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!