Sales Troubles? No Comment(s)

Influence of various sources of information on purchasing

Influence of various sources of information on purchasing - Rubicon Consulting 10/2008

It probably won’t surprise you that personal advice is the number one reason people buy products from one company vs. another. It’s only natural to ask a co-worker, friend or family member’s advice before purchasing a new product or service. What I’ll bet you didn’t know was that online comments were the second most influential source for driving purchase consideration*. And not just by a little bit.

As you can see from the chart below, 50% of the 3,036 people surveyed selected “influence me strongly” or “influence me very strongly” as their choice when it comes to online comments. That compares to 70% of people that cite “personal advice” as their top motivator and 40% who look to “articles posted by newspapers/magazines” for advice.

So what if you don’t have comments on your site? What if you don’t have any type of community or social presence? Unless you can get people telling their friends and family about you (something online communities/social media is also good at) you have to hope that a magazine or newspaper will write about you or the editor of a third party website favorably reviews you. Not surprisingly, “advice from salesperson” comes in at a whopping 20% in the top 2 box.

In a society where people are becoming less and less trusting of what big companies are telling them, don’t you think it makes sense to create a place where your customers can tell other customers what they think about you? Yes, they may something bad but guess what, if you don’t make good products or your customer service stinks, they are already saying this about you. Don’t believe me? Try doing a Google search on your company’s name plus the word “sucks” in your query.

Looking for an example of a company that is doing this well? Take a look at Sony’s Backstage 101 community. Their engagement, loyalty and willingness to recommend numbers are off the charts. Yes, Sony is a customer of ours but don’t take our word for it. Check out the case study that our friends at MarketingProfs put together.[the report requires premium membership – if you need a copy, e-mail me at stroutmeister AT gmail DOT com].

*Online Communities and Their Impact on Business: Ignore at Your Peril – Rubicon Consulting, October 2008 (thanks to our friends at SHIFT for forwarding this report over to us).


Engagement is a Means to an End – Measure the End, Not Just the Means.

Many marketers, PR reps, pundits and analysts are seeking proof that social media has a demonstrable impact on business. A Google search of “how to measure engagement” yields over 12M results with claims of “how to REALLY measure engagement,” and proposed formulas that are smart but insanely complex and still don’t answer the question regarding business impact.
The truth is that companies are just beginning to tap into the possibilities of leveraging social behavior into the marketing mix and naturally, it’s begun very tactically. After all, brand ambassadors are NOT comfortable with two-way conversations and if consumers weren’t forcing it via non-branded social networking channels, we’d still only be talking about reach, frequency & CTR. 
What I’m referring to as ‘tactical’ beginnings for social inside the enterprise include but are not limited to – support forums, e-commerce ratings & reviews, the corporate blog, a brand’s Facebook page, a brand’s twitter stream, etc. 

Next-gen branded social initiatives are highly strategic (and thereby measurable). They engage consumers on their terms with strong value propositions that complement the brand. They do not broadcast a 30-second ‘brand message’ – they create an attentive audience for relevant information from the brand. In this strategic context, engagement is a means to an end, not the end itself. 

And like most online marketing initiatives hosted by brands – the objectives are or should be consistent – to acquire new customers, maximize revenue, inspire loyalty, enlist advocates and retain customers. Strategic marketing initiatives are designed to influence these metrics and have associated measurement plans to benchmark and trend impact over time. These measurement plans must include both web analytics and primary research because the desired outcomes include brand perceptions.

As long as we are focused on the ‘media’ in social media – measurement will seem elusive at best and have lackluster impact at worst. It’s like trying to measure the impact on my company’s revenue because they bought me a phone.

What is Social Marketing?

Yesterday I asked on my personal blog, “what is your definition of social marketing.” Yes, I did offer a $20 iTunes or Starbucks gift card to the winner but I was blown away by the quantity AND quality of the responses. We’re still working on picking a winner which is obviously going to be tough to do. Which do you think is the winner?  

Anonymous said…Being able to write off fun challenges as real work…why because they work.

According to my “Social Marketing: Improving the Quality of Life” text that I used several years ago when I studied this subject:Social Marketing is the use of marketing principles and techniques to influence a target audience to voluntarily accept, reject, modify, or abandon a behavior for the benefit of individuals, groups, or society as a whole.  

Nice definition in 35 words that I’ll stick to.

Talking and listening to the market in a public way.

Social Marketing means being BFFs with everyone in the whole world!! 🙂

Great question! I ranted about this very topic a bit earlier today on my blog.How we use Social Media is what people usually describe when defining the term (i.e change the world, interact with friends, find romance, market to customers, customer service, etc).   

However, Social Media is simply (drum role)

“a type of online platform used to interact with other people online.” 

Social Marketing (your Wikipedia link) is simply 

“leveraging social media platforms to develop and/or build relationships with a target market”

Social marketing is communicating WITH your customers, not AT them.

Posting on behalf of my good friend @justtamar…Here’s my attempt to define Social Marketing. Thanks!  

“Social Marketing is leveraging the power of one’s peers/social group to market themselves, their product, service or information. By opening up a two-way conversation with their audience through online or face-to-face social networks, people can build relationships and trust, address issues as they come up, and benefit from the word-of-mouth buzz generated by these conversations.”

Direct marketing where the people involved actually know each other.

Social marketing is the best execution of one to one marketing yet.

Social marketing injects humanity into the delivery and reception of business communications by emphasizing relationships and meaningful experiences with people rather than simple transactions with publics.

Infectious excitement inducing product/service evangelism leading to the best form of marketing-Word of Mouth… a.k.a. Social Marketing.

Throwing yourself out to the world and proving how great you are by how you interact with the positive and negative repercussions that the world throws back at you.

Highly sophisticated ponzi scheme. I kid, I kid. How many words do I have left?

Social media is about individuals. You, me and everyone else. We’re in one big living room with a glass of wine and a raging fire. We’re all connecting, conversing and participating.   

FEBRUARY 10, 2009 6:00 PM 

ladunkin said…

Social marketing is what happens between product idea and customer loyalty.

You should know that by now 🙂 :
Social media marketing is not about doing marketing using social media tools it’s about enabling the social, with all its messiness, in all marketing processes…


Don’t know if you’re accepting multiple entries, but here’s another one! 🙂Social Marketing is the act of starting a two-way conversation about a common interest, and by nurturing this dialogue builds a relationship in which both parties get something out of the connection.  

Who needs 100 words? Maybe social media jocks who have been caught using the juice.A better challenge would be a little Social Marketing Haiku.  

So, here’s my submission…

Social Marketing by Tom Humbarger
all voices are heard
I is we and mine is ours
helping everyone

Social marketing is putting the customers, real people (not numbers) — their cares, their conversations, their questions, their community, their creativity, their individuality — at the center of every campaign, where the product once was. And proving to those people that product and the people who make it can live up to their trust.

Social Marketing is conversational marketing. Meeting people in a person way enough to know their real thoughts on an issue, connectiing with that issue and trying to solve the issue while subtly promoting that what you represent may possibly solve the problem.

Social marketing is simply Word Of Mouth but in a landscape with some nice powerful tools and social practices that both speed up and amplify that ancient practice.

I think participants in this contest are confused about Social (Media) Marketing VS Social Marketing. Please see a link to a wikipedia page(link in the instructions above) and see for yourself of what type of Social Marketing Aaron is referring to.

Not persuading to purchase, but influencing change that matters.

Social marketing is the process of directly or indirectly marketing a product, service, brand, individual or organization through largely Internet-based channels and venues designed originally for social communication and content sharing. Or to put it another way, it’s about getting the word out on Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, flickr, Flixster, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, MySpace, Plurk, Pownce, Plaxo, Jaiku, IM, hi5, YouTube, Ustream, Revver, Reddit, Mixx, Digg, Delicious, Diigo, Bebo, vimeo, Youmeo, Photobucket, Smugmug, Fuzzyshot, Ping, Ning, Blogger, WordPress, Typepad, Yelp,, ePinions, Citysearch, RSS, Newsgator, PBWiki, Wikipedia, Second Life and Stumbleupon, to name a few.

Social Marketing is defined like adding “in bed” to fortunes from fortune cookies. Just add “leveraging personalized interactions” to the end of any definition of “marketing.” For example, borrowing from a HBS definition for marketers in general:Marketers concern themselves with acquiring and retaining customers, who are the lifeblood of an organization, leveraging personalized interactions. They attract customers by learning about potential needs, helping to develop products that customers want, creating awareness, and communicating benefits leveraging personalized interactions.  

Social Marketing seeks to build a relationship, rather than a one-off sale.Anti-Social Marketing seeks to club you over the head, steal your wallet and move on to the next victim.  

Warning! Buzzword-Bingo-Free Zone.
Social Marketing is the process of using a variety of technology tools and information from personal and peripheral contacts to present your product or service to potential buyers and/or partners and/or media.


A haiku definition:Social Marketing
Marketing that is Social
Human to Human


Non-profits, and for-profits with a cause-related mission, leverage social marketing to engage its current and potential donors/volunteers/participants/citizens/consumer-base, increasing contributions/volunteerism/activism/awareness and support for the brand/cause initiative. It’s most often related to NPOs making money that goes right back into developing and furthering its cause.

Like a song that never ends, getting passed from friend to friend, Social Marketing is getting the public to embrace you, your company, your ideas and products and shout it out to the world in a million small ways that build a mountain of good will, small but meaningful recommendations and success over time.

I’m not interested in winning the contest, but just want to inject some clarity into the words that we’re defining, so this will be more than 100 words. As a social marketer who goes by the original definition used since 1971 to define the discipline called social marketing (ie, using marketing tools and techniques to promote behavior change related to health and social issues), the trend in the past few years of using the term “social marketing” for “social media marketing” has only sown confusion. If I asked a similar question on my own social marketing blog, the majority of respondents would talk about the health and social behavior change aspect.The overlay of the existing term with a new, completely different meaning leads to massive confusion when, for example, people google the term and find totally unrelated information, or during conversations where two people are speaking from different understandings of the term.  

Here are a few of the many posts I’ve written about this issue on my and Rohit Bhargava’s blogs, for more info on why this is not just an issue of semantics:

Thanks for listening!

If it’s a very short elevator ride:Social marketing is getting people to do good things.  

Social media marketing is getting other people to spread your marketing message for you.

Social marketing is taking the opportunity to engage with people where they are comfortable, rather than broadcasting at them where the company is comfortable. By building relationships with consumers, companies hope that consumers’ own conversations in social settings (on and offline) will build positive reputations for the brand.

Social marketing takes advantage of the power of the Web to make transform the vast global community of buyers and sellers into a group of friends with common interests. It lets the CEO speak directly to the consumer and, more importantly, lets the consumer speak to the CEO while the rest of the world listens in. Social marketing is more powerful than traditional marketing because it’s personal. It really is a small world, after all.

Dr. Ward’s Ferris State University MKTG425-Social marketing is about building a relationship with your target consumers in a non-invasive manner. It utilizes a number of marketing mediums and lets the consumer receive the companies message and respond in a way that is ultimately the most effecitve.

I just want to echo Nedra’s comments about the confusion between “social marketing” and “social media marketing” which are two completely different things. Nedra even has a side-by-side comparison chart to help folks understand:


My two cents… Social marketing is the art of listening people that might be interested in your product/solution and responding with honesty and transparency. It’s asking your customers for ideas and then implementing them. It’s giving enthusiasts access to your plans and ideas and asking them to help you succeed.  

Social Marketing=leverage technology+build network+crowd source marketing+maintainIn other words: use whatever technology is appropriate, video, blogs, Twitter, Facebook or iPhone apps to attract an audience (fans, followers), empower that audience to spread the word, making them your brand ambassadors. Don’t just seed a community and drop out of site. Keep communicating with your brand ambassadors, give them new ways to spread your message, listen to ideas they have about it.  

“Social marketing” is the same old message told in a new way. It eliminates the middleman – in the corporate world, this is PR, Legal and assorted useless directors and executives who bog down the traditional approval process and inject jargon into the message along the way until it becomes incomprehensible. How does “social marketing” work? By enabling the writer to share a specific message instantly with everyone connected to his or her online world. People who like this message then share it with the folks on his or her networks. And so on.  

Great topic Aaron. I’m a bit late to the party so I have the luxury of distilling some of the previous posts.  

Here’s my attempt: Social Marketing is facilitating conversations about your brand, both online and offline. And, when appropriate, engaging in the conversation in an open an honest way.

(Perhaps I’m a bit different that I don’t think “engaging in the conversation” is necessary. Facilitating and listening is the most important aspect).

Interested to see you you pick a winner from so many good ideas.


Hi. My first visit here, and I like this idea. Thank you for the opportunity.My attempt: Social Marketing is essentially a philosophy or a mindset that’s adopted (really, indoctrinated) by professionals searching to connect with (not ‘to’)their product’s consumers. Real connections transcend physical and in most cases, mental exchanges/attributes and instead are made at an emotional level. By reaching (marketing) to constituants on an emotional level, the relevance and value offered by the product/service can create a memorable experience. (and we intentionally repeat or repurchase those positive, memorable experiences.)  

“Social marketing” was created in 1971, when Phillip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman, marketing profs. at Northwestern University, described how to use commercial marketing principles to strategically plan intervention that social problems and improve the quality of life for individuals and society!More than messages, the heart of social marketing is learning what barriers and facilitators an audience associates with doing a behavior, then developing programs, products, messages, outreach, education and policy change to reduce the barriers and increase the facilitators–making the behavior “fun, easy and popular” to do!  

Social media is sometimes called social marketing, but that is like having a bowl of lettuce and calling it a healthy salad! (I know this is more than 100 words, but the clarification is important!) Thanks!!

Social marketing has brought about real time, two-way communication with target audiences and beyond. The SM tools are expanding the reach and measuring impact and influence of marketing(good and not-so-good.) Marketing professionals have always professed to want to know if their audience got the message and what they think…social marketing makes that a reality.  

social marketing is power. the power to find and discover. prospects. customers. loyalty. the power to relate. to interact. to influence. to understand. deeply. the reasons you lose. the reasons you win. how to be better every time than you were the last. social marketing is power. to succeed.

Can Agencies Evolve into Social?

The other day I read a great blog entry over on Mediapost that talks about how “The Future Agency of Record Will Be Social.” In it, Joe Marchese of Socialvibe opines:

There is a quiet battle raging in the advertising industry over who will become the Agency of Record (AOR) for marketers’ social media efforts. With traditional media for delivering advertising declining in reach and effectiveness, and an even greater call for advertising efficiency in a down economy, becoming a marketer’s social media AOR can be a huge win and provide a map to a much-needed new business model and revenue stream for agencies.

Later in the article, Joe gets into how basically every possible classification of agency (from PR to Media to Interactive) could potentially evolve into the coveted role as the social media AOR. But by doing this potato-evolutionhe more or less makes the point that every agency will have to evolve to keep their seat at the table, because the social web is changing how every marketing discipline is practiced. But what does it mean to evolve? How does an agency’s DNA need to change to grab the social media brass ring?

I joined Powered a little over a year ago from an interactive agency in Chicago. In that move, I got to transition from one company whose focus is on more traditional (though sophisticated), online programs (corporate/brand web presence, relationship marketing/CRM programs, campaign sites)  to another whose focus is social marketing (branded communities).

The transition opened my eyes to some of the evolutionary differences that Joe is surfacing in his article, albeit solely within the interactive marketing space. (Perhaps others can speak to other areas like PR/Media in the comments?) The surprising thing is that although both my current and past company fundamentally build websites – requiring strategy, design, content, front/back end development, project management, and maintenance – they are strikingly, fundamentally different.

Creative Differences

The first major difference is within the creative teams of the respective organizations. Creative within a typical interactive agency is highly focused on elegant visual design. The primary goal is to catch the eye, connect to the user on an emotional level, and engage and convert them with inventive content. Most creative teams in agencies focus on hiring rock-star interactive designers, videographers, and creative writers. The social marketing provider creative teams are far less focused on visual design, and more on delivering content in an approachable way that taps into what users care about and starts conversations. Learning is a key aspect of good community content. Social marketers hire creative people who are rock-stars in journalism, education, and instructional design. Of course, I’m not saying an agency can’t produce content for a community any more than I’m saying a social marketing provider can’t produce content for a campaign site – it’s really more a matter of emphasis in the creative skill set.

Technology Lockdown

The more an interactive program stops looking like a website and starts looking like an application, the more opportunity there is for leveraging a reusable technology platform. Many agencies, especially those who deploy lots of relationship marketing or CRM programs, have developed simple platforms to enable the quick development and deployment of those efforts. In my last agency, we had a relationship marketing platform that we even branded “Backstage.” However, online communities are far more complicated from a technological standpoint and really have to be treated like a product in order for the technology to work reliably. For that reason, a social marketing provider is likely to have a much larger engineering staff (typically with separate product and implementation roles) and an enhanced competency around product management and development.

Experts who Talk, Experts who Listen

The added complexity of an in-market online community is also the reason for additional operational staff to support the effort. There are two roles here that will be atypical in a standard interactive agency. The first is the operations people who are there to watch over a community to make sure user-generated content is moderated and to enhance the experience by corralling resources to interact with users in real time. The second is a social analytics expert who not only understands typical web analysis and data mining, but also gets how to watch, measure, and mine UGC. These roles have to cooperate tightly with the strategic account manager (who also needs to have experience in planning community) to adapt and close the loop quickly as they learn – community members are far less patient than those who are participating in an email campaign.

Must we evolve?

So will interactive agencies choose to evolve into social marketing providers? And even if they choose – can they?

I think all agencies will need to evolve, so the choice is just a matter of timing. And I do think agencies can negotiate the pathway to social – in three different ways. First, I think the larger agencies will likely acquire social marketing providers who were born that way, integrating their capabilities and becoming instant players. Second, other smaller agencies will likely focus on campaign-oriented social media and interactive work (Facebook apps, Mobile apps, Twitter build-outs, UGC campaign sites), choosing to farm out communities to partners. Finally, still other agencies, small and large, might change tack and try to re-invent themselves as social marketing providers.

It’s this last pathway that presents the most danger, but recognizing that community is not just a new type of marketing program – but a new way of approaching marketing and a new organization to support it – is the first step to getting there.

Photo Credit: Originally Uploaded by Narly

The Diminishing Law of Advertising

Does Advertising Still Work?

Does Advertising Still Work?

In a prior life, I spent a lot of my time focused on advertising. At least enough so that when I openly question its effectiveness, I have a leg to stand on. This may fly in the face of conventional wisdom given the fact that NBC found the demand for last Sunday’s Super Bowl spots at an all time high but did Dorito’s, Anheuser Busch et al. really see a return on their investment? Or was this just another case of their CMOs and CEOs wanting somthing to brag about with their golfing buddies.

Obviously GM and FedEx ‘s execs weren’t in a bragging mood as both of these longtime Super Bowl advertisers begged out of this year’s event. Both have been hard hit by the economy and likely realized that spending $10-15 million dollars each on a few 30 second spots just wasn’t in the cards. Instead they’ve chosen to spend their money on more targeted and measurable forms of marketing and advertising.

In case you needed more convincing that ad effectiveness is eroding, note that 27% of US households currently have DVRs which means a quarter of the US population fast forward or skip over tv ads altogether. Combine that with the fact that ad recall is 11% lower than the average given our current economic times, that’s now another haircut that tv advertising is taking.

To that end, online ads are also losing their impact. Doing some quick math on this… if you have $3 million to spend and buy ads at $10/CPM — probably and unrealistically low rate — and receive a .01% click through rate (on the high side) and a 5% conversion (also high), you could expect to get 1,500 new customers from this campaign. This means the lifetime value of those customers needs to be  at least $2,000 just to break even.

So why to other big brands continue to spend tons of money on a tactic that is hard to measure and continually yielding diminishing returns? Well for one, more effective ways of reaching new and existing customers like e-mail marketing and SEM aren’t that sexy. Neither are managed online communities and social media tactics. Ironically, the combination of these more effective tactics is not only measurable but can yield some amazing results.

To highlight this impact, let’s look at three scenarios, each involving a $3 million spend.

  • One Super Bowl ad and you were able to reach 100 million people for 30 seconds and then perhaps another 25 million people for another 30 seconds via YouTube, Hulu, etc. This absolute BEST case scenario gets you to a point of $.024/30 second view which is not bad. Unfortunately, after a couple of weeks when the recall of most ads wears off, you’ll need to spend another chunk of money to touch these same consumers.
  • An online banner ad campaign with the potential to acquire 1,500 new customers (also not bad but requires a LTCV of $2,000 to break even).
  • A $2.5 million on e-mail and search engine marketing (two marketing techniques that are still delivering strong results) while driving all of those folks to an online community that you spend $500,000 on (including content, headcount, technology) knowing that you could see results* like this:

    • 92% of your customers recommending your site to a friend
    • 95% of your customers would visit your site again
    • 85% of your customers would recommend your brand to a friend
    • 66% of your customers would be more likely to buy from your brand
    • 63% of your customer would have a more positive view of your brand

If you’ve read this blog or follow me on Twitter, you know exactly where I stand on this front. But where do you stand? Are you measuring your limited ad and marketing dollars? Are you getting the results you deserve? If not, maybe it’s time to start thinking about adding an online community into your mix. If you are getting results through traditional or online advertising, I’d love to be proven wrong. Share whatever you can in the comments and I’ll be happy to rethink my assessment.


*From Powered’s 2008 ROI Report (release date is late February)

Can Social Marketing Save the Auto Industry?

These are tumultuous times for the auto industry – dealers and suppliers are closing up shop, vehicle production is being cut, entire product lines are being eliminated and public scrutiny is at an all time high.  With consumer demand rapidly falling, automakers are facing their worst sales figures in decades and rather than throw up their hands in hopelessness,



innovators like Ford and GM are tapping into the power of “social” to deepend conversations with their customers, increase loyalty and improve overall customer retention. 

So come join experts Scott Monty of Ford, Sylvia Marino of and Christopher Barger of GM on Monday, February 9th, as they discuss the impact social marketing has had on their respective companies and share lessons learned that you can apply to your business.

Here’s the bonus. Leave your questions in the comments below. I promise to ask the first five (granted they aren’t obscene) with attribution to you and your organization.

UPDATED on 3/6: Listen to the webinar here (no registration required).