Friday Apr 11, 2014

Twitter Advertising: 15 New Ways to Bet on Your Content

Reality check: like Facebook, Twitter has to make money.  And in the absence of charging users a subscription fee to use it, that money has to come from Twitter advertising.


The profitless Twitter makes most of its revenue from advertising, $219.6 million in Q4, which doubles the previous year’s numbers. So it occurred to them that if they offered you marketers more advertising products and options, that number would only go higher.


Enter 15, count ‘em, 15 new ad plays that will be coming your way from Twitter over the next 6 months. And from the reports so far, if your goals are downloads, subscriptions, or purchases, these products will speak more to your needs than existing offerings.


Expect most of these products to be fueled by the Twitter Card technology, which allows functionality to be programmed into tweets. This allows for a world of one-click calls-to-action not possible in regular tweets, which, given the speed and immediacy with which people use the platform, is almost a must to capture desired engagement. Users can download an app, get someone on the phone, make a purchase, sign up for a contest, etc.


But the big question: will Twitter users think these are cool opportunities? Or will they see them as highly intrusive, annoying ads? That depends a great deal on what you do.


Twitter hasn’t really upped the ad content since their first product in 2010, and that’s because they’ve been pretty diligent about the user experience. So far their ad products have not done damage, but these new 15 do represent risk. As it is, a Deutsche Bank Securities report showed 85% of users said the ads they get aren’t relevant.


So Twitter and you marketers are about to jump into the unknown together. These ads must be targeted and relevant. They must be served up at just the right rate. And they must be of quality; meaning what it always means for content - it entertains, it informs, or it offers something of real value. Put out flops and you inflict damage to both Twitter and your brand.


In short, when it comes to Twitter advertising you’re about to pay to get your content in front of more user eyeballs, and in so doing you’re placing a bet that said content is going to be appreciated and welcomed, not a user experience downer.


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Jan 03, 2014

Is Brand Affinity Completely Worthless?

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


@mikestiles
Photo: David Playford, stock.xchng

Friday Dec 27, 2013

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

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


Drones & Robots

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


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


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


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


The Collaborative Economy

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


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


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


The Altered Enterprise

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


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


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


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


???

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


@mikestiles
Photo: Sufi Nawaz, stock.xchng

Tuesday Dec 24, 2013

Peace on Earth: The Good in Social Media

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Dec 20, 2013

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

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


Wearable Tech

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


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


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


Mobile

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


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


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


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


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


Wordless Stories & Data Visualization

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


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


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


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


3D printing

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


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


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


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


@mikestiles
Photo: Sufi Nawaz, stock.xchng

Tuesday Dec 17, 2013

Socially Enabled Enterprise Resolutions for 2014

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


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


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


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


Resolution 1 – Dedicate Yourself to the Cause

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


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

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


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


Resolution 2 – Use Social for More Than Just Marketing

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


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

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


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


Resolution 3 – Celebrate Success

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


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


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


Start the Year Off Right

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


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

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net


Friday Dec 13, 2013

Stop It: Things That Annoy Customers on Social Media

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


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


Making Them Jump Through Hoops

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


Oops Pages

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


No Mobile Optimization

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


Illiteracy

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


Irrelevancy

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


No Incentive

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


Ignoring Them

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


Going “Used Car Salesman” On Them

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


Making Things Hard to Find

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


Not Serving the Right Kind of Porridge

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


Being Patronizing

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


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


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng


Tuesday Dec 10, 2013

The Year in Facebook: Part 2

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


Comment Threads and Ranked Replies

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


Marketing Milestone

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


Embedding. Posts to Go.

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


Teen Trouble?

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


It’s All About Pretty Pictures

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


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


Hey Community Manager, Feel Free to Mess Up!

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


What They Bought and What They Might

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


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


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


Maybe.


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Friday Dec 06, 2013

The Year in Facebook: Part 1

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


The New Facebook Graph Search:

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


The Looming Auto-Play Video Ads

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


Changes to the Timeline

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


The New News Feed

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


Hey, We Want the Hashtag Too!

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


Now With More Targeting!

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


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


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday Dec 03, 2013

6 Reasons Marketing and IT Might Be “Frenemies”

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


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


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

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


2. They’re usually very different people.

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


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

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


4. Fear of being the odd person out.

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


5. Lack of trust.

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


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

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


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


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


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


@mikestiles
Photo: Martin K, stock.xchng

Friday Nov 29, 2013

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net


Tuesday Nov 26, 2013

Make Your Customers Thankful With a Bountiful Customer Experience

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


@mikestiles
Photo: Chris Dickson, stock.xchng

Friday Nov 22, 2013

3 Ways Healthcare Can Leverage Social Media

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


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


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


Actively Engage with Potential Patients

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

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


Successfully Connect with Caretakers and Loved Ones of Patients

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


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

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


Attract Top Tier Talent

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

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

So What’s Next?

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

Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Nov 19, 2013

How to Staff Your Organization for Social

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


@mikestiles
Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

Friday Nov 15, 2013

Big Data Crucial to Seeing the Social Marketing ROI Light

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

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