Friday Dec 04, 2009

Social Media Marketing Tactics for the Enterprise

Thanks to Frost & Sullivan for inviting me to their Web Experience Excellence 2009 Executive Congress held in downtown San Francisco on December 2, 2009. The specific topic was "Driving Strategic Online Advantage & Advocacy: Are your customers your evangelists?" and it was highly focused on how enterprises can and should use social media marketing. It pretty well covered the gamut from corporate blogs, wikis, and forums to Facebook and Twitter.

I'll give a quick run down on some of the most cogent "sound bites" and speakers of the day, but first a few observations. There was a lot of talk about "strategy" and is there such a thing as a "social media strategy." Some felt it was essential to develop one if not done already. Others felt that social media was just a part of the overall marketing/product strategy and not as such an end in itself. When considering the many examples presented of how social marketing is handled, it seemed the "strategy" answer ran all the way from none to formal. In some cases, it was (not surprisingly) more of a grass roots movement within the company, starting more with individual usage of social media, then moving up the "food chain" based on individual initiative and success. It's only recently that some companies have much more formally institutionalized the process, with dedicated social marketeers, teams, road maps, and indeed strategy. 

In all the case studies presented, there was almost no talk of "failures," as most of these initiatives, from grass roots to highly planned, have yielded positive results. In fact, this is such a hot and fruitful area that you may need to "just do it," even if the exec backing isn't all the way there yet. How and what to do were the focus of the presenters.

Alexander Michael, VP, Information & Communication Technology at Frost & Sullivan was our moderator and kicked off the first talk along with James Latham, Sr. VP, Strategic Marketing, at Open Text (which co-sponsored the event). Their talk on "Emerging Customer Expectations: Hyper-Technology and the Evolving Online Experience" set the stage for the day with some impressive stats on the growth of social media and its growing importance in the enterprise. 

Playing on the saying, "It's the economy stupid," they proposed the Web 2.0 version, "It's the people driven economy, stupid." Other key bullets from their talk:

  • Social media is not a fad. 
  • Don't communicate to GenY, communicate with.
  • Realize the new generation on the web has no loyalty. You must try to earn it with an engaging experience and seamless integration of social technologies. Three minutes is all you have...
  • You must encourage and not fear customer feedback. It's about Community, not Negativity. Most customer reviews are generally positive.
  • Don't try to fool people -- putting a web veneer over manual back-end processes won't work any longer.

Jeben Berg, YouTube Marketing Programs, Chief Innovationist, gave an entertaining and engaging talk, "Online on the Go: The Mobile Web and Impact of Video." He illuminated some clever YouTube marketing campaigns and offered great advice on how to succeed in that arena. I was impressed with his enthusiasm and domain expertise -- if you're developing a video campaign, you'll want to talk with Jeben. A few highlights:

  • Be who you are and be thick-skinned as well. YouTube won't take down parody or negative videos about your company or product -- they are a platform provider, not a content provider. The best response to a negative is your own video reply, done quickly.
  • Humor and irony rule. Emotion and competition resonate. "Low fidelity, high concept" works.
  • There's an audience for everything.
  • It's not about technology, it's about trust.
  • Videos should be self-contained -- you don't know where or when users are coming from.
  • Some examples:

Mark Yolton, Sr. VP, SAP Community Network, and Salim Ali, VP, Enterprise Solutions and Community Marketing at SAP, discussed, "Utilizing Social Media: Harnessing the Power of Online Communities for Loyalty and Advocacy." They talked about the evolution of communities at SAP and how they're used to Connect -> Collaborate -> Co-Innovate. They also talked about how to measure success, an important topic since typical "hard ROI" is often hard, if not impossible, to calculate with social programs. Their measurements center around number of members, traffic, contributors, and momentum. One interesting concept they raised was around segmentation, which is typically based on who you are. In the community space, what you're talking about is really important too -- segmentation by conversation.

Angela LoSasso, Global Social Media Strategy & Programs, HP, was up next for a discussion on "GenY and Beyond: Customer Experience in a Web 2.0 World." She talked about distinct benefits, such as how social can drive "Google juice" (think link relevance) and build brand relationships early on with younger (potential) customers. She was a proponent of crafting a social strategy, cautioning to first learn how your customers use social media before defining your approach. Another good point was not to confuse your strategy with the technologies and tools that enable it. Two other take-aways:

  1. Social and mobile are now one. (This was a recurring theme -- do not overlook your mobile customers!)
  2. Twitter can serve as an "idea factory."

James Latham spoke again next, talking about "Best Practices Live" and the Seven Essentials:

  1. Strategy with measurable goals
  2. Use all available inbound tools
  3. Content is king
  4. Be relevant
  5. Social media is here to stay
  6. Actionable analytics are the only metrics that matter
  7. Leverage your investments

James then introduced Christer Ljungdahl, Director, Web and Direct Marketing at National Instruments, who showed the "essentials" in practice at NI. Similar to SAP, there was a lot of focus on customer forums as a key interaction place for technically-oriented enterprises and their customers. There's certainly a cost avoidance benefit when customers provide each other tech support, and it's often faster and better than sitting on hold for tech support. But really these forums build community, and as Chris noted, "It's more believable when they say it" (think  product recommendations and reviews). His approach to building evangelists: Enable -> Share -> Listen -> Respond -> Recognize. One non-employee on their forum recently put up his 20,000th post! Forum managers observe a 90/9/1 rule: 1% of visitors are heavy contributors, 9% participate, and 90% visit.

It wouldn't be fair nor accurate to say they "saved the best for last," but Victor Cho, VP & GM, Consumer Internet & Software Services, Eastman Kodak, was an excellent presenter with clever, thought-provoking visuals. He engaged the audience in his talk on "Aligning Your Online Team with Corporate Objectives," and more specifically, "Eight ways to get your online team to truly deliver:"

  1. What do you measure?
    Typically the customer (like NetPromoter scores), shareholder (profit, market share, etc.) and employee satisfaction. To that, he added "Competitive Advantage." For example, note how Google focuses (some would say obsesses) on speed as an advantage.
  2. "Walls not screens" -- there's lots to measure, and focusing on one thing may miss the big picture. Perhaps your conversion rates are up, but sales/traffic overall are down. Profit might be up, but is it because you cut costs rather than increased the top line and margins?
  3. Measuring the customer -- figure out what causes (and how to measure) "wow" vs. "pain". Consider process vs. speed. Re-engineer process around newer/better customer experiences plus the need for speed.
  4. Conflicting speeds -- how often do you measure, yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, hourly, realtime? You need to measure different things at different intervals. Weekly feels right for many web metrics.
  5. Don't believe everything you see. Metrics don't always represent "the truth." There is still a very important place for judgment, testing, and experience.
  6. Gain from conflict, such as revenue vs. customer experience. He showed a formula, "$$$ = QV" where Q = quality and V = velocity (not value). Information spreads so quickly now that velocity is essential.
  7. Channel is another source of conflict -- you must balance and resolve channel conflict.
  8. Velocity of change -- when's the right time to push changes into the system? How do you balance quality versus speed? Will the change improve task completion? What changes will push your key metrics higher? You might think you're at the zenith, but then again, you might not be seeing the entire universe. No change, no gain.

So, with a final thanks to Frost & Sullivan for the nice drinks and hors d'oeuvre at the closing reception, that's a wrap.

Friday Oct 24, 2008

Download Best Practices, Part 3

Here's a "best practice" that is a source of never-ending debate: Should we require login/registration in order to download our products? There is no right answer, but there are plenty of pros and cons.

Sometimes, we have no choice but to require login in order to comply with government export regulations. (For example, if a product contains some types of strong encryption, we must keep a record of who has obtained it.) An obvious reason in favor is that knowing who downloads our software is of great value in follow up marketing initiatives as well as demographic analysis of our customer base. It's not all a one-sided equation though. For our customers who login first, we offer a useful download history function, and we also automatically provision our My Sun Connection portal with a list of products of interest to you. (This automatic portal provisioning is set up for many, though not all, of our downloads.) It's very handy, as you can click on product names and quickly see a valuable list of related resources and information. (I encourage you to check out the portal if you're not familiar with it. Once there, be sure to click the "My Products" tab to see how we aggregate product information from many resources in one place!)

The other side of the coin is that requiring login or registration before downloading definitely hurts the conversion rate. Using our web analytics, you can see users drop off with every extra click, and the largest abandonment is at the login/registration step. In many cases, the value of getting our software into the hands of our (often first-time) customers as quickly and with as few roadblocks as possible trumps the value of collecting user information, so we do not require registration. 

With such conflicting agendas, you must be wondering by now what I'm going to recommend as the best practice? Well, that's easy, don't use either -- use optional registration! This feature provides a middle ground that works for most products -- just give customers the choice. If they want to login to gain the benefits offered, we welcome and appreciate it and believe it's worthwhile. And if the customer just wants the software as quickly as possible, there's no need to register, just click Continue. Here's what you'll see when you request an "opt reg" product on Sun Download Center:

optional registration interface

For those who do choose to login first, we find a better quality of data since they are doing so of their own volition, and it allows us to build a stronger relationship with the customer. Of course, we have to face the facts -- a majority of customers will skip the login step and click Continue. For that reason, we highly recommend building optional product registration into the product's installer as well. Once you have committed to installing the product, there's an even stronger opportunity to build the relationship and help support the software on your system.

Fortunately we built our download system to support all three options (required, optional, none) easily, so we can meet whatever the product team wants with the flip of a bit in the product database. However, our recommendation remains to use optional registration whenever possible.

This is the third in a series of download best practice posts.

About

I helped design, build, and manage download systems at Sun for many years. Recently I've focused on web eMarketing systems. Occasionally, I write about other interests, such as holography and jazz guitar. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/garyzel

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