Tuesday Oct 30, 2012

How to Waste Your Marketing Budget

International MoneyPhilosophers have long said if you find out where a man’s money is, you’ll know where his heart is. Find out where money in a marketing budget is allocated, and you’ll know how adaptive and ready that company is for the near future.

Marketing spends are an investment. Not unlike buying stock, the money is placed in areas the marketer feels will yield the highest return. Good stock pickers know the lay of the land, the sectors, the companies, and trends. Likewise, good marketers should know the media available to them, their audience, what they like & want, what they want their marketing to achieve…and trends.

So what are they doing? And how are they doing?

A recent eTail report shows nearly half of retailers planned on focusing on SEO, SEM, and site research technologies in the coming months. On the surface, that’s smart. You want people to find you. And you’re willing to let the SEO tail wag the dog and dictate the quality (or lack thereof) of your content such as blogs to make that happen.

So search is prioritized well ahead of social, multi-channel initiatives, email, even mobile - despite the undisputed explosive growth and adoption of it by the public. 13% of retailers plan to focus on online video in the next 3 months. 29% said they’d look at it in 6 months. Buying SEO trickery is easy. Attracting and holding an audience with wanted, relevant content…that’s the hard part. So marketers continue to kick the content can down the road. Pretty risky since content can draw and bind customers to you.

Asked to look a year ahead, retailers started thinking about CRM systems, customer segmentation, and loyalty, (again well ahead of online video, social and site personalization). What these investors are missing is social is spreading across every function of the enterprise and will be a part of CRM, personalization, loyalty programs, etc. They’re using social for engagement but not for PR, customer service, and sales. Mistake. Allocations are being made seemingly blind to the trends.

Even more peculiar are the results of an analysis Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins made. She looked at how much time people spend with media types and how marketers are investing in those media. 26% of media consumption is online, marketers spend 22% of their ad budgets there. 10% of media time is spent with mobile, but marketers are spending 1% of their ad budgets there. 7% of media time is spent with print, but (get this) marketers spend 25% of their ad budgets there. It’s like being on Superman’s Bizarro World. Mary adds that of the online spending, most goes to search while spends on content, even ad content, stayed flat.

Stock pickers know to buy low and sell high. It means peering with info in hand into the likely future of a stock and making the investment in it before it peaks. Either marketers aren’t believing the data and trends they’re seeing, or they can’t convince higher-ups to acknowledge change and adjust their portfolios accordingly.

Follow @mikestiles
Image via stock.xchng

Friday Oct 26, 2012

Pinterest and the Rising Power of Imagery

eyesIf images keep you glued to a screen, you’re hardly alone. Countless social users are letting their eyes do the walking, waiting for that special photo to grab their attention. And perhaps more than any other social network, Pinterest has been giving those eyes plenty of room to walk.

Pinterest came along in 2010. Its play was that users could simply create topic boards and pin pictures to the appropriate boards for sharing. Yes there are some words, captions mostly, but not many.

The speed of its growth raised eyebrows. Traffic quadrupled in the last quarter of 2011, with 7.51 million unique visitors in December alone. It now gets 1.9 billion monthly page views. And it was sticky. In the US, the average time a user spends strolling through boards and photos on Pinterest is 15 minutes, 50 seconds.

Proving the concept of browsing a catalogue is not dead, it became a top 5 referrer for several apparel retailers like Land’s End, Nordstrom, and Bergdorfs. Now a survey of online shoppers by BizRate Insights says that Pinterest is responsible for more purchases online than Facebook. Over 70% of its users are going there specifically to keep up with trends and get shopping ideas. And when they buy, the average order value is $179.

Pinterest is also scoring better in terms of user engagement. 66% of pinners regularly follow and repin retailers, whereas 17% of Facebook fans turn to that platform for purchase ideas. (Facebook still wins when it comes to reach and driving traffic to 3rd-party sites by the way).

Social posting best practices have consistently shown that posts with photos are rewarded with higher engagement levels. You may be downright Shakespearean in your writing, but what makes images in the digital world so much more powerful than prose?

baby picture1. They transcend language barriers.

2. They’re fun and addictive to look at.

3. They can be consumed in fractions of a second, important considering how fast users move through their social content (admit it, you do too).

4. They’re efficient gateways. A good picture might get them to the headline. A good headline might then get them to the written content.

5. The audience for them surpasses demographic limitations.

6. They can effectively communicate and trigger an emotion.

7. With mobile use soaring, photos are created on those devices and easily consumed and shared on them. Pinterest’s iPad app hit #1 in the Apple store in 1 day. Even as far back as 2009, over 2.5 billion devices with cameras were on the streets generating in just 1 year, 10% of the number of photos taken…ever.

But let’s say you’re not a retailer. What if you’re a B2B whose products or services aren’t visual? Should you worry about your presence on Pinterest?

As with all things, you need a keen awareness of who your audience is, where they reside online, and what they want to do there. If it doesn’t make sense to put a tent stake in Pinterest, fine. But ignore the power of pictures at your own peril. If not visually, how are you going to attention-grab social users scrolling down their News Feeds at top speed? You’re competing with every other cool image out there from countless content sources. Bore us and we’ll fly right past you.

Tuesday Oct 23, 2012

4 Ways Your Brand Can Jump From the Edge of Space

jumperCan your brand’s social media content captivate the world and make it hold its collective breath? Can you put something on the screen that’s so compelling that your audience can’t look away? Will they want to make sure their friends see it so they can talk about it?

If not, you’re probably not with Red Bull. I was impressed with Red Bull’s approach to social content even before Felix Baumgartner’s stunning skydive from the edge of space. And then they did this.

According to Visible Measures, videos of the jump scored 50 million views in 4 days. 1,700 clips were generated from both official and organic sources. The live stream was the most watched YouTube Stream of all time (8 million concurrent viewers). The 2nd most watched live stream was…Felix’ first attempt Oct. 9.

Are you ready to compete with that?

I ask that question because some brands are still out there tying themselves up in knots about whether or not they should tweet. The public’s time and attention are scarce commodities, commodities they value greatly. The competition amongst brands for that time and attention is intense and going up like Felix’s capsule. If you still view your press releases as “content,” you won’t even be counted as being among the competition.

Here are 5 lessons learned from Red Bull’s big leap:

1. They have a total understanding of their target market and audience. Not only do they have an understanding of it, they do something about it. They act on it. They fill the majority of their thoughts with what the audience wants. They hunger for wild applause from that audience. They want to do things that embrace the audience’s lifestyle and immerse in it so the target will identify the brand as “one of them.” Takeaway: BE your target market.

2. They deliver content that strikes the audience right where they emotionally live. If you want your content to have impact, you have to make your audience’s heart race, or make them tear up, or make them laugh. Label them “data points” all you want, but humans are emotional creatures. No message connects that’s not carried in on an emotion. Takeaway: You’re on the inside. If your content doesn’t make you say “wow,” it’s unlikely it will register with fans.

3. They put aside old school marketing and don’t let their content be degraded into a commercial. Their execs seem to understand the value in keeping a lid on the hard sell. So many brands just can’t bring themselves to disconnect advertising and social content. The result is, otherwise decent content gets contaminated with a desperation the viewer can smell a mile away. Think the Baumgartner skydive didn’t do Red Bull any good since he wasn’t drinking one on the way down while singing a jingle? Analysis company Taykey discovered that at the peak of the skydive buzz, about 1% of all online conversation was about the jump. Mentions of Red Bull constituted 1/3 of 1% of all Internet activity. Views of other Red Bull videos also shot up. Takeaway: Chill out with the ads. Your brand will get full credit for entertaining/informing fans in a relevant way, provided you do it.

4. They don’t hesitate to ask, “What can we do next”? Most corporate cultures are a virtual training facility for “we can’t do that.” Few are encouraged to innovate or think big, if think at all. Thinking big involves faith, and work. It means freedom and letting employees run a little wild with their ideas. There will always be the opportunity to let fear of everything that moves creep in and kill grand visions dead in their tracks. Experimenting must be allowed. Failure must be allowed. Red Bull didn’t think big. They thought mega. They tried to outdo themselves. Felix could have gone ahead and jumped halfway up, thinking, “This is still relatively high up. Good enough.” But that wouldn’t have left us breathless. Takeaway: Go for it. Jump.

In putting up social properties and gathering fans of your brand, you’ve basically invited people to a party. A good host doesn’t just set out warm beer and stale chips because that’s inexpensive and easy. Be on the lookout for ways to make your guests walk away saying, “That was epic.”

Thursday Oct 18, 2012

Finalists for Community Manager of the Year Announced

cmylogo

UPDATE 12/17/13: Oracle Community Manager of the Year Award

To learn more about the 2014 award program and to receive an official application, please email.

The Oracle Community Manager of the Year Award recognizes excellence in building online community.

In many ways, community managers are your organization's customer experience. They provide dedicated customer service on your social media channels. They protect your brand 24/7/365. And they engage in honest conversations with your prospects, users, advocates, and buyers -- the people who care most about your products and services.

If you're a community manager, this award is for you. We hope you'll nominate yourself, a close colleague, or a friend. Whether you manage a Facebook Page or another channel, and no matter if you call yourself a Community Manager, Social Media Manager, Brand Manager, or Marketing Manager (or something else entirely!), your voice and expertise are welcome here.



For as long as brand social has been around, there’s still an amazing disparity from company to company on the role of Community Manager.

At some brands, they are the lead social innovators. At others, the task has been relegated to interns who are at the company temporarily. Some have total autonomy and trust. Others must get chain-of-command permission each time they engage.

So what does a premiere “worth their weight in gold” Community Manager look like?

  • More than anyone else in the building, they have the most intimate knowledge of who the customer is.
  • They live on the front lines and are the first to detect problems and opportunities.
  • They are sincere, raving fans of the brand themselves and are trusted advocates for the others.
  • They’re fun to be around.
  • They aren’t salespeople.

Give me one Community Manager who’s been at the job 6 months over 5 focus groups any day. Because not unlike in speed dating, they must immediately learn how to make a positive, lasting impression on fans so they’ll want to return and keep the relationship going. They’re informers and entertainers, with a true belief in the value of the brand’s proposition.

Internally, they live at the mercy of the resources allocated toward social. Many, whose managers don’t understand the time involved in properly curating a community, are tasked with 2 or 3 too many of them. 63% of CM’s will spend over 30 hours a week on one community.

They come to intuitively know the value of the relationships they’re building, even if they can’t always be shown in a bar graph to the C-suite. Many must communicate how the customer feels to executives that simply don’t seem to want to hear it. Some can get the answers fans want quickly, others are frustrated in their ability to respond within an impressive timeframe.

In short, in a corporate world coping with sweeping technological changes, amidst business school doublespeak, pie charts, decks, strat sessions and data points, the role of the Community Manager is the most…human. They are the true emotional connection to the real life customer.

Which is why we sought to find a way to recognize and honor who they are, what they do, and how well they have defined the position as social grows and integrates into the larger organization. Meet our 3 finalists for Community Manager of the Year.


JeffJeff Esposito
with Vistaprint
Jeff manages and heads up content strategy for all social networks and blogs. He also crafts company-wide policies surrounding the social space. Vistaprint won the NEDMA Gold Award for Twitter Strategy in 2010 and 2011, and a Bronze in 2011 for Social Media Strategy. Prior to Vistaprint, Jeff was Media Relations Manager with the Long Island Ducks. He graduated from Seton Hall University with a BA in English and a minor in Classical Studies.

StaceyStacey Acevero with Vocus
In addition to social management, Stacey blogs at Vocus on influential marketing and social media, and blogs at PRWeb on public relations and SEO. She’s been named one of the #Nifty50 Women in Tech on Twitter 2 years in a row, as well as included in the 15 up-and-coming PR pros to watch in 2012.

CarlyCarly Severn with the San Francisco Ballet
Carly drives engagement, widens the fanbase and generates digital content for America’s oldest professional ballet company. Managed properties include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and G+. Prior to joining the SF Ballet, Carly was Marketing & Press Coordinator at The Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge, where she graduated with a degree in English.


We invite you to join us at the first annual Oracle Social Media Summit November 14 and 15 at the Wynn in Las Vegas where our finalists will be featured. Over 300 top brand marketers, agency executives, and social leaders & innovators will be exploring how social is transforming business. Space is limited and the information valuable, so get more info and get registered as soon as possible at the event site.

Tuesday Oct 16, 2012

Social Search: Looking for Love

binocularsFor marketers and enterprise executives who have placed a higher priority on and allocated bigger budgets to search over social, it might be time to notice yet another shift that’s well underway. Social is search.

Search marketing was always more of an internal slam-dunk than other digital initiatives. Even a C-suite that understood little about the new technology world knew it’s a good thing when people are able to find you.

Google was the new Yellow Pages. Only with Google, you could get your listing first without naming yourself “AAAA Plumbing.” There were wizards out there who could give your business prominence in front of people who were specifically looking for what you offered. Other search giants like Bing also came along to offer such ideal matchmaking possibilities.

But what if the consumer isn’t using a search engine to find what they’re looking for? And what if the search engines started altering their algorithms so that search placement manipulation was more difficult? Both of those things have started to happen.

Experian Hitwise’s numbers show that visits to the major search engines in the UK dropped 100 million through August. Search engines are far from dead, or even challenged. But more and more, the public is discovering the sites and brands they need through advice they get via social, not search.

You’ll find the worlds of social and search increasingly co-mingling as well. Search behemoths Google and Bing are including Facebook and Google+ into their engines. Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter have done some integration of global web search into their platforms.

So what makes social such a worthwhile search entity for brands? First and foremost, the consumer has demonstrated a behavior of acting on recommendations from social connections. A cry in the wilderness like, “Anybody know any good catering companies?” will usually yield a link (and an endorsement) from a friend such as “Yeah, check out Just-Cheese-Balls Catering.” There’s no such human-driven force/influence behind the big search engines.

SpyFacebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and others call it “Friend Mining.” It is, in essence, searching for answers from friends’ experiences as opposed to faceless code. And Facebook has all of those friends’ experiences already stored as data. eMarketer says search in an $18 billion business, and investors are really into it. So no shock Facebook’s ready to leverage their social graph into relevant search.

What do you do about all this as a brand? For one thing, it’s going to lead to some interesting paid marketing opportunities around the corner, including Sponsored Stories bought against certain queries, inserting deals into search results, capitalizing on social search results on mobile, etc.

Apart from that, it might be time to stop mentally separating social and search in your strategic planning and budgeting. Courting your fans on social will cumulatively add up to more valuable, personally endorsed recommendations for your company when a consumer conducts a search on social.

Fail to foster those relationships, fail to engage, fail to provide knock-em-dead customer service, fail to wow them with your actual products and services…and you’ll wind up with the visibility you deserve in social search results.

Friday Oct 12, 2012

The Social Enterprise: Gangnam Style

chalkboardAre only small and medium businesses able to put social strategies in place, generate consistent, compelling content for customers, and be nimble enough to listen and respond to the social communities they build? Or are enterprise organizations eagerly and effectively adopting social as well?

It depends on whom inside the organization you ask. A study from Attensity looked at who “gets” social inside enterprise organizations. The results were unsurprising. Mostly, Generation X and Y employees who came of age with social as part of their lives and as a key communications vehicle understand it.

Imagine being a 25-year-old at a company that bans employees from accessing Facebook at work. You may as well tell them they can’t use phones and must do all calculations on an abacus. To them, such policy is absent of real-world logic and signals to them the organization is destined to be the victim of an up-and-comer.

After that, it’s senior management that gets social. You don’t get to be in senior management without reading a few things and paying attention. Most senior managers are well aware of the impact social has had and will have, though they may be unsure of what to do about it.

The better ones will utilize those on the inside who do inherently know how to communicate and build virtual relationships using social. The very best will get the past out of the way for these social innovators, so the new communications can be enacted minus counterproductive dictums, double-clutching, meeting-creep, and all the other fading internal practices that water down content and impede change.

Organizationally, the Attensity study found 81% of enterprise companies believe failing to embrace social will result in their being left behind. Yet our old friend fear still has many captive in its clutches. 79% feel overwhelmed by the volume of social data available, something a social technology partner with goal-oriented analytics expertise could go a long way toward alleviating.

Afraid manThen there’s the fear of social having a negative impact. This comes from a lack of belief in the product, the customer service, or both. The public uses social not to go out and slay brands. They’re using it to be honest. If the fear is that honesty will reflect badly on the brand, the brand has much bigger, broader problems than what happens on Facebook.

Sadly, most enterprise organizations still see social as a megaphone, a one-way channel with which to hit people with ads. They either don’t understand social relationships, or don’t want any. The truly unenlightened manager will always say, “We help them by selling them our stuff.” “Brand affinity” is a term, it’s just not one assigned much value in enterprise organizations.

Which brings us to Psy, the Korean performer whose Internet video phenom “Gangnam Style,” as of this writing, has been viewed 438,550,238 times on YouTube. It’s bigger than anything a brand will probably ever publish. Most brands would never have seen the point of making or publishing it.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Internet success. The video literally doubled the stock price of Psy’s father’s software firm. NH Investment and Securities said, "The positive sentiment has attracted investors just because of the fact the company is owned by Psy's father and uncle.” The company wasn’t mentioned or seen in the video in any way, yet reaped tangible rewards just for being tangentially associated with it. Imagine your brand being visibly and directly responsible for such a smash and tell me it’s worthless.

When enterprise organizations embrace the value of igniting passions, making people happier, solving their problems, informing them, helping them have fun, etc., then they will have fully embraced social, and will reap the brand affinity rewards of heightened awareness, brand loyalty and yes, sales.

Tuesday Oct 09, 2012

Is Your Company Social on the Inside?

water coolerAs we talk about the extension of social from an outbound-facing marketing tool to a platform that will reach across the entire enterprise, servicing multiple functions of that enterprise, it might be time to take a look at how social can be effectively employed for internal communications.

Remember the printed company newsletter? Yeah, nobody reads it.

Remember the emailed company newsletter? Yeah, nobody reads it.

Why not? Shouldn’t your employees care about the company more than anything else in life and be voraciously hungry for any information related to it?

The more realistic prospect is that a company’s employees don’t behave much differently at work where information is concerned than they do in their personal lives. They “tune in” to information that’s immediately relevant to them, that peaks their interest, and/or that’s presented in a visually engaging way.

That currently makes an internal social platform the most ideal way to communicate within the organization. It not only facilitates more immediate, more targeted (and thus more relevant) messaging from the company out to employees, it sets a stage for employees to communicate with each other and efficiently get answers to questions from peers. It’s a collaboration tool on steroids.

cocktailsIf you build such an internal social portal and you do it right, will employees use it? Considering social media has officially been declared more addictive than cigarettes, booze and sex…probably.

But what does it mean to do an internal social platform “right”? The bar has been set pretty high. Your employees are used to Twitter and Facebook, and would roll their eyes at anything less simple or harder to navigate than those. All the Facebook best practices would apply to your internal social as well, including the importance of managing posting frequency, using photos and video, moderation & response, etc.

And don’t worry, you won’t be the first to jump in. WPP's global digital agency Possible has its own social network called Colab. Nestle has “The Nest.” Red Robin’s got one. I myself got an in-depth look at McGraw-Hill’s internal social platform at Blogwell NYC.

Some of these companies are building their own platforms, others are buying them off the shelf or customizing readymade solutions.

But you won’t be the last either. Prescient Digital Media and the IABC learned 39% of companies don’t offer employees any social tools. Not a social network, not discussion forums, not even IM. And a great many continue to ban the use of Facebook and Twitter on the premises.

That’s pretty astonishing since social has become as essential a modern day communications tool as the telephone. But such holdouts will pay a big price for being mired in fear while competitors exploit social connections unchallenged.

Fish where the fish are. If social has become the way people communicate and take in information, let that be the way communication is trafficked in the organization.

Tuesday Oct 02, 2012

Announcing Hackathon for Social Developers

Continuing our Social Developer theme, we're excited to announce a week long hackathon put on by the Oracle Social Developer Lab (OSDL). The event starts at JavaOne Oct 2nd and runs through Oct 9th. A winner will be announced and profiled in the following issue of Java Magazine.

What's it about?
The OSDL is on a mission to make social development easier for the Java community. You may have noticed the biggest social networks have created tools for Ruby, PHP, and other languages, but not as much for Java. We've decided to help fill the gap with a SocialLink social publishing library. You can learn more about it on Java.net. We're also interested in promoting other tools that facilitate social development such as DaliCore Framework

For our hack, you've got one week to leverage our library and/or DailCore to create a social app. The only rules are it must be a new application, and it must leverage one or both of these tools. 

How to submit
Create a project that uses either the SocialLink library or the DaliCore Framework to read or publish social data.

1. Upload your hack to a new project on java.net

2. Submit the URL to your java.net project through the project submission form on the Oracle Social Developer Community Facebook page.

Involver

Only projects that have been submitted to the Oracle Social Developer Community will be reviewed.  In addition to the review process, we'll be adding some projects to the SocialLink project as a "sibling" project.

Should you participate?
If you're a developer who aspires to integrate some social functionality into your Java application, then yes! 

How else can I participate with OSDL?
If you're not ready to participate in the hackathon but have ideas for how we can make social development easier for the Java community, come join our social developer community on Facebook. 

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