Category Archives: brand reputation

The Company Organization Messes Up Social Media

social media organizationWhere social media resides in the organization continues to be problematic. I have written about this issue and made suggestions in the past. But today I am writing to suggest that social does not fit into any department based on how companies are organize today. In fact this scenario hinders social media success.

Let’s start with a telling question. How many companies have a group that’s sole objective is optimizing and winning over the brand’s perceived reputation? Forget simply solving problems like most customer support organizations. Forget loyalty and lead generation as in marketing. Does any organizational group solely focus on great customer relationships and customer love? This goes beyond customer services. This is the social media marketing objective. When you take social marketing disciplines and place them in an organization that has other objectives the success and value of social gets diminished, maybe squashed.

While it is the goal of every company to generate strong revenue, different groups need to act and be motivated by other parameters beyond sales and lead generation. Sales and lead generation are certainly important, but they are short-term objectives. What about long-term objectives that drive sustainable business? Do businesses focus on this long-term sustainability anymore or are they just quarter to quarter driven. I can only think of a few companies committed to long-term success.

Consider the paramount value of social marketing – advocacy. Not only is advocacy leading social marketing outcomes, but it is also the strongest form of marketing. To have others market and suggest your product is far more effective than having the brand market the product. Different strategies and tactics must take place to spawn advocacy than the strategies and tactics to generate sales and lead generation. And yet, the residual effect of advocacy is revenue increase. The marketing group typically has lead generation and advocacy objectives. But somehow short-term objectives (lead generation) always overshadow long-term (advocacy). Thus, when social media sits in the marketing organization, the success of social is hindered because short-term objectives trump long-term objectives.

Marketing is always going to have objectives of sales and lead generation. Can marketing also be committed to post sales-conversion of loyalty and advocacy? Can the same person/group have sales/lead generation and loyalty/advocacy? The issue is that marketing has all these objectives and at the end of the day sales is what trumps all.

So when we look at social media success, understand the target audience behavior. Users are turned off by blatant sales. They want to feel comfortable with a brand. They want a great user experience. Then they will buy. So if the behavior has some precursor steps that must be accomplished in order to get to sales, should we make sure someone, some group acts in an appropriate way and gets measured on their success there?

Bottom line – marketing must change. Change is difficult and sometimes impossible at companies. If your company cannot change, then the responsibility of relationship building, customer engagement, building loyalty, building advocacy – all must be assigned to another group than your current marketing group. Change or move it somewhere, but get it done right.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand reputation, change management, social marketing, social media, social media organization, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Digital Technologies and User Behavior Change What it Means to Be a Brand

If you look on Wikipedia for the definition of a brand, you find that it is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s product distinct from those of other sellers.” But as a marketer, I think it is much more important to think of what it means to be a brand in terms of your target audience.

Thus, I define a brand as a promise made from a company to its target audience with regards to the product(s) it sells. A brand is defined by characteristics such as quality, features, availability, and overall user experience. When done right, every single aspect of the brand definition is lived by and delivered by every employee of the company.

brand and digital

But a funny thing happened along the way. Knowledgeable marketers started using poetic justice of communication and claims of the product/service sold by the company and stretched the truth. All this in an effort to increase sales. In some cases, this resulted in members of the target audience reacting and purchasing the brand. If shoppers were unhappy, they would stop buying the product, and maybe even tell a friend. The user did not believe “the promise” and reacted. As this plight has continued throughout marketing and advertising of brands, it has spawned an overall skeptical outlook by people with regards to company claims and advertisement belief. This cynical perception did not happen overnight. It took a good 50 years or so of “Mad Men” to drive this behavior.

Fast forward to today’s world. How do people react when they feel they have been misled by product claims? How do they react when they have a bad user experience? More and more users are sharing their product experiences. Whether it is sharing with their entire network on a platform like Facebook or broadcasting it to the world on a platform like Twitter.

The promise is still part of being a brand, but it is exponentially more important today.

So now that you understand the change, let me describe for you the gigantic immense problem this creates. The stretching of the truth that companies get caught in is a big problem, but it really is not the biggest problem. The key problem today is that companies have lost their ability to build brand AND engage appropriately in the digital world, simultaneously. Too many companies treat branding as one activity and digital/social marketing as a separate implementation. Company executives need to take responsibility of this detrimental scenario.

How many companies have a responsible leader in place with experience, business knowledge, and creativity to build and retain a brand COUPLED WITH experience, business knowledge, and creativity to drive successful digital marketing? The answer to this question is very few. And even worse, the fact that brand marketing and digital marketing are siloed exacerbates the problem.

The debacle up from this problem shows its ugly face daily. There are numerous companies that do not reinforce brand positioning through their digital implementations. The people running the digital channels are most often blind to what it means to carry out a brand voice and imaginary through social engagement. Many companies do not have a digital engagement strategy that centers on upholding the brand persona.

And adding to the challenge is the fact that brand position is equally in the hands of the audience as well as the company’s hands. The audience has a voice that is stronger and moves faster than ever before. You need to have a strategy and a plan that addresses how to leverage this audience rather than ignoring their voice and power that is carried in the digital world.

I think it is imperative to understand how the world of a brand has changed due to the technology changes and more importantly, human behavior. Every company needs a leader that has the skill set to address the change. Through my experience, I have worked with companies that do not want to address the change head on. Working the corporate environment and being a positive change agent has become a slippery slope. I would not go so far as to call the two a dichotomy, but together they are definitely challenging.

It takes bold, strong, experienced leaders to navigate a company due to the real and significant changes that technology and user behavior have created. The outcome of these changes cannot continue to be ignored or swept away. Whether it is fear, lack of skill set, or don’t rock the boat corporate mentality, it is no longer acceptable to keep brand marketing and digital marketing siloed. The future of your business depends upon it.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under ads, behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, change management, digital media, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

3 Steps to Fix Marketing Now

97% of marketing endeavors do nothing to move their audience. OK, that is not from a study. It is my own perspective. But consider the abundance of articles you see day in and day out noting marketing’s malignant state. For example …

Joe Marchese compares the state of advertising to the subprime debacle in 2008

• Joseph Jaffe hints to “The End of Advertising.”

90% of marketers are not trained in marketing performance, ROI

CMOs are missing the boat on what it means to be a modern CMO

• “While 74% of global businesses have a digital strategy, only 33% believe it’s the right strategy, and beyond that, only 21% – or less than one-fourth – believe they have the right people setting the strategy.”

needed marketing changeI could go on and on with the list above, but hopefully you have a bad enough taste in your mouth already. It would be great to talk about marketing innovation, but marketing innovation is an oxymoron. I’ll give you an example. I am an advisor to a new 1:1 brand/user content distribution company. We are a startup. How many CMOs do you think want a case study before proceeding? First off, every company that delivers case study has some spin to it. (If you want to gain some deeper insights into the flaws of case studies read what @augieray has to say about them.) And secondarily, don’t true innovators do something different rather than being me-too-ers.

According to Wikipedia, “Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, in-articulated needs, or existing market needs.” And that is exactingly what marketing needs. A better solution to meet the new changing requirements dictated by audience behavior. Audience behavior that is defined by digital, mobile, social, and the ability to validate, refute, or ignore brand advertising and communication. Marketing has done an extremely poor job at keeping up with their audience’s behaviors and usage patterns.

So what are you going to do to fix this? I have three recommendations:

1) Completely change your marketing mentality from being a sales-tangent to focusing on customer relationship building. Marketing needs to lead relationship building and demonstrate brand worthiness in the form of delivering continued value and optimization of the entire user experience. If you build a strong relationship with your customers, they will be loyal buyers and advocates. If you merely concentrate on a sale you open the door for another brand to win over a fickle customer. This change of mentality will actually yield greater success of your sales objective in the long run. Don’t be so short sighted.

2) The CMO must change or the CMO needs to be changed. An overwhelming number of top marketing executives are not active on digital, mobile, and social channels that their audience engages on. How can the emperor understand the common people if he/she does not participate where the audience does and engage with them? How can anyone put together a digital strategy that yields success if they are not a regular user in digital? Far too many CMOs (or Chief Strategy Officers) do not have digital skill sets. Far too many CMOs/CSOs do not understand user digital behavior.

3) Move to a zero-based marketing budget. Just throw out everything you’ve done in the previous year unless you are certain that it has returned positive measureable results. If we agree that marketing needs a major facelift, how can all marketing line items you do year in and year out be correct. Start clean. Your audience behavior has changed so much, it warrants a complete revamp.

I know I have brought up a number of contentious recommendations. Change is tough. No one really likes change. But as the audience behavior has dramatically morphed over the past number of years, too many marketing executives have stayed stagnant. Too many believe they can just hand digital marketing over to a young digitally sharp user and think they have things covered. Well results say this is far from true. So while company marketing leaders’ skill sets have not changed much over the years, a significant void has emerged. And it is going to take some strong willed people to make changes that are required.

Are you ready to step up to what is truly required?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, change management, digital media, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Why Marketing Must Change Due to Social Media Behavior

Let me get this right on the table. Neither technology nor hype demands the change of marketing. Rather it is the behavior of human beings usage of new technologies that demand marketers adapt.

marketing leaderBrand reputation always sat in the hands of the target audience. But now the way people use social channels to compliment or reject brands creates an exponential power for people to influence brand reputation. This is the main reason why marketing must change due to social media behavior. When brands falter, the nature of people is to call foul. And now the technology of social media creates a platform for greater consumer power. This is the case independent of a brand’s participation or lack there of on social channels. Many brands are afraid to open up a social channel in fear of what their customers might say. But anyone can post derogatory statements on Twitter, forum, review sites, and any other platform. And the use of these other channels is likely to have a more positive or detrimental effect on the brand anyway.

Earlier this week I tweeted “Social media means people see the difference between what you (brands) say and do.” Think about it for a minute. People now can (and do) call out brands in a highly social forum when they step out of line.

And this brings up a very important point. Honesty, not transparency, is a new marketing demand due to social media behavior. Too many people mistake the importance of brand transparency when they really mean brand honesty. Marketing is really about demonstrating a great value and overall user experience of your product/service. Nothing in the world is perfect. In fact, some companies may avoid perfection on purpose because the result would drive pricing up too much while the product at hand is quite sufficient and valuable for the market they serve. Transparency would mean a requirement to openly show all the warts of your business. This is not necessary. But honesty is. Be careful of stretching product claims via advertorial “poetic justice.” It is an invitation for revolt of social channels.

And there is one other thing about social media behavior you should consider. People want to share positive experiences with their friends, family, and colleagues. They express these experiences on their social space. This means that brands should go beyond the marketing of their product/service and give their target audience a reason to love them. There are many tactics that brands can use to accomplish this love. Social cause. Producer of valued added content. And many other tactics beyond product/service value that give your audience a reason to love your brand and share it.

So if there are two new punctuated rules to successful marketing it is 1) honesty, not transparency; and 2) taking a big step forward and offering reasons beyond product/service value for people to love your brand. These two approaches will truly ignite your audience. The audience will react and initiate your desired actions. This is the new successful marketing mentality.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, marketing, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Please Ask Yourself – Are You Worthy of Having Me as Your Customer

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself if you are worthy of having customers? What exactly does that mean?

worthy business

Well it starts with having a thorough understanding of your customers. They are people with wants and needs, and can get motivated and/or disillusioned by your actions and presence. You need to understand your target audience beyond an interest in their purchases. Previously, I stated that empathy was the most important word in marketing. Marketing strategy must start with target audience empathy.

If you really understand your target audience, you are in a position to prove to them that you are worthy of their business. And digital marketing is a key asset to use to demonstrate your worthiness? Not sure about that? Consider the following …

1) Where do consumers and business decision makers go to capture product/service information?
2) What does it take to be perceived as a subject matter expert?
3) How relevant and prolific is the use of mobile?
4) What is more compelling and believable … Hearing a product/service is great from the brand itself or an objective individual?

If you take time to answer the questions above, I think it becomes a no-brainer how important a strong digital presence. As you think about your digital marketing strategy, go back to the first question I asked … Are you worthy of having me as a customer?

Think about how your digital presence can continually prove you are worthy of your target audience’s business. Here are some elements that should be part of your digital activities, presence, and implementations …

1) Listen – listen to what your target audience is saying. This should guide everything you do in business if you truly are a customer-centric business.
2) Engage – connect with people to build deeper relationships such that you learn more from them and win their trust and support.
3) Content – deliver stories and information that your audience truly values. Give them a reason to stay connected and interested.
4) Outreach – actively seek people that are interested in your product/service area. Search the internet, forums, communities, online groups, etc. for relative conversations and participate.
5) Mobile – everything you produce online needs to be accessible via mobile. Just look at the growing number mobile use. If your digital presence is not mobile-ready, you are missing out on a good part of your potential audience.

Granted, much of what I have just stated resembles last week’s post where I focused on the areas you need to focus on for social marketing success. The point in this week’s article is that social marketing actions are driven by the objective of winning the customer over. And this goes far beyond a particular product or service. Digital presence gives marketers an opportunity to provide a product/service extension … a strong enhancement of the user experience.

If there is one reason why you need to ask yourself if you are worthy of having your target audience as customers, it is because the actual audience is asking themselves, “are you worthy of having ME as your customer?” Purchase decisions are being driven by customer use of digital technologies more and more. Social and mobile technologies may not invoke “last click” purchase action, but they certainly set the path to the final purchase, ongoing loyalty, and advocacy.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, content marketing, digital media, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve

4 Musts for Your Social Marketing This Year

It is the beginning of the year and you want to make sure you kick off your marketing to drive success in your company. With this in mind, let me give you four musts for your brand social marketing.

must do social marketing

Throughout my entire marketing career, I have continuously examined brands’ audiences to drive strategy, plan, and execution. I label marketing as the “psychology of business.” And with this in mind, I have identified four areas that you need to focus on with regards to your social marketing efforts to drive audience adoption, brand preference, loyalty, and advocacy.

1. Listening and Responding

There are three types of social marketing listening that are required.

a) People talking to your brand – there are going to be people that use your brand’s social channels and other channels to talk directly to your brand.
b) People talking about your brand – while not directly speaking to your brand people will mention your brand in the vast digital world.
c) People talk about a subject relevant to your brand – while not mentioning your brand, people touch on a subject area that speaks directly to a topic that is relevant to your brand.

You must monitor for all the cases listed above. In the first two cases, you must monitor and respond. The best way to tell your audience you don’t care about them is to not listen to them, or not respond to them. Only respond to mentions if you care about their business … that should include every mention. In the third case, you have an opportunity to expose a new audience to your brand. Do not respond with product information, but rather valuable information. Gain awareness and start to build a great reputation by delivering unexpected help.

2. Content

The way to keep your brand in the minds and hearts of your target audience is produce content they value. The way to prove you are worthy of people’s business (beyond having a truly valued product/service) is to be helpful and entertaining. Brands are often shared between people via content. Thus your brand needs to think like a publisher and produce weekly content (at a minimum). But your content plan should not be limited to original content. Consider how your content strategy will include curation from other sources as well as UGC (user generated content). Your content strategy should also include a plan to capture earned media. This leads to the third focus area …

3. Influence Marketing

In influence marketing, first you identify those individuals and publications that influence your target market. Once you identify the influencers, you work to build a relationship with them by providing them information that is valued by THEIR audience. It is not about pushing your agenda, but finding the intersection of what your brand represents and the information that identified influencers want to deliver to their audience. Influence marketing will continue to gain importance because objective advocacy is much more compelling than subjective brand communication.

4. Personalization

I touched on personalization when discussing “listening and responding.” But personalization needs to go beyond listening and responding. Users are tiring of email blasts and other brand communications that are nothing more than an extension of advertorial programs. What if the brand communication was driven by consumer intelligence? What if you integrated digital behavior and purchase history to deliver contextual relevant communication to your audience? Certainly your audience will feel “special” if you deliver communication and content relevant to their history, interests, and behavior. Personalization means that brands deliver contextual relevant communication and content. Look into tools that allow you to correlate and integrate different data points to produce a data driven view of your consumers.

The four areas of focus I suggested above are not driven by technology or marketing hype, but rather by examining user behavior spawned by new digital technological advancements. Far too often predictions are driven by technology hype rather than user behavior driven by new technology advancements. If marketing is the psychology of business, understand your target audience behavior and implement social marketing accordingly.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, content marketing, influence marketing, loyalty, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

All You Should Know About Social Marketing to Be Successful

I have been blogging now for five years on the topic of social media and social marketing. I have shared a great deal of information with regards to social best practices, case examples, integration, and organizational implementations. There is a wealth of information contained here within The SocialSteve Blog. But wouldn’t it be nice if it could all be pulled together in one article? (Really – that is impossible.) But I will attempt to give you a “Cliff Notes” version of what you need to know about social marketing that I have covered in my blog.

All You Need to Know About Social Marketing

So lets get cracking and I will refer you to some key highlights from The SocialSteve Blog …

The first thing to realize is that brands need to use social media to enhance their brand image as covered in the article “Brands in the Age of Social Media.” Some brands were initially apprehensive to get involved in social media because they believed that they lost control of their brand position. Certainly, objective audience postings are more believable than subjective brand communication, but administration of good traditional marketing practices and utilization of social marketing highly increases company-driven brand influence.

Social media has put brand reputation in the hands of the democracy of users. Thus, brands must build strong relationships with users. And the way to do this from the start is to have complete empathy for the target audience. Yes “empathy” is “The Most Important Word for Marketing.” And once you have empathy for your target audience, “Connections and Relationships are No Different for Social Media” than in “regular” social situations.

So far, I have mentioned some of the general mentalities required for successful marketing, but generalities are not enough. You must understand the “Three Social Marketing Fundamentals.” The first fundamental starts with a strong and inseparable link between content and social marketing. A content strategy and social marketing strategy must be determined in unison. The brand definition is the center point of marketing strategy and content must reinforce what the brand is about without directly referring to the product. The social marketing strategy must then address how the content is to be proliferated such that readers/viewers/contributors share the content and some even become advocates. Throughout my blogging career (really not a career but a platform to share), I have given much coverage to content. It is imperative – crappy content, crappy social marketing; stellar content by the perception of the target audience, damn good chance of winning social marketing. Consider reading through some selected content article highlights:

Content Marketing – A Must for Marketing Communications
4 Ingredients to a Winning Content Strategy
7 Tips for Blogging – Maybe Your Most Important Social Media Activity for Business
The Power of UGC (User Generate Content) for Social Marketing
Evolving Social Media Marketing – From Content Marketing to Contextual Content Marketing
If a Picture is Worth 1000 Words, What is the Value of a 6-Second Video #Vine

The next social marketing fundamental is far too often missed. Social marketing is not about building the social field of dreams and having people show up. Social marketing starts by going to relevant conversations where they exist as opposed to expecting a crowd to show up on your Facebook page or simply following your Twitter feed. You need to go beyond your own social assets and go where the existing conversation exists and start to engage there. Early on, I coined the social media A-Path. The A-Path allows social marketers to traverse their target audience through a sequential path increasing commitment to brand at each stage. The A-Path starts by getting brand Attention, followed by Attraction, then Affinity, Audience, and Advocacy. The early part of this path is accomplished on social channels other than the ones the brand owns and manages. As you progress your audience through the A-Path you slowly wean users to brand-owned social channels. This method is described in “Executable Game Plan for Winning Ultimate Customers with Social Media.” When using this approach, marketers need to understand “When to Ask for a “Call-to-Action’ in Social Media.” Following this approach provides an understanding of how “Social Media Highlights the Important Difference Between Marketing and Sales.” You will also see the relationship of “Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel.” And one other note on this holistic approach to social marketing … Do not jump to a conclusion that your Facebook “likers” are your audience. Understand “Where ‘Audience’ Fits in Social Media.” It is likely different than you assume.

And now the last imperative social marketing fundamental is to “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.” Specifically, I am talking about social media marketing measurement. The referenced article outlines that awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy should be measured. Not sales. Parameters to be measured in the four categories are covered in the article. When it comes to measurement and “Social Media ROI – Don’t Be So Short Sighted – Think Longer Term.”

So you have the fundamentals down, right? Now, where do you start? “Before You Start with Social Media” you need to apply marketing basics. The referenced article explains the need to understand the brand and its position, defining a communication or campaign objective, as well as defining a communication plan. A presentation deck is provided to take you through the steps. The deck was later updated in a more recent post, “University Social Marketing Presentation.” And when you put together your social strategy, you must pay attention to “Marketing Demographics and the Ramifications of Social Media.” Consider psycho-demographics as well as standard demographics. Psycho-demographics identify various segments of the target audience’s state of mind. When you identify the various states of mind, you can then deliver contextually relevant content.

Now that you have the fundamentals and a game plan, you cannot stop there. Far too many companies make errors with regards to organizational issues for social marketing. Here are some very important issues …

CEO understanding and support
Social Media in Your Company – Guidance for Where It Fits In
When Looking for Your Company’s Social Media Marketing Leader, Consider ….
Why the “Social Media Person” Needs to Be More than Just the Social Media Person
3 Helpful Tips when Hiring for Social Media

Social media gives the target audience a strong voice. Brands can no longer put out statements and advertisements and expect the audience to simply accept what they are saying. Brands need to listen to their audience, engage and build relationships. Brands have an opportunity to build an emotional bond with their audience. Emotional branding will yield loyalty, word of mouth marketing and overall, long-term brand preference and sustainability. Social marketing is a must in today’s consumer driven world.

You now have the definition of how to drive social marketing success. Let me know what else you need or do not understand.

Make It Happen,
SocialSteve

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