Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When Integrating Social Media and Direct Marketing; Part One - Think Strategically

Before posting your first tweet, writing your first blog post, or attracting your first fan, you need a strategic plan.

The path to social-media success is filled with potholes that cost you time and relationships, or both! As such a clear definition of your plan, documenting the process and details, and then revising it as needed is the difference between profitable social-media engagement and being just another corporate presence.

Social media strategy starts with community
Your strategy starts with a vision of your community: 
  • How do your customers interact with your team and one another?
  • Is the community social or commercial focussed?
  • What are the benefits and the challenges? 
  • What do your customers want? 
  • What moves them to action? 
  • Is the community telio or communoludic?
In general if it works with direct marketing, it will work with social media. But that isn't an excuse to start posting one promotion after another. Social media requires more thought, planning and resources to achieve the best effectivenes. To begin integrationyou must document a vision of the community that becomes a touchstone for it, just as a mission or vision statement should serve for a company. 

If you can't measure it, you can't manage it

One of the biggest challenges with social media is capturing reliable metrics, indeed this is a challenge in all marketing. Various sources provide analytics and on the face of it it would seem logical that the number of visitors would be the same regardless of the analytics source. 

In reality the numbers don't match; indeed most of the time, they're not even close. So before you start, establish benchmarks for everything;
  • How many orders do you receive from unknown sources? 
  • What does it cost to process an order? 
  • What is your customer lifetime value? 
  • How many hit-and-run customers (customers who place just one or two orders before disappearing) are you attracting? 
  • What is your average order? 
  • What is your response rate? 
  • How many customer-care calls do you receive?

This still applies if you've already started a social-media programme, you still need to benchmark. Why? Becuse it will allow you to see cause and effect as you test different campaigns, it will establish basis of cross-elasticity in elements of the marketing mix and particularly the cross-elasticity of demand in terms of various media. 

Social media is a long-term relationship builder, not a short-term cash generator. If you don't have benchmarks establishing a baseline, your ability to measure anything is significantly decreased. 

Define Goals and set objectives
The next step is to define your goal and objectives. They need to be realistic and specific, and they need to fit your stage of development. There are plenty of sites out there dealing with goal and objective setting so I'll leave up to you to google the details. 

When you are first starting in social media, it is rare to receive much participation. You need to recognise that like any pipeline, you need to prime it and your timeline needs to allow for that development of your community. In this Social media is much like direct marketing. It is a back-end business where you have to build your customer base before you can reap the rewards.

It's faster and easier if your company is a large brand or you integrate your other channels and systems with your new network. Then, it takes less time to see some results, but it still requires a long-term commitment.

I'll follow this up soon with the second part 

Monday, November 8, 2010

A an article that moves on from my points below is


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Marketing and the Social Media Space - the netnographer's environment

A revolution in both marketing thought and practice is at hand; the new social world is online.

Internet penetration rates continue to rise, whilst the 'net isn't ubiquitous yet, within industrially developed and developing nations it is almost so. Reasonably, we can say that well over a billion people now participate in various forms of social media. Indeed  to the point that even non-capitalist socities are embraced its power; the Communist Party of China now offer training in social media to its members so strong has been the growth of social media within China.

It is no exaggeration to say that we are in the midst of a technology-led communal revolution.The need to understand this, to apply a PESTLE approach to marketing per se, continues to grow.  The implications for marketers, marketing researchers, and managers of all stripes are vast. Consumers are sharing all sorts of emotions and information with each other about an incredible panoply of products, retailers, and brands. Consumers are not just being 'positioned' by our marketing they are co-producing value in terms of the brands and their values; Burberry and its problems with 'Chavs' is a case in point.

The online environment offers us nearly unlimited access to consumer-to-consumer communications that are:
  • relevant and detailed
  • from a naturally-occurring context
  • unelicited
  • obtained in an unobtrusive way, and
  • obtainable in a timely, effective, and efficient manner
This data is raw, authentic, spontaneous, indigenous, unforced, unadorne, unfiltered, powerful, highly involved and often spectacularly creative.It has the pontential to be a Marketer's dream source; valid, realiable, accessible and cheap!

Marketers are beginning to build social media into their marketing plans, their advertising and promotional campaigns. But in terms of consumer insight, marketing is dominated by the same old methods; Focus groups, Surveys, Data models.Whilst these are tried and trusted, reliance on them when we have also have social media sources is myopic, to paraphrase Ted Levitt.

The move to build rich understanding with the cornucopia of online consumer data is just beginning, it provides us with a  range of overlapping opportunities. Applied to business andmarketing needs, netnography builds deep consumer insights that provide:
  • All-embracing descriptions of the marketplace—segments, product groupings, attribute sets
  • Realistic comprehension of online communication—categories, trends, symbols, images
  • Social understandings of consumer choice—influencers, adopters, WOM properties
  • Natural views of brand meaning—decoding authentic consumer language and terms, as well as visual
  • and audiovisual analysis
  • Embedded discoveries of consumer innovation—based in lead user, inno-tribe, and prosumer creativity
 Compare netnography to the focus group or survey data dominating the world of consumer insight research.
  • Focus groups offer detailed and relevant data. But they are elicited, obtrusive and completely artificial.
  • The one-time group dynamics are synthetic and strange.
  • Surveys are artificial, obtrusive, and elicited. We often have no way of knowing if our survey questions are relevant to the consumers’ world.
  • Both focus groups and surveys can be expensive. Consider that a national set of focus groups can easily run in the hundreds of thousands.
Recognizing the implications of the development of the internet as a socialising media, Lusch and Vargo (2006) argue that cocreation will increasingly induce firms to collaborate with customers to cocreate the entire marketing programme, indeed many are now running 'fan' sites for their products and brands. Such deevlopments are also consistent with open-source innovation and 'crowd-sourcing' (Etgar 2008; Von Hippel 2005) and with emerging corporate practices that tap into brand communities. Good examples of this are LEGO, which explicitly sought and harnessed consumer innovation to refine the successful LEGO robotic kit Mindstorms (Koerner 2006), and skinnyCorp’s Threadless, which manufacturers consumer-designed and critiqued T-shirts.

This means marketing needs an edge - a tool to help understand how and what is being said in what context about brands, products, etc - that's where netnography comes in; as a Masrketer's secret weapon to customer understanding.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So you've been told to 'Do something' with social media, but nobody can say exactly what?

Social media is still a brand new arena for many companies. Some are just figuring out that having a Facebook account and maybe even a Twitter account is a good thing. And if these tools are new to you, trying to get a grasp on what more there is to do with social media can be an overwhelming task. Have no fear though. Here are four different things you can do;

1)Public Relations: Social media is a great tool for communicating with the general public but only if it is part of an imtegrated strategic communications plan - you need to understand stakeholder theory and you need to understand what a PIG is - go look up Menedlow.

Your Facebook page and your Twitter account let you have one to one conversations with people about your brand and products, but it has to be done in a way that builds engagement and interests them - it isn't the equivalent of a coporate market stall!

Consumers – people – have fun reading postings, liking posts, and getting to learn more about who you are as a brand. And, anyone can quickly and easily jump on this wagon. This is the most popular use for social media - just go and check out Alexandre Orlov and Comparethemarket.com for a slautory lesson in using social media this way.


2) Customer Relationship Management: Companies that are a little more savvy can build on their PR initiatives with this component. Tools like Facebook and Twitter can be used not just for general communications, but to respond to consumer questions and solve consumer problems. It’s easy enough for people to send a Facebook message or Tweet to you asking specific questions. If you’re ready to respond to them, with speed and friendliness, then this could be right for you. Companies like Dell and Comcast have Twitter accounts set up just for this and people take full advantage of them. this requires you to have the staff with the time and expertise to provide this sort of service - again it really requires a strategy towards what you expect social media is going to do for you.


3) Social Media Monitoring: This use of social media takes a step away from the individual consumer to look at the wider space of the internet. Monitoring is a way for a brand to stay on top of who is saying what about your brand. The goal isn’t necessarily to communicate with individual people, but rather to have an ear open to anyone speaking about your brand, to watch when and why the volume of conversations increases and decreases, to see what reactions are when good or bad things happen around your brand.

I recently had the good fortune to trial Netbase's software that lets you do excatly this and it is awesome. If you are serious about social medi amonitoring this is the tool you need.


4) Social Media Research: For those of you wishing to expand your survey or focus group research beyond the asking and into the listening, this is the option for you. Social media research uses all of the same scientific principles as traditional research but focuses on social media as the data source rather surveys or focus groups as the source of data. Research objectives, sampling, weighting, standardized variables, norms, generalizability, and validity are the words of the day here. You could even go the whole hog and get a netnographic study of your communities to understand your customers in a deep and meaningful way - again the netbase tool helps immensely with this.

In the end, you must decide on your objective;
  • Do you want a communication channel for your consumers?
  • Do you want to actively seek questions and solve problems?
  • Do you want to listen to the ebb and flow of the internet?
  • Do you have specific research problems you need to solve?

You may not have the time or the budget to delve into every area but one of them probably meets a need you’re currently trying to fill.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gimme that old time religion

Whilst its somewhat gauche to still refer to the post-modern consumer, prosumer or whatever other label is flavour of the month, the core concept that contemporary consumers are complex, multifaceted contiuums of behaviour along multiple dimesnsion of identtity and behaviour is now taken as a given. Within marketing we've had a mantra that the highest form of marketing is to have an immerseive philospohy of customer centricity that goes beyond the lip service of Customer is King/Queen. It is a way of doing business in which the satisfaction of the customer comes first and not after the satisfacton of business goals.

With the advent of social media and the fluid transition today's consumers make between media forms both between online and online and between online and offline has made understanding consumers somewhat difficult task, indeed some have said Herculean.

Consumers are organized in social networks and can take action together, we call these 'groups' tribes or cultures depending on who you read and who's definitions you ascribe to. They can discuss isolated instances of bad customer experiences and place them in context. Thus, they express concerns and dissatisfaction more loudly than they have ever been able to. What is more, they can take action to challenge business activities and people in power. In the digital environment (both online and offline), the voice of a few can inspire and reach many, indeed marketers strive to do exactly that with viral campaigns. With Social media consumers are organised such that the facilitated (and constant) flow of information among different social networks makes the voice of every single customer that much stronger and makes the spreading of such concerns that must faster.

This is where customer evangelism becomes critical and its where netnography can play a vital role in the health, grow and development of customer communities and the brands/products they are aggregated around. We've always talked about moving customer 'loyalty' to the point that a consumer becomes a prosthelytiser for our brand or company - now we are starting to have the tools to do this is a meaningful and practical way.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are you anti-social? The changing face of media means re-thinking marketing

There is little doubt that traditional media are being replaced, supplemented or augmented – depending on your own opinion – by a range of new media based on the advances in digital communications, as the emerging technologies diagram shows.

If ever there was an advert for a company of any size to engage in environmental scanning then these changes in the macro-environment and their effects into strategic business planning and especially marketing, would be it.

Of the new media, one of the least understood, yet having arguably the most potential to change the face of business, large or small is that of social media.

Social network marketing (SNM) or social level marketing (SLM), is an advertising method that makes use of social network service (social media) to increase their web presence.

This ranges from simply advertising directly on social networking sites, viral marketing that spreads throughout the web, email, and word of mouth, or providing niche social networking sites focused around the item being advertised.

In effect it is linked digital media marcomms in the same way IMC theory linked traditional marcomms.

In particular social media has completely changed how businesses should view the internet; it has the power to literally make or break an online marketing campaign. With UK TV revenues down 14% year on year and an ongoing recession there is little doubt that businesses are re-evaluating where they place their media spend, as a result there is likely to be a shift to follow the media – go online.

A well-planned and executed social media campaign can result in increased brand exposure, thousands of new website visitors and natural links to improve those all important search engine rankings. You only have to look at the impact that the Alexandr Orlov, the meerkat character has had for Compare the market.com to start to see the potential; celebrity status – a double spread of his home in Hello magazine, YouTube and Facebook pages outranking almost every real-life celebrity and a twitter page that regularly ranks in the UK’s top five – 5845 subscribers, a bloopers reel for his adverts that is regularly recorded via SkyActive with over 60000 views to date and appears on his own website which is the 7th most visited insurance website in the UK. Not bad for a set of CGI pixels.

Social media marketing is an engagement with online communities to generate exposure, opportunity and very much after these – sales. It seems that many marketers see the social media frontier as the next marketing gold rush. Given the low cost of entry, many companies are seeing the area as a potential gold mine, but they are very much missing the point.

Most marketers would ask the wrong question here: “How can social networks make me more money?” The problem with that approach is that you tend to focus on immediate means of monetising the value of social networks such as MySpace, Orkut, Friendster, LinkedIn, Mixx, Stumbleupon, Reddit, Twitter and Flikr, while ignoring the real reason these networks were setup and how you can use those ideas to help your business.

People use social media to have a conversation with friends, to play games, to have fun, not to invite salespeople into their homes and lives. I’m afraid that many businesses are forgetting, or haven’t ever learned, that to utilise social media means engaging on the customer’s terms, to be customer-centric, to embrace the marketing as a philosophy in their business and not just a way of selling more.

They are also missing another point, to get to a sale we need to get the customer to take action, to buy. But we traditionally have great issues with potential customers becoming enthusiastic enough to buy from traditional media like television and radio, when you consider social media via computer, mobile phone and other communications devices, the potential consumers are in an even less purchasing amenable frame of mind. Further we haven’t yet developed a means of actually monetising such social based phenomenon. Consider the recent success of Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent, her YouTube clip clocked up over 100 million views, yet Freemantle the show owners, made virtually nothing from this.

The first rule about using social marketing is that any content submitted has to be interesting, unique and non-commercial. Content from a source that social media users know and trust (such as the mainstream media) is always going to have an advantage over content from a blog or e-commerce store, but anything that is an ‘in your face advert’ is going to fail, and fail fast. Social media is much more akin to Public Relations that it is classical advertising and promotion or sales, especially if we take the hierarchy of effects model as a base.

A classic mistake many make is to submit their homepage or a product pages to social sites – this tactic almost never works. You need come up with content that's going to appeal to the community or communities you are targeting. To do that you need to understand the three social marketing arenas:

  1. Social Media Networks: These include sites such as Facebook, Myspace and Beebo. These are online communities where friends can interact and share information with each other. The naturally viral nature of these online social networks can be used to your business‘s profit.
  2. Social Bookmarking: Social Bookmarking sites are a bit like your "favourites list" on your web browser. But, instead of keeping this list on your computer for just you to see, it is stored on a website where your list can be "tagged" with your specific keywords and crawled by the search engines.
  3. Social Media Sharing: includes sites such as YouTube and Google Video. Users upload videos or photo slide shows. These applications can bring a flood of new website traffic to your website and improve inbound links to your content.

Now we need to understand the nature of social relationships that happen with a social marketing context; these we call Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople.

  • Connectors are people with a special gift for bringing others together. They are “people specialists” who have an extraordinary knack for making friendships with lots of people across many sub-niches and cultures. These people are the “social glue” that bring others together.
  • Mavens are "information specialists" but not usually technical specialists who have the knowledge and social skills to start word-of-mouth epidemics. These are the people who do all of the research necessary to solve their own problems and once they figure out that they have a good thing, they want to tell you about it too. Mavens provide the initial spark and message that Connectors filter through their large network of contacts.
  • Salespeople are vitally important to the transmission of a marketing message due to their ability to persuade others who are unconvinced about the facts and benefits of what they are hearing. They have an uncanny ability to turn “fence sitters” into marketing mavens who’ll champion your cause through their own interaction with your message.

 The key above all else is the content, it has to be of good quality, it has to be consistent across the media types and it has to be coherent in its message – this is easier said than done when you consider you are trying to sell by not selling!

Some of the different types of content that may work include:
  • Breaking news
  • Guides / tutorials
  • Interesting stories
  • Pictures
  • Videos
  • Statistics

 The old AIDA mnemonic works well when putting together socially oriented content:

  • Attention and Interest – try to use enticing titles for your content, never lie and always back up your facts by citing your sources.
  • Desire – make your content a cool ‘must have’
  • Action – use content to collect information via Opt Ins

 When planning a submission in terms of social content it is vital to understand your goals – and it won’t primarily be sales. Traffic for many is the primary goal, especially in highly competitive markets. Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming a very important goal of social marketing programmes.

Whilst MySpace, YouTube and FaceBook may be the largest social networking sites, they are far from the only sites and may in fact not be good sites for your business. Social news websites are the easiest to use (and cheapest) and they work by allowing users to upload, tag and vote for interesting content. They have the power to send many thousands of visitors to the most popular sites. To start with you need to register with the social tagging and news websites you want to target.

Here are five to start you off that will likely send the most traffic to popular stories:

del.icio.us http://www.delicious.com/
Digg http://digg.com/
Mixx http://www.mixx.com/
Reddit http://www.reddit.com/
StumbleUpon http://www.stumbleupon.com/

Once you've registered for the sites it's important to become a popular, trusted and well known user by contributing quality content on a regular basis. Don't forget that the users of these sites are typically web savvy and can spot new users who are just joining to promote their own stories and pollute the system. So even once established you must continue to mix other content with submitting your own. Not all content is suitable for all the social news sites so it's important to get a feel for the type of content that each community is likely to be interested in, otherwise you will waste your time.