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 Sep 03, 2013

Content for the Masses…Fails

empty seatsI know, you want all your content to please everybody and make them all want to buy your stuff that instant.  That would be cool. But once we come back from daydream land, we should grasp that all content is not the same. All content is not made for the same purpose. And all content is not made for the same audience.

Have you ever shopped for a car and within 10 minutes of being on the lot were asked by the pushy salesperson, “Hey, what do I have to do to get you in this car today?” Maybe you’re just researching. Maybe you’d like some info or a test drive first. The salesman hit you with the wrong message at the wrong time. His content was not crafted for or aimed at the target.

Annoying, yet as brands, we’re doing this every day, sometimes multiple times a day. We’re making whatever content we can, then throwing it out there to see if anything sticks. Content should be aimed at a specific audience with specific problems, goals, emotions and motivations.

Just as there’s a sales funnel (which has actually shifted into a sales cycle or buying journey), there should be a corresponding content funnel that respects and acts on where the intended consumer of that content is in the buying journey. Do that and you’ll wind up with something you might not have at the moment…a content strategy.

Most organizations do this by developing personas. Note that “personas” is plural. There are a lot of different stages, motivations and variables in the buying cycle. Creating content customized and accurately targeted to each is a huge task…one that comes at a time when most brands are struggling just to create quality content at all.

Which is all the more reason to make sure the content you are going to resource and make will be as effective for you as possible. That means intimately knowing whom you’re talking to via data and social listening tools, learning how likely a prospect they are, predicting through analytics what questions they have, and serving up content that will move them into the next stage of the cycle where further targeted content awaits.

Remember, a significant amount of the decision-making process is already done by the time actual contact is made with the vendor. Customers at the top of the funnel are information gathering, staying in the shadows as much as they can. Their openness to your product and message is quite different here than it would be closer to the sale. Even the wording of your messaging must take into account that prospects have a different relationship with you at each stage, just as in real life.


Six Revisions has a really nice snapshot of
what the content funnel looks like at each stage.


*Awareness: the customer is becoming aware of your company, so content answers very general questions about your space or industry.
*Interest: their curiosity about you is piqued, so content answers questions about the product.
*Desire: they want your product, now content should move it from their wish list to their to-do list.
*Action: they’re doing what it takes to buy it, so content should answers purchase and service logistics.

A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” is the
biggest unscripted show in cable history and close to becoming the biggest cable show in history period. If your content can be mass appeal and that successful, knock your lights out. But for marketers, success means conversion of unaware all the way to purchase, and that takes a lot more personalization.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Jul 02, 2013

Seriously, It’s Time to Get Your Content Act Together

spectrumBranded content, content marketing, social content, brand journalism, we’re seeing those terms more and more. Why?

The technology tools are coming together. We should know. We can gather big data, crunch it, listen to the public, moderate, respond, get to know the customer intimately, know what they like, know what they want, we can target, distribute, amplify, measure engagement and reaction, modify strategy and even automate a great deal of all that.

An amazing machine, a sleek, smooth-running engine has been built such that all the parts can interact and work together to deliver peak performance and maximum output. But that engine isn’t going anywhere without any gas. Content is the gas.

Yes, we curate other people’s content. We can siphon their gas. There’s tech to help with that too. But as for the creation of original, worthwhile content made for a specific audience, our audience, machines can’t do that…at least not yet. Curated content is great. But somebody has to originate the content for it to be curated and shared. And since the need for good, curated content is obviously large and the desire to share is there, it’s a winning proposition for a brand to be a consistent producer of original content.

And yet, it feels like content is an issue we’re avoiding. There’s a reluctance to build a massive pipeline if you have no idea what you’re going to run through it. The C-suite often doesn’t know what content is, that it’s different from ads, where to get it, who makes it, how long it should be, what the point of it is if there’s no hard sell of the product, what it costs, how to use it, how to measure it, how to make sure it’s good, or how to make sure it will keep flowing. It could be the reason many brands aren’t pulling the trigger on socially enabling the enterprise.

And that’s a shame, because there are a lot of creative, daring, experimental, uniquely talented entertainers and journalists chomping at the bit to execute content for brands. But for many corporate executives, content is “weird,” and the people who make it are even weirder. The content side of the equation is human. It’s art, but art that can be informed by data.

The natural inclination is for brands to turn to their agencies for such creative endeavors. But agencies are falling into one of two categories. They’re failing to transition from ads to content. In “Content Era, What’s the Role of Agencies?” Alexander Jutkowitz says agencies were made for one-hit campaigns, not ongoing content. Or, they’re ready and capable but can’t get clients to do the right things. Agencies have to make money, even if it means continuing to do the wrong things because that’s all the client will agree to.

So what we wind up with in the pipeline is advertising, marketing-heavy content, content that was obviously created or spearheaded by non-creative executives, random & inconsistent content, copy written for SEO bots, and other completely uninteresting nightmares. Frank Rose, author of “The Art of Immersion,” writes, “Content without story and excitement is noise pollution.”

In the old days, you made an ad and inserted it into shows made by people who knew what they were doing. You could bask in that show’s success and leverage their audience. Now, you are tasked with attracting, amassing and holding your own audience. You may just want to make, advertise and sell your widgets. But now there’s a war on for a precious commodity, attention. People are busy. They have filters to keep uninteresting and irrelevant things out. They value their time and expect value back when they give it up. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, says, "Your customers don't care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs."

Is it worth getting serious about content and doing it right? 61% of consumers feel better about a company that delivers custom content (Custom Content Council). Interesting content is one of the top 3 reasons people follow brands on social (Content+). 78% of consumers think organizations that provide custom content want to build good relationships with them (TMG Custom Media). On the B2B side, 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company info in a series of articles vs. an ad.

So what’s the hang-up? Cited barriers to content marketing are lack of human resources (42%) and lack of budget (35%). 54% of brands don’t have a single on-site, dedicated content creator. And only 38% of brands have a content marketing strategy.

Tech has built the biggest, most incredible stage for brands that’s ever been built. Putting something on that stage is your responsibility. Do a bad show, or no show at all, and you’ll be the beautiful, talented actress that never got discovered.

@mikestiles
Photo: Gabriella Fabbri, stock.xchng

Tuesday Apr 30, 2013

Social Network Updates: While You Were Busy Marketing

many phonesYou’re a busy, powerful social marketer, so you may not have time to track every little change the social networks make. And they make a lot of them. Since these trends can inspire and inform strategy for brands, let’s look at some recent developments with 4 of the big ones.

Facebook

Facebook’s moves continue to underscore their growing self-image as a mobile company.

  • Facebook Home, an Android overlay that lives across the operating system, piqued enough curiosity that it got well over 500,000 downloads on Google Play right out of the gate. It’s preloaded in many phones. But do users like it? The average rating has been around 2.2 stars out of 5.
  • Facebook made your brand pages look different on mobile.  Some say it’s about the “Yelpification” of Facebook. It’s easier for your customers to see your hours, get a map, check prices, check ratings, contact you and like or recommend you. It’s more visual and pinned posts are prominent, but…no tabs.
  • On the iOS app, users now see the same choices for viewing their News Feed as they have on desktop.  The dropdown lets them get Most Recent, All Friends, Following, Pages, and other sorting options. Some users have a list for the brand pages they follow. Let’s hope they check that one a lot.

Twitter

Twitter’s developments have mostly been about going beyond text-based messaging toward being a gateway for all online multimedia content.

  • Twitter Music launched, a way for music lovers to use Twitter to find and enjoy music and artists.  They’re open to more music sources, but right now streams come from iTunes, Rdio and Spotify. Basically, it uses Twitter activity to see what tunes you might like and plugs you in to music and artists your fave artists follow and tweet about.
  • There’s talk Twitter’s getting into local tweet discovery. If they execute this take on letting users see tweets from a certain radius around them, whether they follow the tweeters or not, that gets interesting for brands who want to tweet offers to nearby users.
  • Twitter made a deal with the sizable Starcom MediaVest Group that will give its clients access to special ad opportunities on and with Twitter. Those in the know look at this plus Twitter’s keyword targeting and see a commitment from the little blue bird to play ball with marketers so everybody’s nest gets feathered.

Google Plus

King of the “should we or shouldn’t we increase the amount of attention we pay to this” platforms. The value prop, G+’s integration with other Google products, continues.

  • If you open a Google Drive file, now you’ll see G+ profile shots of the others looking at it.  Mouse over the pic and you’ll get the person’s G+ card, cover image, and which circle you put them in. It’s all about making Google Plus a key integrated collaboration tool.
  • Most still use Facebook to log in to websites, but a Janrain report says Google Plus' share went from 31 to 34% quarter to quarter. Google’s also shutting down its acquired Meebo Bar in June. Google Plus tools will then serve as the user/website matchmaker.
  • But they also want Google Plus to be fun!  So now when you put a photo up on your G+ account, you see an emoticon option that (get this) analyzes the expressions on the faces in the photo and assigns each an emoticon that goes over their heads. Let me answer what may be your first question, yes you can turn it off.

LinkedIn

Linked in turns 10 in May and is enjoying nice growth; revenue and profit up 80% in 2012 and 200 million users. LinkedIn knows what it does and doesn’t want to be.

  • The new Linkedin Contacts pulls all your contacts from various sources into one place. You can make notes about each, get details of past interactions, be alerted to meetings and birthdays, and sort on the fly based on several criteria. Info automatically updates when changed on the sourced platform. Not included: Twitter & Facebook contacts. LinkedIn wants to be all business.
  • LinkedIn is also quite aware mobile is where it’s happening.  A revamped mobile app features big visual improvements and works hard to deliver users content informed by their profiles and habits.
  • Speaking of content, LinkedIn has made big moves toward being a key content provider for business.  They acquired newsreader Pulse to “be the definitive professional publishing platform.” That gets added to LinkedIn Today and the ability to subscribe to the content of Influencers.

You have now been quickly caught up on which way the social network development winds are blowing. Therefore, we expect you to be even more busy and powerful.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Apr 23, 2013

Easy Ways to Look Really Uncool to Your Fans

sleazeHave you as a brand ever paused to think about what an honor it is for somebody, anybody, to Like your Facebook page or choose to follow your tweets?  Outside of business reasons, how many brands have you followed on social? It’s a big deal for John Q. Public to invite you into their circle of friends and ask to hear from you. What kind of social content are you rewarding them with?

Below are quick, easy ways to immediately make someone regret Liking you. You see, they only want to self-identify with cool companies, and the things below make you markedly uncool.

Posting too much
A bigger issue on Facebook, but even on Twitter, each post should be new, breaking news type info. If you hog feeds, you’ll be seen as “clutter.” People like to clear clutter. Plus there’s no way you’ve got that much A-grade material. I’m not just making this up, a Lab42 study found posting too frequently is the #1 reason users unlike a brand.

Using social as a one-way megaphone
You’re not listening, you’re not responding, in general you’re making your fans feel like they’re there for you and not the other way around. The above study cites bad customer experience as the #3 reason fans dump brands on social. As for not listening, you’re only hurting yourself. 86% of consumer feedback online is being missed by brands, and 70% of marketers collect no social data about their competition.

Desperate selling
Do you really think your fans don’t know you want them to buy your product? So chill out and don’t make every post a breathless pitch. A Vanson Bourne study found 48% don’t want marketing messages at all. Another study (MediaBrix) shows people find ads disguised as content annoying, and 85% said it changed their opinion of the brand negatively if it had an effect at all. Yet…the study also found a great many marketers think this kind of disrespectful fake-out is effective.

Proving you’re uncommitted and/or lazy
Inconsistent posting that swings from radio silence to spammy barrage, auto-DMing that ruins the human-to-human social advantage, connecting social networks so Twitter hashtags show up in your Facebook posts, meaningless posts (“tell us your plans for the weekend!”), using an inhuman corporate voice, all prove to fans that for your brand, social is a pesky afterthought. Considering social makes up just 10% of brands’ digital marketing spend, and annual digital marketing operating budgets were a whopping 2.5% of company revenue in 2012, lack of commitment probably starts at the top.

There are certainly other annoyances: going hashtag crazy, not targeting or mis-targeting offers (studies indicate a 66% increase in engagement with proper targeting), asking fans to jump through hoops for you with no reward for doing so, etc.

But there are two bits of really good news. One; social management platforms now exist that make posting, listening, targeting, responding, and analyzing easier and more of an integrated process than ever. Doing social the right way is more do-able. And two; the rewards of not chasing fans away are great.

The Vanson Bourne report shows 68% of social users researched a product or service recommended by a friend, and 15% of those bought based on the recommendation. Win your fans’ trust, and they’ll get you new customers without a frantic hard sell. And 82% of respondents to the Lab42 study said Facebook is a good platform for interacting with brands, with 50% finding the page more useful than the brand’s www.

So your fans are quite predisposed to keep following you. Only you can mess that up and become the uncool kid they don’t want to be seen around.

@mikestiles

Tuesday Apr 09, 2013

Do You Have a Clue What to Do Other Than Advertise?

Warning: before entering the social tech/marketing world, my background was about content creation. On radio, TV, stage, digital, or print, very little enthused me more than making “stuff” that informed and entertained the public, putting it out there and seeing what they thought of it. So I tend to get a little impassioned when I see what’s going on with marketers and content.

Here’s what’s going on. Very little.

stageNew research from Forrester recently re-emphasized (and I’m not sure how many different times and in how many different ways the public can emphasize this for us) faith in digital ads continues to drop.

9% of Americans and 8% of Europeans trust texts from brands. 10% and 8% trust web site banner ads. Mobile apps are trusted by 12% of Americans and 10% of Europeans. 18% of Americans trust emails compared to 11% of Europeans.

So there you go. The best you’re going to do when it comes to the public believing your digital ad is 18%. And that’s if they read it or watch it. But ads are what we know, so ads are what we keep doing, thinking the world is wrong…not us. As with many things, the consumer is showing us what they want from us, and we’re not listening. We want what we want, and we want full-on sales pitches. We feel like we’re not doing our jobs if we’re not pounding the product.

It’s a new day. You win with the quality of your product. You win by knocking customer and prospect socks off with CX and service. That’s the new marketing. But to get the public close enough so you can wow them with your goods and service, you’ve got to give them something else they value. Welcome to branded content.

The study showed many marketers still aren’t even quite sure what branded content is. Forrester defines it as “content developed or curated by a brand to provide added consumer value such as entertainment or education. It’s designed to build brand consideration and affinity, not sell a product or service. It is not a paid ad, sponsorship, or product placement.” That’s a good definition.

It’s noisy out there, and branded content is the window to something that’s harder to get than ever, awareness. That’s especially true on social. You have a stage, you have an audience sitting there staring at it, what are you putting on it? Or here’s another question. Have you even hired a producer to put on your show?

Forrester points out that even though almost 80% of marketers say they’re spending on branded content, few CMO’s have actually staffed for it. Some agencies get it, and are creatively capable. But their clients inevitably double-clutch and end up pushing the end product as close to a traditional digital ad as they can get it. And then they scream, “Why didn’t my ad go viral?!” Money wasted.

Get your in-house entertainer/journalist sooner rather than later. Their prices are about to leap. Loosen the grip on your content calendar so you can capitalize on trends and breaking news (think Oreo). Believe that as the presenting brand, viewers will give you full credit for giving them content they liked. And if you show people how awesome you are with your products and customer experience vs. trying to talk them into something with ads, you won’t be able to keep the raving fans away or stop them from spreading the word about you.

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Apr 05, 2013

Multitaskers Force Brands to Be Everywhere

multitaskingThe old joke used to be that someone couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time.  Now we can walk, chew gum, do some needlepoint, play Words With Friends, listen to an audiobook, do isometric stomach crunches, hum, take in the smells of the city, and mentally go over your to-do list…all at the same time.

We are a multitasking species. We’re everywhere, and we’re using everything at our disposal to accomplish tasks, amuse ourselves, or take in information. Multiple people multitasking means multiple devices, which leaves brands trying to figure out which devices to focus on.

Well, you are also expected to multitask. So the answer is “all of them.” Your instinct might be to say, “Hey, they’re only going to engage with us one device at a time, and if we’re on every device, we’re just going to have our device strategies cannibalizing each other.”

A presentation at Oracle CloudWorld NYC with SVP Product Strategy for Oracle Social Reggie Bradford and NBCUniversal CMO John Miller showed otherwise.

The Olympics were the most watched event in TV history - 217 million viewers. 82 million were reached via digital platforms. There were 2 billion Page views, 65 million live streams and 8 million app downloads.

As it turns out, the more screens/ways there were to experience Olympic content, the more time was spent on all devices, with no cannibalization. Overall usage and engagement simply went…up.

With TV only, time spent consuming was 4 hours, 19 minutes. When the PC/laptop was added in, it was 5:18. Add in mobile, it was 6:50. Toss in tablets and we’re at 8:29. Not only did more screen increase overall consumption time, the addition of secondary screens such as tablet resulted in increased viewing on the primary screen, TV.

Consumer multitasking doesn’t hurt, it helps.

25% of time spent watching the competitions on TV was accompanied by the use of another screen. 50% of site, app, and mobile users watched while watching TV. And, of course, social fueled engagement, with 7 out of 10 viewers 13-34 saying it “made them more interested in watching the Games on TV.”

Okay, you might not be the Olympics, but the message is that when people find content they like, they seek out more of it in multiple places. That means we should strategize across all devices based on consumers’ multi-device behaviors, which a Microsoft study broke down into 4 categories in order of frequency.

Content Grazing: using 2+ screens simultaneously to do unrelated things.  
Investigative Spider-Webbing: using one device to get info related to what you’re doing on another.
Quantum Journey: using multiple devices sequentially to accomplish a task.
Social Spider-Webbing: sharing content on one device about what you did or found on another.

Does this apply to brands and revenue? Google/Nielsen found out 63% of shoppers used multiple devices to help with holiday purchases last year. And PricewaterhouseCoopers says 56% of US consumers spent more with a retailer since they started shopping across multiple channels.

What brands offer must match what consumers are doing. And that means multitasking on multiple devices.

@mikestiles

 

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