Two Dirty Little Social Media Secrets

I was intrigued by Marc Meyer’s post about social media marketing being too labor intensive.  He outlines a whole series of activities, from smaller things like creating listening posts and monitoring buzz, mentions and opportunities to bigger initiatives like creating and managing blogs, microsites using social platform providers, and broad community initiatives.  Agencies and businesses alike need to sort out the level of effort and costs required (not to mention roles and responsibilities for maintaining each).  I’m not trying to be a wet blanket, but trying to highlight reality a bit by sharing two topics you don’t hear about much when it comes to how successful social tactics are deployed.

1. More Successful Means More Expensive

As these tactics become more successful, they become more expensive.  These tactics require long term effort and can certainly can do more damage if abandoned.  But it takes more effort to continue to manage, build and grow, and that can mean more costs internally, at a minimum.  The effort can result in more resources, more media, more content – all of which have a price tag unless you believe people are free (in which case I’d like to hire you for my next project).

2. Hope is Not a Plan: Paid + Earned Media

A partner at Accenture I used to work with was king of pouncing on anyone who responded to a question with “I hope…”   His response was a sharp  “Hope is not a plan.”  This applies to social ideas too.  Even the most successful social media initiatives are likely combined with other marketing tactics – especially paid media and email marketing.  I’d be surprised to hear about social ideas that were grounded purely in the “hope” they will go viral alone.  What’s the quickest way for a brand to get fans (likes) on a Facebook page?  Engagement ads on Facebook with a call to action, or emailing customers with a similar call to action.  Companies like Rapleaf can tell you which customers are active in social networks – you can be precise on the call to action, but just building something social doesn’t mean customers will show up.  Li Evans wrote an excellent post recently about how social media marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, going deeper on other tactics like SEO and PPC.  Together these tactics magnify each other.

Am I just being Master of the Obvious again? Have an example that contradicts?  I’d love to hear it, and I hope I’m wrong.  Right, hope is not a plan.

Photo credit: movetheclouds via Flickr

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Brand Fusion: Creative, Search and Media

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and talking about the fusion of social media into other areas of interactive marketing (especially how it is being done at my agency, Rosetta).  In some recent discussions I came across this example from Converse, fusing creative, video and paid search marketing (PPC).  For anyone who doesn’t have much of an appreciation for paid search, it will blow you away.  For those in the industry and have an appreciation for using paid search to drive branding campaigns, this will still blow you away if you haven’t heard about it yet.  It’s this kind example that truly exemplifies digital marketing as an art form.  To me it’s an amazing blend of insight, creativity and execution.  It’s not truly social – yet – but I think there could be more life to the content simply adding sharing features in the videos and giving people chances to comment.  Either way it’s still brilliant.

What do you think?  Know of any other examples?  Watch and drop your thoughts in the comments. (Feed readers please click through to see the video, which was shared with me by Jason Tabeling).  You can find the official home page of what’s described in the video at at http://www.thisistheindexpage.com (again, smart).

Converse Domaination from Ross Martin on Vimeo.

Friends with Benefits: Starbucks and Foursquare

This week Starbucks announced that mayors of locations on Foursquare between now and June 28 can get one dollar off the custom Frappacino of their choice.   This morning I tried it out and received my discount.  I’ve been a user of Foursquare for several months, but for me personally it was the first time I had experienced a benefit as a consumer.  Starbucks is clearly just experimenting here, but I like the approach – there is little cost or downside to a promotion like this.  Some quick thoughts based on a nice discussion with the employees of the store:

  • Most of the employees didn’t know what Foursquare was, but were really excited about it.
  • They had been eagerly waiting to find out who the mayor was – wondering when the person would show up, what they would say, wondering if the person would be a jerk and pound a fist demanding a discount, claiming “I’m the Mayor!” and wondering if they would know the person already.
  • The employee running the cash register had to check the official “Need to Know” bulletin to know what promotion code to use when ringing me up.  I wasn’t surprised since this is a new idea and approach, and didn’t involve a paper coupon I could turn in.
  • We talked about several other ideas they could explore, like rewarding every 5th checking with something similar to benefit more than just the Mayor.
  • I explained that my role is very social media focused, and since I had been on Foursquare for awhile it may be common at a lot of stores that early adopters (also in the biz) would be most likely to retain mayorships.
  • As I left I heard some other employee ask, “Hey, was that the mayor? He’s here all the time, cool.”

Aside from the recognition, the discount was practical and got me to try a drink I wouldn’t have otherwise purchased (Iced Americano or Iced Latte are more the usual for me).  I appreciated the conversation starter to build a better relationship with the folks who worked there, although we already somewhat knew each other. My primary suggestion to Starbucks would be to see them expand to have more folks benefit.

I could really see an application here for the retail space if handled and designed properly.  Any company that has a multi-channel footprint could leverage Foursquare (or perhaps one of the other location services, like Gowalla, Brightkite or the coming Facebook changes) to build fun and relationships into their strategy.  On the flip side, because these technologies are so new and not as widely adopted, there is an opportunity for more “buzz” just by being first to market.  Or second, after Starbucks and some others (Gradon Tripp pointed out that Ben & Jerry’s offers 3 scoops for $3 for checking in, a 4th free scoop for the mayor, sparking a conversation with Sarah Wallace and others about the correlation between Foursquare and weight gain) .

Get your discount yet?  What do you think about the approach?  Is it a flash in a pan or a part of a bigger picture?

UPDATE: Tipping Point Labs’ Andrew Davis (a previous Marketing Hot Seat author here) today published a great perspective on Starbucks’ promotion, highly worth the read.

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5 Reasons for Consolidation in the Social Media Monitoring Industry

The social media monitoring (SMM) industry is booming. Pure play SMM software providers, startups, traditional web analytics firms and now the large software companies are making advances in the field.  Ken Burbary has a wiki listing many of them, worth checking out.  If you work for one of the smaller companies, get to know your competitors big and small – in the next couple of years you could be working together or could watch them eclipse the competition.   Here are five reasons to expect more upheaval in the industry – what did I miss?

1. Scale and Demand for Sophistication

We’re all watching big brands like Ford, Pepsi and Starbucks jam away in successful social media endeavors.  The bigger the brand, the bigger the need for processing power to really crunch the data to make it meaningful – and the more internal skills and resources will be required to get access to the data.  A web analytics analogy would be using Google Analytics for a large $100M+ eCommerce site.  Those in the business know it isn’t enough to get the sophisticated level of measurement required, and many of these tools lack the robust UI and toolset to meet all requirements.

2. Business Process Changes

Many SMM tools leverage workflow to route mentions to the right person or department for triage.  Having spent years back in the heyday of SAP ERP configuring workflow, this is a deep rooted business challenge that takes thorough design effort to make effective.  Decision trees are not easy to build, and as more and more companies leverage these features, complex organizations will demand best of breed products.

3. The Data Isn’t Interesting

The numbers are the numbers.  “Number of mentions” is a just pile of comments – they have to be sorted through and made relevant.  It takes people with analytical skills to tell what they mean, intepret the story, and ultimately mine the information to translate them into actionable insights.  The tools that make this job less labor intensive will be more successful at market penetration and meeting the demands of agencies, consultants and internal departments spending energy to leverage them.

4.  Sentiment Analysis is Useless (By Itself)

Maria Ogneva wrote a terrific Mashable article about how to get the most out of  Sentiment Analysis for businesses.  The fact remains that even as these automated tools improve, they require manual labor.  If a tool is 80% accurate in automatic sentiment measurement, someone has to go through to find the 20% that aren’t.  The tool that has the best, most accurate options for making that data useful and less labor intensive will be sought after – but that technology could come from a big company with heavy R&D or a startup.  Who knows, but the best tool will make lives easier for practitioners.

5. Industry Growth

IBM just recently announced an entry into the SMM market.  Big Blue.  That should put smaller competitors on notice – either they need to improve to compete with Big Blue, or work on their exit strategy. Traditional web analytics companies like Webtrends and Omniture are adapting their offerings.  Forrester and other industry data shows continual growth and adoption of social media channels by consumers – increasing the urgency for companies to listen.

What did I miss and where do you think this industry is headed?  For posterity, wondering what the folks from Radian6 and Alterian think – two great companies we tend to see and work with most often.

Photo credit: xrrr via Flickr

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Co-opetition in the World of Social Media Marketing

Changing markets cause change for those who serve them. As businesses adapt and figure out how social media will impact how they conduct day to day functions, service providers are adapting too.  These days companies have a high probability of encountering any of the following providing social media services:

  • Sole prioprietor (independent contractor)
  • Social media agency (small, medium and increasingly larger)
  • PR agency (traditional, new media, all sizes)
  • Digital or interactive agency (all sizes)
  • Advertising agency (all sizes, but particularly the big dogs)
  • CRM consulting firm
  • Database marketing agency

In an effort to help bring some clarity to the situation, friends (and business partners, and competitors) Todd Defren of SHIFT and Aaron Strout of Powered have collaborated with me to give you a snippet of what makes us different.  We have some overlap and we also have some ways we can complement each other.  We are doing business together and competing.  Either way, hopefully this lets potential clients know more about what makes us different.  How’d we do?  I’d encourage your to read Todd’s post and Aaron’s post to get their commmentary as well.

Todd Defren

This is my company…

One of the top-25 PR agencies in the U.S., with offices in NYC, San Francisco and Boston, SHIFT is an agency that helps organizations of all sizes better communicate with the people that matter to their business.  Sometimes that’s “the media,” sometimes that’s “some loudmouth on Twitter.”  Companies ranging from Quiznos to Club Med, from tiny start-ups to established tech companies, look to SHIFT for counsel and execution on both branded and earned media.

What we do…

SHIFT focuses on “on-going engagement” vs. “campaigns.”  And because relationships change over time, our targets and tactics evolve as-needed.  Thus the portfolio of services a client will tap into can include: Traditional Media Relations (coverage in NYTimes, TODAY Show, eWeek, etc.) + Social Media Relations (dialogue with relevant Facebook Group admins, Twitterati, etc.) + Content and App Development + Community Management (running a YouTube channel or Facebook Fanpage).

This is why you should call me (type of challenge or project)…

We are generally called on by large brands that need to act more like a start-up or by small companies that want to take things to the next level.  If your company needs more overall visibility (“get ink!”); needs to better engage with consumers (“that Social Media stuff!”); or needs to brand or re-brand in the marketplace, it’s worth a conversation.

This is when you should call someone else…

While we bring plenty of creativity to the table, when it comes to execution portion of app development, videography, website development, advertising campaigns, media buying and SEO, SHIFT will turn to quality partners like Powered and Rosetta, among others.

Aaron Strout

This is my company…

Powered is a dedicated social media agency that helps brands fully capitalize on their social initiatives. With 75 employees in four offices (Austin, New York City, Portland and San Francisco) we brings “best-in-class” expertise across the social spectrum to our clients by offering a combination of strategy, planning, activation and management for social presence and programs.

What we do

Okay, I guess I answered this in the “this is my company” section but to add on, we help big brands with strategy and activation (getting their key stakeholders like customers, prospects, partners or employees) to do things that create value for their brand. Those activities might include evangelizing, contributing, participating or learning.

This is why you should call me (type of challenge or project)

We’re really at our best when we’re helping big brands (mainly B2C) connect their social efforts to their marketing efforts. We start by fleshing out a cohesive strategy and then move toward the activation. In many cases, this includes focusing on things like influencer outreach, ambassador programs, Facebook Fanpages, applications and customer tabs and the building and managing of branded online communities.

This is when you should call someone else.

We’re still not particularly good at media buying, custom web development (outside of Facebook and community building), SEM and general site SEO. We also don’t do any traditional PR. For those activities, I’d strongly recommend talking to our friends at Rosetta and SHIFT, both of whom we partner/work with.

Adam Cohen

This is my company…

Rosetta is the largest independent digital agency in the US. Using a patented approach to segmentation, called Personality® Segmentation (yep, it’s patented and a differentiator), which provides deep insights into the drivers of consumer behavior, Rosetta’s teams translate these insights into relevant marketing solutions to attract, retain and strengthen a brand’s most valuable customer relationships. With 720+ team members, Rosetta is headquartered in Princeton, NJ, with offices in NYC, Cleveland, Boston, Chicago, Denver and most recently Toronto.

What we do

We help companies develop strategies and implement marketing tactics, combining the best of insight + technology – from eCommerce to Paid Search to Creative to Analytics to Relationship Marketing. With all the tools in a marketer’s toolbox, we strive to be a CMO’s most trusted partner.  Our industry expertise includes Retail & Consumer Products; Healthcare; Financial Services; Communications, Media & Technology, and B2B.

This is why you should call me (type of challenge or project)

We’re best when we bring to together marketing disciplines and industry acumen to provide measurable integrated solutions.  We shine we get the opportunity to demonstrate business results across tactics – like integrating eCommerce with paid search/SEO, driving the best creative with analytics and measurement, or infusing CRM with Personality Segmentation.

This is when you should call someone else.

Traditional media outlets are outside of our sweet spot (TV, print, radio), along with traditional PR.  Our social media practice is focused on infusing social into all of our marketing disciplines, but we are partnering with world-class agencies like SHIFT on outreach programs and Powered on designing the best approaches to engage and activate communities.

***

Thanks again to Todd and Aaron for providing thought provoking insights for the topic – these are two guys for whom I have the utmost respect in working with (and occasionally against).  Todd says it best: “Where we compete, we do so with respect and good humor.  Where we can cooperate, we do so with gumption and gusto.”

Did this help provide clarity? Where do you think the market will be in five, ten years? We’re all a ways away from the winning formula and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo credit: eworm via flickr

Facebook Changes Relationship Marketing, Again

The discipline of relationship marketing is already facing waves of changes with social media providing a variety of new approaches and opportunities to communicate with customers.  Optimizing communications with email marketing alone has been an ongoing challenge for companies of all sizes.  Developing an appropriate communication strategy requires understanding the needs, attitudes and behaviors of customers, fine tuning copy and frequency that will resonate with customers a business is trying to reach.

Clearly social media is already having an impact.  Customers opting to follow Twitter streams, join community programs or become “fans” on Facebook are signaling they are opting in to some sort of communication.  I met recently with a financial services company who is leveraging these opt-in communication points to offset email marketing – literally, they are sending less email because customers are choosing to interact with their brands through different vehicles.

Facebook just threw yet another a monkey wrench into the mix. With the ability to “like” any page or content out there with a unique URL, a communication strategist has another dimension to manage.  When a customer “likes” a page, or perhaps even a specific product, the brand then has the capability to communicate directly with those fans.  For example, as a reader if you “like” this blog post (you can choose the verb “recommend” instead, in the settings for the API), I have the ability just like a normal fan page in Facebook to communicate to just the fans of this post.  Facebook creates a ‘ghost’ page only available to the admin, which will allow me to track statistics and see an explicit list of people who “like” or “recommend” the post.

Imagine the applications.  Companies in all industries could consider implications around targeting through Facebook for specific brands, product lines or individual products. A pharma company, for example, could leverage this function to communicate with Facebook users around specific conditions if they happen to “like” a specific treatment.  Retailers could too, except they need to be careful – do they really want to manage communications and fans at a SKU level?  Nike could integrate communications via Facebook likes for fans of Air Jordan, but it’s probably not sustainable for each shoe.  Bookstores could manage communications with folks who “like” historical fiction different those who “like” Manga.

At the big business level I think there is going to be an emerging emphasis on communication management, copywriters and ongoing relationship marketing strategists to digest these technologies and build case studies to drive business results.  Have a favorite example of the application of Facebook’s new “like” API and approach?  I’d love to hear it.

Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn via Flickr – who also provides a template for businesses wanting to create a similar sign