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

fivetoolplayer

The Digital Five Tool Player

As the convergence of different marketing tactics takes root in agencies, vendors and marketing departments of companies of all sizes, I’ve started to think about what it takes to ultimately be a “five tool player” in the digital space.  Ed Boches wrote a great post yesterday about labels in creative and digital – and that got me thinking it was time to document these thoughts.  What did I miss?

1. Creativity and Appreciation for Technology

Being able to come up with creative concepts is important for anyone in the marketing business, but taking it to a new level with an appreciation for technology is what is going to make or break success with regard to digital.  I’ll be calling out some other technologies separately below, but understanding and being able to leverage tools available is critical to delivering impact.  One of my favorite examples of this application is the Converse Domaination effort (it’s worth the watch, go ahead, I’ll wait).

2. Understanding the Community

I contemplated using “customer,” “audience,” and even “constituents” here, but community seems to broadly cover business partners, customers, and prospects.  Understanding the needs, attitudes and behaviors of the community a digital player is trying to reach or interact with is a fundamental key to being relevant.  It’s more than just market research, it’s the practical application of it.

3. Understanding of Conversational Technology

Social media is providing new tools, technologies and techniques to identify, engage and activate.   Digital players today need to understand the etiquette, ins and outs of how these tools work and how people use them.  A most recent example for me is a conversation with a copywriter trying to craft the “voice of the brand.”  If that voice isn’t conversational, and they haven’t considered how to be so, an extension of any initiative into social media will be very challenging.  One person who has spent plenty of time studying behaviors and what makes social initiatives work is Dan Zarrella – worth subscribing to.

4. SEO

Another critical area of technology focus is search engine optimization.  A few years ago SEO as an industry was on par with voodoo, but today it’s both art and science to understand how people search online and how to best position digital assets to be found.  Without an appreciation for SEO, a digital player will have a harder time delivering the goods to the community who is searching for it.  One of the best speakers and evangelists in SEO is Lee Odden, always looking to understand and push the digital marketing industry along in this space.

5. Business Acumen

Those who have worked with me before know this is a space near and dear to me.  Perhaps it’s obvious, but to be successful in digital a player needs to understand marketing, the relevant industry (regulated industries have very different expectations and limitations), and how to work with people.  They need to be good team players and good leaders, especially in pushing through ideas that are new.  Honoring commitments, adjusting approach to who you are working with (C-level vs. junior resources), ability to multi-task are just some things I look for in a team player – regardless of digital background.

What other qualities make the most well-rounded digital athlete?  Does this apply to all areas of interactive marketing?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  And if you’re a Digital Five Tool player yourself, I know an agency who would love to hear from you 😉

Photo credit: StarrGazr via Flickr

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People

The New Marketing Funnel

(Jointly authored with Rosetta‘s Director of Social Media, Gargi Patel)

The world has changed. We are in the midst of an unprecedented shift of power to the consumer fueled by the virtual megaphone handed to them through social media outlets. When a customer is angry or has a bad experience with a product or service, the old rule of thumb was that they told an average of 10 people about it. In today’s world some could easily be telling 10,000 (or more!). On the flip side, happy customers can be telling many more than the old average of 3 people about their good experience. Marketing executives just need to design initiatives that enable and activate them to do so. That shift can be represented through adapting one of every marketer’s favorite marketing conceptual frameworks, the funnel.

Infusing Engagement into the Marketing Funnel

With the expansion of the marketer’s toolbox to include social media, marketing is no longer about pushing out one way communications. The marketing world is no longer defined solely by impressions; it’s now a world of interactions. Today’s marketing includes the customer’s voice throughout the process, whether it’s intentional or not. Customers will talk online and comment on a brand’s marketing campaigns, products, services, and even how a company treats employees. It’s not enough to think about how companies communicate outwards; it’s just as important to think about how customers can communicate back, with each other, and arguably most importantly, with new prospects.

Rethinking The Funnel

A few years ago, Forrester Research published a report on “engagement” and suggested that the marketing funnel has become much more complex in today’s environment.  (See image.  Former Forrester analyst Brian Haven wrote about the complexities impacting the funnel in 2007).  While the influencing factors are more complicated, the same simple, visual framework as the traditional marketing funnel can be leveraged to show this complexity. The design needs to account for engagement throughout the process rather than looking at it through a lens of static messages we push out.

For example, traditionally, marketers look to create awareness by placing carefully planned messages across appropriate media outlets. Today, customers can create and spread their own messages about a brand through user-generated content and social networks. Traditionally, marketers would hope to influence customers in the “consideration” phase through strategic promotions and sales tactics. Today, user-generated ratings and reviews are frequently enough to convince a customer to make the purchase. Building loyalty is no longer just about loyalty points programs for repeat purchase or sending regular emails to customers. Building loyalty now means entering into a dialogue with them and letting customers participate in more meaningful ways than static customer feedback surveys or a constant barrage of emails announcing special promotions.

Extending the Marketing Funnel

The old marketing funnel generally followed some version of this pattern:

  • Awareness > Research/Consideration > Purchase / Conversion

With the widespread adoption of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in the 1990’s, marketers began focusing more on loyalty or customer retention and brought the funnel one level deeper. The customer’s voice was considered important, but only in the context of customer service and a closed feedback loop. The old thinking was that sending customers regular emails would keep the brand top of mind and that special offers would keep customers from switching to competitors.

As mentioned before, today’s marketers will need to build a more authentic, deeper relationship with customers by truly engaging them to earn their loyalty—and this is how companies can begin to cultivate advocates.

Figure 2: The New Marketing Funnel

It’s time to extend the marketing funnel one level deeper to account for advocacy. There are two reasons that cultivating and enabling advocacy is critical in today’s world:

  1. People trust other people more than they trust companies. A recommendation from a friend or family member is still the single most important criteria in making a purchase decision and recommendations from strangers online also hold more weight than marketing messages.
  2. With the growing voice of the customer online and the “power” (virtual megaphone) handed to them through social media outlets, it’s important to help make sure the voice of happy customers is louder than that of the few unhappy customers.

Cultivating and enabling advocates will generate authentic word-of-mouth, bringing the best new customer prospects into the marketing funnel. The ROI on that? Priceless.  (Rosetta does in fact have a framework to measure ROI on advocacy programs.)

What do you think?  Is this old news?  Would this help you construct a framework to measure social media initiatives or sell the concept of driving advocacy to executives?  How would you change it?

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