Category Archives: marketing plan

7 Steps to Keep Up with the Demands of Marketing Evolution

Whether it is the result of digital, interactive, or social media, or simply the heightened knowledge and skepticism of consumers, effective marketing must evolve. Some traditional marketing tactics and channels no longer yield strong awareness, consideration, purchase decision, loyalty and advocacy. And at the same time traditional approaches determining marketing strategy, plan, and execution are still quite relevant.

marketing evolution

In the past I have written about how the changing consumer, new leadership requirements, and complete consumer focus spawned a need for considerable marketing evolution. These three characteristics dictate a need for a changing marketing approach. And while conditions demand change, marketing evolution is far too stagnant.

So what should you do to drive marketing evolution that not only defines survivability, but excellence now and in the coming years? Here is a list for your consideration …

1) Know your audience – Every marketing effort must start on a thorough understanding of your audience. Their wants, needs, motivations, and turn offs.
2) Understand your audience channels of use -You must not only understand your audience’s behavior but also channels where their behaviors are exercised.
3) Determine voice, tone, and brand characterization – Once you understand your audience, then you start to influence your brand’s position and perception. The influence of brand’s position is driven by a set voice, tone of communication, and characteristics that represent what the brand stands for.
4) Define how the brand’s characterization manifests itself in every organizational role – Once the brand’s voice, tone, and characteristics are defined, marketing leaders must define how they manifest with each organization and role in the company. A brand’s character is not just something to be used by the marketing group, but rather the entire extended company and partners.
5) Determine both physical and virtual presence of brand and integrate – Digital marketing and experiential marketing cannot be separated. Your target audience has digital and real physical experiences with your brand. Consider how to bring these often siloed practices together because consumer do not separate different facets of their brand experiences.
6) Integrate brand and direct marketing – Marketing consists of short-term and long-term initiatives. Typically, direct marketing is short-term and brand marketing is long-term. Once again, these marketing functions are far too often siloed. They need to be collaborative in a marketing strategy to maximize results.
7) Integrate owned, earned, paid media – As discussed in the article Integrating Owned Media, Earned Media, and Paid Media media types need to work together in a synergistic way. See the referenced article and consider how to get the most out of your media presence that your audience views.

I am quite surprised and at times disenchanted by the slow pace of change in marketing. I am not suggesting that you follow hype, but rather follow your audience. When you follow your audience, this dictates what changes you must make. There are not enough marketing leaders willing to be adaptive. Are you willing to be a continuous student of your craft?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Driving Social Media Adoption at Your Company

Last week I hosted a webinar on getting your company on board with social media marketing and gaining greater acceptance throughout your organization. The motivation for social media is that “marketing must change because the market is changing.” Just look at the target audience behavior to see their adoption and use of social networks to help determine how important social marketing is.

Social Media Adoption at Your Company

So in this post I’ll share with you the highlights of the webinar. Consider the following key elements to getting your organization to strongly embrace social marketing such that it is not just the marketing department’s efforts. In the words of Dave Packard (of HP), “Marketing is far too important to be left solely to the marketing department.” Marketing your brand and company is everyone’s job.

1) Have a clear understanding of your target audience’s wants, needs, and motivations. Capture their digital behavior, practices and social channels of use. Brief your executives.
2) Develop a social strategy that aligns to the company’s business goals and objectives. Make sure you know the company’s KPIs (key performance indicators).
3) Determine the company’s subject matter experts in all organizational disciplines. Work with them to produce content that reinforces your brand as the most knowledgeable in the vertical you serve. Talk to the internal subject matter experts and capture their perspective. Make a draft article conveying their approach and ask them to redline (and then own) the content.
4) Create positive viruses … Find the people in your company that are willing to try some new social endeavors. Work hard to make them successful. Once they deliver success, shine a big light on their success. People copy success and everyone loves to emulate winners.
5) Extend “marketing communications” beyond the marketing department. Develop a corporate policy that states and motivates employees to share company content on their own social channels. Get executives to acknowledge and thank individuals for promoting company content. Develop brand ambassadors within your company.
6) Be a leader. It does not matter where you sit on the organization chart. If you want to drive positive change, you must make it happen. Don’t wait for someone with an executive title to take charge.
7) Show social metrics even if you are not asked for them. We must show the entire company empirical results that justify social practices. (See “Know What Successful Social Media looks Like” for metrics.)

If you want to listen to a rebroadcast of the webinar please go to the recording … the presentation is available in slideshare there as well.

Organizational change is hard, but in the case of social marketing, it is not hype that should be the reason for change, but rather audience behavior. We see different social platforms emerging weekly, but social media as a whole is the most effective way for brands to build strong relations and product/service preference. Do you have what it takes to drive winning organizational change?

Make it Happen,
Social Steve

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What is Social Marketing? (Make Sure You Really Know)

I have notice there are an abundance of social marketing positions listed everyday and a massive pool of individuals applying for the opportunities. While there is much opportunity on both ends, I am not sure hiring companies and applicants really know what social marketing is and its real impact.

brand-customer engagementFirst off, let’s clearly distinguish that social media and social marketing are not the same thing. As I mentioned about a year ago social media is simply platforms for media posting and communications. In no way does the act of posting and communicating infer that brands are successfully marketing their product/service. The social media platforms merely present an opportunity for marketing …. Social marketing.

So the question at hand … What is social marketing? Social marketing is the strategy, planning, execution, and measurement activities aimed at getting your target audience to build a stronger relationship with your brand. This is accomplished through conversations, engagement, content production and curation, customer service, and overall, an enriched user experience. As a result, brands look to increase (and most importantly measure) awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. Advocacy is the pinnacle result of social marketing as the strongest advocates in the target audience help to promote and market your product.

Here is a list of the key elements of social marketing:

* Target Market Insights – thorough understanding of the target market’s needs, wants, motivations and digital behaviors. (Also see “The Most Important Word for Marketing.”)
* Content – awesome original content, curation of content to support brand position, and initiatives to provoke user generated content (UGC). (Also see “Ingredients to a Winning Content Strategy.”)
* Influence – identification and engagement of brand relevant influencers to generate earned media (Also see “A Real Look at Social Media Influence.”)
* Listening – active monitoring and listening to your target audience on all digital channels.
* Feedback to product group – not only listening for engagement purposes, but listening to capture new product/service offerings, features, support, and potential issues.
* Engagement – monitor for relevant conversation on both brand digital assets and non-brand digital assets. Actively participate in conversations and respond to all inquiries in a timely manner.
* Sharing Optimization – Complete assessment of brand site, social channels, content, and mentions on non-brand digital assets to yield guidance and recommendations to increase user sharing of brand’s content and posts.
* Real-time marketing – Consistent monitoring of current events to produce “on-the-fly” communication based upon planned processes and scenarios.
* Mobile – Recognition that the target audience accesses a high level of digital social content, conversations and information on mobile. Optimization of social engagement and proliferation of content for mobile consumption.
* PR – Integration of traditional and digital PR to yield maximum earned media.
* Metrics – definition of how success will be measured and continuous capture of empirical data. Analysis of metrics to determine ongoing strategy and execution modifications.
* Integration to other marketing endeavors and programs – social marketing is not a separate, isolated marketing initiative. Make sure it is integrated with all other marketing initiatives.
* Integration into CRM (customer relationship management) data and analysis – activities to capture a complete picture and definition of your audience.

So you see social marketing is much more than having a Facebook and Twitter presence. It is much more than simply posting and running promotions to increase likes and followers. As you look to move beyond social media hype to drive measurable results, consider what social marketing really needs to be in your organization.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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The Successful Social Marketing Framework

Social marketing should not be an add-on to other marketing efforts. Far too often, marketers put together a promotion or other marketing program and then look to tag on social. As dictated by user behavior marketers need to think social first. So let’s run through the successful social marketing framework that marketers should follow.

The Successful Social Marketing Framework

When it comes to social marketing, you cannot just do it. You need to start with a strategy because “where you start often defines where you finish.” In order to develop a solid social marketing program you need to know your target audience and competition, and at the same time reinforce your brand position. Do research and capture key customer insights, especially as they relate to digital usage and behavior. Use social monitoring tools to listen to what the target audience is saying. Go to specific relevant blogs and search the vast digital world using applicable keywords to find the appropriate conversations. Conduct a social audit on your competition – where are they active; what are they saying; how is their audience responding? And certainly re-examine your brand position – what do you stand for; how do you differentiate from the competition; what is your current communication strategy? These four activities are the basis for a messaging and content strategy, engagement plan, and social channel plan for your social marketing strategy.

Once the social strategy is defined, core social marketing activities are ready to be performed, not before. Social marketing must start with content production. Develop a content calendar, but also be prepared to produce real-time content based upon current events and conditions. Content production should include articles, photos, videos, curated content, and user-generated content. Of course social marketing includes community management. Community management includes postings and engagement with members of the brands digital assets. But another core function of the social media manager is “off community management.” This is seeding conversations and engagement on non-brand digital assets on behalf of brand.

In addition to core social marketing functions as a starting point, there are a number of ongoing activities that are also required. Once content has been developed and published, social managers need to make sure appropriate steps are taken to optimizing user sharing. Besides attracting a core audience, look to identify influencers that will help rally awareness and interest in your brand. This process of influencer marketing produces positive word-of-mouth marketing and earned media. The social manager must also generate formal monthly reports on social metrics – comparisons to leading competition and Social Action Index which quantifies awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy trending. And then there is social gamification which is not “game playing.” It is a reward system that keeps the audience coming back and engaged. And finally you need to tie in social CRM (customer relationship management) which is a combination data collection to have linkage to other marketing efforts as well as customer social engagement.

The social marketing effort is a year round activity. Conversely, most marketing programs are for specific drive periods and then end. This fact coupled with user behavior are the two reasons why social marketing must be derived as its own top down effort. But that is not the end. Social must be connected to all the other drive period marketing efforts to have one cohesive marketing front for the audience. The social manager must be part of all market briefs and plans. Other marketing leaders outside of social marketing should expect the social leader to define how they are going to integrate the marketing programs into social.

The key difference in what I have defined is what comes first. There should be no chicken versus the egg confusion here. Social marketing must lead for customer awareness, engagement, and advocacy. Brands need to aim for continuous relationship building, not just during marketing drive periods. Yes, marketing programs provide the opportunity to heighten awareness, consideration, sales, loyalty, and advocacy, but the social light must burn eternally. Do you really want someone you trust, not to be there when you want to engage?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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We Cannot Segment the Digital Revolution

Blogs. Social media. Interactive. Transmedia. Content marketing. Social TV. Smartphones. Tablets. Mobile. Are all these things really separate? Or should we looking at them holistically from the user and consumer perspective?

Digital RevolutionA few things happened this past week that helped to solidify for me that the digital revolution is a twisted web of marketing synergy and all attempts to segment individual executions and pin-pointed results are flawed. I’ll take you through three “a-ha” moments that happened for me this week that resulted in my position that ”we cannot segment the digital revolution.”

First off, Michael Lazerow, former Buddy Media founder and CEO, now CMO for Salesforce Marketing Cloud, wrote an excellent piece, “3 Steps to Become a ‘Customer Company’.” Lazerow’s 3 steps to become a customer company are:

1) Customer Companies Listen to Every Customer
2) Customer Companies Publish Great Content
3) Customer Companies Service Customers Across Every Channel

The article also includes a video from Salesforce Chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff. Benioff makes the point that a customer company is connected … connected to customers, partners, employees, and products.

Then this week I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a great social friend and transmedia expert, Karine Halpern. (Please check out some of Karine’s slideshares, she has some great information to share with you.) Karine and I were talking about moving transmedia forward to deliver commercial success. Now most brand executives are just learning what social marketing is, so I would venture to say, most don’t understand what transmedia is. Transmedia “is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.” Sounds pretty close to content and social marketing integration, but it is slightly different. But the point is that most brand managers are beginning to understand the importance of storytelling, content marketing, and social marketing, so I think the strategy, plan, and execution should stay in that context. That is, keep the marketing plan in the context of what the decision makers understand.

There is always a new buzz term coming out. The new buzz is good for hype and headlines, but if we are really concerned about executing and delivering results, we must stick to fundamentals. And these fundamentals must be in context for brand managers and marketing executives to understand. Marketers now realize the importance of digital marketing, but they remain confused about terminology. I see these decision makers understanding the need for:

• content and storytelling,
• social marketing,
• interactivity and engagement,
• the role of digital influencers and the importance of advocates,
• positive online review presence,
• SEO
• integration of owned, earned, and paid media, and
• mobile.

So maybe it is best to keep digital marketing terminology in these contexts and not slice things down in greater detail.

And the third point to highlight comes from some marketing headlines about Coca-Cola … “Buzzkill: Coca-Cola Finds No Sales Lift from Online Chatter.” Eric Schmidt, senior manager-marketing strategy and insights at Coca-Cola stated “We didn’t see any statistically significant relationship between our buzz and our short-term sales.” He also cautioned against reading too much into the research, noting that it covers only buzz, not sharing, video views or other aspects of social media.” And yet these elements not included in the study are the power of social marketing.

Quickly after this initial report, Coca-Cola’s Wendy Clark, senior VP-integrated marketing communications and capabilities, defended Coke’s social media stating it was crucial. I’ll put it this way … what is the value of having your audience feel positive about your brand? Does it turn immediate sales? No. But does it define long term customer loyalty and brand sustainability? Yes. If your audience feels strong about your brand, when it comes time to make a purchase, their brand preference will show.

Clark turned to Coke’s own blog
to state that it was true … social buzz or chatter does not generate sales lift in isolation. But she also added that the key point is that “no single medium is as strong as the combination of media.”

And I agree. As I tweeted earlier in the week …

SocialSteve Coca-Cola Tweet

(If you want to see to two videos I referenced, they can be viewed at “Social by Design.”)

So if you pull the three examples together that I have highlighted above, I am suggesting that marketing strategy, planning, execution, and measurement is getting too siloed. We cannot segment the digital revolution. The consumer uses all digital technologies, platforms, and services to support all of their purchase decisions. If you are to be a customer company, you will follow the behaviors and actions of the consumer and build a holistic digital strategy. If you are responsible for a specific digital marketing effort, find connection points with other marketing efforts. Build synergy. And lastly, and probably the most important, no one digital marketing endeavor should be credited with sales. If you look at the journey of the digital consumer, you will notice that they hit multiple touch points before ultimately making a purchase. Should we be crediting the last digital touch point as the only sales enabler and element that carries an ROI? This is flawed.

Thus I strongly suggest that you do not segment the digital revolution. Long live the revolution and what it stands for … connecting with the customer.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Social Media Balance – Successful Secrets

We all need it in our life – balance – and it is no different for social media success. At the most macro level, social media balance means the right proportion of entrepreneurial spirit AND some old school business fundamentals. Let’s look at both sides of the coin.

On the entrepreneurial side, the most recent successful example comes from Oreo. Oreo showed their ability to think and react in “real-time” marketing as demonstrated in their now famous Super Bowl tweet.

Oreo Post

Not bad for the number of retweets and favorites for a cookie.

I was reminded of Oreo this week in the article, “Oreo’s Real-Time Marketing Strategy Requires Entrepreneurial Spirit.” Oreo’s success comes from both fast thinking and creativity – now called real-time marketing. “Real-time marketing requires an entrepreneurial spirit, simple message, willingness to prepare and readiness and ability to act quickly. All the attributes of a startup.”

But there is another side required for success as well. And that is having a social business maturity. This comes from years of marketing and business experience. I thought of this when I read the recent report “The Evolution of Social Business: Six Stages of Social Business Transformation.” If you take time to read the report, it can be pretty scary. You are likely to find many deficiencies in your operations. But don’t be disillusioned. The most important thing is to know the direction you need to go for success and to methodically implement your plan to get there over time. Make sure you do EVERYTHING great. While speed is dictated for so many in this lightning speed digital world, greatness differentiates the winners and losers.

When I think of some of the greatest social marketing brands, I think of Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and Ford. These are brands in the most crowded industries. They must be great to stand out. And they did not get great overnight. They have been committed to audience development via social marketing. They not only produce creative social implementations that create user response spikes, but they remain committed to listening and engaging with their audience. This keeps their audience connected and engaged for the long run.

As another point in case, I’ll give you an example from the agency I work at, Ryan Partnership … we manage social marketing for brands. As part of our ongoing social management, we use empirical data to drive continuous improvement. This past week I looked at data on social channel engagement for one particular brand. The data was extremely telling. Since we took over the social management for this account, we found a steady and consistent audience engagement. Yes there were a few spikes of engagement for specific posts, but more importantly, the brand’s audience is engaging regularly.

The point is that yes … a winning post that is executed in real time marketing is worthwhile, but even more important produces slow and steady growth on engagement. Why? Because continuous engagement leads to loyalty and establishing brand preference. Then compelling content leads to advocacy. Marketers need to unleash their audience and put their brand in the hands of their audience. This leads to social marketing success. You tell the stories of your brand, let your audience add their own slant to that story and motivate them to share with their network.

In other cases at Ryan, we have implemented creative marketing programs that result in strong incremental social following. You need it all … programs to drive spikes and continuous commitment to your audience to keep them engaged.

So when I talk about social media marketing balance, I am really highlighting two elements: 1) equal parts entrepreneurship and solid business and marketing foundation, and 2) standout posts, promotions, and sweepstakes to get immediate incremental awareness and following and at the same time continued value delivery to your audience. This approach keeps your followers engaged and attached to your brand, and motivates them to share.

Yes, the digital world dictates a need for real time marketing, but at the same time fundamental business and marketing practice will produce sustainable, long term winning results.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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The New Customer Demands New Marketing

The New ConsumerThere is no shortage of commentary and reports on the success, or lack thereof, of social media as a viable, effective marketing component. The analysis is premature. I find it troublesome that people are evaluating social outcomes when there are so few setting appropriate strategy, plan, and execution.

Let’s start with a few points:

• Just about every brand has a Facebook presence and is branching out to utilize other platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and many others.
• Social participation is table stakes and far too many brands simply treat their social presence as table stakes.
• Brands lack an understanding of what their audience wants from then in the way of content and social engagement.
• Most brands lack differentiation and creativity in their social presence.

The point is that is everyone is in on social marketing. There is no value added for brands in their social presence. That is, unless they have a unique offering for their audience with their content, creativity, and presence on social channels. Social marketing has quickly become commoditized.

But let’s put social media and social marketing aside for a minute and look at marketing evolution and the new consumer. I would say the earliest days of marketing started with the door to door salesman. The salesman would look to add a personal touch to the product or service he represented. The main challenge with this approach was scalability. The next phase was likely advertisement in newspapers. This was a chance for brands to get in front of a larger audience. This approach of advertisement was then broadened in the early days of radio and later television. Brands sponsored programs to help connect with their target market and build imaging around programs.

Today brand image and style remain extremely important. But more and more consumers feel that they are manipulated by advertising. Many feel that the ads are merely a façade for brands and what they stand for.

The new consumer wants to feel that brands stand for something that they themselves value. The new consumer is looking for greater brand transparency and truthfulness. And if a consumer thinks a brand has done an injustice, they will call them out in public space. The consumer opinion and influence is stronger than ever and they are pickier than ever because they now know they hold power. It is tougher and tougher for brands to capture consumer preference.

The new consumer is powerful and thus a new marketing approach is required. The new marketing approach must have the following elements:

• Complete understanding and empathy for their target audience.
• Brand commitment to their target audience to deliver not only an outstanding product/service but also a strong and engaging ongoing user experience.
• A publisher mentality – brand delivery of valuable content to their audience to reinforce who they are, what they stand for, while having complete understanding of the audience’s wants, needs, and desires.
• Creativity that allows the brand to stand out in saturated marketing channels.
• Listening – the new consumer is very social. Listening to them allows brands to shape their products/services closer to user-perceived perfection. Listening also allows brands to address problems immediately before a PR nightmare occurs. It also provides an opportunity to amplify positive feedback.

Many say the CMO position is dead. I disagree … it is more important than ever. Maybe too many CMOs are stuck in a legacy minded approach to marketing and are not attuned to the power of the new consumer.

Yes … I am a social media enthusiast, but not because it is a shiny new object. The reason I got involved in social media 5+ years ago was because I saw a dramatic change in consumer behavior and action. Consumers rallied worthy products and harassed ones with nothing more than marketing charades. This led me to social marketing. I am not sure how long social marketing will be in vogue, but I am most certain that adapting to consumer behavior will always be imperative.

So as you plan your marketing strategy, don’t be enticed by hype. Be completely driven by the consumer. Understand how your competition is attempting to win customers. Use the channels where your audience goes and produce a most dramatic presence in a creative way. Be bold and stick out way beyond commodized marketing.

Rather than be driven by reports and so called experts, be led by the new consumer. And most importantly, WOW the hell out of them. Be true, honest, transparent, content driven, engaging, and amazingly creative and different. That’s how you drive brand preference.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Content Marketing – Social Marketing: You Can’t Have One without the Other

Think about it for a second. When you share something with your friends and family, isn’t it most often some kind of content? An article, picture, or video?
So marketers’ social strategy must start with a content strategy.

In a previous article that I wrote, “A Marketing Lesson about Brand Proliferation using Social Media,” I introduced the following diagram:

The point I was driving was you have your brand definition and position at the core of the brand reputation and your audience’s perception. Content is used to leverage your brand position. Continuous and compelling content creates a way to make sure people stay engaged with brands so that the brand is top of mind with the target audience. If that content is truly valuable, the audience will share it with their network. And those that share the most should be engaged with directly to create advocates.

You can get more on this approach at the referenced article. But what I want to touch on in greater detail is the synergy and use of a content combined with social marketing. Assuming you accept the importance that content plays in your social efforts, the next question is where should the content reside? Blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc?

The answer is you need a content hub where all your content resides. Then, social channels should be used to reference the content, proliferate the content, and to engage with the target audience.

The content hub should be tied to the brand site. Social channels should be used to present abstracts of the content and refer back (URLs) to the content hub. This is the correct approach for a number of reasons:

1) The portfolio of content should be in one place. If a user wants more brand content, they should not need to go search for it. It should be at their fingertips.
2) While social marketing is not about direct sales, certainly we do not want to miss the opportunity if your reader has that interest. Having the content directly on the site where there is also product information and ecommerce creates increased consideration and sales opportunities.
3) Given the wide breadth of social channels and users preferences, it is difficult to manage content across all channels. It is much easier to manage reference posts and engagements on the social channels.
4) We see numerous different user preferences for use of social channels for brand engagement. Marketers cannot simply assume that Facebook has 1 billion users and all the users want to use Facebook for brand engagement. Brands need to be active on all the social channels that users look to engage with brands at.

More and more, I am finding that addressing brands’ social marketing strategy is not enough. Content strategy and planning MUST be part of the strategy. Once marketers have a plan for content stylization and topics to cover, they must plan where the content resides and the best way to get it proliferated. They must also think about ways that the content builds awareness and relationships and spawns word-of-mouth marketing. At the same time there needs to be subtle ways to capture a sales opportunity when the customer is ready to buy. The content hub, social proliferation approach I suggested here accomplishes all of these goals.

Think big, execute the details, and

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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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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The Secret Success Factor for Social Marketing

Let’s face it. There have been some great executions of social marketing and more often some very poor implementations. And I would profess there is one common element of the successful ones. Doing what is not expected. A little surprise or exclusivity.

We often hear a number of social strategists talk about providing exclusive information, promotions, pictures, or other media on the social channels where you want to attract a following. I think it is important to raise this mentality up one level. Social marketing is not about the creation and success on a social media channel. Social marketing is about getting your brand socialized and generating word-of-mouth recognition and referral from your target audience. The channel is far less important then the word-of-mouth action. We do not look to contrive advocacy on a specific channel, but rather spark and provoke sharing in the most natural way based on target market behavior and their usage.

And another word of caution … Everyone is in search of the holy grail of making something go viral. If you start out with this objective, I guarantee you, you are playing in fantasy. And even worse, if you find something that has had viral success and attempt to copy it, you are doomed for failure.

So forget about a channel strategy or making something viral to begin with. Think about how you are going to deliver the unexpected to your market. A great example of this is Tony Hsieh’s and Zappo’s approach to overachieving customer expectations – over delivering. They always seem to pleasantly surprise me. I always receive my shoes a day before they promise they will be there. It is this customer experience that opens me up to turn to them as a recommendation source, a social source.

Another example for you … While doing some due diligence and research for one of the CPG brands I work with, I found a simple, but excellent execution. It started with a particular brand monitored for mentions of their product. When an advocate mentioned that they loved their product on Twitter, the brand, unexpectedly, sent that person a free t-shirt and other brand trinkets. The person happened to be a mommy blogger and then further professed her love for the brand by telling the story on her site. This is a great example of driving a loyal customer to greater advocacy. A friend of mine has this saying – “Luck is the residue of design.” In brand marketing, we are not comfortable leaving success up to luck, but certainly these customer surprises increase key advocacy metrics.

Think about your personal life. How nice is it when a friend does something special for you that is unexpected? Take you to lunch. Show up to give you a helping hand. Or simply send you a note to tell you how special you are. Doesn’t that make you feel good?

So if brands are looking to win the hearts of a target market, why wouldn’t that play to human emotion the same way? People expect to be advertised and sold to. If we want to go beyond and exceed their expectations, maybe it is as simple as not selling and not advertising as a start and reaching out to them in an engaging way. But you cannot stop there. Develop brand affinity and loyalty by a continuous user experience that has social integration.

Consider a social marketing strategy and execution as follows:

 one that enhances your customers’ user experience,
 is continuously engaging in a way that is beneficial to the targets,
 over delivers to exceed customers’ expectations
 provides pleasant surprises, and
 produces uniqueness and carries some element or value not experienced elsewhere (certainly differentiated from the competition).

It is too often forgotten that development of brand social marketing should follow the same motivators that contribute personal relationship building. This means easing up on a corporate marketing feel in favor of a more personable approach. Work to evolve to this mentality and surprise your market segment.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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