Study: 59% of Top Retailers Now on Facebook

Opportunity Knocks

In May of this year, Rosetta, the agency I am working for, published a study showing that 30% of 100 of the top online retailers had a Facebook page set up.  In the last five months since the original survey, there has been a substantial uptick to 59% – including pages added by Best Buy, Kohl’s and Toys ‘R Us.  This should not be a surprise and should continue to serve as a wake-up call.  Facebook has reached over 150 million users world wide, and Facebook fan pages are quite frankly, an easy way to set up a presence on the platform.

Use Caution, Plan Carefully

I have to caution retailers who just jump in by setting up a page.  Facebook is only one sliver of the overall social media space, and it’s very important to have an online strategy that embraces social media as another marketing channel. Here’s a quote from yours truly in our release on the study:

“It’s important that retailers don’t just slap up a page because everyone is talking about Facebook. An effective presence requires that you carefully consider what your customers are looking for, what you would like to communicate, and what role a fan page should play in your overall online strategy.”

I had an opportunity to talk further about this with Albert Maruggi on his Marketing Edge podcast yesterday going into further examples on how retailers can be using the Facebook page as a way to “start small” in social media and adjust to grow.  Here is the podcast – take a listen and let us know what you think.  Thanks Albert – you make this type of work a lot of fun.

Hot Topic

Facebook is a hot topic to cover right now.  Here are some other examples of where our study has been picked up – I’ll try to keep this post up to date with helpful links.  If you are interested in a direct copy of the study please don’t hesitate to contact me via the channels on my blog or comment.

Press and blog coverage for the Rosetta October 2008 Facebook Study – thanks to all for including our study:

Facebook pages are just one indicator of retailers looking to embrace social media to engage customers.  Do you think they will be successful?  Have a favorite fan page to highlight?  If your company has a page on Facebook I’d love to hear your story – I’d also love suggestions on how to improve the study for the next round.

1 + 1 = 3: Rosetta and Brulant

Rosetta Acquires Brulant How do you build a top digital agency?

In July Rosetta announced the acquisition of interactive agency Brulant, where I am a partner in the Consumer Product and Retail practice.  The first couple of days since the announcement have been some of the most fun in my career.  The two firms build a compelling value proposition when combined, and I’ve spent a better part of those two days calling clients and friends to talk about it.

Acquisitions and mergers have negative connotations to many folks.  They can mean personnel conflicts, culture clashes and diluting of the “juice” that makes either one of the parties successful – not to mention distractions to high performing project teams.  I have friends who have been through it in the digital industry (think large conglomerates eating up smaller independent agencies), and there are many horror stories.  In stark contrast, being a part of this merger is ripe with excitement and promise.  We remain independent, and the services each agency provides complement each other.

“We are creating one of the nation’s biggest interactive agencies which will allow us to grow current relationships and build new ones quite dramatically,” said Chris Kuenne, Rosetta’s founder, chairman and CEO. “The interactive marketing landscape is rapidly shifting from mass to personalized targeting and from fuzzy equity measures to precisely measured, managed and optimized customer relationship economics.”

There is a science behind the shift from traditional media to targeted, personalized marketing, and Rosetta has figured it out.  Look at their client list– these are advanced organizations where how they market is a key differentiator in their success.  Infuse that with the execution capabilities of the teams I’ve watched deliver at Brulant, and it’s a powerful combination.

“You put your chocolate in my peanut butter!”

Rosetta is technically acquiring Brulant, but in reality the firms complement each other.  The breadth of Brulant’s interactive services in customer experience, acquisition marketing and technology implementation are the “chocolate” to Rosetta’s marketing strategy and personalized targeting offerings “peanut butter.”   The value proposition of bringing those capabilities together, along with the ever growing significance of the online channel and its influence on other channels, is a compelling service offering that puts Rosetta in a unique place in the market.  (I’m actually writing that because I believe it; it wasn’t spoonfed by our marketing team, I promise.)

Hey, that sounds great, but we have a lot of work to do.  On the first day of the announcement being public, I had the privilege of sitting with one of our top clients and the CEOs of both Brulant and Rosetta.  It was very clear in the conversation that the value proposition can be applied right away, and I will be spending lots of time with the “legacy” Rosetta team to understand their offering more in the coming weeks.

New opportunities

For me personally, this provides an opportunity to work with talented people and expand my professional horizons up the value chain.  Being in Boston and working on several clients in the New York City area, I am thrilled to see the expansion in the Northeast. This is also the first time I have been through an acquisition and watched an integration team get up and running.  I look forward to participating in building the new organization.  Can’t wait to see it in action and share what I learn, and I look forward to working with the Rosetta team. 

Have you been through an acquisition?  What are some pitfalls you’ve seen?  How would you advise we keep the momentum going through this exciting time with all of the “buzz”?

Check out Rosetta.com for more information.

Rosetta

Transitions: The new Borders.com

Borders2 On Memorial Day, 2008, with little fanfare, Borders Group, Inc. embarked on a new chapter novel in the history of the company.  And it was most certainly, memorable.  With a few final technical switches thrown, Borders transitioned the outsourcing of their eCommerce site from Amazon to a robust, unique and compelling Borders.com presence.  It's daunting being an internet retailer in 2008, without having access to customer information or control over the multi-channel experience.  Now Borders has brought their .com presence back inside the walls of the headquarters in Ann Arbor, MI. Welcome back home, Borders.com.

The basic design principle of the site is to create a real bookstore experience online.  In this case, the store holds nearly 3 million titles including DVDs and CDs.  In a market where Borders is trying to differentiate itself against competitors, this experience is different and more engaging.  I find myself browsing the site much like I would a store – wander in to a section and drill deeper using the guided navigation.  The Magic Shelf on the homepage gives the same feel of being in a bookstore, complete with staff picks, and goes beyond with personal recommendations based on your preferences.  The look of search results and the Magic Shelf, rich with images of cover artwork, are right in line with Borders' recent strategy to merchandise books with the covers facing out.

I'm biased, I admit it.  Brulant, my company, has played a major role in the Websphere Commerce design and development of this project, along with many other partners.  In the interest of full disclosure, I am currently the client engagement partner for Brulant's work at Borders.  Borders has been a significant client of Brulant since mid 2006.  From February 2007 until now, I personally have spent nearly full time on working with Borders as a client.  I did ask for and receive permission from Borders to blog about this event.

The best part of the culmination of years of work: I couldn't be more thrilled with the outcome.  There has been a lot of "sweat equity" invested by the entire team – Borders, Brulant and other partners alike – and it's rewarding to see it all come together.  There were some hard times and some good times, as any business partnership between two companies would go through.  In the end, there is absolutely nothing more satisfying, invigorating and motivating than when it all comes together, the team produces high quality work, the site is launched, and orders start rolling in. 

For the last several years, Borders' eCommerce team has been looking forward to doing what most eCommerce teams do – interact with customers, fine tune the user experience, adjust functionality based on web analytics and market the bejeezus out of the site.  (The site just launched officially today, so not a lot of heavy marketing of the site yet…but do a Google News search on "Borders.com" and you'll see the extensive press coverage.)  Now the team can take the reins and start the evolution of web commerce optimization.  As much as it is the end of a multi-year project, it's the beginning of a new journey for the company.  Today the entire team on site in Ann Arbor signed a copy of the first order shipped to be framed, to signify the start of that journey (see picture above).

It's a new journey for yours truly as well, as I focus on trying to do more good work for other clients while continuing to figure out ways to help Borders on their journey.  A special thank you to the entire Brulant team who worked through many project challenges and set a high bar for delivery with future clients.  Another thank you to the Borders crowd, who are a passionate and diverse group, fun to work with and gracious hosts for having our team walk the halls.  I think the thing I am most grateful for is the opportunity to continue learning, while being a part of a core strategic initiative for a retailer.  Thank you and Congratulations, job well done.

Special thanks to Kevin Ertell, VP of eBusiness for Borders, for encouraging me to post about this event here. 

UPDATE: Here is Brulant's official press release related to our role with the new Borders.com. 

Please check out the new Borders.com – it is a different experience than your traditional online bookseller.  Feedback, suggestions, comments are welcome. 

The New Borders.com

A Different Use for LinkedIn: Alumni Relations

Linkedinalumni About a year and a half ago, I left Accenture to join Brulant.  It was a big career change as I had been with Accenture (previously Andersen Consulting) since graduating college.  The opportunity to work at Brulant opened many new doors, but I also have deep respect and admiration for the people I had an opportunity to work with at Accenture.

Yesterday I received an invite through LinkedIn, as a reminder to reconnect to their alumni network site and "check in."  I'm used to the connection requests and "Can you recommend someone who…" requests, but this one was different.  It was a unique landing page within LinkedIn that was a simple redirect to register for the alumni network.  The page includes a drawing for an iPod Touch and some flash content of stories from other alums.

In addition to employee engagement, Accenture is leveraging a great tool like LinkedIn for alumni engagement.  Knowing how many folks are using LinkedIn (including recent data on a 361% year over year increase), and the high probability that those folks who left Accenture have a profile, this is a smart, simple and innovative way to reconnect with alumni.  Nice work. 

Does your company have a relations program with your alumni, and is it a good one?

Finding Your Social Media Centerpoint

Img00058 While I was reading Groundswell (the new book from Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research) on the plane last night, I had an epiphany.  I need to find my own "centerpoint" on social media.  What’s a centerpoint?  Great question, I’ll get back to that.  Here’s the paragraph that hit home for me from Groundswell, along with a picture of my signed copy from the Forrester Marketing Forum:

"…these people [IT strategists and CIOs asking about blogs, Facebook, etc] know they need to get involved, but they’re nervous about moving forward.  To us, they seem to have developed a sort of low-grade fever.  In fact, this problem is so common, we have a name for it: groundswell approach-avoidance syndrome.  Look for these symptoms in yourself or your co-workers:

  • Strong, and in some cases obsessive, interest in the blogosphere and in online doings at sites like Facebook and YouTube.  Repeated forwarding of articles on said topics to fellow sufferers.
  • Excessive salivation upon hearing much-repeated stories of corporations that have developed partnerships with social networking sites, started online communities, or otherwise managed to get held up as winners in news reports and at marketing conferences
  • Anxiety at the thought of actually participating in social technologies, balanced by similar anxiety at the thought of missing out."

In the words of Lt. Frank Drebbin, Police Squad:  "Bingo."  My firm is abuzz right now with "figuring out" social media, and we have started a social media breakfast group internally to talk about client opportunities, strategy, lessons learned, trends, etc.  I’ve been using twitter for several months, started using Google reader, started this blog, joined Facebook…all in the interest of learning about community and interaction.  My CEO regular forwards press releases and articles about social media, and our internal interest group points out cool case studies to each other all the time.  What became clear after reading this chapter in Groundswell: I need my own centerpoint for social media.

Blue_4 A few years ago an an internal community meeting, my old firm hired John Foley to present about how high performing teams work together.  Foley is a former pilot with the Blue Angels, and tours doing speaking engagements.  A "CenterPoint" is what the Blue Angels would use to set up their amazing runs – a focal point or object on the ground that would be the absolute center for their flying demonstrations.  One flight pattern in particular uses it – having two F/A-18s fly directly at each other and pass just inches apart right over the centerpoint.  In Foley’s speaking arrangements, he uses the analogy of a centerpoint to be a common purpose to align people and resources, that "all pursue with conviction and clarity."  It can change over time, but defining a purpose is a first step.  (Foley, by the way, is an amazing speaker about how to energize high performing teams – his presentation is very engaging, with some amazing video. I’d highly recommend considering him for doing something different in those "offsite team building" dreary meetings.)

My social media centerpoint, for starters, is to educate, empower and connect people within my firm.  We can’t start preaching to clients about the merits of connecting the community if we can’t eat our own dog food first and learn from our own mistakes trying. 

What is your social media centerpoint?

Top Retailers and Social Media – Designing our next study

RetailThe top internet retailers are savvy companies who are mastering the art of user experience, search marketing, email marketing and many other tools to maintain a steadily growing industry.  Have they mastered, or even embraced, social media yet?  Geoff Livingston, in his book Now Is Gone, suggests companies need to "engage or die."  Which online retailers have started to engage, and how? 

I am sponsoring another Brulant survey of 100 of the top retailers – similar to Brulant’s Alternate Payment Methods study conducted in February – to see which companies are using social media tools to enhance their online presence and engage their communities. 

Here’s where I could use your help – What to measure

To keep it simple, we are going to go do our own research on a series of "yes" or "no" questions.  What questions do you think would help the casual observer determine "adoption" of social media?  Here is what we have so far.

Take 100 of the top internet retailers and measure the following – Does the company have:

  • an official Facebook Fan Page or Sponsored Group
  • an official Myspace page (after looking around this may be hard to figure out, but I’m clearly no myspace expert)
  • 1 or more official corporate blogs on their websites (interesting list at: http://www.socialtext.net/bizblogs/index.cgi)
  • RSS feeds off their websites
  • user reviews of products available on their websites
  • any YouTube “official” videos
  • any YouTube “Unofficial” videos
  • any Flickr results for brand

Realizing some of these may be both hard to quantify and that there are more likely to be individuals doing these activities on behalf of the companies, we’d want the measurements to be easy to capture and refresh at a later date to see trends.  What do you think?

Work Hard, Play Hard – with Social Media

Practicewars_2 I work for a small interactive marketing and consulting firm called Brulant.  95% of the close to 400 employees are based in Cleveland, OH.  Every year, we have a traditional event called the Practice Wars, teeing up team members in the Java and Microsoft practices against each other, along with folks aligned to industry verticals.  The competition ranges from foosball and ping pong to Rubik’s cube and an engineering egg drop.  Other competitions include football, softball and other sports.  Everyone is encouraged to compete in at least one event, and the winning group maintains both a trophy and bragging rights for next year.

This year, we have infused social media into the fun, but as a communication vehicle and a way to educate the company on the tools and communities that are out there. 

  • We’ve launched a Brulant Practice Wars blog (internal only)
  • We’ve started a twitter feed @practicewars http://twitter.com/practicewars for all to follow, with live updates and scores during events
  • The folks followed by @practicewars show up in a real time feed on the blog
  • The blog has a RSS feed, comments, photos, a mashup of maps for the event locations

We used to just send out a big powerpoint of pictures and results – this time we can update everyone real time, solicit ideas, and even let folks talk smack.  This is a great way and idea to leverage social media internally and in the meantime we are teaching everyone the value of a tool like twitter.   Score: New Brulant Community 1, Old school lack of engagement, 0.