Category Archives: brands

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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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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Nothing Unveils Customer Commitment Like Social Media

As a digital marketing executive, I see two types of clients. Type A wants to increase sales. Type B takes it a bit further and knows that to increase sales brands need to provide an exceptional user experience to sustain continuous and long-term growth.

customer commitment

Let me share with you a correspondence I had this week. I have edited some of the conversation only to respect the privacy of those involved, but the nature and essence of the correspondence prevails free of any poetic justice on my part.

Potential client – “I wondered first and foremost what your fee would be to
help us with our social media page … We are a small company with an extremely small budget.”

My response – “Really more important than getting you on track is you and your team’s ability and bandwidth to keep social in motion. You (or your team) would need to produce constant content reinforcing [your brand value] … Would you be able to commit to an article a week, curating content, and providing a POV (point of view) on issues on a regularly bases? If yes, I’d be glad to discuss how I can help and my fees.”

You see participation and lack there of truly magnifies a company’s/brand’s commitment to their target audience. If you just want to get another number signed up to your company service, social is going to be a bad marketing mix choice for your company. If you want to use social to demonstrate your subject matter expertise, sincere interest in providing solutions, and a desire to listen to what your audience says, social marketing is an awesome addition to your marketing mix.

There is no social media expert that is going to turn your social marketing effort into success unless YOU are a) truly committed to your customer and b) are willing to learn your audience’s digital behavior and adapt or reallocate time and resources to meet their evolved usage patterns? Do you believe this mentality and approach leads to continuous sales growth?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

Footnote – The response I got from the prospect was – “I hear you. I do know that it would take time out of my already busy day. That being said, I’m not so sure if I have a choice if I want to gain greater visibility equating to greater income, or do I? Your question of course is understandable, but I guess it would depend upon the actual process, and just how time consuming it would be.”

An honest assessment that many must ask themselves. I do not typically share specific client correspondence and activities with my audience, but I really think there is a great sense of reality and honesty conveyed here. It is an issue that you will likely need to consciously face.

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Top 7 Reasons Why Brands Fail at Social Media

“Well, the results are in. Social is doing a pathetic job of turning readers into customers. After all the hype has settled…after all the stock clamoring has died down, the truth is staring us in the face: People don’t want to be customers on social media.” Such was the opening paragraph on Entrepreneur.com’s post, “Here’s the Big Problem With Chasing Customers on Social Media.”

success or failureHow many times do you read articles that state something similar? What really gets me is that so many brands continue to approach social media incorrectly and then reports indicate social media failures as opposed to companies’ failure on social media.
So as a first step, I strongly suggest we all get social media right before we start assessing the success of companies’ social efforts. And here are the top 7 points of failure for brand social screw-ups.

1) The wrong person leads social efforts – “66% of CMOs surveyed said their companies are unprepared to handle social media, where the ‘rate of change seems faster than many can cope with.’” There are two types of people responsible for social efforts at a company. a) A young digital millennial that does not have experience driving company KPI (key performance indicators) results, and b) chief strategy/marketing officers that do not understand nor participate in social platforms. This presents a problem where you either have someone that understands social media user behavior or someone that has experience delivering business results … but not both qualities at the same time. What is needed is a hybrid of both and there are few that can bridge both worlds.

2) Going straight to tactics before having a strategy and integrated plan – how many social efforts start with an objective of building a Facebook and Twitter presence? Far too many. A while ago I wrote an article “Where You Start in Social Media Strategy Defines Where You End Up.” It highlights the problem of thinking tactics before strategy. Start by addressing integration of social efforts in overall business strategy. Then build your social strategy followed by a plan, which includes tactics.

3) Measuring the wrong thing – today, most social reporting is done by indicating “reach” and “engagement.” Yes these are important factors. But how many executives can relate reach and engagement to their KPIs? The typical response from an executive is likely to be, “Yeah, but does that increase my sales?” And at the same time, I have often stated that social is poor at direct sales. So what you really need to measure are those areas that tee up sales. Think of the sales marketing funnel where awareness, consideration, and post sales loyalty and advocacy parameters are important functions of sales. For more information, see “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.”

4) Selling instead of being a valued source – users are immediately turned off by brands that use social presence to sell product. Social should be used to develop long-term relationships and build a reputation as a valued source of information and engagement. This approach will create sustainable loyalty and advocacy. The result is long-term sales, but ironically done so by avoiding a sell mentality.

5) The content is not exceptional – I remember making this point to a boss of mine and he asked, “Does the content really need to be stellar?” Case in point – are you ever wowed by mediocre content? Would you ever share so-so content? There is so much noise in the digital space and you really need to standout. Think like a publisher or a producer who is only successful when they deliver killer content.

6) Talking and not listening – the strongest relationships start by knowing your audience. And the best way to get to know your audience is to listen to them. I love the line – “We have two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we talk.” As far back as 2009, I raised the issue of a lack of social listening, and the problem is still pervasive.

7) Lack of a social business culture – social success does not come from one person or one group. Ultimate social success will come when sharing, engaging, and commitment to the brand audience comes from every part of the company. I expect to see “social business” be an evolutionary process within companies. This will not just happen overnight and progressing to this culture requires executive leadership.

So as step one, I urge everyone to take their social media efforts seriously and not just wing it. Do the right thing. Then, when we can get enough companies and brands actually delivering a sensible and meaningful social media approach that is compelling to their target audience, let’s evaluate success/failure. Are you ready to…

…Make It Happen?
Social Steve

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Integrating Advertisements and Social Marketing – Why it is a Must

integrating ads and social marketing

This past week I read an article that sited a study claiming that only 20% of Super Bowl ads actually resulted in a sales increase of the product. In one way, this surprised me … how could brands continue to dump that much money into a non-performing endeavor? And in another way, it did not really surprise me at all … does a catchy ad really get hoards of people lining up to buy? (I think all of us marketers would like to think so.)

The reality is that more and more consumers, and more and more clients are becoming skeptical and cynical about advertisements. But let me plainly state that advertisements are still very important in a successful marketing mix. It’s just that their role and performance objective must change. And social media is the reason why. Brands no longer have complete control of their position and value proposition. It is the democratic public that holds control of brand reputation and outward postings can affect brand position and intended value proposition.

This being the case, integration of advertisement and social marketing is imperative. We must realize that seeing an ad (in print, on TV and online) is not the end of winning the consumer over. It should be perceived as the beginning.

For quite some time now, I have been defining the three fundamentals of social marketing. One of these elements is “Holistic Social Marketing” where I explain the social marketing A-Path and execution channels for the various stages.

A-Path Onsite-Offsite 3

I suggested that “Attention” and “Attraction” were best achieved by going to the existing digital channels where the existing conversations are ongoing and start there. Then work to subtly pull the audience to the brands’ own digital assets (their website, blog, social channels). But maybe a quicker way of gaining attention and attraction is via ads.

So let’s reconsider the objectives of ads. Maybe the best ROI for ads is a sustainable and continuous long-term profitability rather than short-term, one shot sales increase.

The ultimate goal of marketing is to create an emotional bond between brand and target audience. A bond that has deep loyalty and actionable advocacy. We need to view ads as the start of this journey to get brand attention and attraction. But we do not want to stop there. We want to turn the attention and attraction gained from the ads to continue to move the target audience to affinity, audience, and advocacy.

Thus, start to think of the connection points and follow through of ads to convert to affinity, audience, and advocacy. This is most relevant for digital paid media but also applicable for paid print, TV, and radio media.

The target audience perceptions and behavior are changing. So we need to change our approach to marketing to fit the changing audience dynamics. Advertisement and social marketing integration is key to brand success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Are You Ready to Put Your Brand’s Marketing in Your Audience’s Hand?

That’s right. I am asking what you might consider to be a dumb question – should you put your brand’s marketing in your audience’s hand? The answer to the question is probably an overwhelming “no”. Well I am here to tell you this is not the most prudent response.

But before you discard this article as a piece of sensationalism looking to stir up controversy, let’s face a couple of facts.

1) People are skeptical (and often cynical) about brand’s advertisements and communication.
2) People trust objective friends, family, and colleagues far more than subjective brand marketing.

It kind of reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, “Elf” …

If someone puts a neon sign on the window of their business claiming “Best …,” are you likely to believe them? Or would it be more believable and compelling if a friend tells you “if you want the best … go to …?” Seems pretty simple, right? Then why aren’t more and more brands investing marketing dollars in advocacy programs? Maybe you really do not need to spend $4 million on a 30-second Super Bowl commercial to reach 110 million people. Maybe the answer is reaching far less of an audience, but THE audience that will activate your brand marketing.

brand advocate

So whether it is encouraging reviews, providing content to share valuable information, friend referral incentives programs, UGC (user generated content), contests to activate sharing, or a host of other tactics, brands need to have a keen focus (and budget allocation) on audience advocacy programs.

Many brands are far too cautious about advocacy programs (word-of-mouth marketing). Especially those brands that do not offer true value or have something to hide. Good marketing starts with a great product or service. Once you are convinced your product/service offers true value to a target audience, activate your most loyal and brand-interested customer to do your marketing. The reality is that they will drive better measureable results than you can.

Yes, I know it is a bit discomforting to give up some control of your brand marketing, but the reality is that it is happening anyway. Digital and social technologies coupled with consumer behavior have forever changed and have placed great control in the hands of the general public. You cannot fight it so you might as well adapt appropriately. Unleash your audience to promote your brand and provide trusted marketing.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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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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After 10 Years of Facebook, 10 Things You Should Know About Social Marketing

10 yearsThis past week, Facebook turned 10 years old. While a handful of social networks came before Facebook, and many followed, Facebook was synonymous with social media for quite a while. For some time when people said social media they meant Facebook. Yes, there have always been other active social networks.

Facebook (and other social platforms) have dramatically changed our culture … the way we communicate and engage with others. And ten years later so many brands and companies still stumble using social media to win customers over. Far too many marketers bring an advertorial mentality to social marketing. The reality is that a majority of social users are turned off by brands’ advertorial interruption on social channels.

So as Facebook turns 10, marketers must be aware of the unofficial rules. These unofficial rules are driven by audience behavior first and foremost, and a desire to increase sales and profitability second.

1) Meaningless followers and likes – followers, likes, etc. are meaningless in and of themselves. If your audience doesn’t engage with you, and you with them, the audience never sees your posts anyway.

2) Followers and likes are just the beginning – the initial actions to get followers or likes is only the start. Yes, you could run a sweepstake and give away an iPad to everyone that likes your brand and get 1 million followers. But what good is that if it is the last action a person takes with your brand.

3) Relations are key – brand relationships are key to social success. You want to build an emotional bond with your target audience by showing them you care, delivering useful and/or entertaining information, and responding to mentions of your brand.

4) Avoid advertorial content – social users are turned by advertorial like content in their social feeds. Social media channels are not another acceptable place for content and postings, which are solely product push.

5) Avoid the hard sell – social media is not a good channel for direct sales. Typically, last click conversion does not happen on social media. Social media is an excellent marketing channel to gain attention and influence brand preference.

6) Measure – social marketing must be measured appropriately. Sales are not an appropriate measure of social marketing efforts, but rather the behaviors that tee up sales should be measured. Specifically – awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. (See “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.”)

7) Social starts off your home court – do not build the “field of dreams” social presence and expect everyone to show up there. Go out in existing forums, groups, communities, etc. that you do not own where the conversation already exists. Engage there. Build a reputation as a valuable source. Slowly move people to your social properties once you have established some degree of positive reputation.

8) Don’t confuse Facebook as your community – platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. are NOT your brand community. You do not own the database of information of your audience on these platforms. Consider these platforms as a stepping-stone to attract people and gain affinity for your content hub and/or community you truly own. (See “Why Facebook may not be Your Brand’s Community.”)

9) Social is not a silo … typically social media responsibilities reside in the marketing department. In the words of David Packard (formerly of HP), “Marketing is far too important to be left to the marketing department.” Social leadership may come from the marketing department, but the social practice should be executed by the whole company. Have a plan to unleash company brand ambassadors. Establish policies that govern who speaks on brand social channels and how other employees can positively promote the brand on their personal channels. Motivate the whole company to participate.

10) Integration is key – integration of social marketing with other offline, traditional, direct, advertorial, and online marketing is imperative. Create synergy across all your marketing efforts.

As I hit my seventh year in social marketing I see one problem continuously standing in the way of success. That is most companies (and their leaders) continue to be myopic and internally focused. If there is one thing that social media has culturally changed that marketers must be sensitive to, it is that people who show continuous concern for their audience and “friends” get rewarded. Social user behavior dictates this. Give it some thought.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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The Art of Marketing to Get Attention

attention As we experience The Super Bowl we question whether the football game or the commercials are the spectacle. Actually prior to 1984, football commanded the interest. But all changed that year on January 22nd when Apple’s “1984″ commercial might have reshaped the highlights of The Super Bowl. Since then, we have seen countless extravagant commercials and our expectations are to be wowed at each commercial break.

There is a massive amount of creative work and planning that goes into a Super Bowl commercial. Now I am not suggesting that you need to put in the budget and time that the major brands do for a Super Bowl commercial, but I am suggesting that your marketing efforts include a heavy dose of creative time and resources. You cannot just wing it. You need to thoroughly understand your audience and create something that peaks their interest. This is a requirement of all brands … Not just big brands.

And creativity is not just reserved for commercials. Take the next marketing milestone for Super Bowl marketing … The “dunk in the dark Oreo” tweet. What is noteworthy about this social media marketing moment is that the tweet did not come from one guy/gal just sitting in the dark with an epiphany. A creative agency and Oreo executives all huddled together to brainstorm, copy-write, and image the tweet. Creative planning allows you to seize a moment and get ATTENTION.

This takes me to the second point about attention … Scale it appropriately for your brand. Yes, Budweiser is big enough to go for an audience of 170 million, but that is likely a bit big for your brand’s budget. You don’t need to blow your budget on the price of Super Bowl commercial to get attention for your brand. Even if you are simply a local brand, work your creativity to get your audience’s attention.

So let the Super Bowl marketing motivate your creativity and don’t think you are too small to grab some attention.

A Path Circle

But that is not the end of your marketing plight. It is just the beginning. And this is the last point I wanted to make here. What good is getting your audience’s attention if you do not activate them further? If you have read me before, you might be familiar with my “A-Path” methodology. cAs a brand, first I want to get your Attention; then I want you to be Attracted to my brand; then I want you to build Affinity for the brand; then I want you to opt-in in some fashion and become part of my Audience; and finally you work to get a subset of your audience to become your Advocate. And the cycle continues. Your advocates then work to get your brand objective attention.

So if you were wowed by The Super Bowl XLVIII commercials, think about how the brands are continuing (or not) to move their audience along the brand journey beyond attention.

Are you working on your brand’s complete marketing journey? Work hard for attention and even harder to get them emotionally tied to your brand by continuing on the A-Path.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

Acknowledgement – Kimberly Potts – Is Oreo’s Super Bowl Blackout Tweet the Apple ’1984′ of Social Media Advertising? for information regarding Apple and Oreo’s Super Bowl marketing milestones.

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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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