Category Archives: community

Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community

The ultimate social marketing success is having a platform that stands out as the go to place for your target audience. If your product/service aims to capture an audience with special interests, you should consider a social strategy and plan that integrates content and community. Special interests groups could include fitness minded, wines enthusiasts, tech innovation, pet lovers, executive peer groups and many more.

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As I have stated many times, content is the core of social. So brands should think of themselves as publishers. Every brand should have a digital platform where they produce and curate industry related content of great value to their target audience. Do not think of this as product or service literature. Produce content that addresses the needs and interests of people within your brand’s industry.

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Launch your own brand’s digital blog, magazine, or journal.

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Be committed to continuous production and updates so that your audience is inspired to keep on returning and builds strong affinity for your “Brand Digital Media” platform. You want to build a reputation as being the go to place for your industries information, insights, and entertainment.

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In order to accomplish a “go-to reputation” you should consider a number of different types of content, which include original content, curated content, and UGC (user generated content).

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As example, consider the slide below as the “BRAND Digital Media” content hub for your brand…

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Determine a finite set of topics you will cover. Use the navigation bar to list these topics and allow your audience to click through directly. Build frames to pop in various content types. Try to keep a set template for these content frames so you can condition your audience to access information they desire and know how to easily obtain it. Update at least one frame a day. Include social sharing and follow buttons.

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Once you have established a “BRAND Digital Media” platform, use your social channels to proliferate the content. Include content reference updates on these social channels.

And make sure you are tracking how well the BRAND Digital Media content hub is performing. Consider metrics as follows …

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Once you have built a successful BRAND Digital Media platform, now you are in the position to launch an industry community platform.

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Assuming you have an audience coming to your content hub for information, why not give that audience a place to engage with your brand and one and other.

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As people come to your BRAND Digital Media site for information, give an opportunity to sign up and sign in to your community.

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The BRAND Network is an extension of your BRAND Digital Media hub. It is a place for people to connect, converse, and network.

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While anyone can get content at the BRAND Digital Media site, only members can comment on content, engage with other users, set up meetings, and network with peers. For starters, consider the following BRAND Network feature set.

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The power of having your brand serve as an industry related community is that your brand delivers great value to the target audience. Strive to be the industry digital leading member’s forum. Avoid overt product push. Just aim to be an extremely valued industry information and networking source.

And like any other marketing effort, you need to track success metrics. Consider the following for your BRAND Network …

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So think about what you can do to deliver a BRAND Digital Media hub and BRAND Network. If you deliver stellar content and a networking platform your target will truly value your brand.

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Yes, building an industry leading content and community front takes much effort, time, resources, and budget. But do you want to be a recognized industry leader or is just being part of the pack good enough? If you want to be a leader, demonstrate leadership. Building the industry best BRAND Digital Media platform and BRAND Network demonstrates leadership.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, community, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

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

The Marketing of Purposeful Brands

In this day and age of fierce competition your brand advantage may be the demonstration and marketing of being a purposeful brand. As students of product marketing, we are always taught that you should have a key beneficial differentiation in what is offered. While this continues to be true, differentiation may be difficult as more and more brands have parity. In any event consumers increasingly determine brand preference by assessment of what the brand stands for. We all want to feel good about the companies, products, and services we support. We like to know that the brands we purchase have a purpose in our community or the world and they are not solely driven by profit.

Let’s look at a few brands.

Target in The Community
Take Target for example. Target demonstrates corporate social responsibility by donating 5 percent of their profits to communities. That comes out to $4 million each week.

Dove Inspirations
There need not always be a monetary aspect of purposeful brands. As the next example, consider Dove and their Dove Inspiration program. Dove is committed to helping young women grow with a most positive self-image. Dove Inspiration is a program that focuses on confidence as the source of beauty. They are committed to building positive self-esteem and inspiring all women and girls to reach their 
full potential.

Citi Bikes
Brand purpose can be even more subtle. Here in New York City, Citi Bank has partnered with The City for a bike program that has literally changed many people’s lives. Bike kiosks are set up throughout the City and people can rent bikes for one-way trips. This is helping a number of commuters. And notice the bikes are “Citi Bikes,” not “City Bikes.” A very nice community investment.

The three examples above show that brand preference can be an element of care. Discount shopping is a tight market. Personal care is saturated. Finance companies often have very poor reputations. And these three brands decided to step beyond their core product marketing to deliver programs that can drive greater audience acceptance.

I would consider the programs and acts of brand purpose under the new leadership of marketing executives. After all, driving brand preference is the ultimate goal of marketing. Consider how you can deliver purposeful brand initiatives to help drive your brand preference.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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

Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community

This past week, I participated and presented at a Digital Academy for one of my pharma clients. I took them through best practices and the importance of what it means to have a social mentality to drive winning results. One of the key points that I made (and it is applicable to all brands) is that you need to think about how your audience may and may not use Facebook before you jump on the band wagon. There may, in fact, be better social networks or channels to be used as determined by consumer behavior.

First, let’s talk about healthcare brands and then I’ll dive into a broader perspective. If am a Facebook user and have a certain condition (say diabetes or high blood pressure or anything for that matter), I may not “like” that brand and/or engage with that brand because that is something I do not want visible to my friends. It is just not a topic that I share with old high school friends and the vast number of people I am connected to. Yes, you can say that Facebook has privacy settings to protect this, but in all seriousness, how many people drill into that level of privacy and mess around with privacy settings at that detail. So it is the target audience behavior that dictates such decisions.

But that does not mean that the use of social is a bad idea for pharma companies. There are two other options – run with the pack where they already exist or be the go to community for information and discussion of the topic the brand provides solutions for. I always recommend that social starts by finding the relevant conversations, where they happen, and go there to start discussions (even if you are building your own social network). There are existing communities and discussion forums on just about every topic in the world. Go there and be an active brand voice. Help by providing information and solutions as opposed to being advertorial. The other option (and it takes a strong commitment) is to work like a publisher and be the go to destination for a particular topic. This requires the site to have awesome original content, curation, and places for people to have conversations.

Too many brands assume that Facebook is the most important social channel for them. As explained in the pharma examples, it may not even be a worthwhile channel. The issue that not enough brands are considering is how users behave and act on Facebook. Too many marketers think that the “like” is the end of their effort. They run a sweepstake to capture a like and claim success. The reality is that no user really cares about brand presence on Facebook. That is, unless the brand provides something valuable, engaging, and compelling. And when brands do this successfully, it almost always focuses on user interested topics as opposed to product push.

Whether brands use Facebook, an existing forum or community, or establish their own community, they must focus compelling content that relates to their brand as opposed to being about their brand. A good example of this is “Dove Inspired.” Do you think that any women would actually be compelled to follow a Dove social channel if Dove talked about moisturizing soap … not likely. So instead, Dove established a program and a following for users to highlight women that inspired them. The focus was not on product, but rather an understanding of the target market and developing a topic that would keep the target marketed engaged. This is something I call “associated marketing.” Dove stays top of mind, by keeping their audience engaged with something of importance to them. Dove associates their brand with something relevant to the target market.

Recognize that Facebook is a social network where friends congregate. Sometimes a brand will have a greater success in a different social network where people with similar interests and needs connect. There, members are not necessarily friends, but their concerns create a strong association and/or support network.

And one more note getting back to the question about establishing a brand’s own community. You cannot build the field of dreams and expect the crowd to come. You must ask, “Why would anyone want to come to our community?” The answer to this will come from two areas: deep customer insights; and complete commitment to being the go to destination for the target audience and the topic(s) covered.

So a handful of suggestions in closing:

1) Understand your target audience and what interests them
2) Cover topics that are relevant to your audience and associate your brand with matters that are important to them
3) Be a valuable source
4) Work to establish a friend nature, not a brand broadcast pipe
5) Determine if you can establish a strong presence in an existing community or if there are benefits of establishing your own … if you establish your own community, consider a publisher mentality where you have an editor in chief and support staff.
6) If you do establish your own community, have a strategy that not only motivates conversation between the brand and users, but also creates a platform where users with similar interest engage with each other.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, community, Facebook, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Tell Me You Don’t Think Social Connections Matter After Reading This

January 19th, 2012 was a horrible day. My sister was diagnosed with cancer (a few days later it was determined to be over a good portion of her body) after having beaten breast cancer about six years earlier. The doctor gave her weeks to live. By the time I was able to see my sister on the weekend, her eyes and skin were yellow from liver failure.

After the initial diagnoses, Barb was able to consult with another doctor. You know, the Michael Jordan type that likes to get the ball in his hands with 2.3 seconds left in the game and down by two points. Dr. Mehta ran the charts and prescribed an extremely aggressive and heavy dosage of chemo. Barb was warned (and had to sign and acknowledge) that this cocktail could kill her. But with death staring you in the face and nerves not quite of steel, what do you do?

Barb will have cancer the rest of her life. She will go for chemo every three weeks for the rest of her life. It is really a matter of how much more time can be stolen and the quality of life she will lead. Yes, it is extremely tough for her, but I am happy to say she is doing very well (her liver returned to full function and the various blood counts the medical staff looks for are very good). Barb has made most important milestones – our mother’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, her husband’s birthday and their anniversary, and most important to her at the time of the diagnoses and little hope of life past a month – her daughter’s graduation from high school. And now she leaves for college this week.

Let me tell you a little bit about my little sister who continues to teach me everyday about the important things in life. Barb is one of the most strong-willed people I have ever met. At times in our lives I would consider her inflexible, but this characteristic is certainly paying dividends now given Barb’s unwillingness to give into cancer. She is also a most humble and modest person … never wanting the spotlight and attention focused on her. And Barb is one that puts 26 hours into a 24 hour day – all aimed at her love for her family and their well-being.

When my sister was first diagnosed, she was introduced to Caring Bridge – a social network whose mission is “to amplify the love, hope and compassion in the world, making each health journey easier.” It is basically a social network segmented for health challenged individuals and their private group. Caring Bridge allows postings and updates, for patients and their friends and families. Prayers, words of encouragement, and helping hand offers and requests. Barb joined and I was frankly surprised at her participation. She is a most private person, but she shared much in her posts. It also surprised me the degree of interest she has in the postings on her board. Like I said, she never looks for attention focused on her.

But Barb most enjoys the stories and updates from people regarding what they are doing. The fact is that she is looking to stay connected to the people that matter given the hectic world she lives in … hectic even before the battle with cancer. There are four things that are going to keep my sister living – a reason to go on (her family); a brilliant and compassionate doctor; a strong mental outlook; and luck.

Now I am not saying that Barb’s connection with a social network is keeping her living, but it certain plays some small role. It definitely is a strong contributor to her tough mental state. And I don’t want to compare the importance of social media to fighting to live. By no means are the two anywhere near equal. But I do want to challenge anyone that says social networks are silly … “who really cares that someone went to the movies or restaurants.” “Social networks have taken away the way we used to talk to one another face-to-face, on the phone, and had a real conversation.”

The reality is that we have made our lives so jammed packed. Heck, I’ll look at myself … after spending 13-14 hours away from home between my commute and work, and wanting to come home and spend some time with my kids, I have little time for anything else. My life is completely filled. I can either elect to engage with some friends with a quick email, text, or social network post/conversations or forget about them totally. And while I am a social media enthusiast, I have to admit I have let more connections dwindle away than I would like to admit.

The question I am asking you (and myself) is do we really want to wait until death stares us in the eyes to make sure we stay connected with those that matter? Yes, human connection is the strongest when we are actually together. I am sure many felt the telephone was impersonal when it became part of every household. And now the same is being said about social networks. The reality is we have made our lives what it is while at the same time technological advancements have proceeded. We can elect to use technology for the good or the bad.

You make the decision. Stay connected? Do something meaningful?

I usually end my articles asking for your opinion and share your thoughts. While I am always interested for feedback and comments, I’ll make a different request here. Please share this article in honor of my sister, Barb; in honor of those that you know living with cancer; and in honor of those we lost to the dreaded disease.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under cancer, community, social media, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

New Facebook – Interpretation for Brands

Do you know how to use Facebook to optimize your INTEGRATED social media/marketing strategy and plan? Are your driving MEASURABLE results? I have some recommendations.

There was no shortage of coverage on Facebook’s changes for brands as of February 29, 2012. I won’t go through the announcements (as so many have done already), but I’ll give you the highlights before I explain “why you should care” and “what you should think about.”
First here is a summary of Facebook changes:
• By default, both fans and non-fans will be directed to a brand’s timeline tab when visiting their Facebook page. Timeline also means that there are new or changing features and navigation:
- New cover photo (at the top of the page) in addition to the small existing profile picture,
- Fan engagement is separated and not integrated in with brand’s postings as shown on timeline,
- Splash pages and “like gates” are no longer an optional landing page, and
- More admin control on look and display of posts
• Page administrators have the ability to “pin” content at the top of their page for one week such that it does not scroll down as new content is posted.
• Reach Generator – guarantees brand posts will be viewed on more fans’ news feeds (more detail below)
• New premium ad formats (sponsored stories, page posts) – Photo, Video, Question, Status, Event, and Link
• Offers – postings of a discount or promotion from brands to their fans

And just one more thing before we get into the new Facebook and its social media marketing ramifications. Let’s not forget about the objective of social media and how success is measured. Social media is about building relationships. Social media success is about being able to measure an objective.

Building relationships in social media is defined in the A-Path model I have presented numerous times. The A-Path of relationships as a brand to your target segment’s individuals is Attention > Attraction > Affinity > Audience > Advocacy. The way we measure social media success is to measure Awareness, Consideration, Loyalty, and Advocacy. The intersection of social media relationship building and social media measurement is described in the article “Social Media Model that Defines the End of the World as we Know It.”

Got the foundation? OK, let’s talk Facebook. Go through the next few sections and stop to think about how Facebook can (now) be used for your marketing efforts. Based on the new features and information Facebook unveiled at the 2/29/12 fMC, we all need to start to think about Facebook marketing differently – for better and worse.

Facebook Brand Page – A Destination Site
Facebook timeline is impressive. The new look is aesthetically pleasing. This is a positive move by Facebook. Yes, there will be those that rant and rave because people do not accept change so well, but in the long run (and maybe not so long) I think most will come to accept and appreciate the new look for brand pages. I like the new feature set – especially the ability to “pin” content or a promotion at the top of a brand page for a week and keeps it from scrolling below as you place new posts on your brand timeline.

Let’s be clear here. Facebook is working to make your Facebook brand page a destination site where dynamic content resides. Think of this from two perspectives. 1) How do you leverage the Facebook brand page changes and is that destination now more compelling than your static website. 2) Prior to timeline, most people’s Facebook brand experience was on their news feed as opposed to specifically going to the brands’ Facebook page – just think of your own experience as a user rather than your role as marketer.

Facebook is NOT a Brand’s Community
Facebook is a great place to build attraction and affinity for your brand once you have gotten someone’s attention. It is NOT your community and there are better platforms where you should build your audience. One of the biggest issues with thinking Facebook is YOUR community is that you do not have access to or own the data of your “Facebook likes.” Thus, if you do not have these users’ data, they are not your true audience. Rather the people that like you on Facebook are just potential passers in the night. Having customer data is key for any and all marketing efforts.

This is not to say that Facebook serves no value – hardly the case. It is a starting point; not an ending point. You want to use Facebook for attraction and build affinity with your target segment. And as you do this and the individual feels a stronger relationship with your brand, you want to collect their data. Point them to content in your OWN community and invite them to join YOUR community. I always ask my clients a rhetorical question … Would you rather have 25K Facebook likes or 25K members of your community? Where do you think you can monetize better?

Facebook Freeium Model
The next point is that in essence, Facebook is not free. It really is a freeium model for brands. You get some functionality for free, but if you really want the key benefits, you need to pay. Up until the fMC on February 29, 2012, brands were led to believe that they collect likes for their Facebook presence and their posts would be directed to the news feeds of the people that liked them. In reality, this is NOT really the case. The reality that Facebook unveiled is that, on average, only 16% of fans saw brands’ posts. (This is due to their edge ranking algorithm that determines which post shows up on an individual’s news feed.) Facebook now offers “reach generator” to up the view percentage on news feed to a guaranteed 75% and as high as 95% for delivered posts. So now brands have to assess whether their Facebook strategy makes sense without “paid media” or if they are willing to foot the bill ($0.30 per like for a 3 month period). What are the measured results a brand is likely to get with and without reach generator – work your metrics.

Additional Paid Facebook Features
Facebook did announce new premium ads (in addition to their existing non-premium Marketplace ads). One of the biggest change users will see is that premium ads will appear in brands’ timeline and users’ news feeds if the user or one of their friends liked or interacted with the brand’s Facebook page. The ads will look like status updates. Facebook hopes this will generate more user interest.

Now what happens if brands want to reach other people with their advertisement – not just their fans? These premium ads have the opportunity to be displayed in non-fan news feeds if the user’s friend has liked the ad. The premium ad can also be displayed on the right side of the page for users that have not liked the brand and there is no interaction with the brand from their friends. These “stories” are really premium advertisements targeted to non-likes based on brand-selected demographics and other data people share on the social network.

One other change for these premium ads … Facebook looks to change the digital advertising model. These premium ads will not be priced like other typical CTR (click through rate) ads. Click-through rates for Facebook ads have been very low and Facebook’s position is that CTRs are a poor measure ad performance. Thus Facebook has partnered with Nielsen to implement a gross rating point (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_rating_point) model.

Facebook Position for Brands
Facebook is positioning brands to be more true to the intended use of a Facebook user experience. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO said, “People do not expect to be talked at – they want to be a full part of the conversation.” The new premium ads (“sponsored stories”) are meant to be delivered like other “normal” Facebook status posts. This means that brands must be creative and provide valuable information or entertainment in their paid premium ad and sponsored story posts. No user is going to want to see a blatant ad in their news feed from a brand. This could disenchant users and backfire on brands. Be careful how you craft your premium paid posts. Facebook is putting some spin on their new premium ad position. They are careful to call these posts “stories” – not ”ads.” Brands must follow suit and execute these “stories” as well, stories – not ads.

One Additional Facebook Payoff
As Facebook prepares for their IPO, one of the significant hurdles that they faced was not having a mobile ad play. They did not have this functionality in their mobile app. Everyone questioned their ability to generate revenue from mobile users. This segment represents a substantial portion of Facebook use … approximately 50 % of Facebook use is via mobile. Now the problem is solved. Facebook is now simply delivering “ads” in the news feed. Tell the investors it is “ads” in the news feed; tell the rest of the world it is a brand story in the news feed. I think this is called poetic justice based on the crowd you are playing to.

Summary – Facebook Part of an INTEGRATED Social Media Strategy
It remains to be seen how users react to seeing brand stories/ads in their news feed. Now don’t get me wrong. Social implementations must have an integration of both organic social and paid social. But given the reality that brand posts only reach 16% of the intended audience without the fee-based reach generator, Facebook is now primarily a paid media channel. Yes, you can use their new timeline feature set to build a beautiful, dynamic destination site, but Facebook’s new position should definitely make you rethink your brand’s Facebook use.

There are great opportunities to use Facebook in the early parts of you’re A-Path relationship building, but all brands should make strategic decisions with regards to where they want to shape and build their audience. My recommendation is that Facebook is NOT a place to build audience. Think about the behavior you want to change in your target segment. Think about the steps and channels used to build strong relationships. This will lead to the appropriate use of Facebook in your integrated plan and this is likely not the same way you thought about Facebook yesterday.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, community, Facebook, marketing, marketing plan, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

Why the “Social Media Person” Needs to Be More than Just the Social Media Person

What does it mean to be the social media person at a company? For the most part, it means managing the Facebook page, tweeting, and maybe putting up blog post and responding. As I have worked with numerous companies on social media, I can tell you this is pretty much their expectations.

Straight up – this is NOT enough. It will get you nowhere. And this is what I mean when I say the social media person has to be more than the social media person.

Let me give you an example of a project I have been working on at the practice I run for a marketing agency. I am the “social media guy” so when there are client opportunities, I get pulled into the discussion, strategy, proposal, and presentation. Recently we were working on a client opportunity and I was asked to define the social recommendations. As expected, I provided a content strategy and plan for Facebook management and tweets. Additionally, for this particular client, having their own community made sense as they have a particular strong advantage and opportunity to be their vertical’s leader. But I provided one other element as well – a personalization program that provided customization for each user as the starting point for community sign up. When I submitted this, someone who was on the team questioned why I provided a “product enhancement” as I was the “social guy.”

Why would the social person extend beyond social channel management? Because social media is NOT about building the “field of dreams” and having expectations that everyone will just come. It is a noisy world out there with no shortage of places your target audience can go to get compelling content and engage. In the example above, it was very important to provide direct user benefit in a short period of time. The personalization and contextually relevant user experience went beyond the set definition of social media responsibility. While a community is a great place to gather people with similar wants, needs, and interests, each member must get their own specific value from participation. This is especially true for the brand I was working with because they provide different value to different users based on the user’s specific interests and motivations. The benefits each user got from the brand was in fact very personal.

When you take on a social media endeavor, put yourself in the place of the user community and address WIF-M (what’s in it for me). There are tons of blogs, communities and sites that likely cover your brand’s audience. What is going to make you stand out such that you provide greater value to your audience over the competition?

Once you have defined this, what are you going to do to promote your social presence? In the past, I have talked about the importance and use of “Digital PR and Outreach.” (This is a very important aspect of the social media practice at MediaWhiz.) Let me expand on this one step further and show you three slides I often present to clients and prospects …

The brand relationships should traverse through the A-Path – a sequential process for brands to develop deep relationships with their target audience … Attention to Attraction to Affinity to becoming part of the brand Audience to becoming an Advocate. You start the early stages of the A-Path offsite. Then there is a cross over to your site or your platforms. You have the strongest success of the A-Path steps offsite in the beginning and the greatest success of the A-Path steps in the later stages on your platforms.

The next slide highlights A-Path execution off of your brand owned digital assets:

As you begin to build affinity for individuals, you introduce them to your assets (on digital assets). Affinity is the cross over point as shown in the slide below. The slide highlights moving your target segments to becoming part of your audience, and then actions to get a subset of your audience to become advocates.

What I have described above defines a holistic social media operation. Anything less will not yield measurable results. My advice to all of you is do NOT put the social media person in a box. If you are a CMO or other executive overlooking social media as part of your organization, demand more from your social lead. Got it? Ready?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brand reputation, community, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Unifying Loyalty, Rewards, and Social Media

A little over a week ago, eMarketer ran a very interesting story, “What Do Facebook Users Expect from Brands?” that speaks loud to social media affect on rewards programs. The article examined an ExactTarget study and “found that 58% of US Facebook users expect to gain access to exclusive content, events or sales after ‘liking’ a company, while 58% also expect to receive discounts or promotions.”

So let’s think about this for a moment. What this is basically saying is that consumers expect special considerations for liking a brand from the start. In other words, they expect rewards (something the “general public” does not get) right from the get-go … possibly even before they start purchasing anything. And yet loyalty programs are typical designed to reward the best shoppers of the brand.

Once again, this demonstrates how social media is changing the way brands are required to market and sell to consumers and smart brands will view this as an opportunity. Let me outline how this can be achieved by modeling a hypothetical rewards program that leverages social media and rallies around the reality as supported by empirical data in the ExactTarget study.

I suggest formulating a tiered loyalty program around two social media channels and then taking it one step further. Our objective here is to create incremental consumer commitment to the brand.

Tier 1

Do exactly what the survey states users are looking for. Create a Facebook fanpage for users to like and give them exclusive content, events, and small discounts and promotions for liking your brand. (Do be aware that Facebook “Like” will change soon … users will soon specify varying degrees of “Like.” You may “like” one brand, but “really, really like” another.) I am not sure of the future classifications for “likes,” but there will be some variance.

The value here is to get users to “opt-in” to a brand and stay engaged with the brand. The shortcoming in using Facebook for “community” is that Facebook does not provide enough user data for companies to do strong marketing campaigns. Still I see positive steps as this is an “introduction” to the brands loyalty program.

Tier 2

Create a brand community accessible from the brand’s home site. A community that requires people to provide their email address to enter and join the community. A community that delivers great content, allows users to engage with the brand and other users, and contains a compelling feature set typically provided by community software vendors such as Jive Software and SaaS companies like OneSite.

Brands must provide some incremental benefit for users “opting-in” to the community sign-up over a Facebook Like. In this scenario, the user is giving you more information about them (you need to have a plan of collecting richer data on the user over time), thus allowing the creation of target marketing programs. The value here is having that users data and targeted marketing programs increases monetization likelihood.

You cannot just “build the field of dreams and they will come.” The same is true for online communities. You have to have an awesome reason for them to come. Focus on great content, an easy to navigate user interface, a high level of engagement, and ability for users to provide their own voice. There are numerous articles available about considerations for great online communities. Here are a couple … “Where Audience Fits in Social Media” and “How 7 Startups Are Building Their Online Communities.”

Tier 3

Now we move off of social media (yes I can do that :)) and move to even greater brand commitment from users. The highest degree of commitment comes if your consumer is willing to pay an annual fee for their loyalty. In return they get great benefits – assuming they are truly loyal to the brand. Membership has its rewards and American Express is a great example. Starting at $40 per year, you can sign up and earn points for great products, travel accommodations, concerts, and much more. The benefits are extremely rewarding if you use the card often and the fact that you paid is psychological motivation.

The loyalty tiering model I have laid out highlights two very important facts:

1) Unequivocally, social media is a game changer. It is changing the way people do business and the way they make purchase decisions. Those companies that do not adapt will be trumped by those companies that do.
2) Social media is not a stand alone function. It must go beyond integration with other marketing endeavors and be unified.

Where do you see other opportunities for unifying social media with existing programs?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Social Media to Save the Music Industry

On October 25, 1976 – my life changed forever. I went to my first concert and got hooked on the most powerful drug of all – music. I saw Bruce Springsteen headline his first arena show at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. To this day, music continues to be my drug of choice – it brings me up when I am down, and mellows me out when I am too stressed.

And you know what the scariest thing is? By today’s standards, Springsteen would have never grown to be the successful artist he is because based on record companies sales tracking and parameters, he would have been dropped before Born to Run was ever released. His first two albums (“Greeting from Asbury Park, NJ” and “The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle”) did not capture the numbers a record company would continue to support. Maybe by today’s standard an indie record label would carry him, but certainly not a major label like Columbia Records that he was on.

Yes, the record industry has proven to be legacy-minded, lacking innovation, and generally non-adaptive to the audience it serves. Thus, it is clearly a vertical that is hurting.

But wait; can social media save the day? Okay – maybe a bit bold. But I do think that social media is a must factor for successful musicians. Fans want to engage with artists – this is as obvious as can be – yes?

Recently, I was contacted by what I would call a “new media record label” – Crowdbands. Crowdsbands is self professed to be the first record label “driven by the decisions of its members.” Fans “directly affect how music is made, released, and played” all through a democratic decision process by its members. Members join for $25 per year. The first band to have signed with Crowdbands is The Donnas. The Donnas are to release a new album and members got to vote on content of the release – should they cover a Joan Jett song, do a duet with her, stuff like that.

I had the opportunity to interview Allison Robertson of The Donnas and Tom Sarig (Co-founder and Co-CEO of Crowdbands). Here is what they had to say, first The Donnas’ Allison:

Social Steve: You’ve been on major labels and now Crowdbands. What are the pros and cons for you on the new “social label”?
Allison: Well, we are still in the earliest stage of the whole experience, but already, there is a definite difference in energy. The chemistry we have with the team at Crowdbands is easy, fun, positive and pro-active. Major labels have a hard time making those particular qualities a reality.
Steve: You are the first band on Crowdbands. It is sometimes exciting and sometimes difficult to run with a “startup.” How has the ride been for you so far?

Allison: It will be very exciting to see what happens once the album is finished and we gear up for the record cycle. So far we have been delighted with Crowdbands and the experience. I’m very excited to see what our fans think of the new material and with Crowdbands we can actually poll them on any and all aspects of the album making process.

Steve: There is a difference between getting input from your fans and actively engaging. How do you see The Donnas approach to both?

Allison: Well, we don’t want to make music that our fans don’t like. We love them and want to take them along for the ride. Interestingly enough, we don’t really care anymore about whether or not “certain people” would approve of this, or whether “certain people” would like that. We just want to make music that we are really proud of, and reward our real fans with the chance to get involved in decisions that we truly do want their input on.

Steve: How accessible do you feel your band should be to your fans? What is the line between respecting your space/privacy and accessibility to fans? How much time do you actual spend “engaging” with fans? Online?

Allison: The kinds of things that I think are appropriate to share with the fans are all band-related, tour-related, and essentially, fan-related. Basically anything that a fan may have a fresh perspective on, anything that affects them as a fan of our band, we want to know their side. We read their comments on Facebook etc.; I’m always interested in what they’re listening to, what kind of food they like, where they come from, etc. As a band, we think of our fans as part of our gang, and I believe it’s our responsibility to take note of what it is that we all have in common.

Steve: If, down the road, you say joining with Crowdbands was an absolute grand decision, what will that future look like? What will it mean to be a band that has lived through the challenges within the recording industry and evolved to a happy place and YOUR definition of success?

Allison: Honestly, I think we already are a band who has survived treacherous trials and tribulations AND achieved success by our own definition. We’ve gone way farther than our original goals to play Battle of The Bands in Palo Alto and trying to book a show at 924 Gilman. The lucky thing is that we enjoy what we do and are able to share it with people out there who enjoy it as well, and I feel like this album, the future, Crowdbands, etc, is the buttercream frosting on top.

Steve: Final word – anything you want to make a point of saying?

Allison: Yes, the new album knocks my very own socks off!!!

And now some insights from Tom of Crowdbands:

Social Steve: How do you balance the principle of “what came first – the chicken or the egg” as it relates to building a fan base for Crowdbands and signed groups? You need to build both and they go hand in hand? How do you get the balance right?

Tom: We actually do not view it as chicken and the egg at all. We’re simply building on what bands already has in terms of fans and engagement, and making their fans’ experience even MORE engaging. We are looking to build an even more engaged community of super fans who was to actually be involved with their favorite acts. We build the community through consistent engagement, the Members actually make a lot of the decisions a record label would make.

Steve: What are the advantages, you see, for a band to sign with Crowdbands relative to a “traditional label”? For that matter, what will bands “not get” from Crowdbands that they would get from a traditional label?

Tom: The advantages that a band to sign with Crowdbands relative to a traditional label is that we bring with us an energized motivated Membership fan base who is emotionally invested in success and who have real love for the band. Our Members function as a natural focus group for testing, and an organic word-of-mouth marketing entity. What bands will “not get” from Crowdbands that they would get from a traditional label is (ironically) a lack of focus. Because of the economics of the current record business, labels are forced to adopt a blockbuster mentality, whereby they cannot focus at all on traditional artist development, patience, long term plans. And consequently many incredible bands still in their creative prime have fallen off major labels. Crowdbands has arrived on the scene to fix this problem, to make a label that is a better partner in realizing success for the band.

Steve: How do you ensure fans that their vote actually counts and that options posed are not predetermined?

Tom: We put a lot of time and thought into devising decisions that are really going to matter, both in that they are exciting and interesting decisions for the Member to take part in, and that they actually in some tangible way help the band further their goals and aims. The options posed are never pre-determined, I think people in general and our Members in particular are way too smart and would detect that as not genuine. And if that were to happen our community would fall apart.

Steve: Do you see the draw for fans to Crowdbands being based more dependent on the bands that are on the label or the general fun and ability to influence bands decisions? For example, is someone who is not a fan of The Donnas (or additional new bands) going to join Crowdbands and if so what do you see compelling about it?

Tom: The reasons and attractions for joining as a Member of Crowdbands are wide and varied … I think that in the beginning, certainly there is something to be said for being a fan of said Crowdbands band being a driver for a Member signup–after all, who would not want to be close and be involved with their favorite band? But as the days go on and [Members] experience what we are doing, [they] experience the richness of being involved with contributing, that in itself becomes the selling point and a major attraction for new Members. Our Members tell their friends about our community and how great the experience is.

Steve: What “exclusives” or “pre-release access/purchase” are available for Crowdbands members?

Tom: The most obvious things in terms of exclusives which we provide are obviously access to the band and to the weekly experience of working with the band and helping contribute to their effort and success. No one else is bringing bands and their fans closer together in this fashion. Just a couple weeks ago we had a terrific live chat with the band, which no one else could experience except for Members. We talked about some really pressing and meaningful career issues with the band on this chat. We are discussing other exclusives as we get closer to album release from our artists, like previews of new music before anyone else, and first track at tour concert tickets before the general public. We are really striving to make this as rich as possible an experience.

Steve: What can we expect in the way of new bands in the future? I realize you are not going to name drop anything that is in the works or specific bands you want to lure, but can you put some definition or parameters on the table?

Tom: Yes the parameters are simply bands that we love and that we feel we can add real tangible value for. We’re looking for bands that are somewhat established, artists who have already achieved some modicum of success already, but who have been abandoned by the major label system. They’ve got to feel like artists that are still very much in their creative prime and have much still to prove to the world.

Steve: How much “social” are you expecting from your signed bands and how much will be delivered by “the company” on behalf of bands?

Tom: We do expect bands to be involved with their Crowdbands experience. Like most things in life, the more effort you put in the more positive results come out of it. And we’ve found that to be especially true with Crowdbands. Crowdbands, the company, will deliver final album music to its members and we guarantee a rich excellent interactive experience each week–and we believe no one else is doing this at all.

Steve: Final word – anything you want to make a point of saying?

Tom: Crowdbands is trying to change the world one fan and one band at a time. We believe that fans and bands naturally want to be more close, and that there is not only a fun element but a true utilitarian element to what Crowdbands and its Members do for one another…

So there you have it. If you have read my articles before, you know I stress the importance of relationship building. Fundamentally, this is what EVERY company needs to do whether you are a record company, B2B, or other B2C organization. When push comes to shove, this is what Crowdbands looks to bring to the music industry – real fan-band relationships. And I’ll bet that if there is a band-fan relationship that continues to grow, the fan is more likely to actually purchase music and pay for live events and paraphernalia as opposed to simply torrenting free music. People buy from people they feel comfortable with.

You’ve heard from the artist. You’ve heard from the new record label. Now it is your turn – the audience. What do you think? Join the conversation.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

Note: If you like articles relating music and social media, also check out “How I Learned About Social Media Influence from Bruce Springsteen in 1975,” “What Brands and Social Media Players Can Learn from The Grateful Dead,” and “Indie Music & Social Media – A Perfect Match.”

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Filed under community, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Where “Audience” Fits in Social Media

Hey, I love music and when I think of a great audience, I think of a Bruce Springsteen or Arcade Fire concert. Set your sights high – don’t you want to make that kind of a connection?

For those of you that have followed my blog, you know I often talk about the social media A-Path – Attention, Attraction, Affinity, AUDIENCE, and Advocate. (See “Using the Social Media “A-path” to Capture Ultimate Customers” and “How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully” for more information.) I think it is worthwhile to drill into what it means to have a brand audience.

Let’s start with the basics. Your target audience is really a target market segment. A target market segment is a set of prospects and customers with common needs, wants and preferences (requirements and buyer values) who reference each other when making buying decisions. YOUR audience is a subset of the target audience. It would be excellent if you capture the entire target audience, but that is unlikely.

Your audience is that group that continually comes back to your brand to hear what you have to say and engage with you and your brand. And it is not just to communicate with you. If you go back to the definition of target market segment remember that this group “references each other when making buying decisions.” So you don’t want your audience only to converse with you, but communicate among each other as well. All under the umbrella of your brand. And today, this is what we call a community.

You see “Audience” is a much richer experience than “Affinity.” Affinity means individuals like you, value what you have to offer, but “Audience” means they are “signing up” with you. As I previously mentioned in the article “How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully,” audience members show some type of investment. They provide equity of sorts and in social space – personal information is equity. It usually starts with a login name and password or could be as simple as an email address.

So now let’s relate audience and community. There are different types of community and they have different assets. No one community is right for all brands. You must state your objectives of the community and implement the appropriate community. BUT remember one thing – a community is not about your brand – it is about the people that are the members. You may draw people to your community because of your brand, but ultimately, you must deliver value to the members, give them freedom and control to involve the community as they see fit. To quote Mitch Joel, “The community decides when it’s a community… you don’t.” Yes, you set up the platform and people may start to come, but really the community environment and functionality are maintained by the members.

There are three basic types of communities in a social context.

The first, and maybe the most widely used, is a Facebook fan page – now called a “like” page. Facebook users like your brand and become a member. This means that your wall postings show up on their news feed. If a given Facebook user comments on your brand or writes a status on the like page wall, it shows up on the Facebook users’ friends news feed. This is extremely useful to produce sharing and viral content. But Facebook like pages have a significant liability. Facebook holds all the data on users of your like page and you have virtually no data on them. It is very difficult to engage with the users on your like page beyond the Facebook environment. From an “A-Path Audience” perspective, Facebook like pages are very good for CPG (consumer package goods) such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, but pretty poor for B2B plays where greater audience-brand connection is required. For B2B, Facebook is a good starting place for “A-Path Attention and Attraction” but you want to go beyond that.

The next type of community is a “group” within a social network platform such as “LinkedIn.” (There are certainly other platforms where you set up a group, but I’ll use LinkedIn as an example here.) You can set up a group and use the LinkedIn platform as the channel for your brand community. There is some sharing and viral aspect here as one can see their connections groups and posting/comments to the group on a LinkedIn page. Here, you also have a little more data on the members than with Facebook. It most cases you have the individuals email address and this should be the start of your social CRM database.

The third type of community is building your own social network. This takes the greatest investment and on-going support requirements. The value here is that you have all the data on your audience. This environment makes sense for organizations that are content rich and plan to produces continuous content. Content by itself is not enough. You also need to concentrate on engagement. You must have a community manager that is responsible for brand monitoring, and engages, responds, and is accessible to the community members. The functionality and design of the brand community is imperative and is a topic that requires much more than I’ll go into in this post. (I am actually working on community strategies, implementations, and successful execution in my “day job.”)

I will offer up a few points that you must consider when planning your brand’s audience platform(s).

1) Recognize that a Facebook community is very different than most other communities from a “friend” perspective. In Facebook, most of the users are friends with their connections. They know each other from childhood, college, or later in life. They connect with acquaintances, if not friends. The same is not true in a LinkedIn “group” or brand developed community. People join these communities because of common interest and usually not based upon acquaintances. This means that for active participation and overall community success, the functionality, UI (user interface), marketing and incentives of the community need to be designed very different.
2) Monetization: For non-CPG environments, I often ask this question. If you had 100K Facebook fans or 100K members of your own community, where do you think you can monetize the users more easily? It is a rhetorical question.
3) The most important aspect of audience and community is planning. Know your target audience. Know your objectives. Make community platform decisions based on this. Have a plan and resource allocations in place to ensure continuous brand investment in your community.
4) Look to influence your community, not control it. Allow a strong sense of democracy and not a dictatorship. Otherwise the public will revolt.

I have just scratched the surface on the topic of audience and community. There is so much hard work that needs to go into this to generate success. This is not a free social media thing. But these are the fundamentals to set you on a positive path.

Please share your community experiences (positive and negative) here on this blog. Thanks!

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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