media Marketing

I'm looking forward to the Combi2010 Conference in Helsinki this week and to my own talk on social media marketing on Thursday. The plenary speeches are being broadcast live here. This is my presentation.

I've spent the early fall thinking about my next-stage writing plans. I'll have announcements to make when I return from Finland and a brief pleasure trip to Russia.

Should all be a great experience!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day -- and Summer!

I'm putting the DIY-Marketing blog on vacation for the summer. It's time for some rest and rejuvenation--and for me, lots of gardening.

I hope you get some R&R also and we can all return after Labor Day with zest and enthusiasm!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Add to Your Circle of Friends!

My friends at Overdrive Interactive have a new white paper that details ways of making connections in social media. They have 100 suggestions; I’ve picked out what I consider the Top Ten Ways to Make Friends—all free; all things even the smallest business can do. Here’s the list with some commentary and some combinations:

1.BE VAIN. Facebook now allows vanity URL’s. If you don’t have one yet, set one. It’s a lot easier to promote your page if you have a short, relevant URL that people can remember.
2.FACEBOOK TAB IT. Add an “Invite Friends” tab on your Facebook page that allows your friends to invite their own friends to become a friend of your Facebook page. Add the tab, then draw attention to it through status updates and tweets.
3.TXT 2 B FRIENDZ: Create a campaign that encourages people to join your Facebook page or Twitter profile by text messaging. If possible, respond back to messages with a coupon code or information about your company. Text “like overdriveinteractive” to 32665 to check it out. Give people an incentive to become your friend, then continue to reward them for loyalty.
4.USE CROSS-PROMOTIONS. Promote your Facebook profile on Twitter and promote your Twitter profile on your Facebook page. Tweet about your Facebook page and use status updates to talk about your Twitter page. Cross promote all your social networks, in fact! When you post something on YouTube or SlideShare, post a notice on your Facebook page and Tweet it. Be sure your company blog has chiclets or other call-outs to all your social channels!
5.SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION. Optimize your Facebook and Twitter pages for SEO. Make a list of high value key words to use opportunistically in your content. Yes the engines are indexing sourced content. Yes, Facebook and Twitter get indexed. It’s hard to overestimate the contribution of high value key words in all your social channels! Study your referrals data, use keyword tools, and see what words are drawing traffic to the sites of your competitors on
6.REACH OUT TO BLOGGERS. The blogosphere is great place to promote your Facebook and Twitter communities. Find key bloggers that talk about your brand, company, or product category and then reach out to them to become your friend. Tell them the value of your content and tell them to send things to you to tweet and post.
7.WRAP IT. If you sell packaged goods, make sure your packaging promotes your social channels. If people like you enough to buy your product, give them the chance to connect with you in the places where they want to connect. Shopping bags provide great display space. And be sure your main channels—blog, Facebook and Twitter, probably—are on your business card and your email template!
8.MORE THAN JUST DISCOUNTS. If you send [mail] out coupons, include your Facebook and Twitter addresses on them. For more encouragement, include a statement about how social connections will receive more exclusive discounts on the social channels. Do the same in your email newsletters.
9.FOR FRIENDS ONLY. Have friends-only content on your Facebook page. If users want to access the content, they need to become your friend. Give them incentives by including coupons, discounts or sweepstakes entries. List your job openings there; why should anyone apply for a job who isn’t your friend?
10.Above All: SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN. In social media, you never want to be quiet. Keep sharing information that your friends want to hear: tips, resources, contests, discounts, information, etc. The more you share content they care about, the more they will share your content and brand with their friends.

Among many other useful tips, the white paper points out that you should never waste friends. Don’t just close down a campaign-specific Facebook page. “Reskin” it. That one is likely to require professional programming assistance, but it’s worth it to recycle friends instead of having to reacquire them!

Notice that this is all about integrating your channels to get the maximum value out of your social media efforts. How are you doing on that score? There’s a new app, a Social Page Evaluator from Vitrue, discussed on Smart Blog and in more detail on Vitrue’s company blog that will put a value on your Facebook and Twitter pages.

So find out how well you’re doing in social media at the moment, think about where you need to go, and read the entire Overdrive white paper to get more valuable suggestions!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Do Your Community Members Deserve a Badge?

Social media badges are not a brand-new phenomenon. I have an impressively interactive badge on the right sidebar from the Pickens Plan community. I downloaded it because I like the community and I like the message of the badge, not because it does me any particular good. I was interested to see a new application by the Huffington Post over the weekend.

In doing research, however, I came across careless use of the term. There are quite a few writers and sites that use “badge” to identify the “this site is a member of Facebook” app like this one that you can get from many social networks. The purpose of these apps is to link you through to your page on the social network. That makes them a chiclet (note proper spelling!), not a badge as HuffPost, the Pickens Plan and others are using the term.

According to my friends at Overdrive Interactive, who have an excellent white paper on the use of chiclets, “Chiclets enable a user to quickly share web content by automatically posting articles, photos, video, and other content to their blog (WordPress, Blogger, TypePad), public bookmark page (Digg, Delicious), or social profile (Facebook, Twitter).” You can download the white paper from the Overdrive home page.

Badges have a different, and perhaps a more personal, use. CNET likens them to the efforts many of us made in Boy or Girl Scouts to collect merit badges for various accomplishments.

According to CNET, the current craze for badges started with Foresquare and the competition of its users to earn status in the community. The HuffPost application rewards its most engaged users by making their comments more visible. There are various levels of activity, which they outline on a FAQs page. For example, a member can become “Moderator” by flagging objectionable commentary on the site. As Bryan Person pointed out last week, sites are either overlooking or falling behind in the important activity of moderation. Encouraging help from their members is an excellent approach. Rewarding them in a visible way for their help seems equally desirable.
Not incidentally, the application for a badge results in the applicant linking their Facebook or Twitter account to HuffPost. The publication is cagey about how they will or won’t use that info, but the FAQs do point out that “the shift in privacy is very minimal.” Not sure exactly what that means, but it worries me about as much as people who complain that their privacy has been violated on other social networks. Social networks aren’t a place for those who zealously guard their privacy!

HuffPost is clear that its current effort is intended to increase member engagement with the site. Why can’t the concept be extended in a way that rewards members for desired behavior. That makes it like a CRM loyalty program. Why is that not a good idea? The Tesco Clubcard is the classic example of a vibrant online loyalty program, but I don’t know any firm that’s using a “proud member of” type badge as a tie-in with its loyalty program.

Maybe we’re thinking too much about social media as an acquisition tool and not enough about its potential value as a CRM tool. What are your thoughts?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Support Your Social Strategy With a Metrics Framework

In late April Altimeter and Web Analytics Demystified released a thought-provoking white paper on social media metrics. Authored by Jeremiah Owyang and John Lovett, it presents a process for developing a metrics framework in the chaotic world of social media metrics. The authors don’t expect the chaos to subside soon; too many platforms and vendors creating constant change. They’re most likely correct. Consider, for example, that Apple has a new iAd platform for its mobile devices, and you can always safely put Facebook in the “constant change” category. And the examples go on, endlessly.

The whole white paper has a lot of value, but I’d like to review just their steps for building a framework and a couple of concepts that go with them. The generic framework is straightforward; strategy guided by social media marketing and business objectives, management guided by Key Performance Indicators, and execution which, of course, provides the metrics.

To achieve that sort of integrated framework, they recommend 5 steps. They are:

Step 1: Revisit Tradition for Solid Innovation. “Many [businesses] don’t think through the traditional business rules that they know prior to deploying social initiatives or when measuring their effectiveness.” This is part of your integrated marketing strategy, not a vast new wasteland!

Step 2: Make Learning Your Primary Goal. “Every measurable business objective provides an opportunity to learn about consumers and the ways in which they interact with you, your brand and each other.” Note, that as I suggested in the post on strategy hubs, social media will not provide the conversion venue for most marketers in the near future. The authors include a chart that maps metrics to generic objectives. The original includes selected vendors in each area (p. 10). Sergio Balegno of Marketing Sherpa gave us another example last week that includes B2B segmentation, with objectives and metrics for each segment. That’s a useful way to think about understanding your customers!

Step 3: Define Requirements First, Then Select Vendors. “Organizations must determine a measurement strategy for their social marketing activity that aligns with internal goals, objectives and cultural capabilities.” Your needs, not off-the-shelf vendor products. Good advice! Do you have free solutions working now? If not, it’s likely you’re not ready for a paid solution.

Step 4: Develop Your Social Media Measurement Playbook. The authors advise marketers to “Start by creating a social media measurement playbook that aligns your organization on the goals, objectives, expectations and actions of your social marketing efforts.” In other words, a document that will keep the entire organization (all of whom are hopefully social media participants in one way or another!) moving in the same direction in social media. Think guidelines, and go from there.

Step 5: Make Our Measurement Framework Your Own. The authors “encourage readers of this report to adopt sections of our Social Marketing Analytics Framework and modify them to fit your specific business needs.” In other words, there are no cookie-cutter solutions to any of these issues. Each organization has to think them through for itself.

The while paper goes on to take each of the four generic objectives—dialog, advocacy, support and innovation—and identify KPIs, operationalization of each, and potential vendors. I hope by now I’ve convinced you to read the entire white paper for yourself!

The process is useful, but there are no new strategic insights here. It’s the same mantra; organizations must integrate social media marketing into their overall marketing strategy, then measure its accomplishments with care. Sounds so simple, but in practice, it’s so hard to do!

Monday, May 3, 2010

What Is Your Social Media Hub?

Sergio Balegno, Research Director for Marketing Sherpa, is a recognized thought leader in Internet marketing best practices. He gave a superb guest lecture in my social media marketing class last week. There was one thing in particular that he articulated much better than I’ve been able to do. It has to do with organizing your ‘traditional’ Internet and social media marketing around well-defined hubs.

It’s clear that any Internet marketing effort needs to have an activity hub. In the early days—before social media—it was equally clear that the hub was the website. All marketing efforts, PPC and display advertising—pointed there and Internet marketing objectives were achieved there. Objectives might have been driving traffic to retail stores, providing content for customer acquisition and retention, conducting ecommerce, or others as appropriate for the enterprise marketing strategy. Whatever the Internet marketing objective, the website was needed to achieve it.

Enter social media and our efforts to understand how to integrate these networks effectively into our marketing strategy. What is the correct centerpiece of for this marketing element? Social media efforts can point back to the website, and sometimes that may make sense. But often the efforts on public networks are best pointed back to the corporate blog. Sergio used as an example the Cisco Collaboration program that I wrote about last week.

Why should social media point to the blog and not to the website? The main reason is that blog content can—and should be—updated frequently with content that supports the social media efforts with precision. By its very nature, website content is updated less frequently and often is less precisely targeted to particular user segments and/or interests.

That led me to a second ‘ah-ha’ moment--the importance of recency in achieving prominence in search engine results. I hadn’t updated my thinking from the era (a couple of years ago) when things like keywords, number of incoming links, and number of clicks were only determinants of rankings in organic search. Here’s a summary of rank determinants; click through for a mind-numbing list from seo experts. With the addition of things like news, images, and videos search results pages provide the most current as well as the most relevant content. Search any current event and see for yourself!

The take-away is this: Your website is the hub of your ‘traditional’ Internet marketing. To be direct, it’s where you can sell things or acquire sales leads. An increasing number of the people who become leads or customers are going to find you, learn more about you, and develop trust in you through social media. The blog provides timely content and connects to activities like your YouTube channel and other social networks. It points readers to your website for conversion when their time is right. Their time, not yours! That makes your blog the hub of your social media marketing.

There’s still a lot of work to do in integrating all this activity. But a clear understanding of this key principle is necessary to an efficient strategy with marketing effectiveness!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

How to Make Your Inbound Marketing Work

Ed Note: We've had many great speakers in this spring's Social Media Marketing course. I've blogged about some of their messages. Jeff Dunn, who in his other life is the Web Coordinator at Harvard Law School, did such a good job with this one I asked permission to post a shortened version. You can see the full post on his blog.

Dharmesh Shah (@dharmesh, VentureBeat, LinkedIn, Amazon) is a whirlwind speaker with an obvious love for what he does. Despite Dharmesh’s claim that he is not a gifted speaker or marketer, his presentation in our social media marketing class was fantastic. His body language may have shown that he was a bit uncomfortable (holding an arm behind his back while staring at the ground) but his language and presentation zoomed along at a frenetic pace. I found myself scribbling keywords and shorthand notes just to keep up with the great wisdom that was being imparted upon me and the rest of the class. A self-proclaimed “hackpreneur,” Dharmesh (I use his first name because I feel comfortable doing so after his friendly presentation) says he has earned this title because he stays up late at night (often until 2am or so) writing code and wearing his Chief Technology Officer hat for HubSpot. He is also the co-founder of HubSpot, thus the entrepreneur part of his “hackpreneur” title.

“Everyone and every business should blog.”

Dharmesh had some great nuggets of information that rang true as I thought about them after the presentation. I was far too busy trying to scribble down these gems and didn’t have enough time to digest them. When discussing who should blog, it was clear who Dharmesh thinks should take part. I agree with the caveat that everyone should be willing to put in the effort to have a relatively steady stream of useful content. Thanks to the latest web technologies, you can start a blog and have it filled with gossip and pictures in under a few minutes. (Visit to see how!)

“Talk about the industry’s issues, not your solution.”

I really love this one. There are too many websites out there devoted to their own personal fix for their specific industry’s problems. If you want to really have a site that gets traction by engaging your audience in something they can also participate in. You’re not going to get a very engaged audience if you offer your solution for something without giving others a chance to offer their solution as well.

“Non-profits should be benefiting from causes, not for-profits!”

This is a sad-but-true quote we really enjoyed. It’s hard to deny that companies like Starbucks have really had a bigger impact on raising funds for charities and causes. I understand that this is because companies typically have more infrastructure (financial and personnel) to make these types of campaigns actually work, but the Internet is supposedly leveling the playing field for everyone. Let’s hope causes and charities can come up with some more interactive and viral (we hate that term viral but it applies here) campaigns that generate some real interest.

“Measure what works, what doesn’t, then double down.”

This one’s pretty self-explanatory and deserves to be put in super duper bold letters here. Being successful in marketing, especially social media marketing, is all about taking risks and figuring out what works. When you don’t do both of these things, you’re destined for failure. While it’s very hard to measure what works, there are ways. In fact, HubSpot has so many Graders like TwitterGrader and WebsiteGrader, they’re already on the bleeding edge of figuring out how to measure what works and what does not.

“Remove the friction in marketing.”

Making it easy for someone to actually purchase stuff, sign up for something, or just take part in any way is something that would seem like a no brainer. Sadly, it’s not. Many places spend all their time and effort raising interest in their website…only to find users get confused and leave the site, never to return.

“Kittens always work.”

Dharmesh’s presentation featured slides with interesting images and very little text on the screen. This is my favorite style of creating presentations since it allows the audience to focus on what you’re saying, not reading tiny print on a screen. No one remembers the fine print anyway. Dharmesh’s presentation had a picture of a kitten and it got a bit of laughter…to which Dharmesh replied that kittens always work. Everyone seems to love them and have the same reaction to them.

“Even normal people use Twitter now.”

In its infancy (just a couple years ago), Twitter was a way for a small number of people to micro-blog. It has slowly been able to begin shedding this reputation after it got embraced by celebrities and Facebook users. Facebook went through a similar reputation issue but has now actually been embraced by middle-aged women (another point brought up by Dharmesh). So when asked if its worth using Twitter, you can simply reply using Dharmesh’s words: even normal people use Twitter. He even has the proof over at HubSpot. Dharmesh says that Twitter has been delivering “real dollars into the door.”

“It’s not about the number of followers. It’s about having people who listen. I’d rather have 50 active people than 5,000 deaf followers.”

I absolutely agree. A couple years ago, I started the @Harvard_Law Twitter account (it has a 99.8 Twitter Grader ranking) with a very small but attentive audience. The non-academic world seemed to be clamoring for any news about what’s happening inside the walls of Harvard. The follower count for the account was not enormous, still isn’t, but it’s obtained a very attentive and vocal following who are happy to @mention, DM, or retweet any question or update posted on the account. Dharmesh has a great point and it’s not an easy task to cultivate a high quality following. It happens over time. It took nearly a year and a half to develop a devoted fan base for me.

“Tweet and retweet from 1pm to 5pm”

HubSpot is all about data. They have examined the best times to tweet something and have it noticed. That time period is any weekday from 1pm to 5pm. That’s why this post was published around 2pm on a Monday, one of the busiest times on the Internet. People seem to be bored at work or just back from lunch, not ready to embrace the week.

“The more you tweet about yourself, the less others will.”

If Ashton Kutcher weren’t a celebrity, would anyone be following him? Dharmesh makes a great point that, from a marketing perspective, it’s all about engaging the audience. It’s hard to feel engaged when someone is tweeting about something you can’t relate to. If, instead, that person were writing about their passion for a broader subject, it’s more likely to engage followers. I personally think people need to stick with their preferred style of tweeting since followers will notice if your style has changed. Just ask @ComcastCares, the account who people revolted against when the main administrator went on vacation and put someone else in charge!

“When you’re getting star talent, you’re renting not buying.”

Dharmesh understands the world of obtaining the best and brightest for his business. There are so many options in the world of technology that it is very hard to make someone’s job everything they could ever want. Dharmesh elaborated on this point, saying that “nothing is forever” and that it’s important to keep in mind who owns what when it comes to employees. For example, does HubSpot own an employee’s personal Twitter account? Of course not. Was it used to promote HubSpot? Probably. It’s a tricky situation and not something to ignore.

“Google Buzz was a data play to head off Facebook.”

It really doesn’t matter if Google Buzz overtakes Facebook. It will probably never happen. The reason Google introduced Buzz was so they could get at the tremendous amount of data currently hidden behind Facebook’s server walls. This way, Google can get a taste of what their users are doing socially and not just on GMail, Docs, etc.

I enjoyed Dharmesh’s presentation and was so amped afterwards that I posted a job listing I would have loved to apply to. I am happily employed and doing this blog in my spare time (not much these days!). If you’re interested in working for someone like Dharmesh, check out the posting. In the meantime, there is a lot of info out there about Dharmesh, HubSpot, and social media. Happy surfing!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hashtags for Collaboration

At the recent Pearson CiTE 2010 conference (#cite2010) I heard about an interesting use of the Twitter hashtag to foster collaboration.

The conference attracts K-12 teachers; college teachers, especially distance learning instructors; and IT and other administrators. Pearson sponsors the conference to showcase its elearning platforms. It attracts topnotch speakers and an interesting and varied set of attendees.

One conversation was particularly intriguing. There are several hashtags favored by K-12 teachers but #educhat has become more than just a hashtag. It also supports synchronous chat for an hour most Tuesday evenings. The sessions sound as if they are lively and interesting.

This chat session was originated by an Ontario teacher named Rodd Lucier. It seemed to gain traction quickly and in the course of doing so, also attracted a lot of spammers (what could people like that possibly be thinking?*?). The sessions were paused for awhile but now appear to be alive and well. Best of all, there’s a step-by-step description of how to set up a hosted collaborative series on Lucier’s blog.

This idea was not original to the K-12 people and Lucier. The blog post mentions journalists who had been engaging in synchronous Twitter chat. Looking around, I found that Cisco appears to be using the tool. They have a Twitter account, CiscoCollab, which is active. They also mention a hashtag, #collabchat. I couldn’t find it on, my usual source. I sleuthed a bit more and found another site, What the Hashtag?! Cisco’s #collabchat is registered there, but I see no activity. The chats are taking place somewhere on What the Hashtag, though. This page has a chat transcript that will give you an idea of the kind of dialog that can take place.

By this time I was getting a headache. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a pretty new activity, but one that seems to have interesting potential for businesses and interest groups alike. I was also wondering if it could be a competitor to paid services like interactive webcasts. But I think probably not for the moment—140 characters still has its limitations. But it may well be an idea that’s useful in a variety of settings.

Any ideas?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Give Members Their Own ROI

Isaac Hazard, Director of Strategic Consulting at Mzinga, talked about “Member ROI” in my class a couple of weeks ago. It’s an important concept. If people, customers or otherwise, are going to spend time on your Facebook page, a corporate blog—wherever you build your community—you’ve got to give them something of value. These members of your community are giving you their time—and hopefully their trust. What are you giving them in return for those two valuable, and scarce, commodities?

In some ways the concept of Member ROI is a basic tenant of advertising. Good advertisers don’t write headlines and copy about the product. They work to understand the benefits that people want from the product. That often takes marketing research, hopefully done so you can design the benefits into your product. If you do that, the task of your advertising staff is easy; they talk about the benefits your product delivers to the target customer, and your advertising works. Product-focused advertising doesn’t work; benefits-focused advertising does.

Fast forward to the age of the Internet and social media. Online display advertising follows exactly the same principle; focus on your target customer and the benefits he/she wants, not on your product. That’s a relatively easy transition.

The transition to social media isn’t so easy. All of a sudden marketing has become conversational and marketers aren’t very good at that. The headline in Smart Brief called them “lousy conversationalists.” According to Jason Fall, “A marketer, in the public’s eyes, is a salesman. Our audience is predisposed to not trust us.” That’s true, but it’s only part of the story.

Sage Lewis nails it with his headline, “No One Cares About Your Products.” His argument, and he has a great pizza story, is that what people really care about is what other people--not marketers--say about your pizza. There are a lot of good comments; the article is well worth reading.

The power of customer reviews is undeniable in the social media era. But it’s still not the entire story. Marketers have to listen, participate and even seed conversations as they build online communities. And to the extent that marketers are used to talking about their products, even the benefits of those products, that is the hard transition.

The conversational marketer cannot focus on product. She has to focus on what customers want to know, what they need to understand, in the product or service space. As the marketer becomes more knowledgeable and skilled, there will be opportunities to explain how the product meets needs. That, however, is on a subsequent date—definitely not the first one!

Download the Mzinga white paper, “Social Marketing & Online Communities: Getting Started” and explore other resources on the site. It’s a good role model, making a major effort to provide value in various media channels and to encourage conversation. However only the individual marketer, can develop the conversational perspective; it takes time and practice!

You have already recognized that this is largely talking about acquisition marketing. When you are talking about CRM, the focus changes to helping customers successfully use your product, your service. But the focus is still on customer needs, not on product bells and whistles!

Whether it’s acquisition or retention, the social environment is about talking to people you want to be your friend, fan, member, whatever. Keep them coming back. Your time to sell will come—or maybe your happy pizza customers will do it for you! It’s all about providing real value in the exchange; that’s the way to make them loyal friends!

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's Not HAVING Platforms; It's USING Them Well!

Robert Collins retweeted the link to the 2010 Global Social Media Check-Up survey by Burton-Marsteller. Thanks, Bob! It has interesting data on how companies in the Fortune Global 100 are using social media. I took the data from the short version of the report.

Many of them do have Twitter (notice it’s first!) as well as Facebook, YouTube and their own corporate blogs. When they break it down by geography, it’s not surprising that US firms have more of everything (my sense is that the US is far ahead in the business use of social media) except YouTube. About as many European companies have YouTube accounts as US companies—interesting!

There’s interesting activity data on all 4 platforms, but the one on corporate blogs really caught my attention. The data from Europe and Asia seems reasonable. If you make posts, you generally get some comments, especially if your blogs provide information of value to your customers. Why so few posts in the US and so many comments? It has to do with the labeling in the chart. Here’s what Burton-Marsteller says:

For example, only 11% of U.S. corporate blogs had posts in the past month, but 90% of the blogs with posts had comments from stakeholders (Graph 7). So, while some corporate blogs have fallen into attrition, corporate blogs that are active and have a strong purpose and following provide a useful two-way dialogue for organizations and their stakeholders.

Ok, that makes sense. For me, actually it makes excellent sense. It’s about the maturity of the social media effort in the US and in the user corporations. Today’s eMarketer headline makes the same point: Longtime Twitter Users Most Vocal.

There’s also the issue of using any of the platforms well. Take blogging. I was recently asked why a corporate blog wasn’t getting much traffic. They were hoping to use it for acquisition as well as for customer support and retention, although I’m not sure they had stated it that precisely. So I asked if they had registered the blog on Technorati, at least. Not sure—he’d check. Do they use good tags? “No, we don’t take time to tag.” I tried to politely say that’s a BIG DUH! How can you take time to write a blog post and not take a few extra seconds to tag??? I also suggested that they use alt tags on their images. It’s a product-oriented blog, and having the search engines able to search images would be a big help.

As I’ve said so many times before, just having a corporate platform isn’t the answer. You have to use it, to monitor it, and to respond to deserving entries.

One more thing about the report. The short version has sidebars on social media activity in various countries. That’s a must read if you operate in any of these countries! Check it out; here’s the link to the full report.

Let me end with their 9-step checkup. None of this is new to readers of this blog, but it’s a good reminder. The check-up list is:

1. Monitor Your Own — And Competitors — Social Media Presence.
2. Get Top Management “Buy In.”
3. Develop a Social Media Strategy
4. Define and Publish a Social Media Policy.
5. Develop Internal Structure.
6. Contribute to the Community.
7. Participate in Good Times and in Bad. That’s worth some extra commentary. Here’s some of what the report says:

There will always be some situations where it is advisable to avoid participating, but generally speaking, negative content provides an opportunity for a company to share their point of view or set the record straight. Organizations must develop a process in advance that defines how and when they will respond to negative content or misinformation posted in social media.

8. Be Prepared to Respond in Real Time.
9. Measure the Impact of Social Media Engagement.

Good advice all!!!