Tuesday Oct 29, 2013

Are You Afraid of Each Other? Study Shows CMO’s/CIO’s Missing Benefits of Collaboration

Scared guyRemember that person in school you spent months being too scared to talk to?  Then when you finally did, it led to a wonderful friendship…if not something more. New research from Oracle, Social Media Today and Leader Networks shows marketing and IT need to get over whatever’s holding them back and start reaping the benefits of collaboration.

See the details on the Oracle study

Back in the old days of just a few years ago, marketing could stay on their side of the building, IT could stay on their side of the building, and both could refer to the other as “those guys.” Today, the structure of organizations is shifting from islands to “us,” one integrated body where each part knows what the other parts are doing, and all parts work together in accomplishing job one…a
winning customer experience.


Ignore that, and you start losing. Give your reluctance to change priority over the benefits of new collaborations, and you start losing. You’re either working together and accelerating forward or getting in the way of each other’s separate agendas and grinding down…much to your competitors’ delight.


The study reveals a basic current truth: those who are collaborating in marketing and IT report being more effective, however less than 1/3 report collaborating even “frequently.” In other words, this is obviously a good thing, so we’d better not do it. Smart.


The white paper, “Socially Driven Collaboration,” set out to explore how today’s always-changing digital, social and mobile landscape is forcing change across the enterprise, whether it’s welcomed or not. Part of what it found is marketing and IT leaders are not unaware of what’s going on and see their roles evolving. And both know the ability to collaborate more effectively now exists. And of those who are collaborating, over 2/3 say they’re “more effective” professionally because of it.

Collab slide


Yet even if you don’t want to take the Oracle study’s word for it, an August 2013 Accenture study of 400 senior marketing and 250 IT executives revealed only 10% think CMO/CIO collaboration is at the right level. There’s a lot of room for improvement here, and not just around people. Collaboration is also being called for across processes and technologies.


Business benefits of such collaboration cited in the Oracle study include stronger marketing messages, faster speed-to-market, greater product adoption, faster discovery of product and service shortcomings, and reduction in project costs. Those are the benefits you will cheat yourself out of by keeping “those guys” at arm’s length and continuing to try to function in traditional roles while modern business and the consumer is changing around you.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” –Stephen Hawking


@mikestiles
Photo: istockphoto

Friday Aug 16, 2013

Can Robots Do My Marketing For Me?

robotDoes the boom in marketing automation enterprise software mean we can put some sort of marketing Skynet into place and let the machines completely take over?

Yes.

Okay well, maybe not 100% yes. But boy we’re getting closer.

In days of yore, marketing automation was a way to add to your email list and send batch emails out to said list, loosely categorized. Today, marketing automation is an increasingly essential part of any CRM platform, allowing marketers to gather reams of data pulled from a variety of sources (including social), crunch the numbers, intimately know who the prospect is, know where they are in the buying cycle, know what kind of content they respond to, and distribute messaging to them in precisely the right place at the right time and in the right way.

If you thought little saucers that vacuum your floor while you’re away were cool, marketing automation should blow your socks off.

But if sales is about relationships and the best relationships are one-on-one, how do the robots scale that into a marketing engine? The answer is, they’re actually getting better at it all the time. And corporations are believers. BtoB tells us 46% of B2B marketers use marketing technologies right now. 62% are “strong” or “full” adopters of marketing automation, compared to 40% in 2012. In 2014, it’s expected to be 81%. Focus Research says it has the fastest growth of any CRM-related segment in the last 5 years. The biggest issue with adoption, at 32%, is budget limitations and poor integration with sales. Which is sad, because the crumbling silos being brought on by the socially-enabled enterprise are pulling Sales and Marketing closer than ever before.

Still, we’ve come to know most of the research and decision process is over by the time a prospect talks with Sales. So being the source of the info they get, and leaving a trail of happy customers behind who will recommend us on social is critical. iMedia shows 93% of B2B buyers use search to start the buying process, 37% post questions on social.

The opposite of effective marketing automation is irrelevancy. Gathering data but not using it leads to irrelevant content being served, proving you don’t know the prospect and apparently don’t care. If I’ve shown interest in a product, why are you talking to me about a different one? Why are you desperately trying to close me when I just started info gathering? I’m an existing customer, why are you talking to me like I’m a new prospect? Gartner projects that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship without talking to a human. Try living in that world with no marketing automation.

If you are anti-robot and Skynet and the machines taking over, there’s still good news for you. Marketing automation is a means of learning about your audience; figuring out what kind of communication they should receive, and when, and where, and how. But the communication must still be crafted. Content is still the 800 lb. gorilla. Marketing is still as much of an art as it ever was. Your content must win applause and smiles and satisfaction. If it doesn’t, it’s perceived as expertly timed, precisely targeted…spam.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Jun 11, 2013

The First 4 Questions of a Social Strategy

chessLet’s face it.  In many businesses, there is no social strategy. Because of all the social media buzz, a Facebook Page was launched, a Twitter stream was started, and their management was tasked to someone, perhaps by virtue of being in their early 20’s, as part of their job. They get a bemused pat on the head when followers go up, but then it’s back to business as it was done in the 90’s.

If something’s worth doing at all, it’s worth having a plan and a purpose. Even company picnics have a plan and a purpose. They’re sometimes more strategized than social is.

So for those still in the starting blocks, here are 4 things to ask to get a serious-minded social strategy going.

Question 1: Whom Do I Want to Talk To? 
Suppose I want the parents in my kid’s class to know there’s a bake sale coming up and we need cupcakes. I could stand on a street corner holding a sign everyone who drives by could see. Or, I could send out a note to the class parent email list.

The right choice is obvious, yet many businesses lunge into social without a clear idea of whom they want to reach. Not asking the question, or leaving it for everyone to assume, is a mistake. It warrants some thought.

Will you use social to introduce your product to people who’ve never heard of it? Will you use social to get people who’ve bought your product to buy again? Will you use social to get regular customers to spread the word about you? Will you use social to execute customer service? Will you use social to conduct research? Will you use social to court and build relationships with experts in your industry? Will you use social to connect to your partners and vendors?

“All of the above” can’t be the answer, at least with one strategy. Each audience requires its own strategy. Start by picking one audience, the one most important to you, and start interacting with them using the next questions. Multiple audiences and strategies can then be added as you go and grow.

Question 2: What Do I Want Them to Do? 
Many businesses ask, “What do I want to tell them?” It’s the kind of push-marketing mentality that’s falling out of favor as the public, especially younger demos, grows increasingly repelled by desperate messages from self-absorbed brands. Telling them something isn’t enough anyway. You want them to do something. But you can’t get them to do it until you know what “it” is.

Do I want them to share posts? Do I want them to talk to each other about us? Do I want them to watch our videos? Do I want them to tell us what they do and don’t like about our product? Do I want them to use a coupon? Do I want them to play a branded game? Do I want them to join a rewards program? Do I want them to check in to my location? Do I want them to contribute content?

Until you know what you want them to do, you can’t get to the next issue of what you must give them in order for them to do it. Believe me, they aren’t thinking about your needs and what’s best for you. They must be motivated by something of value to them.

Question 3: Where’s the Best Place to Reach the Target?
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Flickr, GetGlue, Viggle, MySpace, Wordpress, Blogger, LiveJournal, Tagged, Orkut, Reddit, Meetup…the list goes on. There’s no shortage of social networks, each with its own angle.

You’ll want to assess which are most populated with your target, and which offer effective interaction opportunities for brands. Only you can determine how large of an audience makes participating on a social network worth it. Which leads us to the next question.

Question 4: Can I Finish What I Start?
Or better yet, will I finish what I start?

Like any other kind of marketing, social requires commitment and resourcing. It’s not a hobby, or a part time job, or busywork for an intern. If you launch into the social world with no plan, no purpose, no guidelines, no source of consistent quality content, no way to respond to customers, no social technology platform that can publish/moderate/analyze your communities across multiple social channels, you could actually do the brand more damage than good.

Give social a fair shake, with a solid strategy behind it, and the reasons for doing so will become clear as the communication pipeline between you and your customers really starts flowing.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng, Kriss Szkurlatowski

Friday May 17, 2013

Data Adoption Must Come Before Social ROI

On May 14, Social Media Today hosted the webinar “What Is Social ROI Made of? New Revenue or Reduced Costs?” with a panel consisting of Oracle VP Product Strategy Erika Brookes, MarketShare CEO Wes Nichols, and V3 Integrated Marketing CEO Shelly Kramer. Based on the number of retweets, things were said that really hit home. Below are some of the discussion’s highlights.

go team gorillaEB: If you’re looking for social ROI, you have to start with a strategy. Big data and little data must then connect back to that strategy.

SK: The C-level feels as long as we’re on Twitter and have a Facebook page, social is covered. When you ask what their goals for it are and how it ties back to their strategy, they have an “Oh my God” moment.

EB: Data fuels the belief that with all this digital data, surely we can do a better job of telling the story of what works and what doesn’t work. True, but you have to know what the intent was for getting into social in the first place.

WN: Companies operate in swim lanes. Direct mail is a lane. PR is a lane. Social is a lane. Each lane reports its own ROI, often self-serving, which doesn’t help the CFO. It’s critical to know how these lanes interact with each other.

SK: Marketers know what needs to be done. They know what’s important. But they aren’t staffed or resourced to collect the data, analyze it, and leverage it.

EB: It’s not just about marketing anymore. It’s about how do I attribute across the company. That’s where the data problem grows enormously and the call for marketers to be prepared goes up. The CMO has to collaborate with IT and sales.

WN: What used to be done by marketers isn’t possible anymore. You have to have the technology infrastructure to process the data. Most don’t have that set up internally.

EB: People have legacy tech, then buy new tech, and those things aren’t hinging together. That has to happen for real time insight. Marketers must share with IT the metrics on which they’ll be measured. That’s what facilitates actionable decision-making.

WN: It’s not so much a sales funnel anymore, it’s a pinball machine. A social post might bounce you to a video. The video might bounce you to a search. The search might bounce you to a coupon. The coupon might bounce you into the store to buy something.

SK: Even smart marketers still think a 40k/year person running the social channels has it covered. That’s far from the case. Job descriptions want a digital strategist, social strategist, email strategist, content strategist, and business analyst all rolled into one person…for maybe 70k. That’s craziness.

EB: Even at 100k you won’t find someone who does all those aspects really well, because they’re very distinct functions and disciplines.

SK: Expectations are totally out of whack with what they want to pay somebody. Just pushing out your content is not integrating social into business objectives toward any hope of ROI.

WN: There’s no correlation or causation between vanity metrics and P&L or ROI impact. Once they see the lift impact of social, they’ll allocate for staffing. Until then, they’re going to keep dabbling.

EB: Marketers want this. But are they really prepared for the wholesale changes required inside the organization?

WN: You have to look broad to look narrow. You have to look at the ROI of marketing to get to the ROI of social. You can’t measure at a what’s-under-your-nose campaign level.

SK: Content marketing is so not new. But we’re struggling to get clients to understand the importance of content strategy and how that, SEO, et al works to drive leads. We’re struggling to get clients to understand the importance of data to drive business strategy.

EB: Companies realize they’ve built audience, but now how do you turn that into engagement and sales? More marketers are asking for help turning those opportunities into something the rest of the organization can activate upon. CMO tenures are increasing, not declining, because they’re thinking broadly about social and tech, and the data is there to tell success stories.

WN: CMO’s can be at the executive table, armed with proof of impact. Otherwise they get relegated to the kids’ table. Being numbers-oriented doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. Analytics can show the impact of creative and thereby get more funding for it. But without numbers, marketing looks soft and thus an easy place to make cuts.

SK: If you try to do this on the cheap, you’re going to get what you pay for and you’re going to get what you deserve. You have to be in it to win it.

WN: You’re CEO has to embrace the changes that are underway. Marketing is not yell and sell, it’s customer dialogue and relationship building, leveraging social.

EB: Oracle did a study with The Economist and found companies with cross collaboration across departments, taking advantage of disruptive technologies, are the most successful. Marketers can start the dialogue internally about data sources and the metrics you’ll be measured on. Get the buy-in and structure in place.

WN: We can prove the impact of marketing is larger than what they’re currently getting credit for. You need the tools to defend and grow marketing investments. Analytics is like electricity running through the whole organization. It will one day be as taken for granted as electricity.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng, Glenn Pebley

Friday Apr 12, 2013

Mad Men is Just a Show: How to Be the CMO of the Future

baby macLife has changed, and is still in the process of changing for the CMO.  The marketing opportunities of social, of emerging technologies, of mobile, the rising importance of content, the addition of social data to big data, and how social is changing the enterprise experience have all evolved the required skillset of the position. Since these consumer behaviors are highly unlikely to reverse, I picked the brain of Oracle VP Product Management for Cloud Social Erika Brookes for a look at what today’s CMO should seek to fully understand going forward.

The Customer Owns Your Brand

  • Understand the customer is now in charge and should be the focus. Their expectation is to be respected and treated well. Anything less disappoints.
  • Understand that phenomenal products and services, and personalized, hyper-attentive customer service is the new marketing.
  • Understand social is how the public is choosing to engage with each other and brands, and has kicked word-of-mouth into overdrive. The public is talking about you.
  • Understand social is not a megaphone for ads. Try to internalize how mistrustful of push messaging people are and that the path to drawing attention is to provide something of real value.
  • Understand you’ve got to lead crowd-pleasing content creation efforts, or find people who do know how to entertain/inform.

The Marketer Must Speak API

  • Understand you can no longer be comfortable in what you don’t know. You have to jump into technology head-on, knowing how it will deliver business value.
  • Understand you’ll be collaborating with the CIO and IT to leverage technological advantages faster than ever. You must have a voice on tech matters and implementation.
  • Understand the unprecedented gold mine of social data that, married with enterprise and 3rd party data, can paint an actionable picture of the customer.
  • Understand the importance of your brand’s mobile experience and how fast it’s becoming the primary way social is accessed.
  • Understand the cloud as the best technology practice for gathering, managing, analyzing and acting upon big data.

Know the Science Behind the Art

  • Understand campaigns should be built around what the consumer has shown you, through data, they like.
  • Understand not just social marketing, but social selling, social commerce, social service, social HR, social recruiting, and social collaboration.
  • Understand the value of listening, and how to extract worthwhile data from the noise.
  • Understand all of the social channels and platforms available to you, which targets are using them and how so appropriate strategies, messaging and measurement can be crafted for each.
  • Understand you have to keep moving toward proving the ROI behind the spend.

You Will Likely Conduct an Internal Symphony

  • Understand the changes going on inside the organization. Your role is expanding.
  • Understand that an unprecedented collaboration of people, processes and technology is being called for, and it’s probably you that must conduct that symphony.
  • Understand you have to communicate and align with sales for consistent brand and consumer experiences.
  • Understand you’ll play a large role in finding the technology partner to insure effective execution of social, a single vendor that offers every piece of the puzzle.
  • Understand that even in huge business enterprises, agility offers a competitive advantage and should be aspired to.

Below are some additional resources on the changing role of the CMO that might help you get to the future sooner rather than later.

Webinar with Oracle SVP Product Development for Cloud-Social Reggie Bradford and Forrester lead analyst David Cooperstein.

Social Spotlight Blog: Scandal! The CMO/CIO Relationship Revealed.

Video: “The changing role of the CMO.” Argyle Executive Forum’s 2013 Chief Marketing Officer Leadership Forum (New York).

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Nov 06, 2012

Are You Meeting Social Customer Service Expectations?

Customer ServiceWhether it’s B2B or B2C, one sure path to repeat business is making sure your buyer has a memorably pleasant and successful customer service experience with you. If they get that kind of treatment consistently, that’s called a relationship. And those aren’t broken easily.

Social customer service, driven by integrated SRM (social relationship management) technology, is the venue that can effectively connect customers not only to the brand, but to other customers. Positive experiences, once administered, don’t just rest with the recipient. They’re published in the form of public raves and peer-to-peer recommendation, a force far more actionable than push advertising.

What’s more, your customers have come to expect access to you and satisfaction from you using social.

An NM Incite study shows 83% of Twitter users and 71% of Facebook users expect to get an answer from brands the same day they post to them on their social assets. To make sure you’re responding, you’ve got to have a tech platform that’s set up to moderate and alert so you’ll know ASAP a customer needs help.

The more integrated your social enterprise is, the faster you can not only respond, but respond with the answer they’re looking for, because your system is connected to the internal resources that can surface the answer or put wheels in motion to rectify the situation in the shortest amount of time possible.

But if you go to the necessary lengths to make sure your customers feel valued and important, will they really reward you? The study says 71% of consumers who got quick and effective responses from companies they contacted via social were more likely to recommend the brand to their friends and followers.

So yes, sweeping people off their feet pays big dividends in terms of word-of-mouth marketing. But you should be keenly aware of the reverse side of that coin. Give people a negative experience, either in real world or virtual customer service, and that message is highly likely to get amplified through social channels faster and louder.

Only 36% of the NM Incite study’s respondents reported that their problems were solved quickly and effectively. 36%? That’s hardly an impressive number. It gets worse. 10% never got so much as a response - at all. Going back to the relationship analogy, companies that are this deep in the ditch where customer service is concerned are making their girl or boyfriends really easy for a competitor to steal.

Given the technology tools and data available right now for having an intimate knowledge of the customer, what products they’ve purchased, likely problems with those products, effective resolutions to those problems, and follow-up communication to gauge satisfaction, there are fewer excuses than ever for making the lifeblood of your business feel like you couldn’t care less.

@mikestiles

Friday Nov 02, 2012

9 Ways Facebook Monetization Could Change Your Marketing

Think Facebook monetization isn’t a head game?

Bored kidImagine creating something so functional, fun and addictive you literally amass about 1/7th of the planet’s population as an audience. You have 1 billion users that use it at least once a month. But analysts and marketers look at what you’ve done and say, “eh…not good enough.”

What if you had a TV show that garnered 1/7 of Earth’s population as an audience? How much would a spot cost? And how fast would marketers write that check, even without the targeting and engagement analytics Facebook offers?

Having already changed the marketing landscape forever, if you’re Facebook’s creator, you’d have to be scratching your head and asking, “Wow, what more does a product need to do?” Facebook’s been busy answering that very question with products and betas that will likely directly affect your brand’s strategy.

Item 1: Users can send physical gifts to friends through Facebook based on suggestions from user data. A giant step toward the potential power of social commerce.

Item 2: Users can pay $7 to promote posts for higher visibility. Individual users, not just marketers, are being leveraged as a revenue stream. Not impressive enough? There’s also the potential Craigslist killer Facebook Marketplace.

Item 3: Mobile ads. 600 million+ access Facebook on smartphones. According to the company, half of the $1 million a day generated by Sponsored Stories as of late June was coming from mobile. Ads in News Feeds seen on mobile had click-through rates 23x higher than on desktop News Feeds or the right side panel.

Item 4: App developers can buy install ads that show up in mobile News Feeds so reliance on discovery in app stores is reduced.

Item 5: Want your posts seen by people who never liked your Page? A test began in August where you could appear in non-fans’ News Feeds on both web and mobile.

Item 6: How about an ability to use Facebook data to buy ads outside of Facebook? A mobile ad network is being tested to get your targeted messages on non-Facebook apps and sites surfaced on devices.

Item 7: Facebook Collections, Facebook’s answer to Pinterest. Users can gather images of desired products and click through to the retailer to buy. Keep focusing on your imagery.

Item 8: Facebook Offers, Facebook’s answer to the Groupons and Living Socials of the world. You can send deals to your fans’ News Feeds.

Item 9: Facebook Exchange lets you track what fans do on Facebook and across the entire Web. Could lead to a Facebook ad network leveraging Facebook users and data but not limiting exposure to the Facebook platform.

Marketers are seeing increasing value in Facebook (and Twitter for that matter).  But as social grows and adjusts, will marketing budgets aimed in that direction grow and adjust accordingly, and within a reasonable time frame?

@mikestiles
Photo Christie Merrill/stock.xchng

Tuesday Oct 30, 2012

How to Waste Your Marketing Budget

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow @mikestiles
Image via stock.xchng

Friday Oct 26, 2012

Pinterest and the Rising Power of Imagery

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

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

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

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

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

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

baby picture1. They transcend language barriers.

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

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

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

5. The audience for them surpasses demographic limitations.

6. They can effectively communicate and trigger an emotion.

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

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

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

Tuesday Oct 23, 2012

4 Ways Your Brand Can Jump From the Edge of Space

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

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

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

Are you ready to compete with that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday Oct 18, 2012

Finalists for Community Manager of the Year Announced

cmylogo

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Tuesday Oct 16, 2012

Social Search: Looking for Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Oct 09, 2012

Is Your Company Social on the Inside?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Oct 02, 2012

Announcing Hackathon for Social Developers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Involver

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

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

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

Saturday Sep 29, 2012

Sneak Peak: Social Developer Program at JavaOne

By guest blogger Roland Smart

OpenWorldWe're just days away from what is gunning to be the most exciting installment of OpenWorld to date, so how about an exciting sneak peak at the very first Social Developer Program?

If your first thought is, "What's a social developer?" you're not alone. It’s an emerging term and one we think will gain prominence as social experiences become more prevalent in enterprise applications. For those who keep an eye on the ever-evolving Facebook platform, you'll recall that they recently rebranded their PDC (preferred developer consultant) group as the PMD (preferred marketing developer), signaling the importance of development resources inside the marketing organization to unlock the potential of social.

The marketing developer they're referring to could be considered a social developer in a broader context. While it's true social has really blossomed in the marketing context and CMOs are winning more and more technical resources, social is starting to work its way more deeply into the enterprise with the help of developers that work outside marketing.

Developers, like the rest of us, have fallen in "like" with social functionality and are starting to imagine how social can transform enterprise applications in the way it has consumer-facing experiences. The thesis of my presentation is that social developers will take many pages from the marketing playbook as they apply social inside the enterprise. To support this argument, lets walk through a range of enterprise applications and explore how consumer-facing social experiences might be interpreted in this context.

Here's one example of how a social experience could be integrated into a sales enablement application. As a marketer, I spend a great deal of time collaborating with my sales colleagues, so I have good insight into their working process. While at Involver, we grew our sales team quickly, and it became evident some of our processes broke with scale.

For example, we used to have weekly team meetings at which we'd discuss what was working and what wasn't from a messaging perspective. One aspect of these sessions focused on "objections" and "responses," where the salespeople would walk through common objections to purchasing and share appropriate responses. We tried to map each context to best answers and we'd capture these on a wiki page. As our team grew, however, participation at scale just wasn't tenable, and our wiki pages quickly lost their freshness.

Imagine giving salespeople a place where they could submit common objections and responses for their colleagues to see, sort, comment on, and vote on. What you'd get is an up-to-date and relevant repository of information. And, if you supported an application like this with a social graph, it would be possible to make good recommendations to individual sales people about the objections they'd likely hear based on vertical, product, region or other graph data.

Taking it even further, you could build in a badging/game element to reward those salespeople who participate the most. Both these examples are based on proven models at work inside consumer-facing applications.

If you want to learn about how HR, Operations, Product Development and Customer Support can leverage social experiences, you’re welcome to join us at JavaOne or join our Social Developer Community to find some of the presentations after OpenWorld.

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