Tuesday Jan 14, 2014

Content Marketing & Social Marketing: What’s the Difference?

Content MarketingSocial Marketing used to be the buzz phrase. Now the buzz phrase is Content Marketing. But is it fair to call something a “buzz” that’s been around forever and is the foundation of human communication?


It’s kind of odd that it wasn’t until social media came along that marketers got serious about connecting socially with customers. Likewise, now we’re talking in a surge about content marketing. Really? We didn’t know until recently our customers would appreciate quality relevant content, or that it’d make them feel good about us?


We’ve been a social species since we were hassling wooly mammoth. We’ve been storytellers since we figured out we could make a mark on a cave wall. Yet marketers seem to just now be evolving into what we learned back in the Ice Age.


Here’s the difference between content marketing and social marketing.


Content marketing is the story you etch on the cave wall. You know viewers will relate to it, want it, and will like it.


Social marketing is the wall. It’s the distribution channel, the stage you put your story on. Your audience might already be sitting in the cave, or you might have to go tell people to come look at it.


Don’t Do This


The biggest mistake you can make on social is to have a blank wall. It might be the finest wall around, but if there are no stories on it, why would I look at it? I come to expect nothing from that wall.


Do This Instead


We seem to be in a place right now where we’re getting pieces right, but not the whole puzzle. The puzzle consists of:

  • Resourced, consistent quality content
  • Served up or promoted on social
  • Supported by paid efforts to expand reach and exposure
  • A way to listen for boos or applause
  • Using what you hear to tweak future content
  • Tapping into the loyal, trusting audience you’ve built to offer a solution from your brand that will make their life better.


There. You’ve just been given enough content and social strategy to hassle a mammoth.


Are Brands Serious About Content?


No.


A Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs study shows 23% of B2C marketers don’t even know how much of their budget is allocated to content. Of those that did know, 17% said it was getting 1-4% of it. The walls are blank.


Well, that’s not fair. They aren’t blank. They’re full of ads.


That might be because marketers are finding content creation intimidating. After decades of commoditizing creative skills, turns out finding people who are truly great at it isn’t easy. The long held belief of “geez, anybody can write” turns out to be far from true. You can’t fake it, because the content has to compete. You need entertainers.


Content & Social Need Each Other


Can there be social marketing without content marketing? And if so, what is that social marketing comprised of in the absence of content? The two are increasingly moving toward a healthy codependency.


@mikestiles
Photo: picaland, stock.xchng

Friday Jan 10, 2014

5 Secrets to Marketing and IT Collaboration Success

Today’s post is from Jack Newton, Dir. of Outbound Product Management & Strategy for Oracle Social Cloud. He shares results from the new Oracle, Leader Networks and Social Media Today study on Marketing/IT collaboration inside the enterprise.


Collaboration white paper coverIf you’re hoping that congress comes together in 2014, it’s probably a lost cause.


But it can be a different story with Marketing and IT leaders in modern organizations.


In Oracle’s Socially Driven Collaboration study, 26% of Marketing and 36% of IT leaders report that they collaborate frequently – with Marketing leading the charge. While that’s great, it’s disappointing that 20% of Marketing and a whopping 38% of IT leaders collaborate rarely or never.


For those who don’t collaborate, they’re holding themselves and their organization back.


In fact, 74% Marketing and 71% of IT leaders collaborating more report that they are more effective as professionals. With the business benefits that can come from collaboration, the C-Suite has a vested interest in creating a strong culture of collaboration, too. Some of the benefits include:

  • Stronger/more compelling marketing messages (54% Marketing; 51% IT)
  • Faster speed to market with products and services (47% Marketing; 43% IT)
  • Greater adoption of the products or services offered (40% Marketing; 42% IT)
  • Reduction in project costs (23% Marketing, 36% IT)
  • Fewer defects in products or services offered (26% Marketing, 27% IT)


How can you bridge the collaboration gap?


1. Get C-Suite Buy-in for Shared Goals

When it comes to the quality of collaboration between groups, 57% of Marketing and half of IT respondents classify their level of collaboration as being only “adequate.”


Turn the tide by tapping into the widespread belief among executives about the potential for social to transform business. An MIT Sloan Management Review executive study shows that 70% of senior leaders indicate that social business presents an opportunity to fundamentally change the way their organization works.

2. Understand the Perspective of Your Peers

For those who do see the benefit of collaboration, it can be frustrating to get the cold shoulder from the other team. More Marketers (17%) report that while they see the benefit, their peers in IT are not receptive.


Why is this a problem? A Lightspeed Research study shows that 25% of customers who complain on Twitter or Facebook expect a response within an hour. If the organization isn’t set up for social customer service, bring IT’s experience with organization-wide technology rollouts and Marketing’s experience with social together to fix it.


3. Be the Role Model

Over the past 12 months, 41% of Marketing and 38% of IT leaders say they have engaged in more collaboration. This means there’s a lot of room for improvement, since the majority of Marketing (56%) and IT respondents (60%) report no change.


Don’t be the anchor that’s weighing the company down. Kick things into gear by picking one point of customer pain or a business priority that has both IT and Marketing implications, then reach out. Be persistent.


4. Find Meaningful Metrics

Pick two or three initiatives that are near-term so you can show impact sooner rather than later. Use the list above for some ideas.


5. Carefully Choose Tools and Technology

Your new bargain basement bike may be able to get you to work now, but it’s not going to be very helpful when your job moves across town… in the wintertime… in the middle of a polar vortex.


One-off social tools are similar. The cost incurred when adopting short-term solutions and then switching to integrated tools can potentially be more than the money saved.


According to one IDC analyst, “aggregating into a new user experience (UX) or augmenting an existing one requires social tools to be integrated with other enterprise systems and needs to be embedded inside the work processes to get the most value.”


Want to learn more?


Download the study to see more findings and read interviews with social media leaders from Whole Foods Market, Chubb and Shell. They share tips and lessons learned that could be applied to almost any business on the journey to becoming more collaborative.


Tuesday Jan 07, 2014

Ignoring Some Countries? Social Listening & Monitoring in Multiple Languages

earthSocial media is a global shift, so for companies doing business in international markets, what sense does it make to listen to what some users are saying but not others?  This week, Oracle Social Cloud added 7 more language capabilities to the existing 4, tearing down even more language and cultural barriers.


And all the people said “Hurrah,” except in different languages.


Advanced social listening and monitoring using Oracle Social Relationship Management (SRM) is now available for Russian, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, and Korean. These languages join the solution’s existing English, Spanish, Chinese, and Portuguese capabilities.


The world is only getting smaller, and more interconnected. True global enterprises must be able to listen, engage, publish and analyze in each market, tapping into the wealth of data social brings. With Oracle Social Cloud watching over 700 million messages daily across social networks, blogs, forums and news sites, clients are empowered with knowledge of the discussions taking place…about THEM.


Let’s take a quick look at the social world and how it’s expanding and evolving. By 2017, the global social audience will be 2.55 billion, giving social a 24% penetration. While the most social use is, in order, in N. America, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia, Mid-East and Africa, emerging economies are growing at a much faster clip. The Mid-East and Africa grew 191%, while Asia grew 146%.


Makes sense to have the capabilities to do something about that, right? Capabilities like:


Global and Local Language Functionality:

Helps tear down location/language barriers for improved multinational communication.


Native Language Text Analytics:

Oracle’s unique semantic text analysis lets you find relevant messages and avoid noise.


Sentiment Analysis:

Do they love or hate you? Content analysis in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and Chinese.


Native Language User Interface and Publishing:

The solution’s user interface is available in 31 languages, a dream for native community managers.


Global Dashboard Analytics:

See where the conversations are happening around the world so you can allocate resources accordingly.


Enhanced and Expanded Custom Indicators:

The expanded library of Indicators lets you access and categorize targeted and specialized messages.


Social expertise isn’t just about scheduling posts anymore. Who brands choose as their social technology partner is going to separate the serious players from the “noodlers.” Not just in terms of being able to listen to a global marketplace, but to then be able to integrate what you hear across applications like marketing, customer service, and sales.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng



Friday Jan 03, 2014

Is Brand Affinity Completely Worthless?

Social media is largely thought of as a brand affinity play, and far too few brand leaders know why that’s valuable.


empty pocketBe honest. Does it bother you when someone doesn’t like you? Even if you have plenty of other friends, when you encounter someone that openly doesn’t want to be around you, do you find yourself frequently wondering why not?


That’s how it often works in real life. But as brands, we not only are stunningly uncurious as to why people don’t like us or use us, we don’t even care how much our existing customers like us. It’s an unnatural way to behave, and at a time when we’re tasked with connecting naturally with consumers.


There seems to be doubt around the value of building those relationships. Either that, or because the fruits of those relationships won’t show up on the ledger this quarter, building them is deprioritized. And because social is the stage on which relationship building is performed, it too isn’t given the resourcing and executive support to max out the winning of hearts and minds.


Like the buying journey itself, brand affinity is the result of variable multiple brand encounters that combine toward a result unique to each customer. No magic ROI equation. But if there can be agreement that repeat customers, existing customers increasing their spending with the brand, loyal customers who look at our brand first or only, and customers who market for us for free, all have a positive effect on revenue…then we’re getting somewhere.


Seriously? You’re telling me you see no dollar value in your customers being as cult-like about your brand as Apple’s? Others sell similar products, but Apple markets a brand experience customers are emotionally invested in. It’s part of their customers’ very identity. So yes, they’ll buy every new product sight unseen and passionately praise and defend the brand. Apple doesn’t need gimmicks…they need crowd control.


Why aren’t we all Apples? Because we haven’t been investing in the combo of product, service and culture that generates the kind of core customers that drive 80% of profits. Fame is a group activity, but you’ve got to assemble the group. Perhaps brands that see no or only passing value in brand affinity have no sales or marketing system in place to even capitalize on being loved.


You view your product as the bee’s knees (you don’t literally sell bee knees do you?), but many brands have no significant value prop differences vs. competitors. Given that, the ability to bond the public to you is make or break. So how do you do it?


The USC Marshall School of Business determined brand affinity is achieved by enticing, enabling and enriching; meaning what you offer must be appealing, it must help the customer, and it must make the customer feel empowered and “better.” With tech listening tools, the public will show you how to do those three things for them.


Will that produce returns? A survey sought to learn which airline people thought was best. Alaska Airlines won. However…a very high percentage of respondents who voted for it had NEVER flown Alaska Airlines. They thought it was best just because enthused customers said it was.


Brand affinity is among the highest-return marketing you can do.


@mikestiles
Photo: David Playford, stock.xchng

Tuesday Dec 31, 2013

Should True Customer Centricity Be Your Resolution?

mannequinsWho doesn’t like to view themselves in the best light possible?  Similarly, many businesses like to think of themselves as being tops in customer centricity when in fact, they’ve taken zero steps to change structure, messaging, or CRM to that end. When the world around you is changing but you aren’t…red flag.


Many brands are offering up lip service in lieu of customer service. You know what’s going to be on those lips? The dust customers leave behind as they take their 2014 customer experience expectations elsewhere.


Today’s consumers are well aware of tech advancements. They know it’s possible for you to know nearly everything about them and every move they make, especially where it relates to your brand. Believe it or not, they’re cool with that, as long as it’s used to make their experiences quick, effective, and pleasing.


Seriously…all you have to do is not insult them.


When you have no clue what their past interactions with you were, you insult them. When you have no idea what products of yours they own, you insult them. When you can’t (or won’t) solve their problem, you insult them. When you throw them into an irrelevant generic voicemail tree, you insult them. When you ignore or forget what they tell you, you insult them. When you don’t follow up to insure satisfaction, you insult them.


As you can see, as easy as the task of “don’t insult the customer” sounds, the above is still largely standard practice. It’s not okay anymore.


Perhaps a business resolution for 2014 should be…to care. No shift toward customer centricity is going to occur unless and until brands start genuinely caring about getting the customer what they want and treating them well. Today, it should be even easier to care, because doing those things speaks to profits and corporate health.


66% of marketers couldn’t tell you what their customer is worth, even though sales could potentially go up 17% by knowing and capitalizing on the highest value customers. You’re best friend in this endeavor is data. Listening tools can pull copious amounts of social data, which can be combined with enterprise data for granular views of customers utilized at every touchpoint.


So what does customer centricity even mean? As opposed to what? It means morphing processes around making the customer successful in whatever they’re trying to do, both now and over time. This vs. being product-centric, which the odds are good you still are. One expert clarifies that if you’re product-centric, you’re trying to maximize the value of each product. If you’re customer-centric, you’re trying to maximize the value of each customer.


So in 2014, can you be available to customers on their favorite platform? Will you respond right away? Can you solve their problem? Can you convince them you care? Can you customize their experience? Can you make relevant offers? Can all departments make love-of-customer priority #1? Can you let customers lead your product development?


Social isn’t just empowering consumers, it’s empowering you as brands to make this customer centricity possible. Choose to keep focusing on your corporate self instead of on customer experiences, and 2014 could be the year of thin ice.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng


Friday Dec 27, 2013

How Social Media Plays Into the Innovations of 2014, Pt. 2

lightbulbIn a previous post, we began pondering what the big areas of innovation might be in 2014, and how social media is either the driver of those innovations or an essential part of them. Today we delve into Part 2 of our journey into the social future.


Drones & Robots

As the “Internet of Things” develops, will your refrigerator have a Twitter account? How else do you want it to tell you you’re low on cheese? More and more, our devices and appliances are taking the form of robots. These robots, from your heating & air system to your Roomba to that fridge, will be able to communicate with you. And in 2014, communication means social.


The word “drone” was secured into our vocabulary in 2013. Amazon plans on delivering packages to your home via drone in the next 5 years. DHL and UPS are testing their usage as well. And because they can be flown using GPS with no remote pilot needed, they’re basically robots in the sky.


The uses for drones are legion. Louisiana uses them to hunt down feral pigs. They gather storm info, do 3D mapping, track wildlife migration, apply pesticides and fertilizer to fields, hunt for missing people, report traffic and news, etc. Some misguided souls have already been arrested for using them to fly cellphones and tobacco to pals in prison. Good or bad, the FAA expects 7,500 drones or more in our skies by 2020.


Again, the data feeding these drones and robots, and the instructions to them, will no doubt come from social sources. You’ll be tracking those packages flying to your house on your Facebook mobile app. That fridge of yours will not only tell you it’s low on cheese, the grocery store follows your fridge and will prep your order for you.


The Collaborative Economy

Seriously, how often do you use that chainsaw you own? In the new collaborative economy, that chainsaw would join a collection of community tools managed online so members can get what they need, and only when they need it. This concept, being embraced by the likes of longtime social analyst Jeremiah Owyang, is being built on foundations of social connectivity.


The industry is estimated to be worth over $26 billion as people increasingly place practical usability over own-ability. One Berkley study contents that one properly shared car can eliminate the need for 9 owned cars. Airbnb contributed $632 million in economic activity in New York in just one year. Collaboration is, almost by definition, efficiency.


What’s necessary for collaboration? It’s the ability to easily make connections and easily conduct conversations of course. And we expect to see social’s use for collaboration purposes explode in 2014, both as individuals increasingly participate in the sharing economy and as enterprise organizations instill internal social network usage into their culture and use external social for collaborative product development with customers.


The Altered Enterprise

2013 has truly been a year of disruption for the enterprise. Consumers empowered by social are turning entrenched organizational, technological, personnel, and process practices on their heads. These changes are challenging, sometimes even scary. But perhaps the corporation was long overdue for innovation. 2014 will be the year those innovations will move from talk and speculation to real action taken.


The cloud changed IT’s world in short order. 60% of current small-to-medium businesses are using cloud services and 72% are virtualizing significant portions of their servers. Tech is gradually becoming marketing’s responsibility, as it’s increasingly used to achieve business objectives. The roles of the CMO and CIO are changing, hopefully into new productive partnerships. The cloud is how machines and systems can connect (at workable scale and cost), gather and crunch the waves of big data ahead, and make it practically available to end-users throughout the organization.


In 2014, those cloud-based marketing and CRM “machines” will get fully deployed. Finally, the wealth of customer data available through social will have a place to go. And it will have a purpose, used for customization, personalization and improved user experiences the likes of which have never before been seen. Much of the resulting value will be delivered to the customer over social.


And in 2014, the socially enabled enterprise will move from vision to accepted best practice as varied concerns like R&D, product development, human resources, sales, customer service, supply, billing, shipping, etc. all tap into social data for a unified, clear view of who they’re interacting with. We will finally, convincingly know our customers.


???

Probably most intriguing is the understanding that much of the innovation we’ll see in 2014 has yet to be conceived, either in reality or in the imagination. That’s how fast we’re moving. And if history is any indicator, social will be a driving force or key component.


@mikestiles
Photo: Sufi Nawaz, stock.xchng

Tuesday Dec 24, 2013

Peace on Earth: The Good in Social Media

social media, social marketingWe sure spent a lot of time in 2013 discussing the ROI of social media didn’t we? What we didn’t talk about nearly as often was the RFS or “Return For Society.” And that’s a shame because a) social media is facilitating incredible amounts of goodwill around the globe, and b) brands are missing a chance to be a bigger part of that movement, arms linked with their customers.


Who didn’t hear about BatKid? While brands struggled mightily to make things go viral, what did go wildly viral was the story of leukemia survivor Miles Scott, who wanted to be Batman. The result was an organic, humanity crowd-sourced international spectacle featuring 12,000 volunteers, a Vine from the President, and a tough kid’s dream made real. No one was selling anything. It was good, it was right, and it was fun.


In 2009, Hugh Jackman gave almost $90,000 to two charities that convinced him on Twitter they could use it. Operation of Hope donates surgery to kids with facial deformities in developing countries. Charity: Water provides safe drinking water in developing countries. They were the first charity to use YouTube’s Call-to-Action, which lets non-profits overlay a link to a donation page over a video.


Normally, Charity: Water would get a few thousand per day. On World Water Day, about half the take was directly attributed to the YouTube feature. That $10,000 built 2 new wells in the Central African Republic providing over 150 people with clean drinking water for 20 years. That’s what being able to make a video and distribute it on social, or tweeting a photo, made happen.


The causes using social to make the world a better place for all of us appear endless:

  • 24 Hours for Darfur shares stories of genocide survivors using YouTube.
  • Haagen Daz alerted us to the dangers of disappearing honeybees.
  • Malaria No More and CollegeHumor teamed to bring in $750,000 and 300,000 new supporters on social.
  • Over 50,000 people submitted videos that got 500 million views for the “It Gets Better” project, combating LGBT youth suicide.
  • Random Acts uses social to rally donors and volunteers, and raised $200,000 for Hope for Haiti 2.
  • You may have recently seen a viral video from Water is Life, in which Haitian quake victims read tweets that were hashtagged #firstworldproblems.


And, of course, social has served as the fuel for movements that literally changed the politics and altered the futures of entire nation states. We would be fools to ever underestimate what an engaged populace is capable of doing with this tool.


So what are we as brands to do about users’ love of embracing social media for good? Well, for as much as we pull our hair out trying to figure out how to get them to share our content, they’re telling us one great way loud and clear. 83% of Americans want brands to support causes. 41% have bought from a brand mainly because the company was associated with a certain cause.


14 million. That’s how many visits the most read article on BuzzFeed of all time got, “21 Pictures That Will Restore your Faith in Humanity.” Sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy have seen that if you want content shared, good news is a fine place to start. Users are consciously curating their image on social and want the bulk of it to be one of positive good cheer. Brands can help them by providing uplifting stories to spread.


We’ve heard it often; posts that evoke emotion perform best. As brands, we then lean our heads to the side like confused dogs, completely unaware of how to elicit emotion. The answer is…good news. The answer is hope amidst gloom & doom news. The answer is that warm feeling of being a part of making something or somebody better. Emotions speak to passion, and passion is what moves people from passive post-readers to sharers.


Consider Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. In the “Real Beauty Sketches” video, an artist draws women based on their self-descriptions, then again based on a stranger’s description. It illustrates the extent to which women don’t always see their own beauty. Think that struck a chord? 114 million views in 1 month.


No, you don’t have to save the world. But brands do have a real opportunity in 2014 to serve as the social instigators of real and positive change. At the very least, we should become powerful partners to entities already engaged in causes we adopt. Not only will they be happy to have you, your fans & followers will see you, the cause, and themselves as partners on the same team.


You’re not going to be able to buy loyalty like that.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Dec 20, 2013

How Social Media Plays Into the Innovations of 2014, Pt. 1

lightbulbNo doubt 2014 will be filled with tech innovations that alter our landscape, just as 2013 has been.  But how will social media’s role, be it as part of or as a driver of these innovations play out? Some educated speculation:


Wearable Tech

It’s not enough that people have technology, now they want to be the technology. Wearables look to be a $50 billion industry in 5 years. Sure some of it makes you look downright odd. But in 2014 people will get more comfortable sporting smartrings, smartbracelets, smartwatches, smartwigs, and connected glasses.


Why? We apparently have no desire to ever be “unplugged.” Our vital signs, our exercise achievements, how we’re sleeping, what we’re eating, our location, what sounds we’re hearing, how we interact with the “Internet of Things” (including our cars), will increasingly be collected, recorded, then often published on social. We’re social creatures who like doing life together. Today, we stay “together” via social.


Wearable tech is also about immediately available info. We want to know who’s nearby, what places are nearby, what their reviews are, how to get there, and what we can get if we go. We want all that within reach, no matter the place or time. Mobile social is already being built on these capabilities, with all the opportunities for brands that entails.


Mobile

Speaking of mobile, with over 6.8 billion mobile users worldwide and growing, we’re already talking about laptops being passé just as we were saying the same of desktops. Be it for work or play, people want everything they use immediately in hand.


Mobile innovations will be less about new features (a phone that bends!) and more about the movement of more of our activities to mobile. Nielsen shows 38% of tablet users and 24% of phone users bought something through their device. The public is growing comfortable with that, and the social component of commerce will make such experiences evermore frictionless, timely and relevant.


Ad spending on mobile and the social that accompanies it will soar well beyond the $11.4 billion projected for 2013 as brands capitalize on the ability to reach out to those near their establishment, or to project a need based on mobile data. Understanding the need to offer up things of real and immediate value, loyalty programs will be big in 2014, with social used to drive and administer them.


More mobile apps will enjoy downloads, which hit 102 billion in 2013, up from 64 billion in 2012. With no more patience for poor mobile browser experiences, consumers will require a mobile app to do what they want to do. Once they have the app, comfort with making purchases inside of it will grow, projected to account for 48% of app store revenue by 2017. Many of these apps will have social components, and of course will be marketed via social.


At the root of all this mobile activity is the ability to gather invaluable big data on consumer behavior, patterns, interests, whereabouts, buying activities, customer service activities, and influencer behavior on their friends. “Getting it right” in 2014 will mean being able to get and activate this mobile sourced data


Wordless Stories & Data Visualization

Action movies do well in international markets. The dialogue is sparse, and the story can be followed even if you don’t speak the language. In 2013, imagery drove engagement. We saw bigger pictures, better pictures, using images to communicate the message, infographics, Instagram Direct for visual messaging, etc. Every platform dedicated themselves to more visual experiences.


2014 innovations will make creating such imagery easier than ever, and social will continue to make it easier to share those images. People and brands will get much better at understanding the best images evoke emotion.


The imagery movement will extend to data presentation in 2014. Beyond the clever infographic, the results of massive, often complex data crunching tell stories, which must then be presented in clear and memorable ways. If that isn’t done, the data and the potential lessons are wasted.


Most will tell you data visualization is downright hard, especially if you want personal, interactive experiences. Ask for big data visualization in real time and you really get puzzled looks. But in 2014 we’ll get closer to the goal in terms of tech and cost, able to funnel social data into those equations and use social to distribute results. Yes, even real-time interactive ones.


3D printing

Want an open-source 3D metal printer for only $1500? Michigan Technological University might have one for you. And that’s indicative of how fast prices are falling and capabilities are rising for individuals to turn software blueprints into real world items.


Studies show printer owners could save up to $2,000 a year cranking out basic goods themselves, and we’ve seen 3D printers make an array of amazing things like movie collectibles, medical applications, stronger & lighter jet engine parts, jewelry, albums, clothing, hearing aids…the list goes on. Complete plastic 3D printer kits can be had for only $250, so it’s not hard to see the masses getting into this game in 2014.


To help them, 3D print shops are popping up everywhere, with no shortage of object blueprints being uploaded every day from a variety of sources where they can be downloaded free and turned into solid objects. You can bet blueprint designers will be collaborating, designing and marketing on social, requests for blueprints will be made via social, blueprint reviews will be posted on social, and photos and videos of finished products will populate social channels.


Oh there are far more innovations on the horizon than that. And for every title with “Part 1” in it, there should be a Part 2. So touch base next week for this continued gaze into our social future.


@mikestiles
Photo: Sufi Nawaz, stock.xchng

Tuesday Dec 17, 2013

Socially Enabled Enterprise Resolutions for 2014

Today’s post comes from Jack Newton, Dir. of Outbound Product Management & Strategy for Oracle Social Cloud. He shares some results from Oracle’s Socially Enabled Enterprise study which looks through the eyes of more than 900 Marketing and IT leaders at how organizations are leveraging social technologies and practices around the world.


2014 notebookWith 72% of adult Internet users in the U.S. being active on at least one social network, you can’t ignore social’s power to shape your brand. But driving engagement should just be the starting point – not the destination.


When social capabilities are woven into the fabric of daily business operations - from consumer marketing and sales, to customer service and research, to employee communications and collaboration – social has the potential to go far beyond building brand awareness to the transformation of the organization. Creating better customer experiences, enabling more responsive internal networks and driving organizational efficiencies are just some of the paybacks.


With all of the potential benefits, it’s time to resolve to make 2014 the year of the Socially Enabled Enterprise.


Resolution 1 – Dedicate Yourself to the Cause

Chances are that your organization aspires to be socially enabled since 97% of Marketing and IT leaders surveyed say it's part of their strategic agenda.


There are several reasons why you should be prepared to get more social. Consider:

  • Enterprises are increasing their investment in social platforms. Eight in ten believe their organizations will increase their social business application investment over the coming year.
  • More funding for social may be available. A sizable number of Marketers and IT leaders (48% and 35%) believe that it will be easier to get funding for social business initiatives over the next 12 months.
  • Get ready to grow your staff. More than half of IT and Marketing leaders indicate that the size of their respective departments will grow over the next 12 months.


If you’re already well on the way, then challenge yourself to build upon the success that you’ve experienced. If you’re just getting started, assess where you are today and create a roadmap for where you want to head.


Resolution 2 – Use Social for More Than Just Marketing

Sharing what you’re learning from social listening may inspire you and your peers to think about new and better ways to serve customers.


Today almost half of study respondents use insights from social within their department to learn informally. Some of the top ways that study respondents anticipate that they will use insights derived from social platforms in the future include:

  • Integration into customer care initiatives (60%)
  • Leverage departmentally to help impact goals (62%)
  • Inform product and R&D efforts (45%)


When it comes to R&D and new product development today, organizations outside of the U.S. are significantly more likely to use social business insights: Non-U.S. at 38.6% compared to 29.5% for U.S.


Resolution 3 – Celebrate Success

Now you’re on board and have some insights and goals in place. What should you do if others don’t share the same excitement around socially enabling the organization?


First, don’t feel discouraged. It could just be you are outpacing the ability of the organization to adapt. According to the study, 43% Marketing and IT leaders believe it will take their companies more than a year to leverage social business activities throughout their organizations.


One way to kick start social is to resolve to make showing progress a priority; Set some concrete objectives, champion them departmentally at first, and then work your way up the chain of command so others can see what successes you are having. Keep an eye out for opportunities to achieve some quick wins. A succession of quick wins goes a long way toward building momentum and shows commitment. Early success often earns you freedom to try more with social.


Start the Year Off Right

Start the year off on solid ground by immediately leveraging social. Listen to what's being said by your customers, prospects, influencers, competitors and detractors on social networks. Use what you learn to guide your company’s efforts in marketing, sales, product development, human resources, customer support and more. Your competitors are doing it. And if you don't, 2014 may be a year when they pass you by.


So say goodbye to 2013 and make 2014 the year you become the catalyst to make your company a socially enabled enterprise!

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net


Friday Dec 13, 2013

Stop It: Things That Annoy Customers on Social Media

stop annoying social mediaYou can’t please everybody.  But that’s no reason to throw hands in the air and adopt a “they’ll take what we give them” approach to content and social strategy.


As customer centricity grows as a guiding mantra, brands should internalize that social followers are not obligated to us in any way. They do us a favor just connecting. So if your strategy is “let’s see how much neglect and inconsideration they’ll take before they leave us,” you’ll find the answer is…not much. Some things we’re doing to chase them away:


Making Them Jump Through Hoops

I recently tried to join a forum for a Wordpress template. It was a 9-step process involving forms, questions, captchas, email verification, and authentication codes. By step 3, I already knew I wasn’t joining and would delete the whole template forever. I only got to step 9 because I was curious, and laughing.


Oops Pages

Sometimes it’s the network’s fault, sometimes the brand’s fault. Users have come to fully expect sites to work. When there’s a glitch, they’re genuinely surprised. That causes them to start thinking about things like security, privacy, and whether the page deserves their trust and participation at all.


No Mobile Optimization

It’s not like it hasn’t been reported. The shift to social usage on mobile is pronounced and growing. No one should ever experience any page on mobile that doesn’t adapt and adjust to the mobile environment. It screams dinosaur.


Illiteracy

You think spelling and grammar don’t matter, especially with young people. But in a Disruptive Communications survey, it was the top item most likely to damage users’ opinion of a brand at 42.5%. For 18-29 year-olds, it came in 2nd at 20.9%. Mistakes happen. But consistent disregard is insulting to readers and cripples the message.


Irrelevancy

No user should have to ask, “Why am I getting this?” If your posts have nothing to do with why someone followed your social channel, you’re shouting, “I don’t know who you are and I don’t care” from the rooftops.


No Incentive

Special, inside info & deals are among the top reasons people connect with brands on social at 58%. Consider what you’re up against. Forrester Research shows only 6% of 12-17-year-olds want to follow brands on Facebook. Almost half say they don’t want brands there at all. Only 12% of 18-24-year-olds want to connect with brands. And TNS Digital Life tells us 57% of consumers don’t want to engage with brands on social. If they connect with you, it’s a big deal. Honor that and offer things of true value in return.


Ignoring Them

IF customers befriend you on social, another key reason they did so was to reach you with questions or problems. 28% of young consumers expect you to get back to them. Insight Strategy Group shows 55% think social’s the best way to give feedback and get service. Don’t answer and customers will know your social is all for you, not them. The tech is there to listen, integrate with CRM systems, and respond.


Going “Used Car Salesman” On Them

Posting things that are too “salesy” is the overall 2nd most cited practice damaging brands on social. Unfortunately, doing so is deep in brands’ DNA. The growing call for social to generate sales risks pushing brands into dangerous territory where fans can develop a counter-productive negative impression. Seriously, if you want to advertise instead of do social, do it.


Making Things Hard to Find

This just in: You aren’t the only one posting on social. Users are flying through News Feeds at top speed and value their time highly. If you’re lucky enough to get a click, that click had better get them right to the promised info (see hoops above). 54% think social is a useful place to get details on products. Make sure that info is easy, short and clear.


Not Serving the Right Kind of Porridge

Users leave because they get too many posts from a brand. Some users leave because they don’t get any content from a brand. Our task is to find the posting frequency that’s most acceptable to most of our audience. Just as Golidlocks was finicky about her porridge temperature, users are touchy about how often they see you. Just remember, posts are normally welcomed if they’re good.


Being Patronizing

We’re going to try to go viral! We’re going to try to be funny! We’re going to try to be cutting edge! If you’re using the word “try,” that’s a great big warning flag. Young users can especially sniff out “trying” to appeal to them a mile away, and it’s a turn-off. Don’t embarrass yourself. Determine your brand voice & personality, then be that…as naturally and as genuinely as you can.


I’m sure you see plenty of other misguided brand practices on social out there. Would love to hear some that especially get under your skin.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng


Tuesday Dec 10, 2013

The Year in Facebook: Part 2

2013 smartphoneHopefully you’ve already ready Part 1 of our journey because today we continue our walk down memory lane, pondering some of the bigger moments for Facebook in 2013.


Comment Threads and Ranked Replies

Facebook is all about conversations, right? Turns out conversations don’t necessarily happen in a linear fashion. So in an effort to get more engagement per post, Facebook started allowing replies to specific comments under a post. That makes the conversations threaded and more organized. Also, exchanges that get the most engagement will rise to the top of the post thread so quality content gets the most exposure.


Marketing Milestone

BOOM! In June, Facebook announced it hit 1 million active advertisers.


Embedding. Posts to Go.

Were posts happy staying on Facebook? We’ll never know, because in July Facebook liberated them by letting them get embedded on sites across the web. This meant more people would see Facebook originated content all over the place. Users could also engage the post without ever going to Facebook. In August, the embeds were made even better, with enhancements to mobile experiences and videos that played right in the embed.


Teen Trouble?

Throughout the year, analysts were keeping on eye on whether or not young people were getting tired of, or moving away from their usage of Facebook. As of August, the fastest growing demo was 45 to 54 year olds. Whether or not youngsters were especially turned off by ads, early in the year Facebook altered Edge Rank which resulted in News Feed appearances by brands becoming even more rare. For 13-19 year olds, platforms like Tumblr, Instagram (fortunately owned by Facebook), and Snapchat continued to grow throughout 2013. 61% of teens said Tumblr was their fave social site.


It’s All About Pretty Pictures

It was the summer of imagery. Facebook made millions of pictures from Shutterstock available, free, to use in Facebook ads, fully searchable and available within the ad creation tool. Admins could also do simultaneous uploading and make several ads with several images. Want several users to be able to add to your photo album? Facebook did that too. Up to 50 contributors can share up to 200 photos each. Generating much discussion, the summer was also used to point out to users their likenesses could be used in connection with ads. You can limit how, but not if, you can be associated with commercial content.


After the summer, it was the Fall of BIG images. Page post link ads on desktop went 3.5 time bigger, and images connected to links were 4 times bigger on mobile and 8 times bigger on desktop. Even the Suggested Pages feature got more visual pop in November.


Hey Community Manager, Feel Free to Mess Up!

It was one of the most asked-for features users wanted from Facebook. What if you published a post and it had a big, glaring mistake in it? You couldn’t go back in and fix it. But in September, it was announced you could. And all the people breathed a sigh of relief.


What They Bought and What They Might

Facebook enjoyed much success watching its Instagram purchase flourish. Mobile photos, hashtags, short videos, what wasn’t to like? The absence of revenue for one thing. Ads came to Instagram, looking much like Facebook ads, labeled as sponsored. What kind of ads you see depends on your activities on Instagram and Facebook. The next rumored feature, private messaging.


In October, Facebook reportedly offered $1 billion for Snapchat, apparently having lost faith in their lookalike effort called Poke. CEO Evan Spiegel said no, believing his 350 million photo messages per day will only grow. What the offer did show is Facebook’s commitment to adding the tools young users love. And what they love going into 2014 is sharing photos via mobile, with at least some level of perceived privacy.


What will we see from Facebook in 2014? It’s often said the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, so we can likely look for further efforts to super-serve marketers leveraging Facebook’s vast social data, the addition of features user behavior exhibits is desired, efforts to make Facebook “stickier,” more mobile-friendly strategies, and more image-based design. And auto-playing video ads.


Maybe.


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Friday Dec 06, 2013

The Year in Facebook: Part 1

2013 keyAs we head into another year of jarringly fast advancements in social media and social marketing, we thought it might be nice to reminisce over some of the bigger shifts the granddaddy of them all, Facebook, underwent in 2013. It’s quite a list, and it doesn’t even include news related to the business of Facebook like staff changes and shareholder highs and lows.


The New Facebook Graph Search:

We all knew there was an astonishing amount of user data being collected on Facebook, 8 years worth. The question was how it would be used. Enter Graph Search. Users could now search for more than profiles. They could drill down to see friends who like Dr. Who, or friends who like Cajun that live in New Orleans. Graph Search was one of the things that started opening marketers’ eyes to the coming Big Data revolution and the need for a fully integrated, socially enabled enterprise. In September, Graph Search became even more powerful as results now included status updates, photo captions, check-ins and comments.


The Looming Auto-Play Video Ads

Considering word started coming out in the beginning of the year we might start seeing automatically playing video ads in our Facebook News Feeds, it’s interesting to note that we’re closing out 2013 without them. Marketers want more attention-grabbing ad positioning and types. Facebook certainly wants more revenue, it was projected the video ads could bring in $1 million to $2.4 million per spot. But the trick is getting advertisers what they want without chasing away the audience. In February it was predicted they’d be here by the middle of the year. In May we heard it could be as early as July. In September, the news was they had been delayed indefinitely. Advertisers were reluctant to be the first to potentially draw user wrath, Facebook debated whether the audio should auto-play as well as the video, and browser extensions were born to block the ads upon arrival.


Changes to the Timeline

You spend a lot of time looking at Facebook Timelines, right? Well regardless of how many people go to them, the Timeline got a major redesign early this year. Friends, pictures, Likes and interests and notes went into a column on the left so updates could live on the right. And no more preview boxes for Friends, Photos and Map. Those turned into a text menu bar under the cover image. Later, the About page was more customizable, so that should anyone wander onto your Timeline, they could see a better presentation of the music, movies, and books you like, this time in the form of apps.


The New News Feed

In March, Facebook updated the News Feed in the first big way since 2006. The goal? Play up images (since half of content in the average News Feed is pictures) and get quality articles from publishers in front of users. Based on what you’ve liked, you see commonly read articles about it. You also got more options about different feeds you can view, from friends only to photos only to games only. It was also built for consistency across mobile devices. Then in December, along with the stat that referral traffic to media sites soared 170%, the feed was tweaked again to show better suggested, related articles. There was also Story Bumping, which brought posts long forgotten back to the top of Feeds, fueled by new comments on them.


Hey, We Want the Hashtag Too!

No, your worlds weren’t colliding. In March, our Twitter friend the hashtag made its appearance on Facebook. Usage so far has been, let’s just call it questionable. Just as in Twitter, the hashtag can be used to surface similar topics. The move continued the interesting dance in which Facebook strives to be more like Twitter and Twitter strives to be more like Facebook.


Now With More Targeting!

There are few things that excite a marketer more than targeting, and Facebook made moves in that direction. In March they let brands target users for status updates that did not appear on the brand’s Page. That gave brands access to subsets of fans without boring the others. Facebook also rolled out Lookalike Audiences so advertisers can target people who are similar to their existing targets. In October, Facebook expanded on what they did last year when they let brands advertise their mobile apps within News Feeds. That worked, driving over 145 million installs. So the update lets them target people who have already downloaded the app for added engagement with it beyond the download.


Obviously, it was a busy year. So be sure and join us for our next post and Part 2 of the Year in Facebook.


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday Dec 03, 2013

6 Reasons Marketing and IT Might Be “Frenemies”

The two areas being most dramatically affected in the modern transformation of the corporation is marketing and IT. What’s more, the changes involve a forced coming together of two of the most unlikely of compatriots. It can be awkward.


A “frenemy” is someone you’re technically friends with, but the friendly part exists mostly on the surface. Neither is exactly cheering on the other. Here are some reasons marketing and IT are set up for such a relationship.


1. There’s someone or something making them play nice.

Frenemies usually don’t come together by choice. They’re pushed into it by circumstances or some authority figure. In this case, business changes imposed by socially empowered consumers have CEO’s fully expecting their marketing and IT teams to unite and meet these new challenges…like it or not.


2. They’re usually very different people.

Think about company holiday parties of the past. Did the marketing people hang out with the IT people? Didn’t think so. There’s often a different vibe, a different language, and business goals are viewed from a different angle. No longer can each refer to the others as “those guys over in marketing or IT.”


3. There’s resentment over who has the most.

Who has the biggest budget and the most control? The Gartner prediction of January 2012 is oft repeated; the average CMO will have a larger IT budget by 2017 than the average CIO. IT is being eyed for cost containment, not investment. IDC says about 2/3 of tech spending for marketing and rising already comes from marketing. Add to dropping IT budgetary needs the fact that tech strategy is increasingly being led by the CMO, and it can be a tough pill to swallow.


4. Fear of being the odd person out.

Larry Weber of the W2 group points out CIO’s are realizing they may soon basically be working for the CMO as the tech arm of marketing. An Economist survey of C-suite execs found 57% expect their IT function to change significantly over the next 3 years, 43% said their company will increasingly use IT as a commodity service, and already 1 in 6 CIO’s have no real role in setting IT strategy. The choices are to fight (hoping the CEO won’t side with the department driving lead gen), or follow Dell CIO Andi Karaboutis’ lead and make your primary concern “how do I enable this enterprise so they have what they need?”


5. Lack of trust.

CIO’s think marketing promises things without consulting them and without good business reasons. 36% of CMO’s say IT doesn’t deliver fast enough. An Accenture survey came right out and showed the CMO and CIO don’t trust each other. CMO’s are thinking of IT as a provider, not a partner. So convinced are they that IT works against their interests, they go around them. 45% of marketing execs prefer letting marketing employees handle data with no involvement from IT. IT thinks marketers don’t “get” data integration, standards, privacy or security.


6. Everybody around the bad relationship stands to get hurt.

There’s a reason collaboration between marketing and IT is imperative. When it’s not happening or when it’s being done poorly, the customer experience (and thus business) suffers. Nobody wins…except maybe the competition if they’re more unified.


How can marketing and IT move beyond “frenemies” and into a healthy, productive relationship? The good news is younger workers in both aren’t as keenly aware of the divide. New marketers are not opposed to embracing tech. New IT types embrace facilitating lead gen and want to be agile, internal innovators in the process.


Rapid7’s CIO Jay Leader points out, “In the old days, you couldn’t get anything out of a computer unless you came through me or my organization. Those weren’t the good ol’ days.” If marketing and IT can agree on primary business goals, on what’s needed to reach them, and the parameters to do so securely, the foundation exists for real collaboration.


Part 2 of Oracle’s study with Social Media Today and Leader Networks focuses on collaboration between marketing and IT departments, and how enterprise organizations are faring in that respect. We invite you to sign up to be alerted to the paper’s release.


@mikestiles
Photo: Martin K, stock.xchng

Friday Nov 29, 2013

Social Commerce: ‘Tis the Season to See Revenue from Social

Shopping CartAh the holidays, the finest marketing, selling and revenue-generating time of the year.  It’s when the public is more willing to spend than ever. All brands have to do is make the process of discovering, researching and purchasing their product as fun and frictionless as possible. In 2013, social commerce has a distinct role to play in that.


What does social commerce, or “sCommerce” even mean these days? It used to primarily refer to the ability to buy products within the Facebook environment. And certainly social management platforms worth their salt offer integrated commerce modules to power such things.


But the truth is, social’s role in holiday shopping resides much closer to the beginning of the purchase journey than to the end. The average consumer today checks 10.4 info sources before buying. Gartner tells us 74% of consumers use social to help them decide what to buy. And that’s taking many forms, from social friend referrals to suggestions based on what you’ve bought before to user-generated shopping pages to a variety of virtual “shopping with friends” environments. Basically, if you want to win a customer, win their friends first.


Friends = trust, where so few other things do. Marketing messages from brands are tainted. Of course you think we should buy what you’re selling. Info from a brand rep is tainted. No presumption of objectivity exists. 92% of shoppers have more confidence in online info vs. anything from a sales clerk or other source. But opinions on social from friends or even strangers who may or may not know what they’re talking about…those are taken to the bank.


And that happens on social. 60% of social shopping starts on Facebook and 15% on Pinterest. RichRelevance says Facebook has the highest conversion rate of the biggest players. And the average order value for Pinterest is $200, while Facebook’s is just over $90 and Polyvore whoops them all at $383.


So if we know the influence on social leads to sales, what should we be doing about it? Let me throw the 2 “F” words at you again…fun and frictionless. The desperate, hard sell is not fun. The most affective social commerce is a non-obnoxious drip that coaxes and reminds shoppers of things they might be interested in.


To be frictionless, your social tech should be as integrated into CRM and other enterprise functions as possible so the customer experience is fast and seamless. Social shoppers are ready to buy, but their expectations are higher. 83% abandoned a purchase after encountering a bad CX.


Make it fun, make it social, make it frictionless, have their friends as existing advocates, and you not only have customers, you have volunteer marketers. Even shoppers 19-24 who buy something in-store are more likely to go post feedback online afterward than others. That’s great if you’re good but horrible for you if you’re on the naughty list. And don’t expect them to complain to your customer service instead of their pals. 73% of Millennials think other consumers care much more about their opinions than the companies themselves do. That’s really sad, but we must have given them that impression somewhere down the line.


So get festive. Make shopping for your product a great time, make it easy to share, give incentives to do so, be there instantly to answer questions, offer them a special deal, offer multiple ways to purchase, thank them, and be there after the purchase. Give them storybook brand experiences they can’t wait to share.


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net


Tuesday Nov 26, 2013

Make Your Customers Thankful With a Bountiful Customer Experience

Consider the value of a thankful customer.  A customer experience that goes beyond selling people what they need is the key to turning a mere “satisfied” customer into a thankful customer, which is quite a different thing.


Satisfied customers get what they expect, for the price they expect, and in the way they expect. Or…they had a negative experience but not so negative they took a tangible action against you. They’re quiet. You can get by with satisfied customers, provided your competition isn’t doing a better job than you are.


Thankful customers feel they’ve found something special. The product is better than expected. The service is more timely, attentive, and helpful than expected. The way the company seems to know who they are is unexpected. Thankful customers are not quiet. They’ve been given a good story to tell their friends…so they do. Having thankful customers positions you to devastate competitors.


Making customers thankful takes effort, commitment, and an unrelenting obsession with the customer experience. That should be easy to do considering good customer experiences = money.


  • A Dimensional Research survey found 62% of B2B and 42% of B2C customers bought more after a good experience, while 66% and 52% respectively stopped buying after a bad one.
  • 95% of respondents who had a bad experience told someone about it. 54% shared it over 5 times.
  • The buying decision was impacted for 86% of people who read negative reviews.
  • Zendesk tells us 24% of people keep seeking out the same vendor for 2 years after a good experience, while 39% will avoid a vendor for at least 2 years after a bad one.
  • ClickSoftware says 60% of customers are actually willing to pay more if it will get them a better experience.
  • It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for 1 negative one.
  • For every customer service complaint, 26 other customers are quietly unhappy.
  • Acquiring a new customer costs about 5-9x more than selling to an existing one, and existing customers spend 67% more than new ones.


Whew. Clearly, taking customers for granted, hiding from them, or dismissing their feelings literally costs money. Whereas happy, thankful customers make you money, save you money, and actually market for you. So obviously, brands are out there right now obsessing over customer experience since it would be so completely absurd not to, right? Think again.


In 2012, 75% told Forrester their goal was to “differentiate on the basis of customer experience.” Yet most scored an “OK” or “very poor” on Forrester’s customer experience index. In fact, it’s been getting worse. The tiny percentage ranking “excellent” started going down in 2007 and is now at an all-time low.


eConsultancy and CACI found only 20% of companies have a well-developed strategy for integrated customer service. As for social, 81% of execs know active social processes and culture are essential, but only 65% offer social for sales and service.


Are brands so fiercely opposed to creating positive customer experiences and putting customer happiness over what’s convenient, cheap or easy for the company that they’d rather go under first? Hardly.


Awesome experiences that create loyal, thankful customers arise out of technical and organizational processes. Intimate knowledge of the customer requires listening and data. It requires holistic integration so data can inform across every CRM and CX component. It requires analytics that fuel perpetual improvement so each experience is better than the last. It requires consistency across channels. It requires new internal partnerships and collaboration. And it requires flexibility to adapt and better cope with disruption (which isn’t going to stop). These things are far from easy.


But that vision is available and growing bigger and better every day. Now the desire to create bountiful, surprising customer experiences must grow strong enough that brands feel absolutely compelled to execute on that vision.


@mikestiles
Photo: Chris Dickson, stock.xchng

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