Weekly Social Marketing Links: Week of 10/28

 

Cross-posted on Citizen Marketer 2.1

 

Yup. It’s been a few weeks since we last posted our team’s weekly social marketing links. As some of you know, I try and do a weekly digest of the links that my team (marketing, sales and product) come up with for our recurring staff meeting. Unfortunately, (work) life just gets in the way sometimes. Here’s what we’ve got for this week:

 

Beth Lopez (Marketing)

 

Found How to Do Social Marketing in Heavily Regulated Industries to be an interesting read on how regulated industries such as Financial Services, Healthcare and Pharma should tap into social marketing and how best to do it. The thinking is that since social marketing is a “pull” technique and not a “push” technique (where traditional regulations apply), advertisers and marketers in regulated industries should focus on…wait for it…wait for it…listening to consumers on social networks to gather research and insight (doesn’t everyone say that these days?). The author also goes on to state that for pharma (look in comments), marketers should be thinking about conversations around the disease versus the actual drugs (which is where they can get into trouble). All in all, an interesting perspective.

 

 

DP Rabalais (Marketing)

 

This article from Adweek, The Revolution Will Be Mobile, talks about how the worldwide adoption of mobile phones (61% of the world’s population has access to a mobile phone) is influencing how marketers connect with consumers. Mobile Internet usage in the U.S. has more than doubled in barely two years, and mobile communities are emerging. 

According to the article, "For a brand that would like to learn more about what its customers and potential customers want, social networks via mobile are the perfect platform with massive scale. The Japanese mobile community "Mobage Town," for example, includes 12 million people. Anyone who wants to can listen in or join discussions, and anyone who wants to sell a product or service is enabled to do so."

 

Bill Fanning (BizDev)

 

This week’s post was written by Francois Gossieaux titled, Why Brand Communities Don’t Exist. Notice he refers to “Brand” communities, not “Branded” communities. To be clear, when we say “Branded” communities we are referring to where the community is hosted (on the brands site as opposed to Facebook or other external communities) not to the Brand being the topic of the community. 

Francois makes a very important point (one that we at Powered built a business on) that people don’t participate in branded communities simply because they like the brand and enjoy their products. They participate because they are passionate about the lifestyle associated with the brand. The community gives them a place to get valuable information, interact with other people with similar interests and engage with the company. He notes several examples like the communities hosted by Harley, Jeep, Mini Cooper and Fiskars….we could add several others as well.

Good post!

 

Doug Wick (BizDev)

 

[Okay, so Doug has been up to his eyeballs with RFP’s, contracts and keeping his blogging hat on. So I’m going to include his most recent post on Powered as his entree of the week…]

 

Almost anyone who knows anything about interfacing with customers or prospective customers through the Networks (Facebook, Twitter, et al.) will tell you that you should start by listening.

So most marketers’ first step is to set up a monitoring tool (maybe expensive, maybe as simple as a free keyword search on Twitter). Then, the first experience that almost every media marketer (or marketer, period) has after listening to the Networks for a bit is that the brand, product, or company they are representing will be mentioned. When this happens (“just bought a Honda at Carmax, great experience!”), it will make a positive and socially important impression on everyone who views it. This is exciting because it is essentially a free media placement, a nugget of gold dropped into people’s news or Twitter feeds that didn’t cost you anything! This type of mention is often called “earned media,” earned because your company created a great customer experience that made someone tell their friends. <rest of the post continued here…>

Jay MacIntosh (BizDev)

 

The Tribalization of Business Study (2009) by Deloitte and Beeline Labs. 

Disclaimer: I don’t understand why anyone would refer to a group of people sharing an interest as tribes. I’ve always thought of tribes, similar to the clans of my Scottish background, as having to do with ancestry (i.e. people who came before us like forefathers/mothers). Do we really need to “dress-up” social media to get more people to pay attention to the significance of the online social phenomena? I guess so…

Anyhow, this recently released study from Deloitte paints a broad picture of where companies are at with their adoption of social media. As suspected, backed up by the conversations I’ve had with over 50 such companies the past several months, I’d say they’re at the preadolescent stage. Characterized by – beginning to care somewhat about if/how they fit in, have a rough idea of some goals, more focused on the future, beginning to care about how their appearance, etc. 

I won’t go into the details (which you’ll get in the 10 minutes it takes you to look through the 28 slides), but here are a couple of the most interesting findings:

  • It looks like only about 20% of these communities have members in the thousands.
  • Approximately 60% of their company’s oldest community have been in existence for less than 1 year.
  • Stated goals (i.e. what they want to achieve) and metrics (i.e. how they keep score) are out of whack.
  • 45% plan to increase their investment in social media and online communities while only 6% plan to decrease investment.

 

Don Sedota (Product)

 

Good perspectives by Jeremiah Owyang on the Google/Twitter/Bing deal announced earlier last week. Basically Google and Bing will now start incorporating URL tweets/re-tweets and the influence/reach of corresponding tweeters into search rankings (i.e., consumers now have a direct impact on search rankings). 

His key takeaways include:

  • Companies must focus even more on listening to make sure PR flare ups and the like on Twitter are quickly extinguished
  • It’s becoming increasingly important for companies offer easy social sharing (e.g., via Twitter) for site content. (Also of note is that Facebook will be offering public status updates to Bing so sharing via FB/FBC becomes more valuable to companies from a search results perspective)
  • Companies must continue to develop in-house influencers on Twitter in order to juice the search rankings of corresponding tweets (URLs)

 

 

How about you? Any good articles/posts/research to share? We’re always looking for fresh inspiration.

 

From Media Pro to Hydroelectric Engineer

DamLast week I wrote a blog post about "Earned Media and Siren Song of Mentions," where I outlined the problem that digital media professionals face when it comes to a world increasingly dominated by social media.

I promised to follow up this week with some ideas for a solution, since where I left off it was looking pretty grim. Have we lost complete control over message, time, and place? What can a media professional actually do in a new world slowly being taken over by the Conversation Stream?

I think the answer has something to do with hydroelectricity.

Hydroelectricity, according to Wikipedia, is “the production of power through use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water.” The hydroelectric engineer doesn’t try to fight gravity, he or she just tries to divert falling water in a natural way so that it flows through turbines and creates energy.

For media professionals, the Conversation Stream is that falling water. The infrastructure you build to divert it, and the way you test and optimize that system over time, is the new structure for engineering brand success.

The Non-Sequitur

Stream - Low RelevancyThe first step to channeling Conversation to drive marketing, of course, is to understand how the Conversation Stream flows. The answer is actually pretty simple – it flows like any other conversation does. The enemy of any hydroelectric engineer is turbulence, and similarly the enemy of a social media pro is social awkwardness. There are lots of ways to be socially awkward, and sadly most of us have probably experienced them at one time or another in our personal lives. You can talk too much and not listen enough. You can be loud, interruptive, talking over others. You can be too quiet and not contribute anything. You can be distasteful or insensitive to others’ situations.

But the most common socially awkward action in social media today is the non-sequitur. It’s the marketer who, in the middle of the Conversation, changes the subject to something obviously self-serving or irrelevant. It happens in the ads along the side of the Stream, and it happens within the Stream itself when marketers tweet or publish a Facebook message that is promotional or faceless.

The commonly referenced solution for low relevancy is segmentation and targeting, but the problem here is less about who sees your ad and more about how they are using sites like Facebook. People watching the Conversation Stream are networking with friends and colleagues, and typically tune out ads. Not only do ads miss frequently on relevance, but the means of delivery isn’t relevant, either. This is why ads on Facebook have historically performed very poorly, even relative to ads bought elsewhere online.

Building Channels for the Stream

Stream - High RelevancyHave you ever observed anyone who is a really good conversationalist? One of highest order skills a conversationalist can have is the ability to elegantly “change the subject.” As a marketing conversationalist who has an end in mind, you need to ignore conversations where they are mentioning your brand (again, earned media is the end, not the means) and seek to join or start conversations about things that might be relevant – but one or two steps away from your brand. This is partly an exercise in smart hunting, but it’s also a numbers game. Only 20% of the Stream is about brands themselves, and a very small fraction of that will be about your brand, according to a recent study by Penn State.

If you are an automaker, go talk about travel. If you sell insurance, you probably know a lot about safety. Selling any type of food item? Tweet about nutrition. As a marketer, it might feel unnatural to focus on messaging that doesn’t push product, but remember that we are joining a Conversation already in progress. People will know you are from a brand (you should always tell them), but if you choose topics of conversation that have some relevancy to your brand it won’t seem weird that you are talking about it.

Once you’ve learned how to have these topical conversations and identified the ones where you can or should play a part, you can take advantage of your ability to facilitate these conversations structurally. By this I mean that instead of just striking up these conversations where they exist on third party networks, you can build digital properties that allow richer or deeper exploration of these relevant topics, and channel the Conversation Stream into them. You are now a hydroelectric engineer not seeking to interrupt or fight the flow, but redirecting it to your purposes.

Why not take this further by facilitating conversations about the category where your products or services exists? Another level of flow that moves the conversation even closer to your brand, but you still aren’t talking directly about yourself. It’s polite.

If Someone’s Interested, They’ll Ask

When someone has moved from a conversation about travel on Facebook to a conversation within your online community devoted to road trips to a conversation about the best cars for road trips, it’s time to give them the opportunity to ask you about one of the cars you make. By simply serving a highly relevant ad at this point, you give them the opportunity to click, and by clicking they are asking you about yourself.

These last-step ads are the turbines in your hydroelectric powerplant, the place where the Stream gets converted into the bottom line results that justify the investment. At every step of the way you haven’t tried to force the conversation, you’ve just helped it along, let it flow, and now a highly self-selected audience is rolling right past ads that are on your own site.

And as the Stream rolls through, it takes nuggets of your brand back with it into the main Conversation. If you are keeping it interesting and serving  visitors, they will recommend your content and conversations, through technologies like Facebook Connect and various social networking APIs (Twitter’s being most notable).

Build vs. Buy

So in the end you are still placing ads. The difference is that the focus has shifted away from the place where people finally encounter the ads (and how you allocated money to buy those placements) to the pathway that they took to get there. By the time they see a product placement, it will seem like the natural next step, not an interruption, and as a media pro you will need to expand your skills to deliver that experience.

Does this mean you’ll have to start thinking like an online publisher? Yes. Does it mean that you’ll have to expand your skills to include digital development? Yes.Being a steward of a conversational brand means you will have to build the content and code that creates a pathway that is uniquely relevant and appropriate to you.

But take heart, media (be in paid or earned) is still about reaching out and forming new connections with your audience, and you’ve been doing that for
years. The difference is that now that connection begins much farther away, upstream.

Driving Purchase Consideration: Podcast with Jackie Huba & Rob Harles

jackiehuba As part of the latest "Back to School" podcast series I do for my company, Powered Inc., our goal is to focus on the intersection of business and social. The speakers are smart people who run the gamut of bloggers, authors, analysts, journalists and business practitioners. This months flavor focuses on tapping into social to drive purchase consideration. My guests were the smart (and fun) Jackie Huba and Rob Harles. Jackie is an author and business blogger while Rob is the VP of community for a company you may have heard of called Sears.

 

Right-mouse click to download.

 

During our conversation, we covered the following topics (hat tip to Doug Haslam of SHIFT for helping me craft these interview questions):

  • robharlesConsideration may seem like the part of the buying cycle most helped by social media: agree or disagree?
  • How do we let customers “Consider?” How much of it is an active engagement (for lack of a better word) with the customer, rather than a more passive approach of letting them consider?
  • If passive is an approach, how hard is it for companies to let go and let customers do there thing, trusting they will stay in the cycle?
  • How vital is content in the consideration cycle?
  •  

  • Brand-produced vs user-produced?
  • One over the other?
  • A preferred mix ratio?

 

  • Types of content that work best
  • Might consideration be used as a tool to make existing customers more profitable (repeat buyers)?
  • How do you measure Consideration?
  • Is your company using the social web to drive purchase consideration? If so, I’d love to hear more about it.

     

    Thanks to Jim Storer for his expert editing skills. Additional thanks to Brett Petersel for lending me the rockin’ "Back to School intro and outro music." Additional thanks go to Jennifer Leggio for lending me the pic of Rob Harles.

    Earned Media and the Siren Song of Mentions

    Almost anyone who knows anything about interfacing with customers or prospective customers through the Networks (Facebook, Twitter, et al.) will tell you that you should start by listening.

    So most marketers’ first step is to set up a monitoring tool (maybe expensive, maybe as simple as a free keyword search on Twitter). Then, the first experience that almost every media marketer (or marketer, period) has after listening to the Networks for a bit is that the brand, product, or company they are representing will be mentioned. When this happens (“just bought a Honda at Carmax, great experience!”), it will make a positive and socially important impression on everyone who views it. This is exciting because it is essentially a free media placement, a nugget of gold dropped into people’s news or Twitter feeds that didn’t cost you anything! This type of mention is often called “earned media,” earned because your company created a great customer experience that made someone tell their friends.

    The excited marketer who has just read a positive mention will often jump right to, “How do I make more of that happen?,” or “How can I make that person talk more about it, more often?” The sad reality is, you can’t, or you shouldn’t try. The critical thing about the Conversation Stream from a media pro’s perspective is that while you can participate if you want, there is no media plan for earned media.

    Featuring earned media in your traditional media is a good idea, but it’s still you talking at the base of it, not your customers. And spending money to get people to blog or mention you (i.e. free food for becoming a fan on Facebook) rings hollow in the social space. You have to disclose your investment (not doing so is a surefire way to Social and now, Legal Doom). The minute you do that, people tune out in a very subtle but profound way.

    The only truism related to earned media is that you should create a great experience for your customers that they will want to talk about, and then hope that they do (I call this the Zappos Way). This is all fine and good, but the customer experience is the department of product managers, interaction designers, and customer service personnel. These folks have very real tactical reasons to react to mentions.

    However, the job of the media professional is to be proactive, to be the engineers of brand success by connecting marketplace to product or brand experience in a powerful way, grabbing attention and creating engagement out of nothing. Measuring earned media is a great way to see how you’re doing (you should listen for that purpose), but sitting back and hoping to earn earned media isn’t a marketing strategy.

    So what’s a media marketer to do? What’s your perspective? I’d love to hear in the comments. I’ll lend mine in my next post, "Becoming a Hydroelectric Engineer," due later this week.

    Sponsored Blog Posts: It Just Wasn’t Meant To Be

    Beach RomanceHave you ever been on a date with someone who, from the very beginning, seemed to be the perfect match for you? You have so much in common. You both know the words to every U2 song. You both have been to Prague. You both think that any scene involving Chevy Chase in Caddyshack is pure cinematic bliss.

    But something’s just missing. No matter how much you try to create it, the chemistry’s just not there. Though you both really want it to work, you eventually part ways. For years afterward you will both reflect on that time and say that "it just wasn’t meant to be."

    This is how I feel about most people getting paid by advertisers to write blog posts. This has been a hot topic in the blogosphere lately because of the FTC’s announcement of rules governing blogging, including rules about paid blogging being disclosed ("blogger payola").

    While important, I believe that the points about governance are moot. This is because I think that people read 99% of bloggers because they write with authenticity. So regulating paid blog posts is like regulating how fireplaces get installed in Florida. You probably need to, but it’s not something that will end up happening very often. (Of course, there is an underlying assumption that there isn’t a rash of people building irresponsible fireplaces that create fire hazards, which in this case one could argue there is)

    People don’t read most blogs because the author writes particularly well, or because he or she is presenting information that no other source is, or because he or she is Einsteinian in his or her mental proportions. Keep in mind that many reasons exist for why people write. Most people in my line of work, myself included, write because it helps us in our day job. But I believe the number one far-and-away reason why people read blogs is for an authentic point of view.

    The problem is that if you have made the choice (for whatever reason) to put a lot of effort into your blog, at some point the idea of being paid to write starts to sound pretty good. If you have built a big audience, the idea of paying you to write starts to sound really good to advertisers.

    So there you are, successful blogger and advertiser, sitting on your first date, completing each others’ sentences. But it’ll never work. Maybe for a little while, but eventually either the blogger will start to lose readers or the advertiser will be disappointed with the results.

    Of course, there are many ways to get paid to write if you have a successful blog. Leverage your blog into a book, or get a column at one of the many great online publications out there. Or, consider writing guest content for a brand on their website or within their online community. Even this subtle change in context makes things click.

    I don’t judge any blogger who writes paid blog posts, that would be like judging someone for being on that awesome first date (or even the second or third, trying to find that mysterious way to manufacture the romance). It makes sense to try it. But in the end, getting paid to be authentic takes the focus off where it should be: why people read. And that can cost any publisher dearly.

    The Complete Album

     

    Another guest post from my esteemed colleague, Bill Fanning.
     
    revolver

    It’s pretty rare to find an album that’s a complete body of work where every song is great from front to back; albums like Revolver (Beatles)Road to Ensenada (Lyle Lovett)Grace (Jeff Buckley)… insert your favorite album here.  When you do, you keep coming back and never forget it.  I’ve revisited several of my favorite complete albums over the last week or so leading up to Austin City Limits Music Festival …getting me in the spirit.  It occurred to me that a well executed social marketing program is in many ways similar to a great album.  Think of all the different marketing channels as tracks and the entire program as the album.       

     
    While researching a variety of companies’ social media marketing initiatives recently I struggled to find examples of a complete body of work.  Many of them had a couple good tracks but failed to deliver a great social marketing album from front to back.  Why?  I’m guessing it’s because their social marketing efforts aren’t yet taken seriously by their marketing leadership.  It’s also possible their social media program is being run by an experimental group that’s not well integrated with the overall marketing strategy.  Either way, simply having a good track does not make a great album.  Not having a great album makes for a poor brand experience and a huge missed opportunity on driving real business value.       
     
    Here are a few things to keep in mind when building a Social Marketing program:

     

    • All are not equal. Some brands are better suited for Facebook and Twitter than others. Given the enormous popularity of social networks it’s very likely your customers are there. However, if people aren’t passionate about your brand or a lifestyle associated with your brand it is not likely they’ll be interested in participating in a dialogue with you. Social networks probably won’t fix that.
    • Work the room…well. Understand the etiquette for each social media. Tip: Sending out 10 tweets in 2 minutes will probably irritate your followers. It’s very important that the folks running your communication on social networks be proficient individual users who understand how to use the medium appropriately.
    • Be consistent, relevant and interesting. Keep in mind, you’re developing relationships here, not bombarding a faceless mass and hoping to catch a few eyes. 
    • Communicate as a human, not a company. Social media gives your company a great opportunity to humanize your brand. Consumers develop real relationships with people. Make sure it’s authentic. 
    • “Let’s go back to my place.” Invite your fans and followers back to your site. This is where real engagement, measurement and business value takes place. (All kinds of juvenile joke possibilities with this one.) 
    • All killer, no filler. Focus on making every track great with the album in mind. Make sure all your marketing efforts (social networks, branded community, advertising etc.) have a consistent brand look and feel and are done well individually with the overall program in mind.

     Which brands do you think have built a great social marketing album?