Category Archives: Customer Engagement

Engaging the Right Audience on LinkedIn

(Cross posted on the Fleishman-Hillard DNA blog)

LinkedIn, one of the established social networks, is making strides in advancing how businesses can leverage the platform to engage followers.  Several weeks ago, LinkedIn launched the LinkedIn Follow Button allowing followers to follow a company page on LinkedIn directly from owned assets like web pages and blogs.

This week LinkedIn launched two new products that allow companies to more effectively engage the followers they have.  These are both significant leaps forward in helping companies engage followers which typically consist of employees, former employees, partners, media and potential customers.

Engagement to the Next Level

The new functions are “Targeted Updates” and “Follower Statistics.” The Targeted Updates function allows companies to breakdown their followers by variables such as: industry, seniority, job function, company size, non-company employees, and geography. Similar to Google+’s Circles feature, companies are able to send targeted status updates to groups of followers of their choice.  Multinational companies can develop content strategies for engaging followers that are targeted and more relevant.  Status updates about events can target the local city or region where the events are hosted.  Companies that serve both SMB and Enterprise customers in a B2B line of business can target status updates to followers who work only at those respective sized companies, increasing the likelihood of engagement through a comment, ‘like’ or click.

The criteria for Targeted Updates appears to be the same selection criteria for LinkedIn’s ad platform.  If this is the case, brands can combine paid ads with shared status updates as part of a regional campaign, increasing the potential effectiveness of both.  This combination of shared with overlaying paid advertising can help brands create a powerful one-two punch on awareness and engagement on a social network that can have a high quality of followers.

The Follower Statistics feature is an analytics dashboard that allows companies to see how effective their updates have been, including how many followers have viewed and responded to the content. The features are still in beta phase and only available to several companies like: AT&T (client), Samsung Mobile, Dell and Microsoft. A more official rollout can be expected in the near future, but for now brands should prepare enhanced engagement strategies for their followers in order to leverage these new products to the best of their ability.

Imitation is Flattery

These features arguably give a nod to Google+ Circles, elements of Twitter’s follow-button and sponsored stories on Facebook.  The major difference is LinkedIn’s more than 150 million professionals, including executives from all Fortune 500 companies and 2 million companies that have company pages.  These new features combined give a more robust option for companies considering audience engagement in different platforms.

Photo credit: tj scenes via Flickr

The Content Convergence Dilemma: Where’s the Content Department?

By now most companies have figured out that good content is critical in a digital presence.  That content can take many forms – user-generated, interactive, structured (data), marketing, conversational, and others.  What I’ve seen in the last month is that most companies still struggle internally with content ownership – who owns the generation?  Who owns the publishing?  Who owns the maintenance?  Someone please tell me, where is the Content Department?

Legacy organizational functions are aligned around different types of content, but they converge on the end customer.  Marketing organizations are historically built around generation of “finished” content.  This includes web pages, banners, ads, emails and in some cases video.  PR organizations can be built are “unfinished” content, including press releases and snippets prepared to help media organizations generate their own finished content.  Conversational content is managed across many organizations who touch social media functions – PR, marketing and customer service, for example.

There are two major challenges I’ve seen for companies struggling with the ownership of content: Integration of content creation efforts across departmental functions in a truly collaborative way, and the ‘B’ word: Budget.

Integration requires each department to be candid about their objectives (example: blogger outreach vs. strategic messaging) and to be willing to give and take around a content plan and calendar.  If product marketing teams operate independently, they won’t have the benefit of getting the most out of content and to the customer they may appear disjointed or out of sync.

The budget question comes down to the fact that content generation requires funding – manpower, skills, assets.  I’ve seen clients put all the funding for that in marketing, and others in PR.  The latest version is a suggestion at a client to pool resources to have a joint ‘fund’ for content (in this case video), so that each video produced can serve the purposes and goals for both marketing and PR at the same time and each has a vested interest in allocating resources.

How has your company solved the budget and integration challenges?  How do you hire for content creation roles?  I’d love to hear success and lessons learned stories.

photo credit: atrogu via Flickr

The Unsung Heroes of Social Media

The business side of social media is evolving on a daily basis. People in roles all across businesses are scrambling to keep up with what customers are doing and how their behaviors and attitudes are evolving.  In any industry, those who build experience as practitioners early on have a great opportunity to distinguish themselves among industry peers.  Aside from the typical legions of snake oil salesmen (awesome and still relevant post from Jason Falls rebuking the social media guru attacks), there are a plethora of smart, proven, eloquent thought leaders out there who make it a part of their daily business to advance the industry and do great work for their clients.  Jay Baer, David Armano and Aaron Strout are some of the first that come to mind for me.  Others like Jim Storer and Rachel Happe are building tremendous signal-to-noise ratio services, like the Community Roundtable, that companies would be remiss to ignore.  These folks are all doing brilliant work.  But what about the folks who didn’t build up a personal presence on the speaking circuit, or the dozens of other folks behind the scenes at companies who are really living how social media is changing their businesses?

To adapt a classic line from Rick Pitino before his departure as head coach of the Boston Celtics:
Chris Brogan isn’t walking through that door.  Valeria Maltoni isn’t walking through that door.  Beth Kanter isn’t walking through that door.  Brian Solis isn’t walking through that door and Seth Godin isn’t walking through that door.” (well, unless you go hire them).

The point here is that companies have talented staff who are learning about social media (it can be taught, you know).  No one knows the business better, the brand better, or the customers better than people who work at the company.  Hiring thought leadership, creative and execution help may be the right path for many companies (hey, I’d be hypocritical not to recommend it).  Agencies who are truly business partners can accelerate, execute and innovate, but in the end it’s the folks within the four walls of the company who need to own customer relationships and do the work that social business entails.

So here’s to celebrating those people behind the scenes. They aren’t on the speaking circuit (yet), and in many cases they may not even be allowed to share their stories.  But they are there helping customers, collaborating with colleagues and pushing businesses into new territory with emerging technology. Know some folks who should be recognized?  Send them this post along with a note of thanks for the hard work.

Photo credit: Screen capture from YouTube

Micromarketing: Relationship Marketing Through Advocacy

When I got the email asking me to contribute a review (for Chapter 7) of Greg Verdino‘s new book, at first I didn’t think it would be a fit.  I haven’t done book reviews here before, let alone since elementary school.  The first notion that came to mind frankly was breaking out a shoebox, some construction paper and scissors so I could start building my diorama. Yep, here comes that feeling of dread before a big book report is due – late nights, criticism from parents who would do it differently, sizing up my project to those built by friends.  And then I started reading MicroMarketing.  Quickly it became clear that Greg’s outreach team had lined up the right chapter with something I’m passionate about.

First, Some Key Takeaways

When I read a business book I have two simple criteria to decide if it was worth it: 1) Did I learn something new and 2) Is it a book I would want my colleagues to read.  In short, MicroMarketing passed both criteria, with a very heavy emphasis on the latter. Since I have been a social media enthusiast for some time, I have heard about many examples, but I would imagine the typical marketer would learn about a lot of new success stories.   Some key thoughts that struck me while reading the book:

- Greg is very adept at taking social media examples and talking about them in terms that “traditional” marketers will understand.

- The book builds on examples from chapter to chapter, while breaking down what worked well and why it worked… not just spewing example scenarios and statistics.

- The business of social media by its nature has allowed me to meet, virtually at first and in person over time, lots of talented minds.  What also appealed about Greg’s book is that it read just like my Tweetdeck group of smart minds in the biz: Shel Israel, Scott Monty, Steve Garfield, Susan Reynolds, David Armano, Chris Brogan, Stacy Debroff, Katja Presnal, and Shiv Singh all come up in various forms, to name just a few respected folks that caught my eye.

- Throughout, Greg uses many allusions or outright callouts to interactive marketing techniques – SEO, PPC, display advertising, web analytics and measurement concepts, and more.  Marketers need to keep those concepts in mind, since micromarketing doesn’t exists in a bubble.

Chapter 7: From Reach to Relationships

Chapter 7 flips the concepts that traditional marketers are used to; “reach” is no longer the means to drive business results, it’s an outcome.  Developing relationships with a core group of influential customers (or people that fit the profile of customers) is a way to activate “many by resonating with the right few.”  The advocates themselves become what a corporate marketers could never be: willing, authentic, genuine and trusted.

Greg outlines the contrast between mass and interruption-based marketing with several examples of companies that have engaged in deep relationships with a select few.  The letter from a family participating in Panasonic’s “Living in HD” program is liquid gold – it shows a value exchange that went beyong the transaction of enrolling the family in the program.  The letter is an example of the “zen” of advocacy: an evangelist that clearly is introducing new customers to the brand.  I’m guessing that if Panasonic has quantified the lifetime value of a customer, developing evangelists introduced enough new customers to justify the program and then some.

Two other key examples are examined – Walmart’s Elevenmoms program and McDonald’s Moms program.  Each are highly compelling – the former an example of picking highly engaged representatives to forge relationships with, the latter an example of creating a transparent communication channel with “everyday” moms.  These companies are building relationships founded not just on the strengths of ties to people who care, but with an emphasis on continuing to build relationships with people just like them.  The core groups represent meaningful constituencies that ultimately drive brand purchase decisions.

This was the first chapter that started to go deeper on helping marketers start to hone in “how” to do micromarketing.  “Making the shift” to developing communal relationships needs to become a business and marketing objective, achieved through control mutuality, trust, satisfaction and commitment.  How many brands actually have that in their core values?  How many don’t just talk about it, but live it?  This chapter starts to get more at how brands live it.

Some Criticisms

I’d like to see more “how” here – take some of the examples and plot out how the company: developed the concept, devised the plan, achieved C-suite buy-in, developed a program roadmap, recruited the right people, identified internal resources to orchestrate the plan, and measured the crap out of it.

I wouldn’t mind some internal strife along the way – an advocate who said something negative in a Youtube post and how the company responded or failed.  Frankly that’s probably asking Greg and the smart folks at Powered to give away the farm, but as a marketing consultant I found myself looking for more.

Regarding mass interruption vs. deep relationships, I don’t believe it’s an either/or scenario.  There is a middle ground that can compel companies to combine them and ultimately build deeper relationships with many.  As Greg clearly outlines, these corporate examples still have huge media and mass marketing budgets that would make even the largest agencies swoon.

Some examples may have been 100% earned media, but I believe most successful case studies have a combination of paid and earned.  The earned media gives the authenticity and relevant connections, among other things, and the paid media lets more of the right people know about it.  Many are already pointing to Old Spice as a prime example – but the campaign was a Super Bowl ad (does it get any more “paid media” than that?) before it was successful social media content.  If paid and earned media are combined it can be very compelling – companies need to adapt to learn this but don’t throw the paid media baby out with the anti-mass marketing bath water.  Would the Truvia example Greg mentions earlier in the book have been as successful without a $20 million mass campaign that ran first?  I’m not so sure.

Greg discusses a great concept called “microcontent.”  Throughout the book examples are given where content at a small scale had big impact.  I’d add to his commentary on each example that the content was successful because it was awesome (said in both the New England connotation of “brilliant” and any other dictionary definition you like).  Paranormal Activity didn’t succeed solely because it started small – it is legitimately scary and over-delivers on the promise of a horror film.  Susan Boyle over-delivered on talent.  Brands can’t just think small, they need to think awesome – good quality and a customer experience that exceeds expectations are at the root of a winning formula; micromarketing can enable it to resonate with the right people.

My Diorama

Thanks to the Powered team for including me in the review for the book, and thanks to Greg for sharing snippets on Facebook and Twitter throughout the process.  This was quite the opposite of those book reports – the book is worth the read.  Greg gave friends and followers glimpses to the challenging process of writing the book – I have to say, I think that played a role in wanting to read it.  By Jove, I think he just micromarketed to me.  How can I show that in a shoebox?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the evolution of relationship marketing, Greg’s book, his approach to solicit microcontent chapter reviews in the comments, and thanks for reading.

More Chapter By Chapter microMarketing Reviews

Chapter 1/9-20: Aaron Strout

Chapter 2/ 9-21: Lucretia Pruitt, Mitch Joel

Chapter 3/ 9-22: Jason Falls, Toby Bloomberg

Chapter 4/ 9-23: Kayta Andresen, Murray Newlands

Chapter 5/ 9-24: Amber Nashlund, Marc Meyer, Chris Abraham

Chapter 6/ 9-27: Ari Herzog

Chapter 7/ 9-28: Danny Brown, Jay Baer, Becky Carroll

Chapter 8/ 9-29: C.C. Chapman, Elmer Boutin

Chapter 9/ 9-30: John Moor, David Armano, Beth Harte, Justin Levy

Disclosure: Powered and my agency, Rosetta, are good pals and evolving business partners, and I was sent a copy of the book.  (I would have gladly bought one.)

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Making the Leap: Why Companies Struggle with Social Media

How many people at your company are trained, equipped and empowered to talk to customers?  If your organization is large, chances are the percentage of customer-facing people is smaller.  How many customers does your company have?  How about potential customers?  No doubt the numbers stack up in a heavy ratio against people inside the company that are trained to engage them.  Traditional advertising and marketing provides a cushion, putting out messaging to the large customer population to influence their purchase behavior.  It didn’t require making a leap to engage customers in conversation or to deeply understand how they make a purchase decision.  The approach was always one-sided, and the feedback loop could be carefully and slowly measured with focus groups and research.  Social media provides opportunities for two-way and multi-way conversation, which requires discipline, research, scale and transparency.  Simply put, one way is easier, two-way (and multi-way) is hard.

An Analogy

When I was a freshman in college, a couple friends and I drove to a local quarry that had been shut down.  The quarry was flooded and it provided a great location for cliff-diving.  Was it safe? Probably not, but it was fun.  Deciding to take that last step to a more than fifty foot drop was a daunting task, but the sense of personal accomplishment and fun was rewarding afterwards.  The general sense was, “that wasn’t so bad” and “exhilarating” at the same time.

Three Industry Examples

Making the leap to engage customers through leveraging social media tools can be a similar experience to leaping off that cliff.  (Well, the decision to leap anyway – the benefits can be much more reqarding.)  I’ve worked with clients in different industries, and they all viewed that leap in different ways.  The retailer already tried the leap – they started with the prototypical Facebook page, a couple of Twitter accounts, some user generated content contests.  But they didn’t start with understanding customer preferences, needs, attitudes and behaviors, and they also didn’t use any social media monitoring.  To me that’s like making the leap without knowing how high the cliff is or how deep the water is.  The good news: no one got hurt so far and now they can be more strategic in their approach.

The financial services and banking client is conservative and hugely risk averse.  Regulatory concerns abound.  A strategy was developed and plans were made, but the company wasn’t aligned as an organization on when and how to jump in.  They’ve spent several months examining, evaluating, listening, watching competitors but not yet making that leap to converse and engage.  They have a great brand promise around community and customer service, and when they do make the leap they will be unbelievably prepared.  What’s holding them back? Scale, empowerment, fear of the unknown and fear of failure.  When they do start it will be methodical, and they will see the benefits, but their journey to the leap needs to be vetted as a company first.

The third is a consumer goods company.  They have an “old school” brand that has been around for ages, and have deep roots in the traditional marketing days where the advertising industry boomed.  Their leap decision is more about changing their ways, bringing the consumer to be the focus rather than just the product, and moving away from “broadcasting” on more channels to “engaging.”  Making the leap was inevitable, but they needed to change their mindset in order to understand customers better, why they make a brand purchase decision and how they can participate in conversation without outright selling.

Let’s Hear From You

Every company is different – the culture, the brand promise, the beliefs, the success, the level of focus on consumer insights, and the ability to apply tools and technologies that are new to mutually benefit company and client.  Why do you think companies struggle with social media?  For companies that are succeeding, what do you think got them there – what it brand affinity they could tap into or did they have to work harder to create engagement?

Photo credit: clickflashphotos via Flickr

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I Will Not Write About Old Spice

I will resist the urge.  Already there are too many write-ups about the inspirational campaign from a social media perspective.  I’m going to keep telling myself, “Please don’t write about Old Spice.”

I am not going to share how the social campaign is a brilliant extension of a series of creative and funny TV commercials.  I’m not going to point out that the campaign had awareness and life long before the social media play, or how the real-time authoring of content and demonstrated effects could change the game of how advertisers think – not to mention drive the consumption of their earlier commercials.  No one wants to know there are already rumors of a sitcom for Isaiah Mustafa, or that the wave of parodies (like this one and this one) is going to give the whole concept legs for quite some time.

I can’t imagine anyone wants to hear about integration of paid and earned media again, or how ending the video effort quickly adds to the mystique and likelihood of a successful follow-up.  I’m also not going to call out the people who are asking, “But is it making Old Spice fall off the shelves? Is anyone buying more?” since I’m sure people never ask that about TV commercials the day they first air.  No way I’m going to share how brilliant sharing behind the scenes is, nor how I really think it’s brilliant to mix who they reply to between influencers and “normal people” who barely have any followers.

I also won’t tell anyone how their High Endurance deodorant was the fascination of my fraternity in college as the best working product out there, and how word of mouth made it successful.  This was long before “social media” back in the days when we had to use modems to connect to AOL 2.0.  If I share that I’ll surely date myself.  Now it’s possible to get 61 million views on Youtube.

I sincerely hope that people just sit back and enjoy the brilliant piece of work, and stop giving P&G the link love.  Who’s with me?  (By the way, I’m glad to hear he stopped the oil spill).

Photo credit: khairilfz via Flickr

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Social Media Does Not Exist

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. – The Usual Suspects (1995)

I had an interesting discussion recently about Social media strategies.  When discussing inputs to a social media strategy, an admitted “social media skeptic” replied that she thought there shouldn’t be a need for them; rather that social media strategies were really just customer relationship strategies.  Frankly, well put.   MarketingSherpa recently published a study of companies that are integrating social media tactics with offline and online marketing tactics.  I’d like to see the evolution over time and agree with the premise – “The benefits of integrating social media with other marketing tactics far exceed the benefits of utilizing social media alone.”

Effective businesses manage all customer touchpoints – every customer interaction is a chance to impact the experience, whether it’s an ad, a product purchase, a customer service call, talking in the store with an associate, or replying to a post in a social network.  When companies start to realize these synergies, they will be able to achieve a lot more than focusing on pure social media tactics alone.  The customer lifecycle is a journey, and each interaction point can have multiple tactics that make it more compelling (and ultimately provide benefit) to the customer.

The technologies that are available influence traditional marketing tactics already.  In some cases, they magnify each other.  Take these examples:

  • 50% click through rate increase in paid search when consumers were exposed to influenced social media and paid search (comScore & GroupM study).
  • Email marketing approaches need to factor in calls to action in social platforms, like soliciting ratings and reviews for products and services, or asking customers to become fans on Facebook.
  • Attribution of revenue from interactive marketing tactics like paid search, display advertising and landing pages now need to factor social tactics (shared links, social content on site) to understand the impact to analytics and optimization.
  • Location based services like Foursquare and Gowalla are about understanding who is coming to your store offline, and enabling targeted promotions to reward visitors.  (Imagine that, technology that helps bring visitors in the door, and keep them coming back.)

While social media specific strategies can help companies digest and learn the technologies and approaches that build success, they aren’t the end game.  I’d like to see more companies treat social media as if it were an embedded part of building customer relationships, focusing on making the most of all relevant touchpoints they have with customers.  I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at how social technologies are changing and influencing other areas of marketing.  Despite lots of hype and lots of platforms grabbing headlines, I’m convinced that companies who truly embrace social media, by understanding and engaging, are the ones who treat it as if it doesn’t exist.

Don’t just take my word for it – there are others that think the same way.  Think we’ll see the day when “social media” isn’t a separate line item in a marketing plan?

Photo credit: niemster via Flickr

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