Category Archives: social network

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

9 Comments

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

9 Comments

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

7 Comments

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

Communities in the Online Space

According to Merriam-Webster online, the word community dates back to the 14th century. Community – “a unified body of individuals …the people with common interests living in a particular area … an interacting population of various kinds of individuals … in a common location … a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society … a group linked by a common policy.” 700 hundred years ago and still, how true.

Lately, I have been doing tons of thinking (and work) with regards to community. I have been on a quest to understand, join and partake in strong communities. I want to understand all the important attributes of a spirited community as a marketing professional leveraging the power of social media. This means that I am concentrating on the virtual community so the definition above rings true minus references to location (sometimes).

Last week I tweeted what appeared to me to be a rhetorical question: can there be a community without conversation? Surprisingly, I did not get even one antagonist that wanted to offer a yes. But given the reality of little (if any) physical connection, a virtual community demands more conversations – 2 way dialogue. A community without conversation is “just one large never ending API feed.” (@RelativelyFX) It is not simply producing content – tweets, wall posts, blog articles, etc. You see, content is not king, but conversations around content is king. (@johnhutson – great line!)

And in the end, “The community decides when it’s a community… you don’t” as Mitch Joel put it.

So in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be exploring the makings of great communities (and likely be blogging on it). I’d really love to hear your input (and other readers will surely value it as well) … What do you think makes a great virtual community and what are some of the best examples you see? Please join the discussion!

Thanks,
Social Steve

8 Comments

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

Social Media: How To Go About It Video Series – Part 2 of 7

The social media video series continues. The following segment has been previously posted:

Part 1 – The Marketing Funnel

Today’s update is …

Part 2 – LCR – Listen, Conversations, Relationships …

(Also see “Simplifying Social Media”)

The following segments are forthcoming:

Part 3 – Define Position Before Starting Social Media (to be released soon)
Part 4 – Define Objectives Before Starting Social Media (to be released soon)
Part 5 – Importance of Value with Social Media (to be released soon)
Part 6 – Traversing the Crowd through the Social Media “A-Path” (to be released soon)
Part 7 – Social Media – Where Do You Start (to be released soon)

Thanks for stopping again …

Best,
Social Steve

Leave a comment

Filed under brand marketing, brands, customer relations, marketing, marketing plan, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Social Media: Get Your Online Brand, Personality Right

“Who are you, who, who, oh I really want to know …” Pete Townsend, The Who.

Sometimes, musicians say the most profound things. This famous line from a late 1970’s classic is the best advice anyone can get prior to dipping their toe in the social media waters. You must first make a conscious decision of the personality you want to convey independent of whether you enter social media as an individual or a brand.

This is always the first conversation and exercise I go through with clients – defining who you are. The recent announcement of the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine magnifies the importance. As NPR reported, the idea of Web 2.0 suicide “is to abandon your virtual life — so you can get your actual life back.” That is, if you have said something stupid or do not represent your intended personality or brand, you just erase it all (and then start all over again if you wish). Facebook responded that it would block such an application service.

I am sure there will be legal battles over this issue, but get it right from the beginning and there is no need for anxiety or worry. Here are some suggested steps:

1) Determine who your desired audience is – friends, professional associates, customers/clients. This is likely to be different depending on if you are using social media personally, professionally, or for brand awareness and loyalty. If you want to engage in social media for multiple purposes (personal, professional, and/or branding), I recommend keeping separate social identities. For example, my Facebook account is for friends and family. I once had someone I was doing consulting for “friend” me on Facebook and I accepted. I still regret this. Now when it happens, I reply to the “professional friend” that I value our connection and I am interested in building a stronger professional relationship with them … let’s connect on LinkedIn. Here is my litmus test for Facebook friends – Do I want this person to see me and my family in our beach pictures. (Yeah, not too harmful – there are much worse things said or shown on Facebook.)
2) Define your positioning statement – while this is typically a “brand term”, it is most certainly applicable to individuals as well. When one defines a brand position it is usually defined by what is offered, the target market or audience, the value and/or benefits delivered, who the competition is, and how the brand is differentiated. Similar attributes can be set for individuals; even in a social setting. This really becomes the bases for how you want to be perceived. Not that the positioning is communicated, but it becomes a stake in the ground that you can test your social communication and participation against.
3) Reinforce your position – your conversation in a social media context should underpin and emphasize your position and desired portrayal. If you are using social media on a personal level, remember, history is hard to erase. Also, this is not to say that you can not put any personal information in a professional social media context. I use Twitter professionally and I tweet about music (because I am a music junkie) and things I do with my family (because they are extremely important to me). This may not be on topic of a social media marketer, but there is a person behind the SocialSteve Twitter account and including some personal touches builds connections and relationships.

I strongly recommend you at least think about these three areas independent of using social media to engage with friends, family, professional colleagues and partners, network extensions, or as brand. There are slight twists to strategies and formality of implementation, but all should be considered on some level. On a personal level, you may not need to produce formalized definitions, but at least think about it. For brands, I strongly recommend looking at this as procedural steps that receive organizational buy-in and are communicated internally. If you are using social media to strengthen your professional network and image you may want to consider taking the formalized steps.

I’ll just close with one more point to think about … It used to be that when you applied for a job, you would go on the Internet and research the company of interest. Now, companies that consider you for employment are turning the tables and researching you. There is likely a catalogue of information about you, out there, that you have authored. Does it portray you as you want to be perceived and seen?

Make it happen.
Social Steve

3 Comments

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

Social Steve’s 2009 Social Media Wrap Up – Some Helpful Stuff

2009 has been a fabulous year! When I look back and review the progress made in social media, I see massive accomplishments due to swift adoption and recorded success stories. The year started with only a niche group knowing what social media is. As we end the year, everyone is talking about Twitter, Facebook has 350 million plus users, just about every company is thinking about how they are going to use social media outlets, and numerous companies are reporting successful programs. When you consider that “economic challenges” captured most of the headlines, the results and growth of the social media industry are quite impressive.

One of my objectives in 2009 was to be an advocate for social media by providing a rational bridge between established and sound business and marketing practices, and the emergence of new, supporting social media technologies and communications vehicles. That said, here I provide a summary of the articles I wrote to endorse, promote, and provide education of social media.

Marketing and Brand Marketing
Social Media Conversion and the Social Media Marketing Funnel
What Brands and Social Media Players Can Learn from The Grateful Dead
Awareness – Is it Always Good?
Differentiation When Social Media Moves Towards Mass Adoption
Brands in the Age of Social Media
Using the Social Media “A-path” to Capture Ultimate Customers
Indie Music & Social Media – A Perfect Match

Measurement
Socialnomics – Social Media ROI or Social Media Measurement?
Measuring the Value of Social Media

Game Plans
Social Media Conversation: I Know You’re Talking, But Are You Listening?
Executable Game Plan for Winning Ultimate Customers with Social Media
Mastering (?) Social Media
Simplifying Social Media
Before You Start with Social Media

Considerations on the Company and Organization
The Social Media MVP in 2010
Winning with Social Media at Your Company: A Letter to the CEO
Social Media – What Companies Are Looking For
What it Will Take for Social Network Profitability

Ramifications on SEO
Social Media cutting SEO spend
Social Media – Should Make Companies Rethink SEO

I appreciate all your input, feedback, and the conversations we have had. We don’t always have to agree, but it is the socialization from a diversity of perspectives and experiences that produce winning and sustainable strategies, plans and execution. Let’s be social and make it happen even bigger in 2010.

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and best wishes to you and your family,
Social Steve

2 Comments

Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brands, indie music, marketing, marketing plan, measuring social media, punk music, sales, sales conversion, SEM, SEO, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Twitter, Uncategorized, Word of Mouth Marketing