Archive for November, 2009

A Tale of 2 Marketing Programs: Social Media Versus Search Engines

November 24th, 2009

Social media is going to take budget dollars away from search engine marketing. Already is in many major brands. Simple economics are driving this transition.

If a major ecommerce player is spending 50% of their budget on search engine marketing, website optimization, and link optimization programs, but is losing the war to bloggers in organic search. Why would the ecommerce player continue to spend massive amounts of money on advertising when they can focus on blogger outreach (ethical, not paid) for far less money. Better yet, fix their customer experience and get customers to evangelize on their behalf. this slide says it all….

Click Picture to Expand

Additionally, as we analyze the various social media monitoring and metrics tools, the challenge is pretty evident. Search engines work off of structured data. I can run an advanced search and build filters for my search results. The challenge with social search is that the taxonomy isn’t defined. How you talk about a problem can be completely different than I talk about it. Potential buyers may not even recognize that the problem they are discussing on social media is even in the market. How do you build an automated tracking of taxonomy around unstructured data?

Effective lead generation program within social marketing require human knowledge of your solutions and also the ability to follow discussion threads to identify contextual relavence. Over time, you should be able to fine tune the algorithms for your social monitoring programs to become 80% accurate, but the most successful programs are leveraging human knowledge to make social marketing engagement programs to become discoverable, impactful, and actionable.

Otherwise, you get the the large number of costly “unqualified” leads that flood into websites similar to the search engine marketing programs. These programs either make it up in volume or work the “long tail” of key words to reach better qualified buyers. Social marketing can get you to the “long tail” faster as most buyers start with questions in the long tail when they do not know what they are looking for and leverage the expertise of others to become more specific as they learn what they don’t know.

2010: The Perfect Social Marketing Storm

November 24th, 2009

So, if you believe 2010 is the year of the return, forget the “u” shaped recovery, etc. We are talking the “V” shaped RETURN.” The tsunami of pent of demand, the rise of social marketing as a recognized marketing channel, and the competitive pressures to outperform the market to validate your company’s supreme dominance will be firece. No problem, finding budget for marketing will be the least of your problems. Having to justify social marketing doesn’t seem as daunting when you have budget and sales are coming in… “Cool, where do I sign-up?” If not sure about 2010 being the roaring recovery, read further….

We know that social marketing is becoming mainstream. I think in 2o1o it will become table-stakes. If you don’t have a facebook page, twitter account, and linkedin profiles; you are so 2009…. In reality, we are seeing major brands begin to increase their budgets for social marketing by a factor of 20% – 30% of budgets. One major CPC brand is dictating that a percentage of product innovation come from ideas from their community. Increasingly, we are not having conversations about “Why should I do it?”, but “How do I use it for competitive advantage?”

We know that most companies have stabilized the bleeding even though they had a mediocre year. Sales are off from their height, profitability is down, budgets are constrained, probably a layoffs/backfill hires not made/new positions not budgeted. Entering into another year of a multi-year recession means most organizations now expect that you will figure out how to do more with less and will not accept “the economy” as justification for underperforming results. The expectation is that you will figure out how to outperform the market.

However, the real question is not whether the economy will recover with pent up demand in 2010, but what if it doesn’t? What if the recovery is a real dud? Will the corporate boards be simpathetic to another year of mediocre performance? Will CEOs be calm with back-to-back mediocre years? The average tenure of CEOs. CMOs, and other senior executives is what? Will anyone accept the excuse that it “the economy”? Will the pressure ratchet up even more?

What if the market fundamentally is shifting towards social media and away from advertising and even search engine marketing?,What if I don’t shift our sales, markmarketing and customer management to reflect the market? What if the market slightly improves but we don’t improve with it? What if our competitors find a way to add a lot of new customers and revenue and we don’t?

The best estimate is that it takes 3 to 6 months to establish a baseline measurement program for social marketing. That means that I need to build a program and execute within the first half of 2010 to give me time to see if it will work. That means 2010 is ALREADY HALF OVER in terms of impact.

We are not talking about setting up a twitter account and adding followers. I am talking about getting legitimate lead generation, customer retention, brand reputation, product development feedback, and team productivity using these tools. Someone tells you that you need a branded twitter account, ask “Why?” If you don’t hear a crisp answer related to a strategic initiative, then you should realize your return is probably equated to the time and cost you invested to set it up… Free Twitter Account Does Not Equal to a Gazillian Free Leads…

Here are the Major Questions that you need to ask to determine if you need to invest in a social Marketing Strategy…

We can’t hit the marketing performance numbers? Not Necessarily. Your competitors may be slower to adopt than you.

Can we get predictable and measurable results out of just doing tactical social media participation like having a twitter account and a facebook page? I don’t know, can you? How is it working for you now? Getting the results that you want? Seeing the strategic impact on revenues or customers?

Can we build a social marketing strategy on our own? Sure, always a factor of core competencies, time, resources, and money. Give anyone enough time and money and resources and they usually build a plan.

Can my team execute a social marketing program effectively? Are they doing it now? We find with a little coaching, a clear plan, and training that organizations are able to drive execution to meet their business objectives.

Can you tell me if you can tell me the 2010 social media forecast for my market? No, we would have to do a Social Market Audit to get a better idea. We can tell you …

  • If the market is adopting social media
  • How big your company’s footprint
  • How effective is your marketing messaging
  • How well are you doing against your competitors
  • How you can compete over social marketing better
  • Provide you with strategic marketing plan for executing and integrating social marketing

We find that our best partners in this are the folks who are already toe-dipping into social media. They have seen what works and what doesn’t. They recognize a sophisticated program will lead to better, more predictable results.

Self-serving? You betcha…. but also true.

Social Media Policy and Your 15 minutes of Fame

November 23rd, 2009

Andy Warhol said that in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes.  For one Atlanta area teacher, that fame – or rather, infamy – comes in the form of pictures posted on her Facebook page.  Over the summer this particular teacher took a trip to Europe where she was included in snapshots with friends at dinner and over drinks.  Seems simple enough, except that she posted the pictures on her Facebook page, where a parent got wind of the posting and complained.

What is a teacher to do?  What is any employee to do?

Typically teachers are held to pretty high standards of behavior, detailed in county level morals clauses and statewide professional standards.  So why all the fuss and confusion?  In this case, there seems to be a lack of clear and thoughtful social media policies at the county level.  In fact, the Atlanta area system where this incident occurred isn’t schedule to consider developing or implementing social media guidelines until December.

Unfortunately, this is not surprising.  A recent MarketingSherpa survey revealed that only 33% of large businesses and organizations have implemented a Social Media Policy.  The other 67% either don’t recognize the need, or are still in the development process.

Why are so many companies dragging their feet?  There are a couple of reasons:

Fad – Too many corporations still think that social media interactions are a fad.  Why would any no nonsense, well regarded brand embrace a medium built on chit chat and status updates?  These entities think of social media as time wasters and discourage usage.  The reality is that the medium is here to stay.  Whether it’s called Facebook tomorrow, people will still be interacting in the social media space.  Smart companies will embrace this and develop guidelines for employee usage.  Really smart companies will incorporate social media activities into their own communications structure, championing information exchange among employees and potential customers and harnessing the power of that influence.

Fear –  Leadership at many larger companies and organizations came of age at a time when  brand communications where one way – outward facing.  Large brands told customers what they wanted them to know, orchestrated how and when those messages would be presented, and called it a day.  Now that communications model is crashing to the ground and many C-suite executives don’t know what to do.   Comments and messages on social media platforms are submitted for public consumption.  And when those mentions are negative or even false, many organizations don’t know what to do to handle them.  Creation of social media policy builds a framework and a context within which companies can begin to handle these sentiments.  Courageous companies will listen to the chatter and will thoughtfully consider how and when to react, turning negative comments into customer service opportunities

Frustration – Some large companies have gotten in front of the wave and are already “active” in the social media space.  They may have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, but they don’t do anything with it.  Just this week, AdAge reported that 76% of Branded Twitter accounts lie dormant.  Lack of policies, strategy and intention have hamstring many early adopters and their attempts at successful utilization of social media within their organizations and in the online community.  But a structured approach to social media, beginning with social media guidelines for internal communications and external outreach, will reduce corporate frustration.  Companies that seek to develop methods of internal communication empowered by social media can groom and grow their own corporate cheerleaders and industry evangelists, and shape organizational perception.

It has been said many times that perception in reality.  No matter what our intent, it is the perception of its receipt that is remembered.  Perhaps the teacher at the center of this latest Facebook incident did not intend for others to see or respond to her posted pictures in the way that they did.  But the reality is that, regardless of her motivations, someone complained.  She might have been helped by clear and thoughtful social media policies from her employer.  Definitely, the employer would have firmer footing to engage the teacher if there had been.

It seems here Facebook pictures are feeling more like a mug shot than anything else.

The Blatantly Obvious Three Gets of Social Media

November 18th, 2009

As we meet and greet in the world as evangelists for a strategic management approach to incorporating social media into business, you readily identify other folks who “get it”. They describe themselves as “get it” people and they describe others as part of the club. The other two camps can be described as the “I think I get it” folks and the “I don’t get it” translated into the I don’t get it and really don’t care.

“Get it” – Already have prior experience in social media, probably understand digital marketing, it, software, etc. They have seen the power of social networking; may or may not play with twitter, but understand that social media must mature to satisfy the other camps. They are usually early adopters or visionaries, but definitely social media evangelists. They don’t need a business case to see how this applies to their jobs and their companies. Not a generational characteristic. We see more mature senior executives who are already there with their subordinates playing catch up. The younger generation gets the social media interaction thing much easier because they have entered the business world with these tools. Their challenge is that they do not have the business experience to craft corporate strategy so they tend to be focused on the tools and tactics. ROI gets mapped at the business functional and strategy level which is hard for them to develop the business case to sell the rest of their organizations.

“Think I Get It” – Generally more mature (not necessarily older) business executives who probably would “get it” if they had the time to research and play with it. We find this to be the case with mid to senior level executives who were laid off. They gravitate to it and are becoming proficient out of necessity and the luxury of free time. The employed people in this group are savvy business people, but are buried under with management and business responsibility. Probably have personal responsibilities so playing online if they are not naturally inclined to do so is pretty difficult with their schedules. Amazing how this group activates with a really tangible business case that applies to their company and market. They already have the business acumen and the web disruption experience so it becomes a translation exercise for them to “get it.”

“Don’t Get It” – this group has probably thought briefly about it and then moved on as they haven’t seen the relavence of social media to them; either personally or professionally. We many times see the pride in this statement. We see the “my kids are on it” or “I played with it” or “I am on Linkedin, but don’t really use it.” In truth, it is generally due to indifference versus ability to get it. However, when we present the business case for a strategic approach to social media, they intuitively see the value. The skepticism turns to intuition as they map this back to their mid-90′s web experience. They then figure out that they need a proactive plan and delegate to someone in their organization or realize that they have no one and figure they will get to it when it reaches a level of criticality that forces them to react.

As you have surmised, I am describing any new technology adoption. Social media is not some exotic, weird “kid” thing. Social media will be a business disruption due to the simple fact that it is a reflection in the change of buyer behavior. Buyers are doing research by reaching out to other buyers and market influencers because they do not want to wade through the pages and pages of junk search engine results. Much easier to find an expert and see what they say. Simple, but extremely disruptive to traditional business; marketing, sales, customer support, service delivery, billing, employee relations. All of these functional areas are being impacted with this level of transparancy.

Whether you “get it”, “think you get it”, or “Don’t get it”; you had better believe that some portion of your market and customer base already does…

Note to Social Media Platform Vendors: Consolidation is Coming

November 5th, 2009

As we have been ramping up the platform selection process for several clients, it has become obvious that some of the vendors are struggling. I can’t speak to their financial situation, but I can speak to the frustration that we have with many of them who still think the platform war is about features and functionality. As a consultant, you have to know that I see a lot of platforms. I think the last count was that there were over 100 platforms. If I can’t see anything special about your particular platform, how will the market?

That doesn’t mean that there are not good platforms out there. There is a group of the top platforms that do “get it” and are building the functionality to support the customers in the right way. See, web 2.0 is about empowering the customer, goving them that unique experience that gets them to come back over and over. Adoption trumps functionality. Customers don’t care about widgets, all they care about is the experience. By the way, I am talking about the platform customers’ customers…

Vendors who are building platforms to provide the flexibility to provide that “mass customized” experience are going to be the winners. The ability to provide unique functionality to the users in a seamless, non-intrusive way will win. That means, as I heard lately, that the “platform” will have to disapear. Both in terms of becoming components AND in the unique quirks of design that enables you to figure out a particular community is actually run on XYZ platform.

My customers, who buy platforms, do not want their customers to think about the community platform, rather they want the experience to fade into the background and the focus to be on the content and the interactions with their company. The platform vendors who can do that effectively the fastest will grow the fastest. Believe it or not, it isn’t really about software development and how you can connect to ~500 enterprise applications. That is now becoming table stakes for the social media platform market.

The next bar will then be how do I fuse the public social network experience with my corporate community to enable potential buyers to easily transition to my platform without a cumbersome registration process (that still gives me their information) and a seamless ability for my current customers to share their customer experience with the world (better ways of optimizing the syndicaton process for search optimization and supporting the influencer marketing process).

Platform vendors who are marketing how easy they are to do business (easy to assemble widgets, flexible architecture, designable workflow, flexible data modellng, just in time report development) with AND have a standardized model for mass producing custom experiences will win (the experience based upon who I am, what I want to do, and when I want to do it can be built iu real-time).

If you are still trying to sell a standardized SaaS software package to the world, you may want to rethink what the market leaders are doing. They are not selling features and functionality, they are selling solutions. And by the way, the solutions are focused on satisfying their customers’ customers…