Tuesday Jun 11, 2013

The First 4 Questions of a Social Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

@mikestiles
Photo: stock.xchng, Kriss Szkurlatowski

Friday May 10, 2013

Social Marketing Secrets from My Parking Problem

booted carAs marketers, and specifically as social marketers, we’re often guilty of not putting ourselves in the shoes of the consumer. As masters of over-thinking, we work feverishly to figure out what will “work” with our target market, without ever stopping to think about what works on us.

That’s right, we’re not only marketers, we’re consumers too. We are somebody’s target. Does it not follow logically then that the kinds of things that are effective on you might also be effective on your brand’s audience? That your desires, reactions and behaviors might also be theirs?

I was reminded of this when I recently had a (gasp) positive and effective experience being marketed to. It wasn’t social. In fact it was quite guerilla and old school. But it holds core lessons for social strategy.

I’ve been paying daily to park in a lot with an “in by 9am” rate. Problems include spaces sometimes not being available and the price going up to $20 on days when events were happening downtown. There’s no in and out, so I can’t leave for lunch and come back without paying again. And it’s not covered parking, so everything from the summer sun to inconsiderate birds wreck their havoc.

Then the daily rate went up. That’s when I started getting cards on my windshield, something that normally makes me quite irate. But…the card was about a special $50/month deal in a nearby parking deck. Brilliant!

Here’s a business that knew what area competitors were doing, identified a resulting pain point for the competition’s customers, offered a proposition of real value that spoke to that pain point, and presented it at exactly the time and place where the pain was most top of mind. Score.

I assumed the special $50 rate was for one or two introductory months. But when I emailed that question to the deck, they responded (right away) that the rate was good for as long as I renewed. Game-Set-Match. Guess who had me as a customer but lost me. Guess who won my business, has me feeling good about their brand and telling this story.

All of the elements of this success are available to you via the social-enabled enterprise. With an integrated platform you can do (at scale with marketing automation encompassing paid, owned and earned) what my parking deck did; watch the competition to see if they’re giving you an opportunity, listen to potential customers who post their desires, deliver your proposition of real value to them when and where it will be best received, respond quickly and positively to potential customer inquiries, and leverage opportunities for customers to share with friends how happy they are with you.

See? You had the secret to effective social marketing with you all along.

@mikestiles
Photo: Samuel Rosa, stock.xchng

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.

@mikestiles
Photo via stock.schng

Friday Aug 24, 2012

Social Targeting: Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?

darts on a targetAre you the kind of person that tries to sell Clay Aiken CD’s outside Warped Tour concert venues? Then you don’t think a lot about targeting your messages to the right audience. For your communication to pack the biggest punch it can, you need to know where to throw it. And a recent study on social demographics might help you see social targeting in a whole new light.

Pingdom’s annual survey of social network demographics shows us first of all that there is no gender difference between Facebook and Twitter. Both are 40% male, 60% female. If you’re looking for locales that lean heavily male, that would be Slashdot, Hacker News and Stack Overflow. The women are dominating Pinterest, Goodreads and Blogger.

So what about age? 55% of tweeters are 35 and up, compared with 63% at Pinterest, 65% at Facebook and 70% at LinkedIn. As you can tell, LinkedIn supports the oldest user base, with the average member being 44. The average age at Facebook is 51, and it’s 37 at Twitter.

babyIf you want to aim younger, have you met Orkut yet? 83% of its users are under 35. The next sites in order as great candidates for the young market are deviantART, Hacker News, Hi5, Github, and Reddit. I know, other than Reddit, many of you might be saying “who?” But the list could offer an opportunity to look at the vast social world beyond Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (which Pingdom did not include in the survey at all due to a lack of accessible data).

As for the average age of social users overall:
26% are 25-34
25% are 35-44
19% are 45-54
16% are 18-24
 6% are 55-64
 5% are 0-17
 and 2% are 65

Now you know where you stand on the “cutting edge” scale for a person your age. You’re welcome.

Certainly such demographics are a moving target and need to be watched and reassessed on a regular basis to make sure you’re moving in step with the people you want to talk to. For instance, since Pingdom’s survey last year, the age of the average Facebook user has gone up 2 years, while the age of the average Twitter user has gone down 2 years.

With the targeting and analytics tools available on today’s social management platforms, there’s little need to market in the dark. Otherwise, good luck with those Clay CD’s.

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