Tag Archives: Social Media

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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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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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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Twitter Badges For Brands Who Want to Avoid Narcissism

While Facebook is mailing signs to businesses, I’m pretty sure no one is helping them understand Twitter – for free anyways.  After all, Twitter is for narcissists, right?  It occurred to me the other day that the phrase, “Follow us” or “Follow me on Twitter” is getting things off to the wrong start.  Businesses should all aspire to connect with people who are engaged and interested in conversation, creating a value exchange – Twitter is just one of many tools to enable that access to direct conversations.  Companies can ultimately activate that engagement by providing value first and asking for help in return.

My point: A business that says “Follow Us on Twitter” is going to be more and more likely to treat twitter as an opt in broadcast channel, which can ultimately damage the relationship among all the other noise and duck the value of engaging customers (and potential customers) in conversation.

A Proposal

I propose the following to the Twitter Pantheon:  Get rid of “Follow Us” signs on web pages, blogs, email, direct mail, catalogs, billing inserts and anywhere else a business wants to use a badge.  Replace it with the phrase: “Talk to Us on Twitter. It’s a simple change that will encourage conversation from the onset and also change expectations within your organization of how Twitter can be used – more than just pushing messages.  (I did a Google image search and found that only the Frederick, MD Chamber of Commerce had a quick badge on their site using the same language.)

A Little Help

Inspired by Christopher Penn’s post, I’m going to make it easy for you.  Just edit the name in this flash tool below (feedreaders may need to click through to enable) and download the image. – You’ll have a jpg that you can use anywhere.  If you prefer here is a photoshop template you can download and edit to your heart’s desire:

Twitter Talk to Us Template, PSD file, 400K

[SWF]/wp-content/uploads/TwitterLogo.swf, 500, 350[/SWF]

Here are a couple of examples, one for Whole Foods because I happen to be a fan and one for my employer.

Special thanks to Chad Milburn (blog & twitter) for taking a small ask for help and turning it into something more useful than intended.

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Social Media Chat Tuesday, July 21st

There are regular chats on Twitter, and then there’s hashtagsocialmedia.comMarc Meyer and Jason Breed have done an amazing job over the last year plus bringing in some highly respected and social-media-knowledgeable folks like Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund, Beth Harte and Jason Falls.  If I name dropped them all, it would actually like correlate to a good portion of my RSS feeds, and the weekly chat is a way to interact and answer some questions real-time.

Much to their dismay, Marc and Jason have invited me to host the tweetchat this week.  I’m honored to be included among company like this, and from participating in prior sessions I’m looking forward to hearing from some passionate folks.  You can follow along with the hashtag #SM69 (for the 69th time they have had this weekly discussion).  I’d love to hear from you since it’s your participation that matters.  You can also find me on Twitter before during and after.

My topic for this week is “Social media AND…“  If you have been a subscriber here you know that I look at social media tactics as informed strategies leveraging deeper understanding of a brand’s most valuable customers and prospects – truly integrated into other forms of marketing.  When combining social media with other interactive marketing practices, the results can magnify both.  In other words, social media integrated with other forms of marketing is greater than the sum of the parts.

Here are the questions we’ll explore:

Q1) How should marketers approach weaving social media tactics into their marketing arsenal?
Q2) Why does blending social media improve the effectiveness of other tactics?
Q3) Which tactics have the most impact when combined with social media? (Think both digital and traditional)

I’ll follow up here with a link to the live event and transcript afterwards.  See you there?

(Thanks to Aaron Strout, Ken Burbary, Rachel Happe and Amber Naslund for providing very valuable advice beforehand for managing chats like this one – Rachel captured her “fast and furious session” which provided some great input on what to manage and expect.)

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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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10 Reasons Market Research is Critical to Social Media

I continue to be surprised at how many companies keep the Market Research department in some back hall closet collecting dust and reams of paper reports.  It happens in all industries, but lately I’ve seen retail companies keep their “Consumer Insight” group focused on traditional insight like mall traffic patterns and planograms. Consumer segmentation models are typically owned in these groups, and often they are leveraged for behavioral patterns that help with the proverbial 4 Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion.  That stuff is important to the business, no doubt.  But those same companies need to leverage, not ignore, that insight available when fusing social media into the marketing mix they already have.

Brian Solis has a terrific series starting this week on the changing marketing, advertising and communications, where he adds a 5th P: People.   People are the fuel behind social media, which is really just tools and tactics. Here is a quick list of reasons to get Market Research engaged early in order to give social media (People fueled) initiatives the best chances of long term success.

10.  Knowing Customer Behaviors

What internal group knows more about your customer’s behaviors and acts?  The web analytics team knows about what customers do with your own web assets, not about what customers do – in the real world and in online social channels where you don’t own the assets.  Do they share opinions?  Do they care what kind of car they drive?  Are they fickle with the brand of toothpaste they buy?  Do they use social platforms and if so, how often and why?  While we’re at it, how do our customers use social media vs. the mainstream population?

9.  Understanding the Effectiveness of Current and Historical Marketing

This applies to branding initiatives too. They (should) know how effective every ad, campaign, point-of-sale item, direct mail, email, tagline, product and other marketing investment has performed.  Wouldn’t you want to leverage that insight to avoid a misdirection in using social media?

8.  Tried and True Methods to Solicit Customer Feedback

Industries are changing rapidly, and the need to conduct focus groups, surveys and gather feedback is too.  The more traditional/offline methods still apply, though – and chances are market research departments are already exploring alternatives to get those things accomplished more quickly, more effectively and cheaply.  Either way, the market research team should be established pros at getting feedback from existing and target customers.

7.  Understanding the Current and Future Market Conditions

Market research is a core part of any business strategy – in this case meaning researching markets.  Will there be future demand for products?  How is our market share today vs. a year ago, and how will a new program help influence that?  It’s this team that businesses leans on to get hard data on what will happen.  Talking to customers in these markets in social channels increases the need to understand the market overall and correlate initiatives to marketing directives.

6.  They Have the Ear of the CMO

There are many arguments on who should own social media, but the research arm of the company usually rolls up to the CMO.  The CMO is the one managing brand perception, and if you believe social media initiatives impact branding, marketing or communications, the CMO will want to hear about it.  The CMO will also want to know the data.

5.  Understanding Customer Needs and Wants

Customer needs are different than behaviors.  Do your customers have a need for community, convenience, or collaboration?  A customer who is ill needs and wants a safe, effective means to get relief – understanding that need will lead to understanding that customer’s motivation.  Social media tools provides customers new ways to hear about, research and talk about their needs.  Market research teams can share that insight and inform the folks “doing the talking” on what content makes sense to share and discuss.

4.  They Have the Best Contextual Insight

Bruce Temkin, former Forrester Research analyst on customer experience, wrote a post a few months ago about how market research needs less statistical analysis and more contextual analysis.  He shared this formula:

“Actionable insight” is one of my all-time favorite terms, and if market research can provide that, they need to be in the mix and weighing in an any new initiative.

3.  “We’ve got data!”

New businesses are being formed to help fuse social media into more traditional business intelligence disciplines.  Market research has a P&L that includes funds to buy that data, and the skills to sift through it to make meaningful hypotheses about it.

2.  Understanding the Competitive Landscape

When deciding to build a strategy for social media, it’s clearly important to know what your competitors are doing.  The market research team is typically the best equipped, since they a) know who your competitors really are, and b) likely keeps tabs on them already for other campaigns, pricing, promotions and events.

1.  Insight is Critical Before Starting Anything New

Simply put, many types of social media (as emerging technology) are rapidly moving past the Trough of Disillusionment and into the Slope of Enlightenment.  More and more case studies of successes in social channels are popping up.  Social media may still be new – and perhaps some approaches will be new to even the biggest organizations.  When Pepsi put big budget dollars to social media, I think many people in the industry finally woke up.  I guarantee that Pepsi didn’t make this decision without their market research team in the mix.

Social media tactics touch many other parts of the organization too, but having Market research up front in the design and decision process will help make initiatives more effective.  What did I miss?

Photo credit: pagedooley via flickr

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