Category Archives: social media influence

The Most Valuable Results of Social Media Marketing

advocate

Why are you doing social media marketing for your brand? If “advocacy” is not in your answer, you are not capturing the value of social media. There should be no argument. The absolute best marketing is when other objective sources market your product. If you were about to buy a new car, a smartphone, or a bicycle, what would influence you more than anything? Would it not be a friend, colleague, or other trusted source that says, “without a doubt, ___ is the best’?

There is nothing more powerful in the purchase path influence than simple objective recommendations … having other people do your marketing. As shown in the diagram below, advocates are almost 5 times more trusted than even category influencers. (Influencers are individuals, who by definition of their job function and/or social following, are in the position to influence others directly through their authoritative or instructive statements.)

Advocate trust

If advocacy is the pinnacle value of social media marketing, why isn’t everyone building an advocacy strategy and plan. The probable answer is that they do not know how. So let’s get to that … how do you build an advocacy strategy?

The place to start is to understand what motivates advocacy. This comes down to three user-inspired feelings:

1 – Great brand and product experiences
2 – Unexpected joy from being surprised and delighted
3 – Feeling special or like a VIP

Now that we have an understanding of how advocates are produced, focus on delivering actions that spawn advocacy. With regards to great experiences, a majority of product and brand experiences happen outside of the digital domain (where social does not play) such as using the product and customer service. BUT digital/social can influence the sharing of positive experiences. Also you need to deal with negative posts and respond. You should actively monitor and reinforce positive statements made on social channels. Amplify posts that speak of your brand in glowing ways. Engage with users that trumpet your brand. Work to keep them as your BFFs (best friend forever). But negative posts also create advocacy opportunities. Carefully answer some of these negative posts. If users call out your brand by using a direct mention of your social channel (like @handle_name on Twitter) this means that the user is looking for some attention from the brand. There could be an opportunity to win back a customer, but respond with care, and avoid all debate.

With regards to surprise and delight, I like Zappos approach of always looking to exceed expectations. In social media, sometimes even a simple acknowledgement of a post is always welcomed and appreciated. Compliments and thank yous in response to a post work well. Consider random giveaways of product upgrades or promotional items to people who advocate for your brand.

And my last suggestion deals with making even one time advocates feel like VIPs. Keep a database of social names that advocate your brand. Proactively feed them breaking news.. This should not be a marketing push, but true valued info. Offer exclusive previews of products to make them feel “in the know” and let them be the first to try new versions.

There are many detailed steps you should take to drive advocacy. An advocate has passion for a brand and it’s products and you can certainly drive this passion. It simply starts by making customers happy (in every user experience). Show reciprocated love by responding to social advocacy. That reinforces continuation. Deal with negative comments, where possible. Surprise and delight customers, and make your advocates feel like they are part of a VIP group.

Social media is so much more than simply posting on Facebook, Twitter, and other channels. The best result of social marketing is when you activate your audience to share their love for your brand on their own social channels to their network. Look to drive advocacy in your social media marketing and see results that truly align to your company’s KPIs.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under influence marketing, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

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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Filed under content marketing, leadership, marketing, social business, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

4 Musts for Your Social Marketing This Year

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

must do social marketing

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

1. Listening and Responding

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

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

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

2. Content

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

3. Influence Marketing

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

4. Personalization

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

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

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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

All You Should Know About Social Marketing to Be Successful

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

All You Need to Know About Social Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make It Happen,
SocialSteve

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Aim for Earned Social Media

Brand LoveIf you are a marketing professional or student, you have probably heard of “earned media.” Earned media is a powerful aspect of a marketing plan. “Earned media refers to favorable publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising, as opposed to paid media, which refers to publicity gained through advertising. Earned media often refers specifically to publicity gained through editorial influence” (Wikipedia).

Well over two years ago, I covered the importance of “Integrating Owned, Earned, and Paid Media.” That article is the most visited post on The SocialSteve blog. Here, I want to cover something as equally important – capturing earned social media. I am kind of surprised that earned social media is not a prevalently used term. I’ll define earned social media as favorable publicity gained through word of mouth referrals by objective users of digital and social platforms.

When it comes to earned social media, don’t believe the hype. Go with empirical data. One of the most telling statistics I often highlight in presentations is that there is “71 percent more likelihood to purchase based on social media referrals.”

When people think of social media engagement, they most often consider conversations on their social channels where users are “talking at them.” But “talking about them” on non-brand digital assets may be even more serving to companies’ bottom lines as depicted in the statistic above. Thus, marketers must aim to win earned social media.

There are a number of ways to motivate earned social media:

1) It all starts with having a great product or service. To quote the cliche, “you can’t put lipstick on a pig.”
2) Produce content that is not about your product or service, but delivers valued and entertaining information to your audience. People often refer and share great content.
3) Reach out to influential users and bloggers and give them something they value. Don’t push your product.
4) Actively participate in communities and forums relevant to your product/service.
5) Search for people “talking about your brand” and engage with them. Thank them … Thank yous go very far.
6) Ask people that have told you that they have had a great experience with your product or service to share it with their friends, family, and colleagues.
7) Run UGC (user generated content) marketing campaigns.

The overall best way to win earned social media is to show sincere care and appreciation to your audience. If you have the right mentality and follow the tactics highlighted above, your loyal customers will become your most powerful marketing and sales team.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, loyalty, marketing, owned-earned-paid media, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

Activation Marketing via Social Media

This past week, an old agency colleague of mine contacted me asking for some help. She had a friend that was looking to use social marketing to activate people to vote for his company in a contest. “Randy” would always come to me for social strategy for her clients even if they were not specifically asking for it because she knew that the strategies I presented were extremely compelling and would win the clients over when positioned as simply a marketing strategy.

The first thing I asked Randy was if her friend had an existing social presence. She said he had a Facebook page, but was not active on it and did not have many followers yet. (Sound familiar?) So I told her that social media was not good at activating an audience if you really did not have an audience yet. You cannot ask people to do you a favor (and get winning results) if you have not built a relationship with them and continuously delivered them value. If you called up someone and asked them for a ride to the airport as a favor and really did not have an existing relationship with them, could you expect them to do so? So why do so many companies and brands expect favors (or marketing activations) without cultivating their target audience?

Social marketing needs to be a long-term strategic marketing initiative. You need to first work at building relationships with your target audience. When you have developed a strong relationship with your target market, you are in an excellent position to activate them, ask them a favor, and have them market your brand on their behalf.

For a number of years, I have suggested a social marketing approach called the Social Media A-Path. (See “How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully” and “Using the Social Media “A-path” to Capture Ultimate Customers” for starters … I have written many articles on this topic.”)

Social Media Marketing A-Path

This approach highlights the importance of building strong relationships. As you build strong relationships with your target market, you are in a much better position to ask them to do something and activate them. Consider the logarithmic-like curve for getting your audience to take action based upon their psycho-demographic relationship phase with your brand.

Social Media Marketing Target Market Activation

If someone is merely aware of your brand, you have virtually no chance of activating them to do something on the brand’s behalf. Both “attention” and “attraction” are forms of awareness as shown in the graph above. If they have built affinity for your brand, you may be able to see some small traction, but the hope of activation is still limited because they are not part of your engaged audience. Once you have people that are actively engaged as part of your audience that continually come back to your social channels for valued or entertaining information, this is the crowd that is likely to start to act on your behalf. And needless to say, people that are already advocates for your brand have the highest likelihood of responding to a request from the brand.

When people ask the question “what is the ROI of social media marketing,” they are most often looking for an ROI that is based upon a specific social program or promotion. This is flawed as highlighted in this “social activation” scenario I have presented. Social marketing is about a long-term relationship that delivers brand activations over the span of long-term brand commitment. There are many times when brands need their target market to activate word of mouth marketing. But this influential marketing is only effective over the long course of social commitment from the brand.

Put in the commitment and effort now. Look to activate your target audience later. Expect the pay off down the road.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brands, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

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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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, content marketing, customer service, marketing, marketing plan, PR, social business, social marketing, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve, UGC, Word of Mouth Marketing

Four Key Takeaways for Social Media in 2012

SocialSteve's 2012 Wrap UpOverall 2012 was a great year for social media. Almost all brands recognized the need for their active participation in social marketing. While many brands still struggle with a social strategy and a plan to yield winning measurable results (see “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like,” most recognize the power of word-of-mouth marketing that social provides.

When I look back at the year, I see four key takeaways that not only shaped 2012, but should serve as considerations for your social strategies and implementations in 2013.

Social Saturation

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, just about everybody and every brand is in … social media is ubiquitous. Yes, this is great, but it also means that the social channels are saturated with everyone trying to get attention. How do you get attention? Stand out. How do you stand out? By delivering the most compelling and awesome content, information, and entertainment aimed specifically at your target audience. This doesn’t mean talking about your brand, but rather talking about your audiences’ needs, wants, and desires. Start by answering the question, “Why Would Anyone Want to be Your Friend?”

Content Marketing

Many brands figured out that the way to stand out is to have a winning content strategy and plan. The reality is that people are more apt to share content then simply talk about a brand. When looking at “Content Marketing – Social Marketing: You Can’t Have One without the Other.” Brands can motivate word of mouth marketing with killer content and there are some recommendations in the article “A Marketing Lesson about Brand Proliferation using Social Media” how to achieve it.

Earlier this year, I provided some content suggestions in a number of articles including “4 Posting Considerations to Optimize Social Media Engagement,” and “7 Tips for Blogging – Maybe Your Most Important Social Media Activity for Business.” But when you are developing a content strategy, don’t just consider your own original content. Add curated content that reinforces your brand’s subject matter expertise and position. And don’t forget “The Power of UGC (User Generate Content) for Social Marketing.”

I have been preaching the importance of content marketing as an integral part of social marketing for a number of years and 2012 was certainly the year that many others got on board. But let’s not claim victory yet. In 2013, brands need to consider “Evolving Social Media Marketing – From Content Marketing to Contextual Content Marketing.”

Following User Behavior

All marketing efforts must be aimed at the target audience and most successful implementations come from having keen customer insights and adopting marketing strategies to user behavior. There is no marketing or business channel where this mentality reigns so true as in social marketing. I captured a number of social marketing lessons learned this year simply by looking at human nature and behavior.

One story I found fascinating was presented on NPR and it covered the “rule of reciprocation.” While this story was not a social media story, I found direct applicability to social and covered it in the article “Why Giving is So Important in Social Marketing – The Rule of Reciprocation.” Whether it is the rule of reciprocation on some other recommendation, the guiding principle for social success must be putting the people you look to attract first. Such was my position in the article, “Putting People Before Profits Leads to Profits (And That’s What Social Media Is About).”

Once you have that guiding principle down and steering your social marketing direction, you are conditioned to take on some finer details. While I touched on many issues, three areas I see needing greater attention are 1) what’s next after social engagement, 2) understanding social influence, and 3) customer services on social channels.

In the article “Why You Should Not Be Satisfied With Social Engagement,” I highlighted that brand social engagement is not enough and brands should strive for greater social success. The pinnacle outcome of social marketing is customer advocacy.

With regards to social influence, I still see much misunderstanding. As a start, recognize that there are three different types of social influencers: a) traditional influencers (i.e. Wall Street Journal, NY Times); b) emerging digital influencers (bloggers with large followings and standout in a particular subject matter; and c) influencers by connection (i.e. “big man on campus”). In the article “A Real Look at Social Media Influence,” I defined these influencer types and what it means to work with them to increase brand awareness and earned media.

And the last area of social marketing that I believe needs attention based upon user behavior is the utilization of customer service on social channels. Generally speaking, I do not believe that social channels should be used for customer service and you can condition your target audience to go elsewhere to resolve problems. But read “The Dos and Don’ts of Social Media and Customer Service” if you are so inclined to get a deeper understanding of this prospective.

Facebook is not the Golden Goose

Finally, with all the talk of social media, I would be remiss not to mention Facebook. But I do not think that Facebook deserves all the attention it gets – at least not from marketers. Yes, they have one-billion-plus users, but how many of those users want Facebook to be used for brand engagement … follow user behavior. Facebook is not the golden-goose for social marketing.

Facebook made some big announcements this year and introduced a new look and feel (timeline). But the most revealing announcement from them was that only 16% of brand posts actually make it to fans newsfeed.

I shared suggestions trying to make sure you have a better understanding to determine how much you should vest in Facebook for marketing success. Consider checking back on the following articles:

New Facebook – Interpretation for Brands
Making Facebook Work for Your Brand
The Facebook Issue No One Wants To Discuss
Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community

And I would not count out Google+ just yet. While user adoption is slow, I do think they have a winning formula as I highlighted in “Why Google’s Search+ Is a Bigger Deal than You Think.”

Social Success Elements

So there you have what I consider being the four key takeaways for social media marketing in 2012. If you want some other helpful social media tips to drive success, here are some other articles from the year worth checking out:

Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like
Why the “Social Media Person” Needs to Be More than Just the Social Media Person
The 4 Social Marketing Mandates
Where You Start in Social Media Strategy Defines Where You End Up
3 Key Elements of Social Media Marketing Success

I hope this helps you and I look forward to sharing more with you in 2013.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, blogging, brand communication, brand marketing, brands, content marketing, customer relations, customer service, Facebook, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, UGC, Word of Mouth Marketing

Why Giving is So Important in Social Marketing – The Rule of Reciprocation

I learned about “The Rule of Reciprocation” in a less than obvious place … on the radio. After commuting by train into NYC for some time, I recently started to drive from my home in New Jersey to the Ryan Partnership office in Wilton, CT and it has had some definite benefits. One of the great things about this change (in addition to working with some of the best clients and marketing’s most talented people) is that I get to listen to a decent amount of NPR (National Public Radio for my readers outside the US).

This past week, I heard a story that highlighted the secret sauce ingredient for social marketing without even mentioning social media once. The piece started by telling the story of Phillip Kunz, a sociologist at Brigham Young University. In 1974, Kunz and his family got a record number of Christmas cards. Most of the cards that came were complete with well wishes for Phillip and his family as well as the writers sharing their own news. I know you would say that this is pretty normal, but there is one other little thing I left out of the story – Mr. Kunz didn’t know any of them.

reciprocate

The story, which is also documented by NPR in their article, “How The Rule Of Reciprocation Binds Us” goes on to describe that Phillip Kunz ran a little experiment to see what would happen if he sent Christmas cards to people he didn’t know. Kunz found names and addresses of 600 random strangers in nearby towns and sent those people Christmas cards. Why would so many people write him back at all? The answer – The Rule of Reciprocation.

So here lies panacea for social marketing success – The Rule of Reciprocation. Marketers need to constantly think in the Christmas (or Hanukkah, Kwanza, etc.) spirit of giving to yield results. If social communication is focused on giving, well wishes, stories, and adding value to the target audience’s needs, wants, and interest, those individuals will reciprocate with stronger relationships, loyalty, and possibly advocacy down the road.

The rule of reciprocation is embedded in human nature. Robert Cialdini, is an emeritus psychologist at Arizona State University, stated in the NPR piece “We are obligated to give back to others, the form of behavior that they have first given to us,” he says. “Essentially thou shall not take without giving in return.”
And this is the human behavior rule social marketers must follow. A different approach is required for social marketing than marketing advertisement. Both are extremely important to brand success, but the strategy and execution must be very different in social media and advertising. Social marketing must be about giving and delivering value to the target audience. A few brand promotions can be sprinkled in social channels, but the overwhelming amount of communication must be about giving, human stories, and genuine care and motivation for building strong relationships. Then The Rule of Reciprocation yields strong results.

Cialdini offers a few examples of the ramifications of The Rule of Reciprocation. In one scenario he describes how the act of leaving a mint on a restaurant check tray results in an average tip increase of 3.3 percent and if a second mint was added, servers got a 20 percent increase over their normal tip. While this is not a social example, it is easy to see how the same “giving” approach can pay dividends in social execution.

In my personal life I am truly inspired and driven by the saying, “It is better to give than receive.” But truth be told – in my professional life as a marketing executive helping brands execute social marketing strategies to yield measurable results, I am led by a slight twist on this saying … “If you give, you will receive.” :)

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, content marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media influence, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

A Real Look at Social Media Influence

We talk about influence as if it is something new. Actually the definition has not changed in the past 1000 years or so, but tactics for influence engagement certainly have changed due to the digital revolution. And while many might consider my use of the term “digital revolution” trite, I think it deserves the entire superfluous connotation as I intended it to be. The fact is that the digital world, and even more importantly, the related behavior changes that have transpired are extremely important. Thus, we must look at “influence” as it relates to digital behaviors.

Let’s start with a couple basic definitions to ground us on the same plane …

Influence is “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.” For marketers, influence is only valuable if it produces actions or changes behavior or opinions of others. This distinctive point is often missed. So as marketers, we want to focus on those individuals that do something to cause an action or behavior change in a significant number of people that favors the brand we represent. “Influence marketing focus on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole.”

So before we have the “Klout (popular social influence scoring platform) should we care debate”, let’s make sure we understand why influence is important to brands. And second to that, let’s make sure we understand the types of influencers that are valuable to brands. I break this down in three groups:

1) Traditional influencers – these are the individuals that traditional PR agencies court. They are pinnacle media establishments (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post) and celebrity-like figures (Mario Batali, Roger Ebert, Tim Gunn) in a specific area of subject expertise.
2) Emerging (digital) influencers – bloggers that have established a large audience following and drive thought leadership in a specific space. The poster child of emerging digital influencers is Robert Scoble. Scoble is a tech blogger whose rise to vast influence started from strong participation and guidance in Microsoft’s NetMeeting support newsgroups, and for maintaining a NetMeeting information website. Another example of an influential blogger emergence from nowhere is Tavi Gevinson who commanded quite a following for her fashion blog. At the prime age of 13, she was a special guest at New York Fashion week. (It still astounds me how she came up in conversations at ELLE Magazine when I worked with them.) Emerging digital influencers could also be blogs (PitchFork, Mashable, Gizmodo) rather than individuals by name.
3) Influencers by connection – here we have your everyday “Max” and “Maya.” People who have hundreds of friends … no let me correct that … hundreds of Fac book friends and Twitter followers. These people make posts and tweets and their connected friends react. “Saw a great movie.” “New sports drink was killer.” Their posts create response and action. If you represent a brand, you want to court these people to produce brand action.

Now we are ready to talk about social media influence and break through all the nonsense being thrown about. Start by answering these questions. What do you want to accomplish? (Actually, this question should be the start of every social media and marketing endeavor.) Are you looking for earned media (mentions of your brand on an influential blog) or people to share your brand with all their friends/connections? Is the influencer expecting or will they be motivated by receiving something in return? These are the sort of things you should determine first.

And before we get into the influence tool and platform discussion, let me say this right off the bat (to set the record straight, maybe raise some controversy) … a Klout score, by itself, is meaningless. Giving Mari Smith a free test drive on a new Chevy because she has a Klout score of 78 (very high) is down right stupid. Mari is a strong social media and relationship marketing thought leader. She is not an automotive influencer. If awarding her a free test drive for a week would even lead to a tweet like “Love the new Chevy,” I think her followers could smell something fishy.

Once you have YOUR influence marketing plan defined, then you are ready to talk about tools and platforms to assist you. Think about the types of influencers you want to work with as defined above. Probably you want a mix of the different types, but think about how you are going to connect with each to build a relationship. Think about the action you want to motivate them to do. Think about the bandwidth you are willing to allocate for each.

Now a bit about the influence tools. First off, it is important to remember that digital influence is new and emerging so I am certain that we will see much greater advancements over the next 18 months. The minds behind influencer platforms realize that it is not just about accurately scoring influence, but more importantly to allow brands to determine the influencer in their market space AND to make it easier to connect with these people. When both of these functions become easier for brand marketers to execute, then we will see the true value of digital influence tools come to fruition.

Let’s start with Klout since it is probably the best known influence tool. It is good to see Klout moving from a generic influence score and starting to score on topics. After all, if you are a wine and spirits company and you are about to launch a new line, do you really care about Mashable’s high influence score or are you more likely to want to identify nightlife and alcoholic beverage influencers. Personally, I do think there is too much focus on one’s Klout score for making important decisions. I do not think it tells enough of a story and individual’s specific influence capabilities to spawn brand action. At least not yet.

Kred is an emerging influence platform that is grounded in technical innovation from PeopleBrowser. They provide an influence index much like Klout, but they also produce an Outreach score. So not only is it important to score influence from a reach and subject matter expert perspective, but it is also valuable to understand a scoring for the degree of outbound engagement the individual performs. Kred also has “community” or topical social scoring. One of Kred’s differentiators is that they are transparent with regards to their scoring attributes. They literally show you how points are accumulated.

Appinions takes a slightly different approach. Appinions is a query based influence tool. If I want to understand who the influencers are of automotive or any other area, you can form a specific query to do so. Appinions does contextual scoring versus individual scoring. Contextual scoring measures the degree of action taken by others (quote you/blog about you, link to you, retweet you) based on what you say.

Klout, Kred, and Appinions pretty much provide you a list of emerging digital influencers. If you want to know who are the people talking about your brand and having strong influence on their connections, you can use a social media monitoring tool such as Radian6, Sysomos, and others to 1) find who mentions your brand, and then 2) evaluate their influence or authority level. Having used both Radian6 and Sysomos, I can tell you this approach is very labor intensive. I am looking for a better solution. I do not think anyone is there yet, but SocialChorus is in the right direction. They offer a way to identify “influencer by connections” and reach out to them to attempt to create brand ambassadors. This is often done on a rewards basis, so I throw some caution there. Sometimes your actions might be perceived a “bought influence” and if that is the perception, your influence marketing can backfire on you.

Moving forward, all of these platforms are opening up their APIs. This means that one company can do the influence scoring and provide another platform the data. I think what we will see going forward is integrated solutions among platform providers such that some will do the scoring and other will handle the engagement activities. This will be a power combined solution.

One of the things that none of these tools do well, is to cross correlate an individual on all the channels. For instance, the blogging I do here has no contribution to an influence score. If you are reading my post (or anyone else’s) there is a chance that I have some influence due to my social media guidance. But there is no correlation between the SocialSteve Blog, the @SocialSteve twitter account, and my quotes as Steve Goldner that show up in some marketing industry online trade blogs and news sites. This does not play into the algorithm of the influence tool.
There are a handful of key points you should consider in making influence marketing part of your strategy:

1) From a marketer’s perspective, not everyone is equal. Those that have a strong reach and following AND can drive brand action deserve greater attention and TLC (tender, loving care) from brand marketers as opposed to the general public.
2) There are different types of influencers that you want to engage with and build strong relationships with.
3) A platform or tool should not determine how you go about influence marketing. You should determine who you want to reach, how you plan to engage and go about building a relationship, and then determine the platform(s) to help you get there.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, marketing, marketing plan, social media influence, social media influence scoring, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing