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

Friday Nov 22, 2013

3 Ways Healthcare Can Leverage Social Media

Today’s post comes from Director of Outbound Product Strategy for the Oracle Social Cloud Angela Wells after a highly successful webinar she presented on the use of Social Media in the healthcare vertical.  Learn what she says and your blood pressure might go down a little.


handbonesAs important and relevant as healthcare is in all of our lives, it's gratifying to know that many healthcare companies are actually doing a whole lot right online.  They’re building connections with their current and potential patients with each additional useful piece of information and improved digital experience.


I recently hosted a webinar about how healthcare companies are using social media.  Thank you to everyone that attended and contacted me with additional insights and questions.  (If you missed it, you can still check it out here.)  For several years, I consulted with leading healthcare companies to help improve their patient experience and marketing.  Social media offers a great channel to connect with key stakeholders, provided it is appropriately used.  Here are some essential ways to leverage social media for success:


Actively Engage with Potential Patients

In healthcare or any industry, the key to successfully connecting with potential customers is to provide value – always provide value from your customer’s perspective, not value to your company in that you’re raising awareness of a brand, idea, or promotion.  In healthcare, providing value means providing useful information, which may mean highlighting your own organization’s research or summarizing other research in ways that regular people can understand (not just people who work in healthcare).  Additional important ways to engage with potential patients include:

  • Leverage the unique opportunity of social – be active on social media and provide relevant info where people are looking.
  • Offer insights into healthcare changes – leverage this unique time to be a resource to confused consumers and businesses.
  • Enable online scheduling, doctor searches, and relevant info.


Successfully Connect with Caretakers and Loved Ones of Patients

Most successful healthcare organizations have probably already figured out that patients aren’t the only ones who matter.  The loved ones and caretakers of patients are incredibly important.  The Pew Internet and Health survey reported that 54% of online health searches were on behalf of someone else.  


Since people are searching online for health information for others, you must provide information that helps them care for and advances health conversations with their loved ones.  Ways to connect with caretakers include:  

  • Build relationships through online communities – They provide a valuable way to manage the tricky balance between intimacy & anonymity, so caretakers can be open about their experiences and concerns.
  • Offer resources specific to their perspectives – Suggested conversation starters and checklists can provide valuable comfort to caretakers.
  • Provide info, advice and empathy – Realize caretakers are impacted by a patient’s health too, and offer a forum for support.
  • Enable easy sharing with the patients – Make sure your content can be forwarded, posted, and printed so caretakers can easily pass the information to their loved ones.


Attract Top Tier Talent

Leveraging social media can give your organization a chance to present a brand and experience that will attract potential employees.  The almost unavoidable (necessary evil?) job sites have been around for years… but that’s unlikely to be your actual recruiting path for the best hires.  Over time, your organization can build connections with passive job searchers.  When they’re ready to leave their current jobs, they’ll think of you. 

  • Network where they are and through their peers & groups – Your current employees can provide valuable connections to future employees through their friends, previous coworkers, and classmates. 
  • Make it easy to get to know you – Formats like videos and blogs can help bring your brand to life for potential employees.
  • Follow relevant hashtags and handles – Forums like Twitter chats can help you listen to perspectives on key topics and offer a chance to raise awareness of your organization’s key points of view.  One you can check out is #hcsm for healthcare and social media on Sunday nights at 9pm EST. 

So What’s Next?

Learn from the best.  Check out sites like www.mhadegree.org to learn from the most social media-friendly hospitals.  The MHA Degree provides a scorecard of the hospitals that can help you identify some great ideas your organization can use as well.

Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Nov 19, 2013

How to Staff Your Organization for Social

HelpEvery company is different.  One size does not fit all. But with social spreading and integrating into multiple departments across the organization, it might be nice to have a little guidance on just how to staff for social.


Much is written about a mythical creature that can run 5-6 social channels by themselves; from strategy to content planning to content production to interdepartmental liaison to campaigns to internal cheerleader to community management (24/7 on each channel mind you) to analytics to reporting…and for $50k a year. Legend has it they fly in on unicorns and shoot candy out of one hand and champagne out of the other.


Sadly, far too many brands caught flat-footed by social see its growing number of functions and applications and conclude the “smart” play is to stack multiple, highly diverse skillset expectations onto one soul vs. actually resourcing social for maximum impact. If they were running a baseball team, they’d be sending their catchers out to pitch.


Marketingprofs reported businesses with revenues under $1 billion most likely have 1-5 employees dedicated to social. Others have NO employee dedicated to social. A Ragan survey shows 65% of social media leaders do social as an add-on to their other work. This is madness and will result in a horrible social customer experience for your fans.


So what should you look for, and in what order?


Priority Hire #1: Nothing will happen without someone managing every social channel your brand is on. Don’t low-ball this person. They’re literally going to be the public voice of your freaking brand. Kind of important right? They need great judgment, which can’t be taught. They need good intuition for what content to curate. They need a cool head and stamina. And if this person is all you’ve got, giving them the right tech tools for social media management shouldn’t even be up for debate.


Priority Hire #2: Nor will anything happen in terms of the engagement that makes social so powerful without a content creator. Without content, you have a stage and you’re putting nothing on it. That doesn’t make sense. This person has to be a writer, journalist, entertainer, and audio-visual producer. They have to be amazingly prolific with an ability to keep their finger on the pulse of your topic. If you’re lucky, they can also construct and run your content strategy and content calendar.


Priority Hire #3: What good is building that audience and putting out all that content if you don’t know how it’s doing? Analyst-types are the polar opposites of creative types. If you expect your writer and video producer to also be the best social analysts available, think again. Great analysts live to watch those social metrics and crunch the data so strategy adjustments can be made ASAP.


Priority Hire #4: Now that you’ve got the people who do the in-the-trenches work, you’re next salary allocation can go toward someone who operates at a higher level to put the pieces together into a more connected, coherent strategy. This person is the conduit to the C-suite, assembles the social stakeholders in various departments for input, enlists employees in the social effort and sets policy, fights for paid social budgets and content budgets, and has their eye on the business goals for social.


Where should priority #4 come from? The debate goes on. A Creative Group survey of ad and marketing execs had 39% of them saying PR is best suited to oversee social, with marketing right behind at 35%...interesting given how marketing has driven the social initiative to this point. But for all social hires, worry more about innate applicable talents and genuine passion for social over resumes and where they came from.


What all social hires (and the people hiring them) should grasp is that social is an around-the-clock, around-the-calendar affair. And if business is becoming more about marketing, and marketing is becoming more about trust & relationship building, and trust & relationship building is won via content and social…then look for such practitioners to continue becoming business’ most sought-after, in-demand MVP’s.


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Friday Nov 15, 2013

Big Data Crucial to Seeing the Social Marketing ROI Light

LighthouseEveryone calls for the definitive ROI of social marketing, and while we can debate if such a beast exists, we should all agree Big Data is the path to it. In fact, if anyone can show me the ROI of marketing in the dark in 2013, please do.


Remember when people with clipboards in malls tried to take you away to a small room and ask you questions for an hour in exchange for a modest gift certificate? That’s the kind of ambush it used to take to find out what customers liked.


Look at us now. Millions all over the globe are on multiple social platforms voluntarily giving us vast amounts of information about their preferences and behaviors every second. With CRM, we also know what they bought, when they bought it, at what price, and whether they contacted customer service with a problem. They’re giving brands tons of info we claimed we wanted. In return, we act like we have no idea who they are.


To be fair, it’s a lot more info than most brands were ready for. 90% of the world’s data was generated in the last 2 years alone. 80% of that data is unstructured, meaning legacy systems were never intended to deal with it. But that unstructured data is what gives us the kind of customer insight that makes the relevant, personalized, one-on-one customer experiences increasingly essential for modern business possible. So we should probably get serious about it.


Being unable to spot trends, not knowing what your target audience is into, not being able to predict future likely behaviors or product needs, not knowing which customers can influence others in your favor, not knowing which conversations you should join, not knowing the history of a customer who reaches out to you for help, all of that leaves you in the dark.


You know what happens in the dark? You can’t see anything and you miss a lot.


If you’re not ready for big data now, the future won’t be getting any easier for you. Computer Services Corp. says the volume of data produced is expected to be 44 times greater in 2020 than it was in 2009, 75% of it being created by individuals. Even if all you care about is SEO, the major search engines are placing a renewed emphasis on the unstructured data represented by social.


So how can there possibly be no ROI in knowing your customers, listening to them, responding to them, making them undyingly loyal, retaining their business, and having them market you to their peers? Big Data is what can get you there. And that’s only going to happen if the CMO and CIO collaborate on data integration connecting social data to enterprise and marketing data.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Nov 12, 2013

A Letter for Your CEO About Social Marketing’s Future

We’ll leave it to you to decide if or how to sneak this in front of them.


mailbox boyDear Chief:


This social marketing thing looks serious. It’s gone beyond having a Facebook page and putting our info and a few promotions on it. It’s seriously disrupting how we’ve always done marketing. And its implications reach well beyond marketing.


My concern is that we stay positioned ahead of these changes and are prepared to embrace, adapt and capitalize on these new capabilities as opposed to spending valuable time and money trying to shoehorn social into “the way we’ve always done things.” I’m also concerned about what happens if our competition executes on this before we do.


The days of being able to impose our ad messaging on the masses to great effect are numbered. The public now has the tech tools and ability to filter out things that are irrelevant to them. And frankly, spending ad dollars to reach unlikely prospects isn’t the most efficient path for us either.


Today, our customers have to genuinely love what we do. That starts with a renewed, customer-centric focus on the quality and usability of our product. If their experience with it is bad, they now have very connected, loud voices that will testify against us. We can’t afford that.


Next, their customer service experience, before and after the sale, has to be a pleasant surprise. That requires truly knowing our customers and listening to them. Lip service won’t cut it. We have to get and use as much data on the customer as possible, interact with them wherever they want to interact with us, and commit to impressing them. If we do, they’ll get out there and advertise for us. Since peer-to-peer recommendation is the most effective marketing, that’s money in the bank.


Social marketing is about forming relationships, same as how individuals use social. We want them to know us, trust us, and get real value from knowing us. That requires honesty and transparency that before now might have been uncomfortable. I propose that if we clearly make everything we do about our customers’ wants and needs, we’ll have nothing to hide. It will solidify customer loyalty, retention, and thus, revenue.


These things can’t happen without certain tools and structural changes in the organization. There are social cloud platforms that integrate social management into all of the necessary areas: CRM, customer service, sales, marketing automation, content marketing, ecommerce, etc. This is will give us a real-time, complete view of the customer so their every interaction with us is attentive, personalized, accurate, relevant, and satisfying.


Without it, we’re just a collage of disjointed systems, each gathering data that informs only its own departmental silo. The customer is voluntarily giving us everything we need to know about them to win them over, but we have to start listening and putting the pieces together.


There’s still time. Brands are coming to terms with this transition to the socially enabled enterprise, but so far they aren’t moving very fast. Like us, they’re dealing with long-entrenched technologies and processes. CMO’s and CIO’s have to form new partnerships. Content operations have to be initiated and properly staffed and funded. Various departments must be able to utilize interconnected big data.


What will separate the winners from the losers? Well chief, that’s why I’m writing you. It’s in your hands. These initiatives won’t get the kind of priority and seriousness that inspire actual deadlines & action unless they come from your desk. You have to be the champion of customer centricity. You have to be our change agent. You have to be our innovator. Otherwise, it’s going to be business as usual, and that puts us in a very vulnerable place.


Sincerely,

Your Team


@mikestiles
Photo: Gary Scott, stock.xchng


Friday Nov 08, 2013

Say What? Podcasting As Part of Your Content Marketing

microphoneWhat do you usually do in your car on the way to work?  Sing along to radio? Stream Pandora or iHeartRadio? Talk on the phone? Sit in total silence? Whatever it is you do, you could be using that time to make yourself an expert in any range of topics…using podcasts.


We invite you to follow or subscribe to the daily Oracle Social Spotlight podcast, a quick roundup of the day’s top stories around social marketing and the social networks.


After podcasts arrived in 2004, growth was steady but slow. The concept was strong: anyone with a passion for any subject could make a show for anyone who cared to listen. Enter the smartphone, iTunes, new podcasting platforms, and social, and podcasting became easier than ever and made more sense for both podcasters and listeners. Stats show 1 in 5 smartphone owners are podcast consumers and 29% of Americans have listened to a podcast.


The potential audience is also larger than ever. “Baked in” podcast apps on over 200 million devices expose users to volumes of audio content with just a tap. 97 million Americans are driving to work every day by themselves. And 38% of Americans listen to audio on a digital device each week, a number that’s projected to double by 2015.


Does that mean your brand should be podcasting? That’s part of a larger discussion about your overall content strategy, provided you have one. But if you do and podcasting is a component of it, here are some things to keep in mind:


  • Don’t podcast just to do it. Podcast because you thought of a show customers and prospects will like that they can’t get anywhere else.
  • Sound quality matters. Good microphones are not expensive. Bad sound is annoying, makes your brand feel cheap, and will turn today’s sophisticated ears off.
  • The host matters. Many think they belong on the radio. Few actually do. Your brand’s host should be comfortable & likeable. A top advantage of a podcast is people can bond with a real person. It’s a trust opportunity, so don’t take it lightly.
  • The content matters. “All killer, no filler” means don’t allow babbling just to fill enough time for an episode. Value the listeners’ time, because that time is hard to get.
  • Put time, effort and creativity into it. Sure you’re a business, but you’re competing with content from professional media and showbiz producers. If you can include music, sound effects, and things that amuse the ears, do it.
  • If you start, be consistent. The #1 flaw in podcasting is when listeners can’t count on another episode or don’t know when it’s coming. Don’t skip doing shows just because you can. Get committed.
  • Get your cover art right. Podcasting is about audio, but people shop for podcasts by glancing through graphics. Yours has to be professional, cool, and informative to get listeners interested.
  • Cross-promote your podcast on all your channels. The competition for listeners is fierce, so if you have existing audiences you can leverage to launch your show, use them.
  • Optimize it for mobile. Assume that’s where most listening will take place. If you’re using one of the podcast platform apps, you should be in good shape.


Frankly, the percentage of brands that are podcasting is quite low, and that’s okay. Once you move beyond blogging and start connecting with real voices, poor execution can do damage. But more (32%) marketers want to learn how to use podcasting, and more (23%) were increasing their podcasting throughout this year.


Bottom line, you want to share your brand’s message and stories wherever your audience might be and in whatever way they prefer to take in content. Many prefer to do that while driving or working out, using the eyes and hands-free medium of audio.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng



Tuesday Nov 05, 2013

In Social Relationship Management, the Spirit is Willing, but Execution is Weak

In our final talk in this series with Aberdeen’s Trip Kucera, we wanted to find out if enterprise organizations are actually doing anything about what they’re learning around the importance of communicating via social and using social listening for a deeper understanding of customers and prospects. We found out that if your brand is lagging behind, you’re not alone.


failure signSpotlight: How was Aberdeen able to find out if companies are putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to implementing social across the enterprise?

Trip: One way to think about the relative challenges a business has in a given area is to look at the gap between “say” and “do.” The first of those words reveals the brand’s priorities, while the second reveals their ability to execute on those priorities. In Aberdeen’s research, we capture this by asking firms to rank the value of a set of activities from one on the low end to five on the high end. We then ask them to rank their ability to execute those same activities, again on a one to five, not effective to highly effective scale.


Spotlight: And once you get their self-assessments, what is it you’re looking for?

Trip: There are two things we’re looking for in this analysis. The first is we want to be able to identify the widest gaps between perception of value and execution. This suggests impediments to adoption or simply a high level of challenge, be it technical or otherwise. It may also suggest areas where we can expect future investment and innovation.


Spotlight: So the biggest potential pain points surface, places where they know something is critical but also know they aren’t doing much about it. What’s the second thing you look for?

Trip: The second thing we want to do is look at specific areas in which high-performing companies, the Leaders, are out-executing the Followers. This points to the business impact of these activities since Leaders are defined by a set of business performance metrics. Put another way, we’re correlating adoption of specific business competencies with performance, looking for what high-performers do differently.


Spotlight: Ah ha, that tells us what steps the winners are taking that are making them winners. So what did you find out?

Trip: Generally speaking, we see something of a glass curtain when it comes to the social relationship management execution gap. There isn’t a single social media activity in which more than 50% of respondents indicated effectiveness, which would be a 4 or 5 on that 1-5 scale. This despite the fact that 70% of firms indicate that generating positive social media mentions is valuable or very valuable, a 4 or 5 on our 1-5 scale.


Spotlight: Well at least they get points for being honest. The verdict they’re giving themselves is that they just aren’t cutting it in these highly critical social development areas.

Trip: And the widest gap is around directly engaging with customers and/or prospects on social networks, which 69% of firms rated as valuable but only 34% of companies say they are executing well. Perhaps even more interesting is that these two are interdependent since you’re most likely to generate goodwill on social through happy, engaged customers. This data also suggests that social is largely being used as a broadcast channel rather than for one-to-one engagement. As we’ve discussed previously, social is an inherently personal media.


Fig1


Spotlight: And if they’re still using it as a broadcast channel, that shows they still fail to understand the root of social and see it as just another outlet for their ads and push-messaging. That’s depressing.

Trip: A second way to evaluate this data is by using Aberdeen’s performance benchmarking. The story is both a bit different, but consistent in its own way. The first thing we notice is that Leaders are more effective in their execution of several key social relationship management capabilities, namely generating positive mentions and engaging with “influencers” and customers. Based on the fact that Aberdeen uses a broad set of performance metrics to rank the respondents as either “Leaders” (top 35% in weighted performance) or “Followers” (bottom 65% in weighted performance), from website conversion to annual revenue growth, we can then correlated high social effectiveness with company performance. We can also connect the specific social capabilities used by Leaders with effectiveness. We spoke about a few of those key capabilities last time and also discuss them in a new report: Social Powers Activate: Engineering Social Engagement to Win the Hidden Sales Cycle.


Fig2


Spotlight: What all that tells me is there are rewards for making the effort and getting it right. That’s how you become a Leader.

Trip: But there’s another part of the story, which is that overall effectiveness, even among Leaders, is muted. There’s just one activity in which more than a majority of Leaders cite high effectiveness, effectiveness being the generation of positive buzz. While 80% of Leaders indicate “directly engaging with customers” through social media channels is valuable, the highest rated activity among Leaders, only 42% say they’re effective. This gap even among Leaders shows the challenges still involved in effective social relationship management.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Nov 01, 2013

Let Me Show You Something: Instagram, Vine and Snapchat for Brands

PhotographerWhile brands are well aware of how much more impactful images are than text-only posts on social channels, today you’re additionally being presented with platform after additional platform for hosting, doctoring and sharing photos and videos.  Can you play in every sandbox? And if you do, can you be brilliant on all of them?


As has usually been the case, so far brands are sticking their toes into new platforms while not actually committing to them, or strategizing for them, or resourcing them. TrackMaven found of the 123 F500 companies using Instagram, only 22% of them are active on it.


Likewise, research from Simply Measured found brands are indeed jumping in, with the number establishing a presence on Instagram up 55% over the past year. Users want them there…brand engagement has exploded 350%, and over 1/3 of the top brands have at least 10,000 followers. BUT…the top 10 brands are generating 33% of all posts, reaping 83% of all engagement.


Things are also growing on Twitter’s Vine, the 6-second looping video app that hit 40 million users in August. The 7th Chamber says 5 tweets a second contain a Vine link. Other studies say branded Vines are 4 times more likely to be shared and seen than rank-and-file branded videos. Why? Users know that even if a video is pure junk, they won’t get robbed of too much of their valuable time.


Vine is always upgrading so you can make sure your videos are worth viewers’ time. You can now edit videos, and save & work on several projects concurrently. What you can’t do is upload a finely crafted video into Vine, but you can do that with Instagram. The key to success? Same as with all other content; make it of value. Deliver a laugh or a lesson or both. How-to, behind the scenes peeks, contests, demos, all make sense in the short video format.


Or follow Nash Grier’s example, which is to just have fun with and connect to your viewers, earning their trust that your next Vine will be as good as the last. Nash is only 15, has over 1.4 million followers, and adds about 100,000 a week. He broke out when one of his videos was re-Vined by some other kid with 300,000 followers. Make good stuff, get it in front of influencers, and your brand Vines could break out as well.


Then there’s Snapchat, the “this photo will self destruct” platform. How can that be of use to brands besides offering coupons that really expire? The jury is out. But with an audience of over 100 million and a valuation of $800 million, media-with-a-time-limit is compelling. Now there’s “Snapchat Stories” that can last 24 hours and be shared to the public at large. You might be able to capitalize on how much more focus gets put on content when there’s a time limit on its availability.


The underlying truth to all of this is, these are all tools. Very cool, feature rich tools, but tools. You can give the exact same art kit to 5 different people and you’d get back 5 very different works, ranging from worthless garbage to masterpiece. Brands are being called upon to be still and moving image artists. That’s what your customers are used to seeing, from a variety of sources. Commit to communicating with them accordingly.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

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