Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Social Networks Improve Business Performance

McKinsey says that social networks are “extending the organization;” that’s a key take-away from their fifth annual study of the use of technology in organizations.

They continue to identify the key benefits of effective use of technology as increasing speed to access both internal and external knowledge, reducing communication costs and both increasing customer satisfaction and decreasing marketing costs. In terms of technology usage, they identify 4 types of firms: developing, internally networked, externally networked and fully networked. It should come as no surprise that few enterprises identify themselves as fully-networked while the largest number identify themselves as externally networked.

In this chart they collapse the benefits into internal, customer and partner/supplier benefits. Fully networked organizations have seen the greatest increase in payback from social technology. McKinsey warns, though, that it can be difficult to scale the benefits in a large enterprise. It is clearly worth the effort. They found improvements in market share, operating margin and market leadership from the use of specific technologies. See that detail in Exhibit 5 of their report. See an interactive version, showing changes over the last 4 years, here.

The report also features a chart showing what kinds of technologies are being used for what purposes. Again, it’s no great surprise to see social networks, blogs and video at the top of the list in terms of most overall usage. Many of the firms are using wikis; more than you would see if the emphasis was solely on external audiences. This reinforces the point that you need to select technologies carefully, based on use and audience, before you invest time and effort in them.

The McKinsey report has some data on adoption of technology by industry. Dion Hinchcliffe has an excellent post that includes data from a similar study by IBM and examples of success in healthcare, manufacturing, finance and insurance. He makes the point that across industries have examples of increased worker productivity and efficiency through the use of social networks.

Why is that? Business Intelligence expert Ken Chow has a provocative answer. Writing in the Information Management newsletter he says:

the next evolutionary force that will impel the BI market will come by way of technologies that overcome these limitations [heavy architectures, long development cycles and high costs] and deliver high-value information to people in much more productive ways. Information delivery of the future will include the collaborative and social mechanisms that already dominate our personal interactions.

We are familiar with these social tools and we already know how to use them. Chow continues:

Tools built into social media sites allow users to convey opinions, emotions, share data and interact with greater abundance, speed, transparency and collaboration, making the pros of this approach in BI readily recognizable.

I remember in the “early days” giving the advice that businesses should test social tools internally, learning to use them before deploying them to interact with their customers. That advice has now been upended. Firms are making extensive use of social platforms to deal with their customers, and rightly so. Now they need to take a strategic look in how to use some of those same tools internally to create a more efficient and effective business.

Article first published as Social Networks Improve Business Performance on Technorati.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mobile is the Choice of Multitaskers

Are you seeing more QR codes on your TV screen and wondering who scans a code while watching TV? It could be up to 80% of the mobile Internet users who responded to a recent study by Razorfish!

Multitasking is hardly a new phenomenon, but laptops, smart phones and tablets have taken the activity to a whole new level. An earlier study by Yahoo!, which interviewed over 8 thousand Internet users and over 5 thousand mobile users, found a whopping 86% of mobile users (92% of mobile users aged 13-24) viewing mobile content related to the TV program they were watching. That is too many multitaskers to be ignored!
According to the ReadWriteWeb graphic, a fair amount of the multitasking activity is communication, specifically social networking or texting (about brands or TV programs, I wonder?). 70 percent is use of apps, many if not most of which connect to the web, and 37% is plain old web surfing. That’s a lot of people conducting a lot of potentially brand-related activity! Neither study breaks out search as a separate activity, but given the explosive growth of mobile search, I have to believe that there’s a lot of searching buried in the surfing data.

Specific types of content are also more likely to stimulate sharing. This graphic from the new Razorfish report shows what they are. I see a strong reflection of target audiences, many of them young. My hypothesis would be that young men are heavy sharers of sports news; moms are heavy sharers of food content. What about reality? Everyone, or is that sharing somewhat female also? These are questions the marketer needs to pursue for her own brand.

Marketers can direct the activity and conversation by creative promotions and learn from their results. For example:
• Pepsi gave a free bottle of Pepsi Max who shared an ad with their friends using a Yahoo! social tool called IntoNow.
• The “Old Navy Records” campaign offers incentives including free music to people who tag ads with Shazam.
• A Heinken app allows users to play along with soccer games, trying to predict who will score in the next 30 seconds.
Read more here. And while you do, notice that these campaigns use special tools/applications to create just the right context for social sharing.

There are two important take-aways:
• It’s more than just not ignoring mobile; it’s also creating content that can move seamlessly from one channel to the other, as the Timberline scan tag and mobile site I described in my previous post.
• Then it’s devising ways in which to get people to interact with programming content or with advertising.

Marketers need to follow the lead of their customers. They are sharing web content. How does the marketer make content worth sharing and participate in the brand-related conversations?

Article first published as Mobile is the Choice of Multitaskers on Technorati.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Timberland Aces Social Media

Timberland’s Sundance Film Festival Night Out events add to the company’s already deep experience in social and mobile. They’ve had a mobile site since at least 2009 and are leaders in social in aspects from their interactive Facebook page for this promotion (see the Photo Contest tab also) to their use of 2D bar codes. Note that their “Go Out and Be You” tag line appears throughout the material, one way in which they integrate their marketing communications.

The event came to Boston last week and store manager Sara Keneally was gracious enough to include my social media marketing students in the invitation-only event. They went, they saw, they bought, and they came away with a host of ideas that can be applied by other organizations, large and small. They’ve posted videos; the Boston video gives a good sense of what happened there from DJ to the stylist outfitting attendees in Timberland merchandise to the photographer snapping their pictures.

The next day they sent attendees a thank-you email. It included their picture taken the night before (good system at work here) and encouraged them to go to the promotion’s Facebook page, upload their picture, and register for the Girlfriend Getaway Sweepstakes in which the winner and three friends get to attend the Sundance Film Festival. Entering, of course, requires that applicants Like the Timberland Facebook page. It has over half a million Likes at the moment.

For attendees and non-attendees alike they produced a print publication featuring merchandise and promoting the events and the sweepstakes. Old media, you say? The print document has a Microsoft tag on the final page. When you scan the tag, it takes you to a mobile landing page. The landing page has a video, encourages the viewer to Like the Facebook page, and links through to the Women’s page on the Timberland site, nicely optimized for mobile. Try it yourself and see. The only drawback is that you have to download the Microsoft Tag Reader if you don’t already have it. They give the link in the promo, but it would really be nice to have standardization in the 2D barcodes so we don’t have to have separate apps.

The centerpiece of this promotion is the Girlfriend Getaway Sweepstakes. I count media channels that include website, mobile website, special Facebook page, a partnership with the local-oriented Lucky style magazine, PR of various kinds, the live events, email followup, outreach via print and the web to women who didn’t attend the live event, and I’ve probably missed some. I didn’t see any encouragement of live Tweeting the event or a related hashtag. Would that have extended visibility or would it have detracted from the fashion focus of the event? They also don’t seem to be using Foursquare aggressively, another option; but again, in this instance, would it have been worth the extra effort?

And that’s the final point. There were many working parts in this promotion and it required professional PR support. Integration was key. But marketers large and small can study this promotion, learn from it, choose the pieces they want to focus on, integrate them, and DIY their own SOLOMO (social local mobile) promotion. The pieces are all there; it’s a matter of creativity and effort, and Timberland excelled at both.

Article first published as Timberland Aces Social on Technorati.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mobile Will Rule for Holiday 2011

Advice to retailers on preparing for the holiday selling season has been around since late summer. I’ve been collecting it but was stimulated to write this post by an email from my friends at Unbound Commerce, announcing that there is still time (barely) to get a mobile site for the holiday season. Important dates are coming soon.

According to Media Post, in 2010, the top five days by conversion volume include Cyber Monday at 16% [Monday November 28 this year; the deals start promply at 12:01 am]; Black Friday at 23% [Friday November 25 this year]; Tuesday, Nov. 30, 17%; Sunday, No. 28, 17%; and Dec. 6, 17%. See their advice on integrating paid search and mobile.

Here ‘s a quick summary of some of the platform-specific advice I’ve found:

Email. Review your last year’s holiday email campaign reports to find out what went right and what went wrong. Here’s a set of tips with a link to a holiday email guide.

Paid Search. With Google far ahead as the leader in online advertising revenue, the importance of paid search can hardly be overstated. If you want to optimize your PPC holiday schedule consider developing a bid boosting plan as recommended by Search Engine Land.
Online Display Advertising. Facebook is coming up fast as a purveyor of highly targeted display advertising. Large, multi-location merchants can target by demographics, lifestyles and activities. Small local merchants can make good use of the geo-targeting available on Facebook. Like Google AdWords, Facebooks ads are self-service and available to all.

MOBILE. That’s one place where all the advice givers find consensus, no matter what their industry. Mobile is going to be huge this year; retailers miss out at their peril. Leapfrog gives good advice that makes two points that many of the experts stress:
1. The holiday season is time for selling, making customer acquisition jump out front of retention for a few short weeks.
2. The LOMO (local mobile) part of the equation is due for a break-out this season as more consumers use their smartphones to search for stores and merchandise nearby.
The website Entrepreneur has good mobile marketing advice; the more you can accomplish by the holiday shopping season, the better!

For small businesses specifically: Entrepreneur has good advice about integrating your email, social media and mobile efforts. Small Biz Trends has advice for preparing for the holidays—operations as well as marketing.

Happy Holidays!

Article first published as Retailers Still Have Time to Prepare for Holiday 2011 on Technorati.