Category Archives: marketing

3 Motivators for Interaction in Social Marketing

How many times have you discussed a social marketing program that asks your audience to where you look for your audience to take a picture or make a video to rally some UGC (user generated content) and sharing? If you are in marketing, I will bet this is suggested (and maybe attempted) many times. And then you do it and the outcome is poor … so few participate. I am sure And now I’ll bet everyone is looking at the ALS Cold Bucket Challenge and wishing they could have the success of would be thrilled to capture even 10% ALS’ results.

social interaction

Before you try to do a social marketing program and aim for even a fraction of the success of the ALS Cold Bucket Challenge, you need to understand three motivators of interaction that has made this so productive from your audience.

1) WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) – In order for someone to actively participate in your social marketing program, they need to believe something is in it for them. No matter how much someone loves your brand; they need to believe there is a compelling reason for them to act.

2) Passion – There are few brands that people get passionate about. But certainly there is an opportunity to create a reason to be passionate about what a brand stands for. A great example of this is Dove. It is pretty hard to get people excited about a cleansing soap, but if you look at the various programs they have developed for women’s self esteem, you can see how a social movement creates brand passion.

3) Make People Feel Good About Themselves – This area could actually fall under the WIIFM umbrella, but I explicitly separate it out because this is more of a subconscious user action.

There are a couple more attributes of social interaction that the ALS Challenge highlights. First off, the ALS challenge has been extremely successful because it was designed it in a way that they (the brand) did not ask people to participate, but rather had friends challenge others to act. This not only motivated people but shines light on the second important attribute. That is social pressure. When challenged to do something by someone you know, there is a societal pressure that you must act upon.

Look how emotions drive desired marketing behavior. Tech Crunch ran great article this week titled “Startup Marketing And How Emotion Drives Customer Action” by Kobie Fuller () that has some very interesting psychological information for marketing for all companies. I quote …

Psychologist Robert Plutchik discovered eight basic, primary emotions that guide all behaviors: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger and disgust. These emotions are product-agnostic, and over time, establish brand-to-consumer relationships that transcend traditional boundaries of engagement.

The question is, which emotions should marketers target, and how do they solicit these emotions? Elbert outlines the following correlations in emotion with user behavior:

Intrigue and mystery – creates a curiosity that drives initial exploration and clicks; important for advertising and emails
Desire and aspiration – stokes consideration; helpful for site imagery, product pages and lookbooks
Urgency and fear – provokes a feeling of missing out, which triggers a purchase
Surprise and laughter – drives sharing, as seen on April Fools’ Day

(Source: http://techcrunch.com/2014/08/20/startup-marketing-how-emotion-drives-customer-action/)

So when you are thinking about an audience participation program consider ways THEY (the audience) are motivated. There are a few more considerations I suggest:

1) Make sure the task you set up is easy to achieve.
2) Consider share-ability – that is, make it a task that people want to share with others.
3) Audience development – form a task that naturally builds an extended audience beyond your initial targets

The beauty of social marketing is that your marketing comes from objective people as opposed to the brands subjective team. Getting user interaction is an excellent marketing tactic – if you plan accordingly and do it right.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Time to Rethink Social Media

As I shared with you a couple of weeks ago (and many others have covered) Facebook is changing the way it treats brand’s posts and their distribution (or lack thereof).

rethink socil media

Should anyone really be surprised? Does it not make sense to monetize the accomplishment of being the number one social network? Sure, you can get ticked off, but can you really blame Facebook.

And you know what … you should take some blame yourself. Does it really make sense to put the control and success in the hands of another platform? What has kept you from putting control and destiny in your own hands?

So if you agree that you need to keep control and manage your own destiny, this means that you, the brand, need to have your own platform. Here is what I mean by this …

Every brand should have its own “home court.” This means that brands should have a content repository where all their content is housed. This content repository should sit on the brand’s website. Often the content repository takes the form of a blog. Brands should not place their content on a platform that someone else controls. You should control this platform.

Now this does not mean that I think brands should not use social media, but the social channels should be used to proliferate content. Social media should also be used as an extended channel for brand engagement with their target audience. A brand should put together a content strategy for the owned digital asset (their website) and then think about using social media channels to distribute abstracts of the content such that digital traffic is driven to a platform they control.

When a brand builds success driving traffic to their website, the next step is to think about building a community there. About two years ago, I indicated “Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community.” Now some may say, why should I bother to build a community? Why would anyone come to my community when there is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others? Can I really get a crowd developed? Well, think about this. If you truly deliver content that is interesting, entertaining, and/or compelling, you will capture a crowd. And if you are worried about the size of your community, simply look at each individual as a potential ambassador of your brand spreading your content and brand value. Give them a reason why they would want to join your community. Even if you had a handful of ambassadors, that is a major accomplishment. Earlier this year, I provided a play book describing “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”

I am certain there are some that will say they don’t have the resource or budget to do what I am suggesting. Heck, I’ve heard it from the companies I have worked for and clients I provide strategy and plans to. My answer to this is simply … if you truly care about your customers and potential customers you will find the budget. I say this not because this is the business I am in, but rather because the audience behavior demands it. I am a marketer first and foremost. I got into digital and social media because I followed the audience behavior.

And now new Facebook procedures demand change. Change that I recommended even a couple years back. Change that demands you keeping up and adapting your marketing skill set.

And needless to say, other social platforms will change. So here is the question … are you going to stay stagnant with your digital, social, and overall marketing? Or as the title suggests, isn’t it “Time to Rethink Social Media” and your whole digital approach. Audience behavior, technology, and platform operations demand you be adaptable. Don’t get comfortable. Put your seatbelt on and drive the course to success. If you expect a straight road you are fooling yourself.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Changes in Facebook Signal a Need for Social Marketing Change

Just when you thought you were getting the hang of capturing your audience’s awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy via social marketing, the social world pivots. The new twist will require a change in your social strategy.

facebook changes

First, lets define the change. For the past couple of weeks there have been leaks that Facebook intends to drop the organic reach of brands to 1-2%. This means that if you have 200K fans on Facebook, roughly only 3K fans will see any given post. Is this what you worked so hard to build up your Facebook fan base for? Of course you can pay Facebook to amplify your posts. That is really not a bad idea as costs are reasonable (today), but it certainly is not something you are going to do for every post.

Many brands have witnessed a continuous decline of organic reach on Facebook. (Have you checked your numbers recently?) Facebook should no longer be viewed as simply a content-driven and engagement platform to win over the target audience. Content plus engagement and now paid amplification for content are required to get postings on newsfeeds of “brand-likers.” Facebook should now be viewed as a promotional platform. Daily posts no longer make sense.

So what do you about this now? Consider doing a Facebook “dark post” to a targeted audience that is not necessarily your fans. Do these promotions only when you truly have something news-worthy (new product release, special event) and not every day content. Think about having your own content repository for daily posts and then using a plethora of social channels to proliferate that content and drive traffic to your site (where your content repository resides).

What really drives me crazy is that Facebook states that the shrinking of organic reach is not to force brands to pay for Facebook use. Facebook suggests that there is a strong increase in content production from brands that has created a flood of spam marketing on Facebook. If revenue is not the reason for this sudden drastic change, why not allow users to “opt-in” the brands they want to see in their newsfeed. Why not just give the complete control to the users. That will eliminate spam. If users have the power to manage their own newsfeed, their actions translate to simply say, “make it worth my while and I will let you get into my newsfeed.”

Anyway, I am not holding my breath that this is going to happen. In fact I would say Facebook actions will set a precedent for other social platforms. Once a given social platform has built up a large enough user base, they will then turn to brands and say “pay to play.”

All this said, social marketing is still imperative to business. I’ll leave you today with two goals you should set that will yield very strong measurable results.

First, you do want your brand content and stories (not advertisements) to be consumed by your target audience. You want to win them over emotionally by delivering content that is valuable to them. You should no longer have a “social content strategy”, but rather a “brand content strategy.” Your brand content strategy should focus on the production of articles, photos, videos, and vines that have strong appeal to your audience. You should house these content pieces in a content repository that sits on your own site. Drive traffic to YOUR site, not someone else’s platform. Use social media channels to proliferate the content and engage with users where they are social.

The second piece of information (and maybe the most important) is to remember that there is nothing more powerful for marketing of a brand than advocacy. Having an objective person tell their friends, family, and colleagues that a brand is worthy of looking into is the greatest result a marketer can drive. Consider how you will motivate users to talk about your brand to other users on social channels. Do not worry about your brand being the “poster” of your brand story. There is much greater power putting these stories in the hands of advocates to disseminate. Your marketing strategy MUST address a plan for capturing and unleashing brand advocates on their social profiles and channels.

So social marketing is as important as ever. As always, you just need to stay on top of changing dynamics of social platforms and user behaviors. And then folks you are ready to …

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Does Experimentation Belong in Social Media Marketing?

It is really not a question of if experimentation belongs in social media marketing, but rather a question of where experimentation belongs in social media marketing.

social experiment

As I have stated many times, social channels are a very busy place for brands to be heard and rise above the noise. Just about every brand now has a social presence. So the question becomes, if everyone is doing it, how do you make sure your brand is seen, heard, and stands out. “Me-too-ers” will never be successful due to the abundance of brands vying for audience attention on social channels. Thus, innovative experimentation is required. But do not just throw things out there in a wild adventure of experimentation. There are some steps you should take to create some boundaries for experimentation. Let’s review the fundamental steps to deliver successful social implementations.

Social success really comes down to the intersection of two factors. First and foremost, you need a complete understanding of the target audience you want to reach. This understanding is a combination of a) a set definition of the target audience demographics, b) deep insights to the audiences’ behaviors and usage patterns in digital, and c) constant listening to the targets to gain a timely perspective of what is relevant in their daily lives. Social success starts with a customer centric mentality.

The next step in developing a successful social implementation is capturing the brand position, value proposition, and communication tone. Re-look at the marketing definitions of your brand.

Once you have the target audience and brand persona formally documented, look at the intersection of what the audience is looking for, and what your brand wants to communicate. This defines content memes for your social brand. Make sure you stay customer-centric. Too many brands push their agenda. If you want to be successful capturing awareness and building advocates in social media, you must be sensitive to your audience motivations as opposed to pushing corporate agenda.

Now that you have the basis for your social strategy, plan, and implementation, you should experiment with clear differentiated content and engagement approaches in social media. Doing the pre-work prescribed above provides calculated boundaries for experimentation.

I started this article by asking if experimentation belongs in social media marketing. Let me say that the answer is a resounding yes. You will never stand out in a crowed space unless you are seen as innovative and different. I have worked with many brands (big and small). When a client asks me for a business case supporting a recommended strategy and plan, categorically I know the client will never accomplish success in social. This request identifies a me-too-er that is implementing social because everyone else is doing it as opposed to truly focusing on winning over an audience. The most successful social implementations were not driven by previous business cases. They were innovative by first understanding their audience, and then doing something not previously done. Case in points – Old Spice, Dove, Red Bull, and Skittles. All of these brands experiment and buck the norm to produce compelling approaches that captivate large audiences and receive positive responses.

So the bottom line is that you must experiment in social media marketing. Have an umbrella methodology as described in this article to take calculated risk. Be innovative and do something not done before. Stand out. Measure results and tweak implementations based upon audience results. Experiment. Be different. Stand out.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Understanding the Place for Always On Social Media and Promotional Social Media

Does your company have a set, defined social marketing strategy? One that addresses growth or promotional times AND also includes a plan for keeping users engaged over the long haul. You see, driving significant likes and followers is completely meaningless unless those people you have gotten to like and follow you have actually stayed engaged with your social property and get your brand’s posts. If you keep up on Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm you will know that is it getting more and more difficult to get your brand post to show up on users’ newsfeed. That is unless you are willing to pay for a promoted tweet. And is it really appropriate to pay for a social engagement? As a brand sometimes yes, but definitely not as the norm.

Social Marketing Success

With this in mind, let’s breakdown social marketing to two sub categories – always on social and promotional social.

Your social strategy should start with a definition of continuous always on listening and monitoring, content production, distribution of content, and engagement. Who is your target audience? What do you want to convey to them and discuss with them that is most compelling to keep them engaged? How will you make sure that you get information to them on a daily bases (or most of the time)? What is your messaging and content strategy? It is important to have a plan of keeping your audience connected after they have opted in to your social channel.

Let’s review some terminology. For Facebook, they are moving away from the “People Talking About This” parameter and moving to “People Engaged.” People Engaged (found in the People tab for Facebook page administrators), is the number of unique people who’ve clicked, liked, commented on, or shared your posts in the past 28 days. “Other Page Activity” (in the Visits tab), includes Page mentions, check-ins and posts by other people on your Page. “Engagement Rate” is the percentage of people who saw a post that liked, shared, clicked or commented on it.

These are the numbers that really matter. Not the number of likes for a brand page. Yes, you need a decent amount of likes for the important evaluation parameters to shine. But “likes” is just a starting point. If you have a strategy for keeping your audience compelled and interested, you will see strong engagement numbers. You will also see nice continuous incremental growth of followers.

Thus, social promotion is the start of execution for social marketing. Not the start of social strategy. Your execution has to be well planned and executed after you do a social promotion.

So promotional social does come with some cost. Usually, a sweepstakes, giveaway, significant discount, or donation to a worthy cause (as perceived by your audience) is used as a promotion to have a high impact lift a brand’s social following. Paid media is also required to help promote the program. Social promotion is best used when the brand determines a significant event is about to happen. For example, a product launch, new packaging, seasonal drive period, etc. Social promotion should be used as an extension of an overall marketing promotion.

Social promotion is likely to drive some sort of spike in your followers. This will definitely make executives happy. But you should not be content with these results. Your success should be significant fan growth followed by continuous high levels of people engaged and engagement rate. You should be looking for quantifiable success of “always on social” following social promotion. Not just success from promotional social. In the words of a very successful media tycoon, “win big or go home.”

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

Footnote – I know many of you reading this article, a) get it, and b) are frustrated that others in your company do not. It has been hard for you to get your point across and find the right words to explain. Suggestion … please share this article … maybe it will help to get your concerns across from an objective source.

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

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

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

brand and digital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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4 Investment Musts for Social Media Success

As I talk to many new and potential clients I am constantly reminded that most companies do not know what it takes to be successful using social media. I think we are finally at the point where most believe they need to incorporate social into their business, but it feels likes the early 90s once again. In the 90s, most companies (and investors) knew that they needed to get on the Internet bandwagon but had little idea how to make it work for their business. Jump forward to 2014. Most companies know that they need to leverage digital and mobile technologies to increase their social capabilities with their target audience, but few know exactly how to invest.

Do we still think social media is free?

Social Media Investments

As I thought about the content for this article this week, I came across a headline “Marketers Lack Social Budgets, But Investments Growing In 2014.”

According to a Forrester study, “Some 28% of marketers surveyed by Forrester admit not allocating a budget to social in 2013, and an additional 55% allocated a mere 1% to 10% of their total budget, followed by 28% who invest zero, and 11% who allocate between 11% to 20%.” Empirical data supporting my experiences.

Before I get to the 4 musts, let me just say leaving any of them out destroys the possibility for success. Look at each of them as a single base hit in baseball. If you do three of them (or have three singles) and not the produce the fourth, you leave three runners on base and do not score. All four investments produce a winning run – don’t fall short.

1) People – Probably the most important aspect of a successful social effort at a company is having the right social leader and supporting cast. With regards to a social leader, companies must invest in an experienced hybrid digital and traditional marketer. Far too many organizations put leadership in the hands of a young digital millennial that has no experience driving business objectives, or in an experienced marketer that has not kept up with emerging new media. As I wrote a while back, “When Looking for Your Company’s Social Media Marketing Leader, Consider …” a dual skill set and experience is a must. Once the leader is in place, you then determine other support staff required to meet needs and synergy.

2) Content – Brands must invest in the production of great content. Content should include articles, photos, and videos. If you want your brand to stand out and be shared, stellar content is your must valuable asset. Brands need to think like publishers and producers. Great content pulls your audience to your brand’s digital assets. As I have stated before, “Content Marketing – Social Marketing – You Can’t Have One Without the Other.”

3) Tools – One of the biggest challenges is scaling social. Social requires human intervention. While we look for human interaction, it is presumptuous to think that companies can engage with every member of their target audience. Marketing automation should not be used for social engagement, but I am bullish on using technology to assist in social execution. There are an abundance of great social tools to help companies with their social programs. I suggest staying on top of new technologies, as the social tool space is making great advances. But for starters, you need to invest in three types of social tools – a) social publishing which helps you plan content calendars, manages content distribution on your social channels, and provides analytics with regards to post click through, reach, engagement, and shares; b) social monitoring and listening tool that allow you to monitor brand and category mentions; and c) influencer tool that allows you to determine top influencers in your brand space to prioritize for engagement.

4) Integration – Social cannot be in a silo. Every marketing effort and every business initiative needs to have a social component. As you develop business initiatives, the social leader needs to be involved to determine how each element can be socialized to promote brand value and motivate sharing and advocacy. Social needs to go across all business strategies.

I have outlined the four investment musts for social media success. Now the question for you … are you ready to invest in all needed social elements to drive winning results or are you just dabbling in social because you feel everyone else is? Success demands commitment and investment.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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