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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On Beyond Snake Oil

Say all you want about people who make a living off of consulting in social media – like any industry where there is buzz, there will be snake oil salesmen who are trying to take advantage of the trend.  A Google search on “social media snake oil” returns over 187,000 results.  There are great posts about how you should beware the snake oil salesman right along side excellent posts defending the folks who are legitimate and hard working on behalf of their clients in the business.  While there will never be a shortage of folks trying to take advantage, it’s time that companies treat finding a partner to help in social media like they would with any other partnership.

Thanks to iMediaConnection.com for publishing my first article submission there this week, called 7 Tips for Choosing a Social Media Provider.  As the services industry changes in this space, evolving models of co-opetition will come and go and analysts will attempt to capture the changes going on in social media services.  What’s clear to me though, is that companies need to evaluate the following when making a decision on how and where to get help to infuse social media into their marketing or other business tactics:

  1. Industry experience of the provider
  2. Your company’s current agency ecosystem
  3. Internal resource support and sponsorship
  4. Social media integration
  5. Social media maturity of the company
  6. Business results achieved by the provider
  7. Provider’s partnership ecosystem

These factors provide a much broader view on how companies need to evolve their thinking to selecting a business partner in this space.  What did I miss?  For more thoughts on what each one means, please see the post on iMedia and let me know what you think here in the comments.

Photo credit: caseymfox via Flickr, with apologies to Dr. Seuss

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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.

Can Social Media be Taught?

school

I imagine there are two camps: those who believe you can teach someone how to use social media and those who think it’s absurd to teach people to do what they can learn on their own.  The term “Social Media” covers such a gamut of technologies, approaches, tools and lessons learned that it’s challenging to think about how a training course could be packaged and would stay current, but I’d like to explore what a course could achieve.

There Is No Set Formula

When it comes to leveraging social media for marketing, there is no set formula.  In other areas of online marketing, there is a formula, skill sets and disciplines.  For example, pay-per-click and online display advertising can be measured in terms of return on investment to several decimal points, and there are proven methods that work in each discipline.  The social media space is constantly changing – there is no set formula for success and whether or not you believe the ROI can be measured, every tool/community/approach is different.  If someone tries to sell you a discrete formula for success, chances are they are trying to get rich quick over the hype.  And if you buy their formula, please contact me, I’ve got some contacts via email who are looking to connect folks like you to a late Russian tycoon’s inheritance.

Others may suggest that (aside from spam) there is no wrong way to use social media really.  I see arguments on this front all the time, especially when it comes to using specific tools.  People use Twitter in all sorts of ways – as a broadcast channel, as a conversation channel, for work, for play, for distractions and for adding value.  If what is right for you works, how could there be another right way that works for someone else?

Resources Galore

There are a lot of great books, blogs, conferences and people to learn from.  I’ve attended many local and industry events and have had the pleasure of meeting several folks who are influential in the social media industry.   A key part of learning about social media is to immerse yourself in it – subscribe to blogs, connect with people on social networks and really use it.  If you can commit to do a little each day, it can start to pay dividends over time through the relationships you build – whether its for your own personal use of for your business.  If you are looking for recommendations on people to connect to that you can learn from (and who show an interest in sharing that knowledge), some of the best include Amber Naslund, Chris Brogan, Beth Harte and Jay Baer.

What a Course Could Provide

A training course in social media could consolidate a lot of the disparate sources of information out there.  A part of the training could capture how tools work, define terminology and give examples of successes or failures.  The course could showcase case studies where companies or individuals took risks in specific industries.  There are lots of approaches and strategies that can be covered – often the advice is to “start with listening,” but a course could provide details on how to set up monitoring stations, the differences between free tools like Google Blog Search and enterprise tools like Radian6 or SM2.  The course would need a dynamic element to it – I could easily see the case studies become dated and the technology changes and new tools making it difficult to keep up.

Can you package up enough in one course to make it worthwhile? The folks at SEMPO, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Association, are trying.  I was honored to be asked by the SEMPO team to review the course outline for one of two new summer sessions available, covering Social Media.  (My agency, Rosetta, is a SEMPO member.)  I’m curious to see how the course will fair and what the participants think of the content.

Which Camp Are You In?

Would a training course in social media appeal to you?  What do you think a training course could achieve?  If the course is focused on how the tools work, the implications and risks, case studies, etc then I don’t have a problem with it.  But if the course is going to claim that it can guarantee success by building followers and following someone’s specific formula, avoid it like the plague.  Thoughts?

Photo credit: foreversouls via flickr

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Understanding How Social Media Impacts the Purchase Path

inspection

Few marketers dispute PPC as an effective and measurable online channel.  Social media, in contrast, is currently subject to dispute.

One of the more compelling arguments for pay-per-click search marketing is the ability to attribute web sales directly to clicks from search advertising.  ROI can be measured to multiple decimal points tying the amount of spend invested in bidding on keywords to the direct revenue and conversion.  When the conversation changes to social media, there are debates about ROI, a lack of proven approaches and many marketers still viewing social media as experimental.  [“Conversion” for those not familiar with web analytics is defined as a visitor to a web property who completes a targeted action, including signing up for an email newsletter, adding a product to a shopping cart, or completing checkout.]

Skepticism Abounds

A way to address the skepticism marketers have about social media is to draw the same correlation to the purchase path as search marketing.  Notice I did not suggest “the” way to address the skepticism —  providing better metrics won’t give the complete picture of social media benefits, but it will start to quantify the role social media can play in a marketing strategy in terms that internet marketers deal with already.  For example, today Webtrends and Radian6 made a joint product announcement tying traditional web analytics to social media monitoring, through Webtrends’ Open Exchange platform.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Establishing Credit

Traditional analytics tools give credit for conversion to the tracked marketing activity before the conversion takes place – a “last click” methodology.  This could be a search query prior to a site visit, an ad clicked through on a search results page or a banner ad.  Those in the SEM and Display Advertising industries would tell you that while these metrics are precisely measured,  a major challenge is to quantify all the “other” touchpoints a consumer has prior to conversion.  (Rosetta, my agency, has a differentiated approach to marketing analytics that does capture “view-thru” – tracking that a user saw a display ad days or even weeks prior to a conversion event).

Here is what I would like to see analytics vendors or social media monitoring platforms do to start to quantify the measurement:

  • Track participation in social technologies in similar fashion to traditional ecommerce sites (defined conversion events, page views, length of visit).  A potential limitation is that brands may only be able to track measurements based on assets they control (hosted communities, hosted blogs, custom widgets, etc).
  • Tie search engine queries, organic search site visits and PPC ad clicks – and ultimately, conversion – back to whether the user had participated in a social technology, and measure typical length of visit/level of engagement both before and after conversion.
  • Provide in one dashboard the ability to identify the direct correlation between social marketing initiatives to conversion and revenue.

This level of data would help marketers more directly measure the success of social marketing initiaitves and make at least part of the intangible, tangible.  Is that a lot to ask?

Photo credit: premasagar via flickr

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Untapped CRM: Social Breadcrumbs

listeningpostMarketers have a lot of data. Online, they know where you live, what you clicked on, and what page layout (among other things) is more likely is going to drive you to make a purchase. They know what you searched for, what ads you saw and how long you spent on their sites. Signs are pointing to an elevated sophistication of using that data – get ready, because with the ability to combine your activities in social media with your online behavior, targeted, personalized approaches to marketing to you could be what’s next.

Exhibit A: CMO’s want to read the tea leaves

Mark Taylor, colleague at Rosetta, recently mentioned a study from the CMO Council that highlighted some key insight as to how CMOs feel they are deficient at understanding and leveraging customer data. Some key findings:

Marketers were asked about their top three areas of focus. Among the responses cited:

* 47% want to leverage existing resources to enhance customer communications.
* 41% would like to explore new customized communications technologies.
* 39% want to move marketing investments to Internet and mobile channels.
* 33% wish to improve behavioral targeting of advertising and online marketing campaigns.
* 32% want to adopt and use CRM and sales automation applications.

Exhibit B: Online activities reveal customer emotions and behaviors

I had a conversation earlier in the week with Evan Schuman, former retail technology editor for eWEEK.com and PCMagazine and author of the retail industry blog StoreFrontBackTalk.com. Evan recently posted a provacative article about how semantic information about a user’s activities could lead to more targeted marketing activities, and I’ve had it on my mind since.

Extensive analysis of a consumer’s Web interactions has been used for years to try and target pitches more effectively. But new research suggests that…every digital comment made by consumers anywhere—in a product comment, an IM, on a social network site, in E-mail and via, exchanges with a live chat tech support person, coupled with Web traffic analysis—can be mined for hints as to emotions and other thoughts.

What it could mean

Imagine what organizations who are savvy enough to tie their CRM data to semantic, social media content left as breadcrumbs out there. Evan rightly suggests that every consumer responds differently to emotion. When you’re sad, so you seek out comfort food or buy some new music? When you’re happy do you surprise your spouse at home with a gift? Could your social media activity be somehow tied, through emotion, prior history, or simply by subject, to your purchasing or brand buying behavior?

Some examples

Consider some possibilities. I’m sure we could come up with better ones together but here’s a stab at some.

  • In Twitter your posts could be mined for relevant information. Say, you have a cold and are under the weather, and you like to post about it as you are down in the dumps. Imagine a coupon for Advil Cold & Sinus showing up in your email shortly after you have a conversation about cold remedies, and a targeted ad on a news site gives you 20% off on a home humidifer.
  • In Friendfeed, you show a pattern of mentions about football in blog posts and comments, and favorited Youtube videos – and your favorite team wins the next playoff game. Knowing that when you are on an emotional high you tend to make an online purchase, retailers start showing specific discounted offers pop up on eBay and Amazon related to your team. Beyond the fact that the team won, taking it to the next level targeted people whose buying behavior changes at these peaks.
  • Imagine if in a Myspace posting you share the loss of a beloved pet. You start seeing ads and receiving offers for “comfort” items.

Evan responds,

What consumers receive is nothing bizarre: A pitch from Amazon or Borders or Walmart for a particular kind of product. But what they won’t likely know is that the pitch was prompted by … a MySpace posting the software thought “sounded sad.”

Technologically? This is quite do-able. Psychologically sound? If the software is done properly, yes, these predictive packages can be frighteningly accurate. But here are the big two questions: What about privacy and morality?

Sure there are many concerns about privacy, morality, and transparency. Is it going above and beyond using this type of data to target customers, or just the next logical evolution? It sure makes me think a little more about what I share on searchable outlets, but I am not so sure connecting me with the right products at the right time would be a bad thing. What do you think?

Photo credit: fenchurch via flickr

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