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

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 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

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


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

Tuesday Oct 22, 2013

Get Fanatical About Your Followers

football stadiumIn the fourth of our series of discussions with Aberdeen’s Trip Kucera, we touch on what fans of your brand have come to expect in exchange for their fandom.


Spotlight: Around the Oracle Social office, we live for football. So when we think of a true “fan” of a brand, something on the level of a football fan is what comes to mind. But are brands trying to invest fans on that same level?

Trip: Yeah, if you’re a football fan, this is definitely your time of year. And if you’ve been to any NFL games recently, especially if you hadn’t been for a few years previously, you may have noticed that from the cup holders to in-stadium Wi-Fi, there’s an increasing emphasis being placed on “fan-focused” accommodations. That’s what they’re known as in the stadium business.


Spotlight: How are brands doing in that fan-focused arena?

Trip: Remember fan is short for “fanatical.” Brands can definitely learn from the way teams have become fanatical about their fans, or in the social media world, their followers. Many companies consider a segment of their addressable social audience as true fans; I’ve even heard the term “super-fans” used. So just as fans know and can tell you nearly everything about their favorite team, our research shows that there’s a lot value from getting to know your social audience—your followers—at a deeper level.


Spotlight: So did your research show there’s a lot to be gained by making fandom a two-way street?

Trip: Aberdeen’s new social relationship management research suggests that companies should develop capabilities to better analyze their social audience at a more granular level. Countless “ripped from the headlines” examples, from “United Breaks Guitars” to the most recent British Airways social fiasco we talked about a few weeks ago show how social can magnify the impact of a single customer voice.


Spotlight: So how do the companies who are executing social most successfully do that?

Trip: Leaders, which are the top-performing companies in Aberdeen’s study, are showing the value of identifying and categorizing your social audience. You should certainly treat every customer as if they have 10,000 followers, because they just might, but you can also proactively engage with high-value customer and high-value influencers. Getting back to the football analogy, it’s like how teams strive to give every guest a great experience, but they really roll out the red carpet for those season ticket and luxury box holders.


Spotlight: I’m not allowed in luxury boxes, so you’ll have to tell me what that’s like. But what is the brand equivalent of rolling out the red carpet?

Trip: Leaders are nearly three times more likely than Followers to have a process in place that identifies key social influencers for engagement, and more than twice as likely to identify customer advocates for social outreach. This is the kind of knowledge that gives companies the ability to better target social messaging and promotions like we talked about in our last discussion, as well as a basis for understanding how to measure the impact of their social media programs. I’ll give you an example. I hosted an event at one of my favorite restaurants recently. I had mentioned them in a Tweet several weeks before the event, and on the day of the event, they Tweeted out that they were looking forward to seeing me that evening for the event. It’s a small thing, but it had a big impact and I’d certainly go back as a result.


Aberdeen4Fig


Spotlight: So what specifically can brands use and look at to determine where their potential super-fans are?

Trip: Social graph analysis, which looks at both the demographic/psychographic trends as well as the behavioral connections, can surface important brand value. Aberdeen’s PR and Brand Management research indicated that top-performing companies are more than three times more likely than Followers to both determine demographic trends through social listening (44% vs. 13%), and to identify meaningful customer segments through social (44% vs. 12%). This kind of brand-level insight can complement and enrich traditional market research. But perhaps even more importantly, it can serve as an early warning system for customer experience failures.


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net


Tuesday Oct 08, 2013

Great Customer Service Quotes for the Social Enterprise

Service ChecklistDid you know that this is Customer Service Week? Whether it’s B2B or B2C, the focus is shifting to customer experience and customer-centricity; not just in marketing but across entire organizations as the reality sinks in happy customers are good for bottom lines. We’ve always known that but have been able to get away with not doing anything about it…until social came along and gave the public power.


So given that some of the most engaged tweets to come out of Oracle OpenWorld this year were quotes around good customer experiences, and since quotes tend to inspire further moves in that direction, we treat you to some of the best.


Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning –Bill Gates


Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them. –W. Edwards Deming


Business is a cobweb of human relationships –H. Ross Perot


Brands are facing a new competitive landscape in which self-definition, core values and purpose will increasingly define their ability to reach customers that only allow what is meaningful in their lives to pass through their filter –Simon Mainwaring


Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves. -Steve Jobs


By getting your customers to agree with you in small steps along the way, you have a better chance of reaching agreement when it’s time to do business –Harvey Mackay


Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners. –Jimmy Stewart


The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself –Peter Drucker


Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages. –Henry Ford


The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works. –Jeff Bezos


Well done is better than well said. -Benjamin Franklin


Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game. -Tony Allesandra


Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them. -Kevin Stirtz


There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. -Roger Staubach


One customer well taken care of could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising. -Jim Rohn


The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated. -William James


@mikestiles @oraclesocial
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Oct 04, 2013

The Leaves are Changing, and So Is Marketing

fall leavesDepending on where you live, you might be seeing the changes fall brings as nature begins to alter its color palette.  The leaves are changing, and so is marketing, driven by social marketing and social data.


It’s often said the only sure thing is change. So how do so many of us get caught flat-footed when it comes? Why have we put ourselves in a position where we can’t adapt? Just as the leaves change, so too will technology, the consumers who use it, and the marketing that must appeal to them.


Marketing Used to be About:

“Slickness.” Polished ads delivering deception with blinding speed and beauty so the consumer won’t know what hit ‘em.

Now It’s About:

Transparency. Have you gauged the jadedness of Millenials lately? They regard slick marketers as a parody. You don’t have to be perfect, just helpful.


Marketing Used to be About:

Desperately pounding your message, broadcast with intense repetition so the prospect will be worn down.

Now It’s About:

Giving prospects usable info, when it’s wanted, where it’s wanted. Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research found consumers, on average, needed 10.4 sources of info before making a buy in 2011. Raving fans that don’t regret doing business with you will do your repetition for you.


Marketing Used to be About:

Manipulating and leading. The mission is on pushing the prospect to do what you want.

Now It’s About:

Customers taking the lead. If the product is legitimate and the information about it is useful, customers will move willingly to the sale.


Marketing Used to be About:

Selling & hiding. All that matters is the sale. After that, walls and barriers are put up to shield the brand from the customer.

Now It’s About:

Gold-standard customer service, customer experience, and retention. Corporate marketing cultures are evolving around customer-centricity.


Marketing Used to be About:

Casting a huge net for a few fish.

Now It’s About:

Relevancy. Resources are targeted to qualified prospects based on listening to them, knowing them, and acting on that knowledge.


Marketing Used to be About:

Clumping humans into demographic blobs. You’re not a person, you’re a type.

Now It’s About:

Personalization. Customers give astonishing amounts of info about themselves and their behaviors, willingly. They expect that to be used to interact with them as individuals.


Marketing Used to be About:

Disregarding unhappy customers. “Bad experience? What are you going to do about it?”

Now It’s About:

Living in fear of unhappy good customers. “You got no response from us and started a movement that spread to 250,000 people and got covered in the media? Guess we should have been more attentive.”


Marketing Used to be About:

Ads.

Now It’s About:

Content. Of all the ads you see in a given day, how many can you actually use or bring any value to you?


Marketing Used to be About:

Silos. “That’s not my department.”

Now It’s About:

The socially enabled enterprise. A Forrester/BMA survey of B2B marketing execs had 54% saying their relationship with IT increased dramatically in the past 2 years. It’s about marketing connected to and sharing invaluable big data with every customer touch point for integrated, informed, seamless customer interactions.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Sep 27, 2013

All Together Now: Social Relationship Management is a Team Sport

soccer huddleAs brands adapt to the new world of social across the enterprise and using the massive amounts of available social data to generate superior customer experiences, the question always arises of how to organize internally for the most effective social relationship management possible. We kept the lines of communication open with Aberdeen’s Trip Kucera for a talk on that very subject.


Spotlight: It’s not uncommon to see big brands honestly trying to communicate via social, but winding up with egg on the face for not executing it properly. You probably see the same thing right?

Trip: Well, a funny thing happened in social media earlier this summer. Some folks from the “Occupy” movement tweeted a photo of some chalk art they’d created in front of the new Bank of America building in NYC. That was right after they’d been asked to leave by the local constabulary. The chalk art featured the Monopoly guy and fairly predictable missives about the 99%, etc. The tweet included a mention of @BankofAmerica. No news value here so far, right?


postSpotlight: I’m still impressed with your use of the word “constabulary,” but I bet there’s more to the story.

Trip: There is. As it sometimes goes with social, the response is where things get interesting. @BofA_Help responds with a “helpful” and friendly, but obviously auto-generated tweet, “We are here to help, listen, and learn from our customers and are glad to assist with any account related inquiries.” In fact, they auto-replied to every single retweet of the Occupy post mentioning @BankofAmerica, including those of an increasingly mocking tone. It’s not hard to see how this (auto)-response might come off as the epitome of faceless, nameless corporate America.


Spotlight: It’s one of those things where an instant, generic auto-reply probably sounded like a good idea at the time internally. But in the real world, it exposed them.

Trip: Yes, and the point here isn’t to pile on, but to learn from this rather public moment how we all might be able to do it better. Two thoughts come to mind:

  • Social is personal. It’s an essentially person-to-person medium. Social is interactive and responsive by its nature, and customers expect it that way. Window dressing won’t do anymore. If you’re going to have a social presence, it needs to have presence. Of course, that can make scaling social for large brands challenging.
  • Social is a team sport. Marketing may, and should, have primary responsibility for a firm’s social presence, but it’s a responsibility that’s increasingly shared with other stakeholders, including the sales and support organizations.


Spotlight: We just came out of Oracle OpenWorld and so much of the conversation revolved around customer experience and social’s critical role in it.

Trip: Great customer experience is core to social media success, but social relationship management Leaders, the top performers as identified by Aberdeen’s research methodology, don’t just wait for the magic to happen, they engineer engagement through effective teamwork. Aberdeen’s recent social relationship management research found that as a compliment to their social listening capabilities, top-performing companies are 36% more likely than Followers to identify and prioritize social posts for engagement (45% vs. 33%), and 53% of Leaders have established a workflow to pass info from social marketing to internal stakeholders for follow-up, such as a “hot” lead or customer complaint, compared with 42% of followers. These capabilities are the social version of the 360˚ view of the customer, but also point to the transparency of social. That improperly handled customer service issue can quickly become a drag on social brand equity.


Figure: Social Engagement is a Team Sport

figure
Source: Aberdeen Group, July 2013


Spotlight: So it’s not like you can just go rogue and start doing social for your company. The C-suite has to give the green light. And frankly, getting top-level support has been an issue.

Trip: Organizational imperatives like this often start at the top, and social is no exception. The notion of the socially enabled enterprise has clearly reached the C-level. Senior management at Leader companies is 23% more likely than their Follower counterparts to understand and support the company’s social media strategy. Senior management support is not only instrumental in getting everyone on the same page, so to speak, but in granting “permission” for the organization to develop its social voice as an extension of its culture.


Spotlight: Of course, that permission usually comes with caveats in the form of social media policies, whether those are soft guidelines or hard rules.

Trip: Just as broader corporate culture should be expressed and represented in the norms and policies of a company, its social culture should be at the heart of any social media policy. To this point, we find that Leaders are 30% more likely to have a company policy in place for employee use of social media, 61% vs. 47%.


Spotlight: Sounds like the advice is that if you don’t have any social plan for the organization, let an internal leader craft that plan and support them in it.

Trip: We know that great social media moments start with, and could very well end without, great customer moments. But smart companies also know that winning in the “hidden sales cycle” of social requires more. It requires an organizational commitment to social relationship management that starts at the top and stays all together.


Don’t forget to check out some further insights into just how organizations are dealing with social entering and being applied across the entire enterprise by getting our study of social business from Oracle, Leader Networks, and Social Media Today.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Thursday Sep 26, 2013

Oracle OpenWorld: Day 4

ReggieOracle OpenWorld Day 4 saw a breathtaking America’s Cup win for Oracle Team USA and more keen insight into technology’s forward march in terms of big data, the cloud, customer experience and the morning’s specific focus…social’s astonishing impact on organizations and business.


Social Spotlight once again gets you on the inside and keeps you up to speed on the top thoughts coming out of this incredible annual event.


Keynote on Social with Reggie Bradford, David Vap, Tesco, and LEGO’s Lars Silberbauer.


Technology is being driven by the accelerating trends of social, mobile, data and cloud.


Customer expectations are increasing, creating massive disruptions that make it harder to differentiate, compete and win.


86% will stop doing business with you after one...ONE bad experience.


Only 16% of organizations describe their customer experiences as "advanced."


Your customers couldn't care less about the silos you've built inside of your organization. It’s NOT their problem.


Customers are a wide variety of demographics, and they're trying to engage with you on numerous channels of their choosing.


Oracle's complete CX solutions suite includes marketing, commerce, sales, service, and social.


Digital natives move seamlessly between the real and digital worlds, whichever works best and is most convenient at the moment.


Things are shifting from multiple customers/one experience to one customer/multiple experiences.


He who serves the customer best in this seamless, connected world, wins.


Consumer adoption cycles are going faster. If you're not in a position to adopt and adapt yourself, you're in trouble.


90% of all purchases are subject to social influence.


Companies that collaborate across departments that take advantage of technologies are the most successful.


For social to achieve its true value, it has to be part of a broader ecosystem to enhance the customer experience.


Social is being extended across the enterprise, integrated with the application stack.


Oracle recently announced the integration of the Oracle SRM with key components of Eloqua.


The Oracle SRM is built for global scale, with access to over 700 million messages daily, 185 countries, and 31 global languages.


CX


Empowering Social Business with Meg Bear


Data volume will grow 20 times what it is today by 2020.


300 million photos are uploaded to Facebook daily, and there are an average 400 million tweets per day.


Customers don't stand still in the buying journey. Approach them as one conversation, one transaction, one relationship.


A combined effort is needed from functions that are “onstage” with customers and “backstage” supporting these interactions.


70% of businesses today use social technology and 90% report getting business benefits from it.


Even internally, social collaboration and sharing results in a projected 20-25% increase in productivity.


Brands are moving from using social to broadcast messages to listening, learning and engaging with customers to cultivate relationships.


Social applies across the enterprise: marketing, commerce, selling, customer service, HR, and collaboration.


70% of executives think social can fundamentally change how their organization works. But only 10% rate themselves highly on it.


Just 34% of social professionals think their social is aligned to business goals and outcomes.


The culprits holding back “Social Business” are lack of overall strategy, competing priorities, and lack of business ROI.


Gartner estimates 80% of social business projects will disappoint due to lack of leadership support and taking a narrow view of social.


We're moving from a “siloed” world to a holistic, unified approach - with departments and technology solutions.


Best Practices: Attain executive buy-in & support, align social with clear business objectives, collaborate across people, processes & technology, enact social policy guidance (guidance…not rules), let the company’s social champions lead, integrate social across key areas of the enterprise.


If you’d like to see even more great content that came out of Oracle OpenWorld 2013, it’s ready and waiting for you at OpenWorld Live.


@mikestiles

Wednesday Sep 25, 2013

Oracle OpenWorld: Day 3

team usaOpenWorld rolled into its third day in San Francisco with excitement in the air both about new cloud product announcements from Oracle (Database as a Service and Java as a Service, both with 3 levels of Oracle management to choose from, which stand ready to drop costs and operational complexity for the enterprise), and about the amazing comeback wins by Oracle Team USA vying for the America’s Cup.


And, of course, the focus on Customer Experience at OpenWorld continued. Here now are the easily digestible thoughts that came out of two of those key sessions.


Socially Enable Your Enterprise to Maximize Your Customer Experience, with Meg Bear and Lisa Gidich:


"A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large." -Henry Ford


"There is only one boss. The customer. He can fire everybody in the company by spending his money somewhere else." -Sam Walton


"If you build a great customer experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful" -Jeff Bezos


It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users. It took Twitter 3 years.


Are your ears burning? Fortune 100 companies are mentioned 10,400,123 times per month on social.


They won't take it sitting down anymore. 75% of consumers have posted a negative comment on social after a poor customer experience.


1 in 3 users prefer to contact brands using social rather than the telephone.


Employees have actionable data at their fingertips - and a way to send service inquiries from social to Right Now.


Hello? Hello? 58% of those who tweeted about a bad experience never got so much as a response from the brand.


Brand reality is not meeting customer expectations. 81% of users who reach out on social expect a same-day response.


Exceed your customers' expectations. Their perception is your reality.


The benefits of an integrated Social Relationship Management platform include savings, reduced complexity, smoother workflow, and better customer experiences.

cloud services

Forget B2B and B2C: Technology Enables B2P Marketing, with Angela Wells and Marius Ciortea


B2B or B2C, no matter what you're selling, success depends on connecting with decision makers.


91% of B2C marketers use content marketing. In fact, 78% of CMO's think it's the "future of marketing."


Think there’s a disconnect? 90% of consumers find custom content useful. But marketers spend about 25% of budget on content marketing.


This Just In: B2B buyers and decision makers are people too!


Executives have access to information, peers and influencers on social. So there’s less need for information from vendors “trying to sell me.”


Marketing has to understand the business issues of customers via listening and answering that add value to each step in the buying cycle.


B2B wants content that’s original, consultative and pertinent. Vendors are giving them promotional and technical content instead.


The CMO Council says too few marketers grasp the role and value of content in lead acquisition, qualification, conversion and closure.


It’s not about fans or clicks. It's about the viewers and their engagement.


Latent Semantic Analysis presents themes that filter out noise and refine search in order to get the most accurate signal.


Leverage your experts. Asked how social information would affect health decisions, 60% said they trust info posted by doctors.


Deemphasize lead generation to focus on customer interactions. Concentrate on customer needs. Provide value.


Understand how prospects interact with messages, content and each other. Develop personas so you’ll know exactly who you’re talking to.


Day 4 of OpenWorld lies just around the corner. Keep following @oraclesocial for live tweet coverage of sessions like:



@mikestiles



Tuesday Sep 24, 2013

Oracle OpenWorld: Day 2

Mark HurdIn his Keynote address at OpenWorld, Oracle President Mark Hurd informed the crowd they were going to be hearing a lot about Customer Experience during the mega-event in San Francisco. Saying new consumers are, and will continue to be, much more difficult buyers than we ever were, Hurd added that what makes them “difficult” is simply that they expect to be treated well.


Below are the day’s key thoughts from a CX mini-keynote that followed.


91% of C-suite execs want to be a CX leader in their industry. But only 38% of them have a formal CX initiative. The need is to move from thought leadership to plan-to-solutions leadership.

Steve Miranda, EVP, Oracle Application Development.


CMO's and marketing teams are going from marketing communications to experience engineering. Rallying around the customer should now drive IT decisions. The winning combo is cross-channel optimization + relevant product + meeting individual needs at the right time and on the right channel. Embrace “failing fast”…experimenting, discovering results, learning, and adapting quickly. Being customer-centric can start paying off in the short term, even if the vision is long term.

Glen Hartman, Global Managing Director of Digital Consulting, Accenture Interactive.


eBay customers want tailored shopping experiences across platforms. The journey to a consistent CX is to be able to deliver anytime, anywhere. Today's best practices break all the rules you learned in the past.

Ghufran Ahmed, eBay


90% of commerce is influenced by social. Customer expectations are rising...BUT delivery by so many companies is declining. You can't just outsource social to any 22-year-old digital native. It’s too specialized, too critical. Something with such a tremendous impact on the bottom line should not go to the least experienced employees. Data and customer interactions can be woven into every part of the Oracle Social portfolio...into many functions beyond social. You must know your customer in order to respond to them in the way they want and like being responded to

Meg Bear, GVP, Oracle Cloud Social Platform


Do things that are incremental. The important thing is to just get started. The days of huge projects are gone. Put the customer at the center in unexpected ways to change their perspective of you.

David Vap, Oracle GVP


Attendees also heard from Oracle pros and clients in various sessions that the shift to customer-centricity is indeed yielding results that benefit both the customer and the organization.


Everything we do is about us as consumers, not brands. It's not about what kind of marketing brands send out. Consumers do the talking and sharing about our brands. Social is a global communications transformation. It took the telephone 75 years to reach 50 million users. It took Pinterest 2.75 years.

Erika Brookes, VP Product Strategy, Oracle Social


IT is not brain surgery. Figure out who your audience is and what they're doing on social. Online is another storefront – one that demands tremendous customer service.

Kat Smith, Social Media Director, Petco


Social is one of the most measurable channels - quite easy to track. It's not about "owning" social, it's about being the lead group helping your organization leverage social. Once executives know how to use social, they don't want to leave the social conversation.
Lars Silberbauer, Global Director of Social Media, LEGO


As for IT’s role in this fundamental business and organizational transformation, attendees heard it put quite simply that the CIO is already in the marketing business...they just might not know it yet. Join us on @oraclesocial tomorrow for Oracle OpenWorld, Day 3, with coverage of sessions such as:


  • Socially Enable Your Enterprise to Maximize Your Customer Experience
  • Forget B2B and B2C: Technology Enables B2P Marketing
  • Accelerating Success With Social Customer Service
  • Larry Ellison’s Cloud Keynote Address


And yes, that's Jerry Rice in the photo above who stopped by to pay a visit today.

@mikestiles

Monday Sep 23, 2013

Oracle OpenWorld: Day 1

DataCenter of the FutureOracle OpenWorld 2013 got kicked off in fine fashion Sunday with a theme applicable both to Oracle Team USA and big data…speed. CEO Larry Ellison took the stage to much applause and proceeded to announce systems that take both query and transaction processing to unprecedented levels.


Transactions run faster on row format, analytics run faster on column format. 12c stores data in both formats simultaneously. The M6-32 Big Memory Machine is terabyte-scaled computing featuring 12 cores per processor and 96 threads.


Oracle exec Juan Loaiza demonstrated M6-32 running against 218 billion rows at 341 billion rows/second. It’s a machine perfectly suited for in-memory databases. Flip the switch and your applications runs on Oracle in-memory with no Application changes.


Ellison also announced the Oracle Database Backup Logging Recovery Appliance, designed to back up databases, not just files. It’s built for the protection of critical business data and can be housed either on-site or in the cloud, you decide.


Of course, since treasured Social Spotlight readers are primarily social marketers, such an announcement and terminology might be a tad eye-glazing…depending on just how much your CMO and marketing department has moved toward understanding the CIO and their world.


bannerBut here’s what is important to know. The ability to house, process, and execute transactions using the vast amounts of big data enterprise organizations can pull from multiple sources, including social, is not in question. That means the socially enabled enterprise will not be constrained by query/transaction capacity or speed. Enterprises will be able to act on the information customers willingly give at every touch point in a manner and at a speed that creates a bankable difference in customer experience.


We invite you to follow our Twitter handle @oraclesocial as we live tweet several insightful sessions on OpenWorld’s Customer Experience track. Tomorrow:


  • Oracle Social’s Roadmap and Vision with Tara Roberts
  • Going From Likes to Love: Unlocking the Potential of Social with Erika Brookes
  • Converting Conversations to Currency with Reggie Bradford


We’ll try to make it the next best thing to being there.


@mikestiles

Tuesday Sep 17, 2013

New Study Reveals the Degree to Which Social Business is Being Embraced

office chairsSpecifically, what are organizations in 2013 really thinking about the importance of becoming a socially enabled enterprise? A study from Oracle, Leader Networks and Social Media Today presented for the first time this morning at Social Media Today’s “Social Shakeup” in Atlanta gives us some interesting insight.


In the midst of changing roles for IT and marketing thanks to the social revolution, we wanted to take a good look at how social platform adoption is affecting internal operations and customer-facing initiatives. Respondents were organizations with 100 or more employees that use a social platform, representing over 20 industries and 52 countries.


We’ve talked a lot about the socially enabled enterprise in previous blogs, so maybe it’s time to clearly define it: “A set of collaborative processes that have the potential to yield improved business processes that are customer-driven such as faster time to market with new products and services, more successful research and development outcomes and refined market messages that are explicitly influenced by customer needs.”


Do organizations want to be socially enabled? Are they putting what’s needed in place to achieve it? Are they reorganizing internally to accommodate it? See the full PowerPoint and sign up to get the white paper in its entirety upon its October release. But…


I don’t like waiting either, so let’s go ahead and give you the highlights.

chart 1


  • Organizations are definitely adopting social platforms. Most are using 3-5 of them.
  • The bigger organizations (50,000+ employees) are much farther along in becoming socially enabled enterprises. Nearly half of them say they already are socially enabled.
  • 63% think it’s very important that their company be socially enabled, and becoming socially enabled is regarded as part of the strategic agenda.
  • The transition toward being socially enabled isn’t expected to be a cakewalk. 43% of executives say it’ll take their organizations over a year to truly leverage social throughout their businesses.
  • At the moment, marketing metrics like awareness, customer satisfaction and share of voice are the top social business performance metrics. That’s followed by lead gen & sales and new product development.
  • Respondents anticipate significant growth in the use of insights from social platforms. But right now, most use them within departments for informal learning.
  • The growth in social platform utilization has had a significant or transformational impact on the way 1/3 of respondents interact with customers. 60% plan to integrate social business metrics into customer care initiatives in the next 12 months.
  • Interestingly, organizations outside of the U.S. are significantly more likely to use social business insights for new product development and R&D.


Out of this, a profile of the socially enabled enterprise has started to emerge. It’s a business that has a strategy for using social insights to improve business functions, that’s linking social strategies to operational plans, and that has strong & collaborative leadership.


Is that you?


Group VP of the Oracle Social Cloud Platform Meg Bear said, “As this study shows, business executives now understand that creating a socially enabled enterprise can create better customer experiences, enable more responsive internal networks and drive organizational efficiencies. This combination gives organizations of all sizes a significant competitive advantage.”


So if you happen to like having the advantage, don’t forget to get on the list for the October release!


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Sep 10, 2013

Are Your Customers Attacking or Helping You?

sour lookNow that we know consumers have been empowered thanks to social and mobile, we should probably consider how they’re going to use that power.  I believe it was Spider-Man’s uncle who taught us, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Will customers use it for good or to make trouble for you? The answer likely rests on how well you’re executing customer service and organizing around the customer experience.


On a September 19th free webinar, Oracle’s Erika Brookes sits down with “Attack of the Customers” author Paul Gillin for a chat about why critics assault brands online and how that can be avoided. It’s important. Because from Gillin’s perspective, most organizations are woefully behind both in shifting to customer-centric practices and in extending social across the enterprise to every customer touch point.


Why should these things be priorities? Survival is one good reason. Consider Gillin’s example of lean, finely textured beef, or as it became publicly branded, pink slime. The movement against it began on social. Because the industry took its cues from what was covered in the traditional media, they never saw it coming. Gillin says the largest maker almost went bankrupt, and the 2nd largest did go bankrupt within months.


Businesses can no longer afford not to listen to customers, wherever they may be congregating and talking about you. Jeff Bezos has called what’s going on “word of mouth on steroids.” And brands are not in control of these conversations, social users are. Bloggers are. Customers are. The best a brand can do is be where the conversations are happening and participate in them. Unhappy customers, who have experienced a bad product or abuse/neglect can and will find each other very quickly. Consequently, customer neglect as standard practice is becoming terminal.


And yet…58% of consumers have tweeted about a bad brand experience and never received a response of any kind. Mind you this is happening at a time when especially Millennials fully expect customer service on social. If they hold you accountable for it, thank them. People criticize because they want you to be better. It’s a positive. If you listen and co-create with those who care enough to “attack,” you’ll survive…and win.


Attack coverThese vocal, social consumers are forcing evolution inside organizations. Marketing is becoming analytics-driven, making it IT’s responsibility to align and facilitate. But here too, Gillin believes only about 2% of enterprises are appropriately socially enabled across departments. He feels most CIO’s still view social as a problem, a security threat, and a time waste.


For those who are forward thinking and who are willing to change and adapt as quickly as the consumer, integrated social insights from a social relationship management platform will lead to powerful, targeted engagements and actions, and thus, superior consumer experiences.


So, do you regard consumer criticism as an attack or an assist? Are your brand’s policies truly customer focused, or are they coming from a purely defensive posture? Tune in to the webinar to get Gillin’s four types of customer aggressors and how to deal with them, as well as three immediate customer experience action items for businesses both large and small.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

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