Friday Nov 14, 2014

The Power & Engagement of Social

The customer is always right. If there had been any doubt about the truth of that adage, social networking has eliminated it completely. While delivering a satisfying experience has always been important, social networks make it more vital than ever.

In a very short time, social networks have fundamentally changed the way many customers expect to interact with businesses. In recent years, if a customer had a support question the person would typically refer to the support site and, if the answer wasn’t easy to find, call the contact centre. Now if a customer goes to the company’s support site or customer forum and doesn’t quickly get the answer, the satisfaction levels dip and the person will search elsewhere to see if others have encountered the same issue. At this stage, customers usually turn to social platforms or forums, which are the biggest source for such answers. The negative impact of dissatisfaction with the online experience cannot be overstated. If customers are not satisfied with the information they find when first arriving at a business website, they are more than twice as likely to visit a competitor’s site as they are to make a call to the company’s contact centre. Further, these customers are less likely to visit the site again to buy online from this organisation.

Reaching out to the customer

No one likes to reinvent the wheel. That is why when we as consumers run into issues, it is our natural inclination to try to find out if others have run into the same issue and what they did to resolve it. Given this, a company-sponsored customer forum can be a great focal point for customers. By creating a vibrant customer forum, an organisation will gain a lot of near-term and long-term benefits. A forum is where a lot of customers start when they need answers. When done right, company-sponsored forums can be the first and best place for customers to go when they want questions answered. With effective moderation, reputation models, and flexible control, customer forums can deliver significant value to the enterprise and customers alike. Organizations can also gain a wealth of insights that can be leveraged to foster improvements in product development, quality control, marketing, and other areas of the business as well.

‘Findability’ is key

Even without social networks in the picture, the challenge of navigating server directories, intranets, websites, e-mail folders and other resources to find useful information can be daunting. Customer forums and other social networks added into the mix can threaten to overwhelm internal and external users with noise, rather than come across as meaningful information.

To meet this challenge, organisations need sophisticated search capabilities that derive the true intent from each search. This requires search capabilities very different from those employed by web search platforms such as Google or Yahoo!. To derive a search as true intent, organisations need enterprise knowledge management that features an integrated combination of natural language processing, information lifecycle management, and analytical insight into user behaviours.

Building brands with social media

Social Media also provides a dais for organisations to connect and interact with their stakeholders directly and instantly. With a large user base, consumers leave vital pieces of information with each like or comment on the various social media channels. Amassing such information can furnish new insights for brand management.

Marketers need to adopt a further strategic form of communications rather than just spamming customers or prospect customers. This can be manoeuvred through communication leadership via forums, portals and even company websites. Being on a digital platform, means working on quick turn-around time and responsive customer communication. A consistency need to be maintained around messaging. Furthermore, when companies engage with customers openly on social media, they fortify a certain level of accountability.

To sum up, organisations can view the proliferation of social networks as a threat or an opportunity. It can be seen as a threat because of the seemingly endless new data streams social networks generate that needs to be sifted and processed for the information that is useful. However, enterprises need to approach social networking as a huge opportunity – a new way to communicate with and learn from customers in a mode that customers have embraced. By interacting with customers in their familiar mode, organisations can realise significant improvements in not only customer service but also product development, quality assurance, marketing, and virtually every other area of the business. By taking a strategic, knowledge based approach, organisations can most fully leverage the potential of social networks to truly enhance the customer experience and improve business performance.

Friday Jul 11, 2014

Did You Hear That? The World Just Got Smaller

Oracle Social Cloud Expands Global Language Resources to Help Businesses Listen to Customers Worldwide

Do you speak Bahasa? Then we have good news for you. Customers of the Oracle Social Relationship Management (SRM) solution, brought to you by the good folks at the Oracle Social Cloud, can now listen in that language so brands will know what you are and aren’t happy about.

That’s also true for Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish. So Oracle now supports 18, count ‘em, 18 languages with advanced keyword and Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) listening.

Most of us are familiar with keyword listening, even advanced keyword listening that helps separate signal from noise so you get fewer results that you don’t want. But package that with Latent Semantic Analysis, and now you’ve really got something. LSA takes what’s known about terms and how they’re usually used so that context and likely intent can be factored in. You can probably imagine how this dance of terms and intent differs from language to language.

Of course, it doesn’t stop there. Oracle also offers Natural Language Processing (NLP) in Chinese, English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, with more languages to come. NLP helps you get to the sentiment being expressed in the things you’re hearing across social, forums, blogs, sites, etc., we’re talking access to over 700 million messages daily. And the Oracle SRM itself gives you user interfaces and publishing in 31 languages.

But back to today’s announcement. Organizations that operate globally can’t just stay deaf to what people all over that globe are saying. The personalized, localized customer experiences modern marketing brings wouldn’t be possible. Oracle (quite the global brand itself) is committed not just to effective digital listening for brands, but also to extending that listening capability into every market you’d care to penetrate.

Oracle Social Cloud Group VP Meg Bear says, “With the global social networking audience reaching 2.33 billion by 2017, there’s no doubt that successful businesses need to be globally social. Removing language barriers is critical to improving an organization’s social listening, learning and engagement capabilities.”

There are all kinds of reasons to listen to what people are saying. You can learn what’s going on with your products, with your industry, and with your competition. Today, location and language simply cannot be a barrier to the customer awareness so critical to winning customer experiences. Now that you can listen in these additional languages, just don’t forget to act on what you learn.

@mikestiles @oraclesocial

Tuesday Mar 04, 2014

The Secrets to Making People Care About Your Social Marketing Content

boring social media contentI write about social marketing…a lot. And I’ve found that the more tech innovation comes along, the more relentless expectations by brand leaders are that marketing be executed purely from automated, algorithm-driven machines.

The tech tools are stunning in their ability to gather, analyze, inform and direct customer interactions. I’m lucky enough to be with the only company with the depth and resources in business software across the enterprise to build a fully integrated marketing and customer experience environment. If I were a brand, I’d be nervous about messing with anything else.

But success unavoidably keeps boiling down to making content that attracts, holds, and inspires people. That is a human artistic endeavor. How do you make people care about the content you’re putting out? You don’t. You take what they already care about and craft your content from that foundation. Here’s what they care about.

1. Looking Good

Being associated with you is either going to be embarrassing or empowering. Your users want to look cool. If you give them content that makes them look cool if they share it, they’ll do it. If it makes them look like your salespeople, that’s embarrassing.

2. Not Being Played for a Chump

If you bait me with an awesome headline then fail to deliver value or generate interest in the first couple of graphs, I feel tricked. And I don’t like people who think so little of me they try to trick me. 38% of people who land on a page bounce almost instantly.

3. Feeling Like They Belong

Guess why people are on social to begin with. To connect. If they don’t feel they’re getting insider info or special deals from you, they don’t regard it as much of a connection. If they praise or reach out to you and get ignored, that’s full-on rejection, one of the deepest human fears there is. Heart+Mind Strategies found 72% of US users shifting back to using social primarily to stay in touch with family and friends. Brands are losing them.

4. Feeling Known

If you care enough to know what platforms they prefer, what kind of content they respond to, when they tend to be online, what kinds of images grab their attention, which of your products they use, etc., they’re far less likely to blow off or gloss over content that comes from you.

5. Not Having Their Time Wasted

That means your stuff better either entertain, inform, or both. Keep content fresh. If you can solve a problem they’re having, solve it. If you can make them smarter (overall, not just about you and what you offer), do it. If you can make them laugh, do it.

6. Being Able to Trust You

Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University writes about six “Weapons of Influence.”

Several revolve around authority and trust. Our default is to trust authority. Brands have a head start. You’re an authority…until you violate that trust. People also commit to and defend the choices they make. They’ll go to distance to support their choice to Like you, but can be pushed too far. And they trust groupthink. If your fans are happy and participating, there won’t be much dissent. But if the tide turns against you thanks to bad content, the dominos will fall quickly.

7. Things Being Fast and Easy

Resist your corporate urge to make things as complex as possible to prove to the people up the hall how hard you work. People move through social content lightning fast. Overthink what you’re doing and they’ll say “eh…” and move right past your stuff. Quick and easy to consume, quick and easy to share.

Some brands have started to question whether social users want content from them at all. eMarketer shows over half think brands should be creating timely digital content. So much for that excuse. They want content, they just want it to be good. And they’re working diligently to edit out the noise.

Don’t be noise. Test your content, make sure it touches on basic human emotional triggers, and you’re on your way to users looking forward to your content and turning into brand advocates.

Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Jan 17, 2014

Pinterest: The Latest Picture on Big Social Marketing Engagement

social marketing with imageryFirst of all, thanks for reading this.  It would appear we as a people are driving toward eliminating the written word and returning to communicating primarily via pictures. And whether that’s good or bad, visually driven social media networks like Pinterest continue to draw some of the highest engagement in social marketing.

Engagement is what we as brands crave on social. Having somewhere down the line decided impressions are worthless (I totally disagree), we’re using active interacting as our yardstick, and Pinterest makes fine engagement bait.

Our friends in Oracle Social Strategy Consulting tell us from 2012 to 2013, Pinterest sharing went up at least 50%. A ShareThis study underlines that, saying Pinterest is growing faster at sharing than any other social media service and has passed email to become the 3rd most popular way to share.

Pinterest is the leader in eCommerce traffic sources. It’s rapidly gaining share from Facebook in social shopping sessions, and users coming from Pinterest to retail sites are 10% more likely to buy something, part of why they’re regarded as twice as valuable to online retailers on average than Facebook fans. And 8thBridge found that online retailers prefer the ‘Pin It’ button to the Facebook “Like” 62% to 59%.

A recent Pew Project shows Pinterest saw the biggest usage spike in 2013, going from 15 to 21% and surpassing Twitter. It now has over 70 million active users globally. Who are they? You already knew the answer. Mostly women; college-educated women 25-44. Moms in particular are 61% more likely to use Pinterest than the average American.

Ah but it doesn’t stop there. Pinterest is now the 2nd largest social sharing site for news, surpassing Twitter in that as well. Pinterest drives more traffic to online publishers than Twitter, Linkedin and Reddit combined.

Heading into 2014, Pinterest is ready for mobile (2nd most mobile behind Instagram), offers analytics that tell us things like most repinned and most clicked, Rich Pins make pins more informative and interactive, and there’s the new Place Pins for travel lovers.

Most recently we saw Pinterest’s purchase of Visual Graph, which is all about turning the site’s massive content into massive data via image recognition. The tech id’s objects and faces without needing alternate text or tags. Searches for items will be highly accurate and relevant, turning Pinterest into a personalized catalogue on steroids.

Pinterest is not without challenges. It’s not monetizing yet, where the delicate dance of not turning off users enters the picture. The company doesn’t even own the rights to the name “Pinterest” in Europe and Australia. And as young and hot as it is, Pinterest could already be growing “long in the tooth.” 80% of the Pinterest-like We Heart It’s users are under 24, whereas 80% of Pinterest users are over 24.

But for right now, if engagement is going to be our scoreboard, a mighty pretty picture is being painted for Pinterest.


Tuesday Oct 22, 2013

Get Fanatical About Your Followers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Tuesday Jun 04, 2013

Threaded Conversations Make Management Platforms a Must

threadThe phrase “Facebook is rolling out something new” always charges the air with a mixture of excitement, curiosity and anxiety.  One of the more recent innovations was threaded conversations and ranked comments.

Threaded conversations allow users to reply to a specific comment so discussions around that comment are relevant and can be easily followed in a thread. Ranked comments bring the comments getting the most engagement to the top, the idea being to “reward” engagement-inspiring contributions with better positioning. Plus, each user should see personalized rankings so comments from people they know trump others.

Facebook will kick these features on for all pages by or around July 10. The goal, of course, is to increase overall engagement and thus, time spent on Facebook. And while you may not lie awake at night worrying about what Facebook needs, engagement means more time spent with your brand’s posts, and that’s a good thing for you.

A Facebook spokesperson said, “We think this update will allow for easier management of conversations around posts.” However, now might be a good time to go check and see if your Community Manager’s face is turning blue or if they’re reaching for a blood pressure cuff.

On the user side, it all makes sense. Conversations will be more organized. Users will be notified of additions to conversations they’re participating in so they’re easier to follow. There’s no need to tag an earlier commenter, because the reply will be nested under the comment.

On the admin side, a Social Media Today piece outlined potential challenges. If a CM with multiple pages doesn’t want to get bombed with notifications, they’ll have to manually, repeatedly go through each post and thread to see what’s new and what warrants a response. No more glancing at the bottom of comments to see if something’s been added. Discussions with high engagement go to the top for higher visibility…yes, even those bashing the brand. Admins can down-rank such comments but have to catch them first. And, since direct response to comments makes things more personal, some CM’s are seeing an uptick in bullying.

Which makes finding a social channel management tool more essential than ever. For Oracle’s part, the Engage component of the Social Relationship Management Suite supports these new features. Comment replies do allow for direct responding to fans and hold particular implications around social customer service. But with the management suite, CM’s have access to Read/Unread status so they can easily see which comments and replies have been read so nothing falls through the cracks. The suite’s workflow lets CM’s assign the message/comment/reply to the right person internally so it can be quickly addressed. Labels let managers categorize messages, both manually and automatically, for easy access. And the full message audit trail lets them follow up to see what team member took what action on what post, and when.

Clearly, the combination of multiple social channels per brand, numerous fans on each channel, and an ever-growing list of new features such as threaded conversations and ranked comments increasingly makes the notion of effective, customer-pleasing page management using native-only functionalities a non-starter.

But if you’re going to go that route, you may want to buy your CM yoga classes or some other type of relaxing activity.

Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Mar 01, 2013

Will You Wither on the Vine?

grapesNow that Vine, the video app acquired by Twitter in October 2012, has had time to apply some updates, reach proper levels of usage and absorb feedback, where might it wind up on the “Scale of Social Importance” for brands? (There is no such scale. I totally made it up.)

Vine takes the concept of restricting content exhibited in the Twitter character limit, and applies it to video. Vine videos don’t go beyond 6 seconds. They’re looped, meaning they automatically repeat, not unlike the animated GIFs so iconic of Tumblr. And they do begin playing automatically.

But the bottom line is, you have 6 seconds to thrill, entertain, amuse, inform, and communicate your message. The adoption of Vine videos further illustrates how the public has been telling us they want to consume content. They like video…and they like it to be easy to make, easy to watch, and easy to share. Vine speaks to all these things.

Which plops the ball right back in our court as brands. We have to decide if we’re going to play by the consumer’s rules and make the kind of content they like, on the platforms they like, or not.

If production costs are why your brand hasn’t gotten deep into generating video for your social channels, Vine takes away some of that argument. The audience isn’t necessarily looking for “slick” or big budget. They don’t expect George Clooney to appear in your Vine video. You simply record by holding down a button on your device, starting and stopping if you like, until your 6 seconds is up.

The end result looks like something like these examples of Vine video.

We’re still a ways from seeing if user-generated Vine videos can be monetized with ads from us marketers. An AdAge article poses the absurdity of putting a 15-second pre-roll in front of content that’s only 6 seconds. Frankly, there are those that argue such pre-rolls in front of 1:15 videos on YouTube exceed the proper limits of exasperation. But there they are.

Aside from UGC Vine video contests, that leaves brand-created videos holding the most “marketing usage of Vine” potential. Notice how every hot trend and advancement in social points in the same direction? Content and creativity is everything.

With that truth embraced, your awesome Vine videos can be shared to fans and followers on Vine, Facebook and Twitter. They can find additional exposure on a variety of different startups that focus on Vine video discovery and search-ability. These create environments of channel surfing on steroids, short-attention-span theatre.

The differentiator between success and failure for brands is the same as for rank and file users - imagination. Many Vine videos are awful, a complete waste of the viewer’s valuable 6 seconds. Co-founder of Viddy, JJ Aguhob, points out there’s a diminishing pool of quality content for an ever-expanding audience. That’s spells opportunity for your brand to be one of the more valued Vine video content providers.

The job is really the same as it’s always been on social - keep the content relevant, cool, and worthwhile. Vine is simply another new, albeit shorter, way to do that.

Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Feb 12, 2013

Be Their Social Valentine: Go From Like to Love

RoseHappy Valentine’s Day (week)! Traditionally, it’s a time to drop lots of money on flowers and candy to express gratitude for the ones you love. If you’re fortunate, those people even love you back. For brands, this courtship plays itself out on social.

Getting a Facebook “Like” can be a heady experience for brand. You should be swept off your feet if a consumer willingly clicks that thumbs up button and publicly expresses a fondness for your product or service. But after that initial attraction, your fan is going to want the relationship to grow. Sadly, far too many brands are happy with “Like,” the cheap one-night stands of the social network world.

When a consumer Likes a brand, all they’re really saying is, “Okay, you caught my eye. I’m interested. Let’s see where this thing goes.” You, as the suitor, have to then either close the deal, or set the fan free to Like and build a satisfying relationship with someone else. Like is merely a first step.

From there, brands should be diligently focused on turning Likes into loves. Simply gathering fans and putting notches in your iPad for every conquest results in little more than empty bragging rights. It’s not going to get you what you really want out of a relationship with your customer.

To get that, you have to get engaged. Getting engaged, just as in the real world, means making an obvious, ongoing commitment to a relationship that’s going to last, that’s going to work, and that’s going to be healthy for both parties involved.

Think about what love does for us:

  • It makes us feel good about ourselves
  • We know the other person will be there for us
  • It gives us someone to do nice things for
  • It gives us someone who’ll be honest with us
  • It gives us someone to build a family with

The value proposition for brands to turn Like into love isn’t much different.

  • Fans make us feel good about our product  
  • As long as we don’t betray or neglect them, they’ll be there for us  
  • They give us someone to make happy  
  • They’ll be honest with us, even if what they’re telling us is difficult to hear  
  • They help us grow our family of fans

None of this is possible if you stop at Like. How do we move them from somewhat interested to head over heels? Easy. We love them back. As Glenn Close told us when she cooked Michael Douglas’ pet rabbit, people don’t like to be ignored.

When you love someone, you care about how they feel, you care about what they think, you spend time with them, you make them feel like they’re the most important person in the world to you. It’s human nature…we like people who like us. The minute your fans feel like they’re taken for granted and doing all the giving in the relationship, the magic is gone.

As the Dr. Phil of brands on social, we at Oracle Social are mastering the socially enabled enterprise, with technology tools that help brands and organizations listen to fans, get to know them intimately, solicit their opinion, and deepen the engagement that can create true brand love stories for the digital ages.

Photo: stock.xchng

Tuesday Jan 22, 2013

Social Customer Service: The CX Dream

sleepy catIn our last blog, we touched on the importance of listening and responding when social users reach out to the brand. Today, let’s go a bit deeper into just how much customers want to use social for this purpose, and bigger picture – how the right social customer service execution gets you significantly down the road toward the dream CX.

The days of “you’ll take what we give you” are over. Not only are customers empowered by social to amplify experiences both positive and negative to peers, they’re also empowered to set their own customer experience expectations.

No, you didn’t set those expectations, but it’s your task to address them. Failing to do so makes your dream CX more of a nightmare. When expectations are violated, the result is frustration, anger, resentment, and ill will. Also, friends are told the sad story of how the customer was “done wrong.”

Entire books have been written on CX. Thick ones. But as a loyal Social Spotlight reader, I’ll boil CX success down for you in two phrases.



Class dismissed.

That’s it. Nail those two things and you’ve built a dream CX. Unfortunately, as obvious as that sounds, organizations are quite tangled up and bogged down in their efforts to deliver it.

A recent infographic outlined how customers are connecting with brands and how they increasingly want to. The top 3 ways they’re connecting are quite traditional; phone (84%), email (80%) and company site (72%).

Though they’re traditional and have been around forever, the CX in these areas is often still a nightmare. Multi-level phone trees designed to keep you away from humans and that never seem to offer the option you need, automated form-response emails followed by radio silence, and site navigation resembling cluttered mazes even the most skilled lab rat couldn’t negotiate their way through in under a day.

Increasingly, customers are trying to get satisfaction through social and mobile. Why? Partly because the social networks instantly solve the “easy to use” dream. Customers are using platforms they already know, so on the customer-facing side, the social networks are doing half the brand’s CX job for them.

That leaves the other half, “delivers the desired result.” And that’s where bad traditional CX threatens to extend itself to bad social/mobile CX if not addressed.

The infographic tells us 56% of customers who connect with social feel a stronger connection to the brand, and 50% are more likely to buy from a brand they can contact with via social. There’s the opportunity customers are offering.


-79% of smartphone users say they always or sometimes know more about the product/issue than the brand’s customer service rep (!)
-80% of smartphone users still haven’t been marketed to by their favorite brands via mobile (!!)

The socially enabled enterprise can pull social/mobile customer touch points into an overall CRM system so that integration with traditional customer service vehicles benefits and informs both, in every customer interaction. Inquiries can be easy for customers to make, and the answers they get back can be fast and usable.

They’ll think they’re living in a CX dream.

Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Jan 18, 2013

5 Co$ts of Lousy Twitter Engagement

dead endTo be blunt (when am I not?), brands are blowing it when it comes to social engagement.  But right behind the bluntness, there’s good news. Technology tools are here to turn social engagement & monitoring into an asset instead of a liability.

An Acquity Group study reveals 45 out of 50 major retailers have active Twitter accounts. That’s good, right? Maybe not. Only 29% of them respond to customer questions and complaints. Let’s really soak that in. 71% are completely ignoring customers that liked the brand so much, they willingly clicked to connect with them. Which brings us to…

Co$t 1: Breaking your Customer’s Heart
In the hierarchy of human fears, only failure and death top the fear of rejection. Imagine expressing your affection for someone, and they ignore you. How warm and fuzzy do you think ignored followers feel toward a brand they expressed love for? In an era where customer service is the whole ball game, and with customers more empowered than ever, rejection is a very odd strategy to adopt.

Co$t 2: Helping your Competition Win
If you ignore your customers, make no mistake, a competing product will be ready to receive them with open arms. They’ll be going out of their way to prove they’re not like you, that they’ll treat the customer better. You’re giving your competition an engraved invitation to erase you.

Co$t 3: Being too Busy to Make Money
Brands not only have to sell, they have to sell again. Happy customers are the root of repeat buying. Repeat customers are very cost-efficient. All you have to do is reasonably service them. Ignoring a customer tweet is like coming right out and saying on your phone line, “Hold if you want to, your call really isn’t that important to us.” These people are trying to spend money with you, ignoring them on social costs leads and sales.

Co$t 4: Creating Anti-ambassadors
We know how powerful word of mouth marketing is. But word of mouth brand-bashing is even more powerful. Give someone a horrible experience on phone support, and that’s between the two of you (you hope). Give someone a horrible experience on social, and the world is watching how you treat customers. Social is where users go to advise each other. It’s a dangerous place to put your worst foot forward.

Co$t 5: Stopping Innovation
Your customers know your products intimately. They’re in the trenches with them every day. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They want to help you make your products, and your service, better. They want you to win. If you’re committed to not listening, or if you perceive suggestions as attacks, you’re passing on a raving fan base the likes of which you never thought possible.

None of the above costs are necessary. Social engagement & monitoring can give you listening, engagement and analysis capabilities across not just Twitter, but all social channels, so you can know what customers are saying, route issues to the right personnel, respond in real time, and not even give customers the chance to consider competitors. Armed with monitoring data, you can then measure overall sentiment, adjust strategy to changing customer conversations, and grow your brand advocacy.

The days of brands calling all the shots are over. The public has decided how they will use social where brands are concerned. If we aren’t there or don’t answer when they reach out, there is a price to be paid.

Photo: istockphoto

Friday Jan 11, 2013

Social and CRM: Why They Belong Under One Roof

Discussions around social being extended across all facets of the enterprise are especially putting a “social spotlight” (shilling my own blog there) on the symbiotic relationship between social and CRM.

Today’s public is gravitating toward social as the desired means of communicating and interacting with brands. So social becomes the potential touchpoint for every aspect of the CRM daisy chain, from attraction to lead to sale to upsell to customer service.

Which might leave you wondering, “How do we best connect our CRM system to a social management system so that data from each can inform the other in a beautiful technology dance rivaling the Paso Doble?”

I’d like to submit a word for possible consideration as having purely negative connotations: piecemeal. Many brands are entrenched in disparate legacy systems handling the various arms of the enterprise, even though total data integration is the obvious future. They’ve set about connecting these various systems from various vendors so data can flow from one to the other.

It’s not seamless, nor is it truly integrated. It’s piecemeal, with all the dangers and inefficiencies that come with it.

VP of Product Development for the Oracle Social Cloud Jim Anderson is helping enterprise organizations see the promise of one partner spanning both CRM and SRM (Social Relationship Management). If you were a fly on the wall in those meetings, here’s what you would hear Jim say:

Tech surrounding enterprise data, including social, is evolving quickly. With multiple vendors and platforms, what are the odds all will innovate and upgrade evenly? What happens when one upgrades, causing breakages or lapses in the others? These systems were not designed to work together, so you spend your time and resources fixing what breaks instead of innovating and advancing on a unified front.

Multiple systems exchanging data and playing nice with each other sounds do-able and cost-efficient. But with differing rate-limiting issues causing possible silent failures that lead to incomplete data and inaccurate conclusions, transaction interruptions, unexpected data types, unavailable systems, and differing language and international character sets (just tossing out a few examples here), your enterprise is essentially relegated to the “least common denominator” of what all the pieces of your piecemeal are capable of. That keeps you as far away from the leading edge as possible.

Now picture hardware and software from one qualified vendor engineered to work together, pulling SRM, CRM, HCM, and other functions of the enterprise under one roof in the cloud. True integration. A single point of contact, incentivized to align and resolve any disconnects. Such holistic approaches and long-term partnerships are the real path to capitalizing on innovations in data and confidently making enterprise-wide, data-driven decisions.

Photo: stock.xchng

Friday Jan 04, 2013

The Value of Short and Simple

StopwatchPeople are busy. You’re busy.

2013 is going to be about helping people find and consume your content and message as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

When people have their time wasted, they’re not happy.

If they wanted to read reams of text, they’d go buy “War and Peace.”

Many brands pat themselves on the back for putting out massive content assets aimed just over their audience’s head. It impresses people inside the organization. Outside the organization, it’s getting skimmed…at best.

While users spend 6.75 hours per month on Facebook and 21 minutes a month on Twitter, the time spent considering an individual post (and that’s if it surfaces in the Facebook News Feed) is lightning fast.

Consider how fast you scroll through your own News Feed and Twitter stream. That’s how long others give your brand’s content as well. Scary, huh?

Yes, there are posting strategies for increasing engagement. But what really makes social users give a post a chance? An eye-catching image and/or a headline that’s so awesome it could almost stand on its own (which it often has to).

Twitter set its 140-character limit because that’s about how long a typical text message is. The public is accustomed to communicating via text. Anything much longer and eyes start to glaze over.

People are retweeting (and thereby endorsing) articles they themselves never took the time to read. C’mon, you know it happens all the time.

Most 20-page missives can be boiled down to a few worthwhile takeaways. The rest is filler and hot air.

If you do have volumes of sheer genius, break it up and feed it to your audience in bite sizes. Give me a bag of Skittles, don’t hand me one 50 lb. Skittle.

Social is the ideal medium for short, clear communication.

But it’s not just social. The value of short and clear applies to nearly all communication, from voicemail messages to emails.

The world and the people in it are only going to move faster in 2013. They’re adopting mobile specifically because they want to multitask and consume content on the go.

Respect the value of your audience’s time and play to it by telling them what you want them to know as clearly and as succinctly as you can.

Photo: istockphoto

Friday Dec 07, 2012

The Social Content Conundrum

stageHere’s the social content conundrum: people who are not entertainers are being asked to entertain.

Despite a world of skilled MBAs, marketing savants, technological innovators, analysts, social strategists and consultants, every development in social for brands keeps boomeranging right back to the same unavoidable truth. Success hinges on having content creators who know how to entertain the target audience.

You can’t make this all about business-processes. You can’t make this all about technology, though data is critical and helps inform content. This is about having human beings who know the audience, know what they’d love to see, and can create the magic that will draw and hold them.

Since showing up in the News Feed is critical for exposition and engagement, and since social ads primarily serve to amplify content that’s performing well, I’m comfortable saying content creators are becoming exponentially recruited and valued. They will no longer be commodities. They’ll be your stars.

Social has fundamentally changed the relationship between brand and consumer. No longer can the customer be told to sit down, shut up, and listen to our ads. It’s now all about what consumers are willing to watch or read. Their patience for subjecting themselves to material they aren’t interested in is waning.

Therefore, brands must now be producers of entertainment and information content, not merely placers of ads within someone else’s content. Social has given you a huge stage, with an audience sitting out there waiting to see what you’re going to do. What are you putting on that stage?

For most corporate environments, entertaining is alien. It’s risky and subjective. Most operate around two foundational principles: control and fear. To entertain and inform with branded content, some control has to go. You control the product. Past that, control is being transferred into the hands of the consumer. The “fear first” culture also has to yield. If you strive to never make waves, you will move absolutely nothing.

Because most corporations don’t house entertainers, they must be found then trusted. They’re usually a little weird. The ideas they’ll bring may seem “out there.” But like any business professional, they’ve gone through the training and experiences that make them uniquely good at what they do, even if you don’t quite understand them. It’s okay. It’s what the audience thinks that matters. Get it right, and you’ll be generating one ambassador after another who’s proud to be identified with the brand and will regularly consume and share your content.

Entertainment entities are able to shape our culture and succeed beyond their wildest dreams by being beholden to one thing…what the public likes and wants. When brands put the same emphasis on crowd-pleasing content, they too will enjoy brand fame the likes of which they’ve never seen. The stage is yours. Now get out there and go for that applause.

Friday Nov 30, 2012

Social Engagement: One Size Doesn't Fit Anyone

magazineThe key to achieving meaningful social engagement is to know who you’re talking to, know what they like, and consistently deliver that kind of material to them. Every magazine for women knows this. When you read the article titles promoted on their covers, there’s no mistaking for whom that magazine is intended.

And yet, confusion still reigns at many brands as to exactly whom they want to talk to, what those people want to hear, and what kind of content they should be creating for them. In most instances, the root problem is brands want to be all things to all people. Their target audience…the world!

Good luck with that. It’s 2012, the age of aggregation and custom content delivery. To cope with the modern day barrage of information, people have constructed technological filters so that content they regard as being “for them” is mostly what gets through.

Even if your brand is for men and women, young and old, you may want to consider social properties that divide men from women, and young from old. Yes, a man might find something in a women’s magazine that interests him. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to subscribe to it, or buy even one issue. In fact he’ll probably never see the article he’d otherwise be interested in, because in his mind, “This isn’t for me.” It wasn’t packaged for him.

News Flash: men and women are different. So it’s a tall order to craft your Facebook Page or Twitter handle to simultaneously exude the motivators for both. The Harris Interactive study “2012 Connecting and Communicating Online: State of Social Media” sheds light on the differing social behaviors and drivers.

-65% of women (vs. 59% of men) stay glued to social because they don’t want to miss anything.

-25% of women check social when they wake up, before they check email. Only 18% of men check social before e-mail.

-95% of women surveyed belong to Facebook vs. 86% of men.

-67% of women log in to Facebook once a day or more vs. 54% of men.

-Conventional wisdom is Pinterest is mostly a woman-thing, right? That may be true for viewing, but not true for sharing. Men are actually more likely to share on Pinterest than women, 23% to 10%.

-The sharing divide extends to YouTube. 68% of women use it mainly for consumption, as opposed to 52% of men.

-Women are as likely to have a Twitter account as men, but they’re much less likely to check it often. 54% of women check it once a week compared to 2/3 of men.

Obviously, there are some takeaways from this depending on your target. Women don’t want to miss out on anything, so serialized content might be a good idea, right? Promotional posts that lead to a big payoff could keep them hooked. Posts for women might be better served first thing in the morning. If sharing is your goal, maybe male-targeted content is more likely to get those desired shares. And maybe Twitter is a better place to aim your male-targeted content than Facebook.

Some grocery stores started experimenting with male-only aisles. The results have been impressive. Why? Because while it’s true men were finding those same items in the store just fine before, now something has been created just for them. They have a place in the store where they belong.

Each brand’s strategy and targets are going to differ. The point is…know who you’re talking to, know how they behave, know what they like, and deliver content using any number of social relationship management targeting tools that meets their expectations.

If, however, you’re committed to a one-size-fits-all, “our content is for everybody” strategy (or even worse, a “this is what we want to put out and we expect everybody to love it” strategy), your content will miss the mark for more often than it hits.

Photo via stock.schng


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