Category Archives: social network

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).

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

Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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

Digital Marketing Strikes Disruptive Chords for the Music Industry

download musicDigital media and platforms are disruptive. Probably no vertical knows this better than the music industry. But maybe the days of diminishing sales revenue for the music industry are behind us. (Maybe not.) Earlier this week, The New York Times reported year to year sales had increased 0.3 percent. And while you may think that is negligible, it is noteworthy that this is the first increase in music sales since 1999.

Taking this cue, James McQuivey, a Forrester Consumer Product Strategy Analyst, provided some great lessons learned at the hands of the music industry that all brands should consider with regards to managing digital disruption. You should read his entire article and get further explanation, but here are suggestions he listed:

• Disrupt yourself before someone else can.
• Build a digital customer relationship.
• Care more about convenience than quality.
• Anticipate a reduction in revenue on a per transaction basis.

There is definitely some great advice there, but if you want to see a real life example of taking these recommendations and putting them into action, consider Amanda Palmer. Amanda is a punk-cabaret performer and she spoke at TED 2013 this week.

Ms. Palmer’s presentation was titled “The Art of Asking.” She highlighted how she stopped selling music for a sticker price and simply asked people to fund her art. The result – $1.2 million raised.

Now granted, not everyone can raise that much money, but there is a strong message here for brands … have a great product; spend time engaging with your target market; and be truly genuine with your audience and build trust.

Palmer is extremely active on Twitter. She has engaged with people via social channels and has connected with people to provide a place to sleep, asked to practice on an available piano, and other face-to-face favors and meetings.

So when it came time to making money, Amanda had a trusted audience. I the love part in her presentation when she talks about the media asking her “The music business is tanking and you encourage piracy. How do you make all these people pay for music?” Amanda answers, “I didn’t make them, I asked them.” You see when you build close relationships with your audience; they come to your support when you ask them for it. If you are simply prostituting your offering, forget it. Funny enough Palmer tells a story where someone came up to her after a show and gave her a $10 bill and said, “I’m so sorry, I burned your CD from a friend, and I want to give you this money.” That’s an example of a relationship that didn’t even need “the ask.”

Audience development and emotional branding is extremely powerful in the new disruptive digital world. I am not saying brands should just let people pay what they want for their product/service, but if you have a deep relationship with your audience, you can ask them to help on your behalf. You can ask them to share your brand with their friends for example.

Another great quote from Ms. Palmer’s presentation is when she opens her arms wide and says “I trust you this much. Should I? Show me.” This was in reference to her stripping naked and letting people sign her body. I do not suggest you do this (maybe, it could be fun ), but this is a great metaphor. Can your brand strip down naked for its audience and will they show you supreme respect and admiration? She then goes on to say “Celebrity is about a lot of people viewing you from a distance. But the Internet and the content that we are freely able to share on it are taking us back. It is about a few people loving you up close and those few people being enough.” And if you are a brand, you only need a few people to get a movement to build.

So marketers, take the last word from renegade Amanda Palmer about the importance of social engagement …“when you connect with them, people want to help you.”

Are you truly building brand connections?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brands, digital media, indie music, marketing, punk music, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Twitter

Separating Personal and Professional Social Presence

For the past five years plus, I have established and maintained a professional brand as Social Steve. The focus of my Social Steve brand has been to share experiences, best practices, and my perceptions in social marketing having worked with a number of clients and brands. Being completely transparent (as I always try to be) my objectives are two fold … 1) promote social marketing as a key driver of business success through sharing experiences, and 2) be viewed as and respected as a social marketing thought leader.

Personal vs professionalAs I look to establish and maintain my own professional brand, I have made a handful of conscious decisions to separate my professional and personal social presence. Some of my own rules of thumb have been as follows:

• Facebook – I use Facebook for true friends and not professional friends and acquaintances. My litmus test has been – “If I want you to see pictures of me and my family in our bathing suits at the beach, I’ll accept your friend request.” This really makes people I work with separate from personal friends. While I really have nothing in my closet to hide anymore, I do reserve Facebook for my own personal world. Early in my social media consulting career, I made the mistake of accepting clients in Facebook.
• Tweeting – 85% of my tweets are about social media and marketing. 10% is about music (my drug of choice). 5% is about family excursions. The reason I add 15% of tweets of the personal nature is simply to give my audience a feel that there is a real person behind the professional tweets.
• 96% of my articles on the SocialSteve Blog are about social media and brand marketing. This is what people come to my blog for. There have been a few exceptions. I have blogged about Martin Luther King Jr and my sister – two people that have served as outstanding examples and models for me in my life.

Now I am not saying this is the way it should be for everyone, but rather that each person should consciously determine what is right for them and set up their own ground rules. And while I have determined some conditions to practice in my own social presences I continue to learn along the way. Continuous social learning is imperative for people and brands. Each entity needs to produce, execute, and assess how their audience reacts. Demographics, psycho-demographics, and natural behavior cause variations of different target audience’s reactions.

Now just a bit of data and then my analysis based on my own blogging.

• Most of my marketing and business blog posts get very little, if any, references on Facebook. I experience a much higher rate of mentions on Twitter and Google+ for business related postings.
• Personal stories (such as the Tribute to My Sister last week) have had very little postings on Twitter and Google+ and have had a relatively high rate of references on Facebook.

For brands, I think this has some key implications. Most users are on Facebook for friendly socialization as opposed to connecting with brands. Yes, brands can have strong Facebook programs that build relationships and brand preference, but their Facebook implementations must have a strong brand personality and not corporate-like or advertorial. While Google+ lacks the adoption of Facebook, the circles functionality allows the separation of socialization for different purposes. It remains to be seen if Google+ connection segmentation will be valued by people and if their user base sees growth.

For me, I know how I use my various social channels for different purposes. By no means am I saying this is correct and one size fits all. In fact, I’d rather this post be the basis for a discussion rather than my typical guidance. What do you think? Do you see a need to separate personal and professional social presence and if so, what are your self-imposed guidelines? I would love to learn from you. Chime in and join the conversation.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, Facebook, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social network, social reviews, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Twitter

Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So a handful of suggestions in closing:

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

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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

Where “Audience” Fits in Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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

How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully

You know you need social media to connect with customers. You are beginning to hear more success stories. But connecting the dots and defining how YOU can leverage social initiatives to win over customers has been elusive thus far. You are not alone – I hear this from so many. So let me help.

Almost one year ago, I wrote an article “Executable Game Plan for Winning Ultimate Customers with Social Media.”. I wanted to give some real examples and direction of how you could use the A-Path to deliver social media results. I made some simple suggestions defining how to find the right keywords to use; tweeting; reinforcing your position; using RSS, Facebook, LinkedIn and enewsletters; and establishing key one-to-one relationships with influencers. While all these examples are still applicable, generating positive results with them is a little more difficult than a year ago when I suggested them. Why? – The social space is more crowded now with more noise. You’re focus and objective must be to rise above the noise. Thus, this is kind of a re-look and a revamp a year later.

The way to rise above the noise is to have a kick @$$ marketing campaign using social media. Now I know there are many comments that social media is not a campaign; that it needs to be a continuous way of life for corporations, and I totally agree. It’s just that it should START the way marketers define campaigns, but run perpetually by having on going elements that always focus on relationships with your audience and delivering them value. The initial campaign definition should address solutions for accomplishing the sequential elements of the A-Path. How will I get someone’s Attention? Attraction? Affinity? How will I get them to be part of my Audience? And then turn some audience members into Advocates? Recognize that once you have advocates, they refuel the A-Path. They do crowd sourcing for you and get attention and attraction to your brand. This is what Jeff Hazylett often refers to as having others doing your marketing work.

So let’s take a quick look at ways to execute on the A-Path. Certainly not an exhaustive execution plan, but hopefully enough guidance that should put you on your execution path specific to your brand and its position …

Attention
First recognize the difference between being a known brand versus a start up. If you are a known brand, your “attention” efforts should be focused on endeavors that are likely to provoke sharing. Use your existing audience to tell their friends and network about your value. Put incentives in place. This could be as simple as bartering mentions (blogroll and tweet mentions). If you have a Facebook fan page, your members’ likes and comments show on their friends’ news feed. Getting them to “Like” the post makes your post show up on their friends’ news feed. This is a form of sharing and getting attention.

If you are not an established brand, you need to do something to stick out. DO NOT think, oh we’ll create something that will go viral. As Jay Baer says, “It is not viral unless it is.” Many have set out to accomplish this and failed … far, far more than those that have succeeded. Restating what I wrote in an article a year ago … understand how your target might capture information. Understand the keywords they use. Compare related keywords using Google Trends. Tag these keywords to your content. Define a plan for your content distribution looking at all the possible channels. Where is the target audience already congregating? Go there for starters and engage. Join the conversation.

Consider use of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, and other niche platforms, communities, and forums specific to your industry focus.

Attract
Gaining attraction is really just a continuation of getting attention. You’re activities and channels and really pretty much the same. But, once you get someone’s attention, you need to add two things to move them forward to attraction. First, you need to continue providing valuable information to them and reinforce both your brand position and the reason why you got their attention in the first place. Second, you need to engage with them. Not just broadcast. Think about what customer service really means and how you feel when someone at a company gives you the time of day, stops to respond to you, or simply says, “Thank you.” Continue to use the same social channels you used getting attention and engage there.

Affinity
You move to affinity from attraction by having a greater focus on relationships. This will be accomplished by continuous engagement. To quote Mike Lazerow of Buddy Media, “the only way to scale social is with people.” People want to do business with those that they feel comfortable with. It takes people to build relationships – not an automated process. Affinity means people are latching on to your brand. You want to increase the number of Twitter followers, RSS subscribers for your blog, followers on a Tumblr blog, Facebook fans, bookmarking of your content, etc. You need to set (continuous) campaigns to increase “opting-in” at these channels. There are three ways you increase these numbers: 1) define incentive promotions for signing up and friend-sharing, 2) continue to deliver valuable and/or entertaining content, and 3) cross promote your socials channels.

Audience
From an entertainment perspective, an audience is usual a group of people that have paid to see a movie, show, or concert. They are one step deeper than an affinity group because they have invested some equity. In social space, personal information is equity. It usually starts with a login name and password or could be as simple as an email address. Ultimately, you want customer information so you can segment them appropriately and interact with them. Recognize you don’t get this from your Facebook fans. I am not knocking Facebook – it is an awesome platform to engage with your audience, but I would argue that you can only go so far as gaining affinity with your target market on Facebook. If you really want to take this one step further and have a true social audience, you need to define where you bring together your audience and be able to collect information about them over time. Some examples include email newsletters and social networks platforms (OneSite, Ripple6, KickApps, Elgg, etc), (You should have an information collection strategy that aims at getting more data, slowly over time, as your participants get deeper into brand loyalty and usage. You do not want to turn them off by asking for too much early on. Normal relationship building principles apply similar to building your personal relationships.)

Advocates
Once you have established an audience you will notice some power users. These are the people that are on the platform on a regular basis, peruse most sections, and often are the most vocal. This subset of your audience represents potential advocates. The way to persuade them from being power users to becoming advocates is to acknowledge them and give them things that are special and unique. Recognition might be the most valued attribute as discussed in “The Power of Generosity” by Josh Bernoff.

So just a couple more things here. I realize this is long, but my wife has been bugging me to put some more useful information in my blog.

1) When I address the brands I work with, I often say one slide shows our social strategy. Here it is …

What I want you to take away from this is what I covered about the various A-Path steps described above. You start the early stages of the A-Path offsite. Then there is a cross over to your site or your platforms. You have the strongest success of the A-Path steps offsite in the beginning and the greatest success of the A-Path steps in the later stages on your platforms.

2) Many people ask me which social platforms are best. I have said numerous times, there is more to social media than Facebook and Twitter and even wrote an article “In Social Media, Twitter is Just the Start.” When selecting the most appropriate you should consider Brain Solis’ Conversation Prism. It was introduced in 2008, and an update was provided in 2009.

While new platforms continue to be introduced and gain popularity, the categories of social channels have not really changed. You should look at the bullet list of types social outlets, understand your target market preferences and plan appropriate places to get attention and attraction, build affinity and audience, and acquire advocates. I do really like the mind map method Solis recommends in the Conversation Prism V2.0.

This is a game plan to drive success, but no game plan ensures success. Winners take some calculated risk – they are not followers. Are you ready to be a winner and willing to create something new and innovative?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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

Penalty Cards in Social Media Communities

One bad person can ruin a great community. And this is the beginning of the story where “social media” and “soccer” have more in common than just their first three letters. Soccer? Social Media? What could the two have in common? (And btw, apologies to readers and friends outside the US … I do realize the proper name is football, but hey, you Americans would just get it confused with that other football game we play here.)

So let’s begin with the problem statement first – What do you do when someone is abusive, inappropriate, and/or insulting to the community? I’m not talking about being negative – but down right offensive to the community as a whole. You must allow the members of the community to voice their concerns – even if they have some criticism of you. You can not pull comments and posts that are critical of you or your brand. (Case in point – Nestle’s fiasco).

But when someone uses your community or blog as a platform to mouth off inappropriately you must step in. You should start by having a policy that is viewable by the public. A policy that states something like, “We at ___ value freedom of speech and welcome all your comments, with few exceptions … We will remove comments that 1) are offensive and/or attacking of other members, 2) use vulgar language, and 3) that are off topic.”

So what do you do – and here my friends are the tie into soccer. You play referee and administer “Yellow Cards” and “Red Cards.”

In soccer, a Yellow Card indicates a formal “caution” for things including unsportsmanlike conduct and dissent by word or actions (among other things). So in social media communities and blogs, this means giving the perpetrator a warning. You should pull their comments down and send them a personalized note reminding them of the policy and the intent of the community or blog. You should provide specific reasons why their comments have been flagged and tell them they are still invited to participate in the community within policy. Failure to do so will result in a “Red Card” and being thrown out of the community.

When a player is shown a Red Card, they are sent off the field. After you have “shown” a disruptive member the yellow card, and they continue to go against policy, then you show them the red card and throw them out and block them from the community.

This action needs to be taken to preserve the value of the community for all the other members. Make sense? Any questions?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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