CONNECTING WITH CONSUMERS

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Friday, October 12 2012

Consumers as Social Media

The marketing software firm Marketo brings us this social media users profile segmentation, which likely will prove too close to home for comfort.  Yes, it's a sorry state of affairs when people become their machines, but hey, isn't that exactly what Raymond Kurzweil predicts in The Singularity is Near?  It's sad to see so many people becoming slaves to their portable devices and social media channels, but that's the reality of the contemporary world.  Are you ready to admit, which type of social media addict are you?

socialaddictsIG.jpg

Wednesday, June 6 2012

76ers Connect With Fans




I'll begin this installment by openly admitting that although I consider myself an avid and knowledgeable fan of baseball and American football, when it comes to the one American sport that has accrued any degree of an international following, NBA basketball, you can count me out.  I'd be happy to challenge you to a game of HORSE or spend a couple hours watching college hoops on the tube, but try to have a conversation with me about the NBA and I will quickly bolt for the nearest exit.  Nonetheless, there is something talkable that I would like to focus on here regarding this past regular season and it just so happens to pertain to the one NBA team I have any degree of affiliation for - the Philadelphia 76ers.

I spent more than a decade in Philadelphia during much of the 1970s and a few years into the '80s, a period perhaps most noteworthy for Julius 'Dr. J' Erving and a trip to the NBA finals  during the 1976-77 season.  Unfortunately, the Sixers and Dr. J. were no match for the Portland Trail Blazers and Bill Walton, the latter of whom promptly won four straight to take the title after starting off 0-2.  Recent years have been lean indeed for the Sixers, until this season when a ragtag team of overachievers nearly shocked the basketball world before falling in the semi-finals to Boston after taking the series to deciding game seven.  But enough about the sport itself, what I want to write about here has to do with the marketing of the sport. 

The Sixers' traditional advertising campaign continued unabated during the season, and it remained as tired and hackneyed as most sports teams' marketing efforts.  Each ad largely followed the same script: swelling music, and a voiceover recounting some team facts, along with some footage from past successes.  Although a few of the ads ended with coach Doug Collins saying how proud he is to be a Sixer, all finished with the same tagline, "Passionate. Intense. Proud."  As losses began to mount during the second half of the truncated season, the ads began to look more and more ludicrous. 

Sixers_TV_Spot_-_HISTORY.mpg

So much for traditional marketing - however much money went into those communications no doubt accrued little dividend from jaded fans who quickly tuned them out.  But since purchasing the team in late 2011 for the relatively low sum of $280 million, the new Sixers' owners, a group of largely anonymous personalities led by Josh Harris, the billionaire private equity titan, created an amazing turnaround for the franchise by dipping into the connected marketing toolbox.  Through a combination of savvy non-traditional sports marketing techniques, Harris and the Sixers' chief executive, Adam Aron rejuvenated the fan base, which had been staying away from games in droves.  No, this did not involve luring Jack Nicholson, Snoop Dogg, and Will Ferrell away from the Lakers' front row seats; instead, the Sixers relied on some tactics that spoke more directly to consumers struggling to get by in hard times--cutting ticket prices as much as 50% on thousands of seats, jazzing up the in-game presentation, and speaking openly and often to fans.  According to Harris, when he and his partners acquired the team, "the Sixers were an undermanaged and undervalued asset that wasn't connecting with its fans."  Like many sports fans, people in Philadelphia prefer team owners to have some allegiance to their cities.  A wealthy New Yorker, Harris made sure to attend nearly every home game, shuttling down from NYC in his chauffeur-driven SUV, and then made sure to sit among the fans: "I like to be on the floor. I like seeing the games down there, and it's good to be down there with the fans."  Fans were invited to apply for free seats behind the basket, an opportunity that came with a caveat:  they had to dress up in Philadelphia-theme outfits.  Aron bought the basketball court on which Sixers' great Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in Hershey, PA, and then proceeded to give away pieces to fans during the game that took place on the 50th anniversary of Chamberlain's astonishing feat.

Not surprisingly, with this new fan-oriented approach, the Sixers are also active on social media.  Aron regularly converses and jokes around with fans on Twitter, posting dozens of times a day from his account, @sixersceoadam.  And the Sixers' Facebook fan page scraps the "Passionate. Intense. Proud." blah blah, replacing it with "Like. Comment. Share."  There are regular opportunities for fans to check out interesting videos and cash in via Facebook with special offers and contests.  At the time of this writing, visitors to the page could win access for two to the 2012 Sixers' draftee press conference and official NBA Sixers draft hats.  Fans, of course, are fickle.  Sportswriters are skeptical.  It helped that the Sixers' brass launched this marketing approach at a time when the team was surprising the pundits.  There's nothing better for marketing a sports team than winning.  It will be interesting to see what the Sixers' owners have in mind for their sophomore campaign.



Tuesday, May 8 2012

From B-to-C to B-to-B

Although this site is dedicated to consumer marketing, it goes without saying that more and more companies are waking up to the potential of new technologies and approaches for connecting with other companies. So in this entry, we go a bit outside the box to take a look at what businesses are doing these days with social media. The best window for meeting that objective may well be Mike Stelzner's  2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, with findings based on a survey of more than 3800 marketers.

SOCIAL MEDIA USE

Among the key results, we see that most B2B marketers claim to be using social media in their businesses, which essentially matches their consumer marketing counterparts:





SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS

Perhaps not surprisingly, B2B marketers are catching up to B2C marketers on Facebook, although they surpass their consumer-oriented counterparts on LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, and Google+.  The key to using such channels is to focus on where one's intended audience is likely to be spending the most time.



SOCIAL MEDIA BENEFITS


What about results?  These results reveal some of the potential benefits of social media for B2B marketers:

  • Over 56% of B2B marketers acquired new business partnerships through social media (compared to 45% of B2C marketers)
  • Nearly 60% of B2B marketers saw improved search rankings from their social efforts (compared to 50% of B2C marketers)
  • B2B marketers are more able to gather marketplace insights from their social efforts (nearly 69% vs. 60% of B2C marketers)
  • The one area where B2B marketers significantly lag behind their B2C counterparts is in developing a loyal fan base.  63% of B2C marketers found social media helped them develop loyal fans, compared to 53% of B2B marketers.
  • The fact that many businesses are not seeing a direct link between their social media efforts and increased sales or reduced marketing expenses may have something to do with a lack of acumen as to how results can be measured:  20% of the respondents asked “How do I measure the effect of social media marketing on my business?”


THE FUTURE


Some projections concerning how B2B marketers intend to invest their time with social media also were culled from the study:

  • Respondents claim to be far more likely to increase their use of LinkedIn, with, over 76% of B2B marketers stating that they will increase their use (compared to 55% of B2C marketers).
  • 71% of B2B marketers plan to invest more time in blogging (compared to 65% of B2C marketers).
  • As for Facebook, a majority of marketers predict they will increase their use of Facebook this year, but B2B marketers (68%) lag behind B2C companies (76%).

The top topics B2B marketers want to learn about (compared to B2C) are:

  • Measuring effectiveness of social media (77% vs. 78%)
  • Converting activities to sales (72% vs. 69%)
  • Discovering best social media tactics (69% vs. 74%)



THE LESSON LEARNED

... is one we probably knew already:  Social media is now as much part and parcel of B2B marketing as it of B2C marketing.

SOME LINKS TO CHECK OUT

Why Marketing is Broken and How to Fix It

83% of Consumers Bailed on a Purchase Due to Poor Social Media Customer Service                                                    


Wednesday, February 8 2012

Social Media in a Donut

Just in case you're feeling a bit out of it and having trouble keeping up, I offer this primer on social media.

(source: Pascal Beucler, MSLGROUP, Paris)

Friday, January 27 2012

Bad Connections

Some good advice from Sundeep Kapur over at ClickZ.

In the pursuit of trying to get things done, some "top" brands have made mistakes. Here are some things to avoid, with no exceptions - things that I hope are rarely repeated.

  1. Run specials all the time. In a struggle to keep the consumer engaged, brands tend to keep offering consumers special deals. This all-out effort to discount and lure tends to have a negative impact by devaluing the brand and devaluing the relationship.
  2. Wait for people to come. Brands set up shop on social media sites and simply wait for the consumer to come and find them. They do little to engage via dialogue or by trying to market along other channels. They have simply set up shop and expect that it is good enough to drive consumers in.
  3. Run contests and games all the time. Gamification is the new buzzword for engagement with many brands investing significantly in games to engage their consumers. Additionally, brands tend to run multiple contests, which results in severely diluting their engagement to conversion metrics.
  4. Block negative feedback. Many top brands tend to either block or ignore negative feedback. If you put up a comment on their site they either take it down or have a defined strategy to push the bad comments as far down as possible. This strategy diminishes the value of the positive comments.
  5. Launch press releases on social media. Do you pay attention to more than 300 characters or watch long video clips? Brands tend to forget the conversational nature of engagement on social media sites - short, interesting stories are a much better way to engage.
  6. Wait 24 hours to respond. Some brands take a long time to respond because they only check "social feedback" twice a week. Other brands take a long time to respond because they have to get approval before they can respond. The problem is that if you take too long, the consumer will probably call your brand for an answer or move over to someone else.
  7. Not connecting your channels. Always a classic with the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Just two weeks ago, a major travel company sent two types of incentives - a gas discount card by email that shaved 10 cents off each gallon and a gas discount offer via social media that offered a five cent discount. It took a direct mail piece to fix the issue.
  8. Snoop on and shock your customers. While it's OK for a brand to leverage "widgets" to track consumer behavior on social media sites, it's scary when the brand surprises these consumers with offers. A click on a social link led to a phone call by a cruise representative who unabashedly told me that he observed my behavior online.
  9. Just roll along. Some brands feel that it's OK to reach a certain critical mass in social media after which their sites can just "roll along." The snowball can roll the wrong way and hurt brands.
  10. Focus on "likes." A blind focus on driving up "likes" has led to the "like" button being devalued and resulted in significantly lower ROI.
  11. "Wait" to get started. Believe it or not there are still brands, especially in the financial services area, that are waiting for the social media "fad" to end.
Feel free to add your own, just click 'comment.'

Thursday, December 8 2011

What is Word of Mouth Marketing?

Call me a stickler for proper language usage, a cantankerous old goat, or an old-fashioned traditionalist, but I happen to think that it's important not to dumb down social discourse through the improper use of terminology, poor spelling ("I 8 dinner 2nite"), and lousy grammar. But I get it, the emergence of texting, which is rapidly supplanting email among youth, seduces one rather quickly into a lazy writing modality which, for want of a better description, may more appropriate be referred to as 'de-texting,' in the sense of its efficiency at deconstructing language. When was the last time you texted a complete and accurately-written sentence, devoid of abbreviations and childish emoticons? I rest my case.  Making matters worse is the growing number of commentators who, as commentators are wont to do, comment on various aspects related to social media and connected marketing who bandy about terms without seeming to have clear insight into what it is they are talking about. Case in point - if it has anything to do with social media it is described as 'viral.'

Definitions are important because they provide us with a common ground for discussion. A conversation about word of mouth isn't going to get very far if the discussants are operating from different perspectives on what WOM is. I usually begin my presentations about WOM with George Silverman's definition from his book The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, in that it is typical, but also problematic:



A good start, one highlighting the fact that WOM may be positive or negative in nature.  But what about neutral?  For example, say I hear from a neighbor that our local satellite TV/cable provider is about to change its name.  Most of us would agree that is WOM - I have been informally provided with news about a local service company that I personally do not find positive or negative in connotation.  Silverman also points out that WOM is characterized by 'personal communication,' yet isn't it true that WOM conveyed by anonymous posters at an online chat forum is in fact 'impersonal'?  And although it is true that most WOM is disseminated outside of commercial ties, how then do we describe brand advocacy programs, which involve people spreading positive recommendations because they have been incentivized with free products, gifts, or payment?

WOMMA skirts some of these problems inherent in Silverman's definition by defining WOM more broadly:



Although many pundits use the terms 'WOM" and "buzz" as synonyms, Emmanuel Rosen's (The Anatomy of Buzz Revisited) clarifies:



Who can argue with WOMMA and Rosen?  Successful WOM marketing (WOMM) results in plenty of buzz.  So what is WOMM?  Last week, WOMMA contributor Pat McCarthy provided 'the simplest definition of word of mouth marketing":

 

So now that we know what we're talking about, what are the basic principles underlying successful WOMM?  There are two simple ways to find the answer: (1) by reading my book Connecting With Consumers and (2) by watching this short WOMMA video.

In a nutshell, WOMMA identified 5 basic principles of WOMM:






























Wednesday, April 20 2011

The Journal of Marketing Communications Wants You

CALL FOR PAPERS

Journal of Marketing Communications

Special Issue:  Word of Mouth and Social Media

Editors:  Allan J. Kimmel and Philip J. Kitchen

 

 

The Internet and mobile devices have come to occupy a central role in the transmission of word of mouth (WOM) and the spread of marketing buzz, an impact that has shown phenomenal growth over the past decade with the emergence of blogs, Internet forums and discussion groups, text messaging, email, and the like.  In fact, the most powerful media form is WOM and it is no longer limited to face-to-face encounters. Moreover, WOM today can spread with lightning speed to reach countless numbers of consumers.  As marketers strive to adapt to these rapidly evolving technological and social developments and keep pace with their markets, researchers have followed suit, as evidenced by the growing body of scientific literature on various aspects of WOM communication (i.e., the act of a consumer creating and/or distributing marketing-relevant information to other consumers) and related personal influence phenomena (e.g., brand communities; brand ambassador programs; product seeding campaigns).  Nonetheless, to date, relatively little academic research scrutiny has been devoted to WOM as it relates to social media and other web-driven consumer-generated phenomena, such as blogs and consumer Internet forums. Moreover, there is a paucity of academic research relating to the strength of consumer-to-consumer communications as compared to B2C and B2B.  There is evidence of resistance by marketers in staying with the time-worn, but tested and tried traditional types of communications.

 

This special issue of the Journal of Marketing Communications is intended to bridge this knowledge gap by providing an outlet for innovative and timely contributions pertaining to online WOM, as disseminated through the broad array of social media (a category of online media where people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking, including social sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr; social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook; online forums; and corporate and consumer-generated blogs.   

 

Topics for the special issue include but are not limited to:

  • methods of using social media for generating WOM
  • comparisons of online and offline WOM dynamics and consequences, including the interplay between these various forms of WOM
  • the conversational, as opposed to dyadic, nature of online WOM disseminated through social forums
  • antecedents to and conditions facilitating online WOM
  • the impact of negative online WOM and complaint behavior
  • the impact of online WOM on sales
  • the dynamics, spread, and consequences of marketing-relevant online rumors
  • rhetorical analyses of online WOM conversations
  • brand-related storytelling in blogs and online forums
  • segmentation analyses of online WOM participants
  • the integration of WOM with other on- and off-line techniques
  • where WOM fits in terms of integrated marketing communications from an organizational or consumer-based perspective.

 

Submissions to the special issue should be original empirical or theoretical contributions and should not be under simultaneous consideration for any other publication.  Online WOM should not be treated as a peripheral aspect of the paper, but must serve as a central focus.  As a guide, papers should be between 4000 and 6000 words in length, including an abstract of no more than 200 words.  Manuscripts should be submitted electronically in Microsoft Word format to the guest editors before 1st May 2012.  The format of the manuscript must follow Journal of Marketing Communications guidelines.  For the Author guidelines, please visit http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/13527266.asp

 

All questions regarding the suitability of manuscripts should be sent to the Editors.

 

Editors

Dr. Allan J. Kimmel                             Dr. Philip J. Kitchen

ESCP Europe                            The Faculty of Business

Marketing Department                 Brock University

79 avenue de la République         500 Glenridge Avenue

75543 Paris, France                    St Catharines, Ontario, Canada L2S 3A1

E: kimmel@escpeurope.eu           pkitchen@brocku.ca

 

 

         

Tuesday, March 15 2011

More Exaggerated Claims

I'm an avid surfer of social media sites, and there are some great ones out there - Mashable, for example, definitely merited a place on my 43Marks homepage.  Yet it never ceases to amaze me how many unverified stats end up at such sites, reported, cited, quoted, retweeted, what have you, without question.  So, when I noticed the headline, "80% of Children Under Age 5 Use the Internet" by Sarah Kessler, my bullshit detectors were maxed to the limit.  Just off the top of my head, I reasoned that many children under the age of 5 can't bloody read, so how do they log on, and what sites do they visit?  Okay, no sense nitpicking, but try to figure out the following graphic:

Now if I'm reading this chart correctly, we are expected to believe that 75% of 0-2 year olds use a computer and nearly 60% a cellphone?  This is difficult to accept even for 2 year olds, but what about 3 month olds?  And what are they doing on the cell phone - talking?  Before they learn how to talk? These stats supposedly come from Sesame Street Media Utilization Studies - that sure sounds impressive to me, until Kessler's link takes you to the Sesame Workshop site which hardly looks like a repository of rigorous research.  I consulted one of the SSMS reports, and found the following definition of 'media use', supposedly the measure plotted on the graphic: 'The amount of time spent actively consuming a given medium.'  So I guess that means we can rule out the possibility that the participation percentages include cases where a mother surfing the Internet is holding her baby, who happens to drool on the keyboard. 

Throwing out a bunch of head scratching statistics is nothing new when it comes to hyping social media - those Social Media Revolution videos are fun to watch and creatively produced, but replete with questionable statistics (e.g., '96% of Millennials have joined a social network').  Which is why I always cringe when my students start off a presentation with one of those videos. 


Moral of the story: just because the stats appear on an otherwise credible website or in a brilliantly produced video, it doesn't mean that they are accurate.  Seek verification and demand to know what method was used to acquire them.

Saturday, March 5 2011

Connecting With Teens

I remember our first TV - a monstrous Zenith black and white box with an essential horizontal hold button, rabbit ears antenna, and three channels.  No HDML ports, no USB or ScanDisk inputs, no remote control, and I don't even think the word 'computer' had been invented yet.  If you're a teen today, that mini-techno-biography must send shivers up your spine.  Because you've grown up with laptops, the Internet, smart phones, and remotes up the wazoo.  You are the avant-garde of new technology.

A recent eMarketer report estimates that by the end of this year, 96% of US teens between the ages of 12 and 17 will go online monthly, compared with 74% of the total US population.

Regarding social networks: more than 4 in 5 teens are expected to use social media this year (vs. 64% of all Internet users) and 75% will use Facebook monthly. 

And texting is so second nature to a teen that it has just about relegated most email accounts to the trash bin.

The online social connectedness of teens for retailers is pretty phenomenal according to a new report, 'Teen Girls: Always on a Social Shopping Mission.'  According to eMarketer analyst Tobi Elkin, who authored the report, "Peer influence is the key driver in teen girl shopping behavior."  Although more than 4 million US teen girls purchased items online last year, shopping in the bricks & mortar context is still a major element of teen consumer behavior, as Elkin writes in her report:

"Teen girls are intrepid social shoppers who eagerly embrace digital and mobile tools. They enjoy hunting for clothes and accessories online and offline. Most thrilling, however, is the experience of shopping and buying in physical stores with close friends by their side."


"While they are price-conscious and driven by a great deal, teen girls weigh these factors against the all-important consideration of whether peers will approve of their purchases."



Still waiting to see how all this compares to teens outside the US.  And whither the teen boys?
Just have a look:











Saturday, January 29 2011

The Evolution of Social Media - Catch It If You Can

It's not only that you can't stop progress, it is getting to the point where it has become way too difficult to keep pace.  When I was writing Connecting With Consumers, just as I had begun to nail a description of some state of the art connected marketing tool, my email inbox would begin to fill with latest updates from WOMMA, Marketing Power, Knowledge@Wharton, Marketing Sherpa, Adrants Daily, Mashable, etc.  That's not a problem when you're maintaining a blog about this stuff, but when you're writing a book that is rapidly approaching your publisher's deadline, well, you want to get that last word correct, even if it is correct for only 30 seconds. At any rate, thanks to OnlineSchools.org, we now have an infographic summarizing the nearly four decade history of social media.  In their view, the transmission of the first email got it going, and as we know, social media has evolved dramatically over the ensuing years, particularly when you consider the snail's pace by which other communication technologies evolved (see the timeline of communication media below, courtesy of eudemic.com ).


As Ray Kurzweil has pointed out, technological change is exponential.  In his book The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil demonstrates how evolution 'creates a capability and then uses that capability to evolve the next stage.'  Think about the development of the computer and, subsequently, the Internet, and that makes a whole lot of sense.  Thus, perhaps it was tongue and cheek that the infographic ends with 'The End,' when in fact, it more appropriately should read 'Only The Beginning.'

Note: I've chopped the infographic into three slices to facilitate copying and use for presentations.  One glaring omission among many is June 1999 and the launch of Napster by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker - a platform that turned the music industry on its head and provided a key stimulus for peer-to-peer file sharing.  Once legal snafus doomed Napster as a free application, it was quickly followed by one emerging alternative after another, including my personal favorite, the epic Audiogalaxy.  Ah, those were the days.  Nowadays, there are bit torrents and uploading to storage sites.  The legacy of Napster's historic impact lives on in 'The Social Network' and Audiogalaxy has reappeared, albeit in a different Cloud-based guise.

Obviously, the OnlineSchools infographic creators have a pretty limited conception of social networking and thus what follows is dramatically oversimplified.  For a more complete single-slide history of social media, check out the one at crenk.com.   








































































































Friday, October 29 2010

Bursting Social Media Myths: Zombies or Gadflies?

I ride the Paris metro on a daily basis, and lately I have been having the distinct impression that Paris is slowly but surely being taken over by zombies. Forget about eye contact, there are growing indications that the text-induced multitudes that I see frantically texting, scrolling, tweeting, and squinting are completely devoid of any iota of recognition that they are actually in the physical presence of other living organisms, and that includes the mice. That can get very tedious when one needs to squeeze past a couple text-crazed passengers to reach a free window seat. 'Hello, anybody home?' The logical conclusion is that all this portable technology is undermining our capacity to be human, to acknowledge the social world around us. Yet, aha, here is the paradox, because after all, while the hordes of apparent texting, tweeting, etc. automatons are ignoring us in favor of their portable devices, they are connecting with somebody. All this leading up to that timeless question that people have been asking since day 1, Internet age: 'Do social media make us more or less social?'

No less than Malcolm Gladwell, in his article, 'Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not be Tweeted,' and Mark W. Schaeffer, in his blog post 'Is Social Media Creating a Generation of Cowards' have argued that social media inhibit human interaction and make people less sociable.  On the research side, a widely-cited, early study by Robert Kraut and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University famously found a variety of negative effects associated with Internet use on a measures of social involvement and psychological well-being among Pittsburgh (USA) families in 1995-1996.  This, they contended, supported their fears that Internet usage replaces close social interaction and thereby increases isolation.  Just around the time that social scientists began to rush out of their cubicles screaming, 'We're all doomed!', some nitpickers started to identify some methodological flaws in the Internet=loneliness study (e.g., the nature of the recruitment process led to the selection of research participants who were very likely to experience a decrease in social contacts and community involvement during the course of the study, even without Internet access).  Lo and behold, in a follow-up paper published three years later, Kraut et al. (2001) reported that the negative effects identified in their earlier study actually dissipated over time and that another of their studies revealed a variety of positive effects of Internet use on communication, social involvement, and personal well-being, regardless of age.

Now added to the mix is research just released by ExactTarget and CoTweet.  Based on an assessment of data accrued from ExactTarget's subscribers, followers, and fans, consumers’ increased usage of social media directly corresponds to more face-to-face interactions.  As illustrated in the following graph, the study revealed that Internet users 'who are becoming more active on Facebook and Twitter are also interacting with friends in “real” (not virtual) settings more often', which flies in the face of the popularly held contention that social media use makes people less social.



Well, contrary to ExtraTarget's claim, one study does not make a myth bust in my personal opinion, especially given that ExtraTarget has kept the detail of its methodology and sample largely under wraps.  However, the evidence is building.  People won't be putting away their portable devices, so the impact of our growing synergy/singularity with technology on an individual level certainly warrants continued analysis.  In the meantime, my hat goes off to Apple for its new Type n Walk iPhone app.  If only there was something we could do about those metro zombies.

(And more French mass transit strikes is not exactly what I have in mind.)



Friday, October 1 2010

The Future of Social Media: The Magic Number 5

With attention spans reduced to 140 characters or less in the contemporary, high-tech era, it's no surprise that lists have shortened.  It won't be long before end-of-the-year 'top 10 lists are reduced to 9, then 8, then 7, ... until they disappear altogether.  However much I may enjoy the Village Voice's 'Year-End Film Poll' and Pazz and Jop Poll, once you get to 'The Last House on the Left' 'and Nine' on the former, and Abe Vigoda's 'Reviver' on the latter, I think it is safe to say that it's time to start cutting.  Getting to the point, in this installment I begin a two-part series (how's that for short?) on 'top 5s for social media' - with a look to future social media trends.  Next up, a look to the present (I know that sounds backwards), with some advice on how to advance a social campaign today.  Conveniently enough, both topics come in the form of simple five-point bullet lists.

FIVE TRENDS THAT WILL SHAPE SOCIAL MEDIA 

Some intriguing insight into the near future vis-a-vis evolving technologies and social media provided at The Next Web.  Let's face it, however smart we may be, predicting the future is still pretty tricky business, and Marshall McLuhan's much-quoted future-thinking acumen, still applies: '. . . we tend always to attach ourswelves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past.  We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future' (Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near notwithstanding).  Given that caveat, TNW's list, with useful commentary provided by PSFK and Paul Marsden, is more than interesting, and I believe their predictions fall within the timespan of plausibility.  Here are the trends, with verbatim commentary lifted from the aforementioned sources:

1.  Identity will become embedded in devices
Imagine this: your social media identities (Twitter username, Facebook profile, etc.) will be entered as part of the initial process of setting up your new devices, and will be propagated into all applications. You no longer will need to enter your Twitter or Facebook credentials to access related functionality on mobile applications – instead, they will seamlessly access your profile. The recently rumored Facebook phone offers an example application.  Paul Marsden suggests that this possibility will provide an opportunity for smart app-based loyalty programs and deal feeds that use social media identities to personalize communications.  Of course, the transition from paper to electronic couponing is well underway and the conversion of the portable device into a credit card reader has become a reality, but embedding identities, albeit threatening from a privacy perspective, takes these developments to a logical next level.  PSFK illustrates this first trend by envisioning a typical product thusly:




2.  Online sharing will become embedded in media life

With social identity embedded into the devices we use daily, social sharing will become an integral part of the way we enjoy media on our regular TV’s, DVD players and music players. These devices will evolve towards all being Internet enabled and allow us to share likes, links and personal commentary. Remote controls and store shelves may include “like” buttons which autopost to Facebook, while music players will sync preferences to preferred identity.  Disney's buggy ABC.com Full Episode Player (FEP) is a start in concretizing this trend, providing greater intimacy for the TV viewing experience. 

3.  Location will be embedded in all activities

Location aware devices will employ pre-emptive use of location to alert the user to things or people nearby that may be of interest. Four-square writ large.  Users won’t have to check in to a place to see if their friends are nearby, as their device will automatically alert them. This trend bears particular implications for marketers, enabling them to provide consumers with value in that message and offer – and not just another annoying discount offer that they will eventually tune out if it becomes an onslaught.  Individual targeting is clearly a trend I think we can all agree on for marketers, for whom broadcasting no longer makes sense.  From a personal perspective, we can only hope there is a clear opt-in aspect to this trend, so that consumers can decide where, when, and for whom they willingly can be located.  In more cases than not, more than I need to know is not always better and persistent targeted messages from marketers can get annoying pretty quickly.  But these personal tics aside, Paul Marsden intriguingly inquires about this potential scenario:  'Opportunity for a new breed of tuangou group buy offers, bringing together real time flash mobs to buy in bulk in store?'

4.  Smart devices and web apps will automatically check in and post updates

Identity aware devices, empowered by embeddable RFID tags, will allow this type of technology to spread beyond the mobile phone. A smart coffee thermos, for example, could enable automatic check-ins and send coupons to your phone as you enter your favorite coffee shop.  This is going to be the nuclear explosion in the coupon business. 

5.  Social networking will redefine how large organizations communicate

Large organizations have always struggled to share knowledge across multiple teams, divisions and geographies.
Social media inspired design patterns applied to existing enterprise software and/or intranets opens up opportunities for collaboration on an unprecedented scale. Employees in large organizations will finally be able to find colleagues with knowledge or experience they could benefit from. Collaboration will no longer mean simply sharing documents and version control, but the ability to find colleagues by shared interest and collaborate seamlessly in a multi-channel environment.  To some extent, this echoes, but also advances Tapscott and Williams' Wikinomics ideas.  As TNW points out, at present, current examples of this fifth trend include disruptive innovators like SocialText, Yammer, Podio and SocialWok.

In summing up, TNW suggests that what links these five trends into the big picture is convergence, as in traditional media (TVs, radios, etc.) becoming social media devices, corporate intranets becoming private social networks, and so on.  All of this, of course, is being powered by ongoing developments in consumer generated content and content creating tools.  No question, the future is now.

Friday, September 24 2010

Participating in Social Media: Risks and Rewards

I refer to some of Silicon Valley industrial analyst Jeremiah Owyang's ideas about social media at several points in Connecting With Consumers, so it stands to reason that I'd be mentioning them here as well. His most recent Web Strategy blog installment includes another in a long line of 2X2 matrixes, this time clearly identifying some of the key costs and benefits of participating in social media.



                   Like all investments, there are risks and rewards, use this matrix to help
                   decision makers understand the downsides and upsides by participating.

This is not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but I like 2X2 classification schemes - they simplify and highlight and conform to our growing tendency to devote no more than 5 seconds to process material.  (In fact, if you've made it this far, I 'm pretty satisfied.)  But Owyang's matrix accomplishes something other than simplification - it reminds us that participation and engagement in social media isn't for everybody.  Unfortunately, as soon as the media and corporate communications departments glom onto the big new thing (and for many companies, as surprising as it may sound, social media is definitely something new), corporate decision makers start to think they have to spend on it, regardless of objectives and ability, just to say, 'we're there.'

Of course, not participating, while it may have its benefits at least from the firm's point of view, is business as usual.  And I wrote Connecting With Consumers in large part to convince how business as usual just doesn't work anymore in marketing.  And then there is last year's Engagementdb's analysis showing how corporate mavens (i.e., companies high in engagement and social media presence) financially outperform companies characterized by other engagement/presence profiles - results that certainly argue for participating in social media.






It goes without saying that any new business venture bears some risk, so perhaps the moral to this story is not so much that gun shy companies should opt out of the Marketing 2.0 party, but rather, must consider the risks beforehand, proceed slowly, rely heavily on social marketing metrics, and adjust strategy accordingly - a moral succinctly summed up by Wetpaint/Engagement db founder Charlene Li:

Doing it all may not be for you — but you must do something.

The optimal social media marketing strategy will depend on a variety of factors, including your industry. If your most valuable customers do not depend on or trust social media as a communication medium, or if your organization is resistant to engagement in some channels, you will have to start smaller and slower. But start you must, or risk falling far behind other brands, not only in your industry, but across your customers’ general online experience. 

Tuesday, August 17 2010

Use of Social Marketing Tactics

MarketingSherpa has just issued the results of their latest benchmark survey of the social marketing tactics most frequently used by organizations for marketing purposes. Based on an assessment of more than 2300 companies, the results are summarized in the chart below, which shows the average percentage of companies using each social platform for tactical purposes.  And the winner is . . . drum roll please . .. participating on company branded or managed social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (78%).



Not surprisingly, organizations are increasingly making an effort to engage with customers across the channels through which those customers are communicating with each other.  All of these figures represent an evolution of the stats provided in Connecting With Consumers.  Of course, what the chart doesn't tell us is the extent to which managers are simply going through the motions of channeling part of their marketing budget into social media because it's what everyone else is doing and so they can say, 'and we are, too.'  But it's one thing to have an intern managing the company's YouTube and Twitter content, and quite another to have a team working from a coherent strategic framework, one oriented towards true engagement.  Sherpa's takeaway point clearly zones in on this point:

Keeping in mind that your strategy must outlast the revolving door of leading social media technologies, tactics should be social brand agnostic when creating your organization’s plan.  In other words, an enduring tactic would be to "build and participate in a network populated by our targeted audience," not "build and participate in a Facebook fan page."

And it would also be helpful to know the extent to which companies are monitoring and tracking the impact of their social media activity.  Maintaining a serious, expert social media team requires money, and as we all know, budgets are dependent upon results.

Note:  Speaking of MarketingSherpa, a great online resource for social (and other) marketing information . . . keep your eyes peeled to their site because it won't be long before you'll have a chance to win a free copy of Connecting With Consumers (check out their 'Book Giveaway' link in a couple weeks).