Tag Archives: social media marketing

Top 3 Social Media Issues Defused

I’ve got some quick hits for you today … the three top issues that I see in social media today that need to be overcome.

Social Media FUD

Social Media FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. Let’s take them one by one.

Fear – most of the fear of social media is generated by a belief that a brand loses control of their brand position and reputation. Well, you know what? It is happening independent of your effort in social media. People are talking about your brand without your involvement. So you might as well get engaged and at least influence what is being said and respond as appropriate.

Uncertainty – stems from the fact that there can not be a precise formula or procedure that defines social media success. But for those of us that have worked years on marketing endeavors, has that ever been the case?

Doubt – is synonymous with ROI in the case of social media. Everyone doubts the ROI. I love how Charlene Li addresses this issue … “What’s the ROI of a handshake? Or think of a lunch you recently had with a colleague or direct report, where you invested time and money to develop a deeper relationship with them. … some things in a relationship can be measured and managed, but many other things cannot.“ (From her book, Open Leadership, p. 76)

Bottom line: Be bolder and get over the FUD. Know your audience and engage. Build more and stronger relationships.

The Social Media Bubble Burst

There will be a social media bubble burst. I firmly believe this. It reminds me of the late 90’s and the Internet demise. Investors are throwing money at social whizzes (more technical whiz than business whiz) with expectations of hitting the next Facebook. Look at the craziness of current Groupon valuation by Google.

But the bubble burst will be on social media solution providers. Not those using social media. There are numerous technologists that are attempting to get in the game with their offerings. This past year I have looked at procuring different types of social media platforms (listening and monitoring tool, community platform, and publishing platform). I can tell you there are tons of companies in this space. Perform your due diligence carefully. Some will be around, many will fail.

Bottom line: Social media as a business practice is here to stay. Get involved in social media now or your brand will be left behind. And by the way, yes, there were no shortage of Internet companies that went bust in the 90s. But did the Internet go away? No, it is as vibrant as ever and has changed with the times. Expect the same for social media.

(If you want more info on the eminent social media bubble burst, I strongly suggest you read the New York Times article “A Silicon Bubble Shows Signs Of Reinflating” and “Invest In The Mess” by a brilliant VC Fred Wilson.)

Social Media Integration

Social media is not some stand alone thing. You can not bring in a sharp digital native to run it and take care of it. (Important part, but far from the total solution.) Simply put, social media must be part of the product/service design from the start. When you are defining your winning offering to take to market, define how that product/service is going to be shared with others. How will you engage with your target market? How will you create, reward, and retain advocates that will be an important part of your continuous marketing? How will customer service/support and social media intersect? These are questions that need to be answered by people with product management, marketing, product marketing, and customer service experience and skills. While they may not be social experts, their collaboration with your social media managers is imperative.

Bottom line: While social media may be managed by someone with applicable experience and title, it is something that everyone who is part of bringing a product or service to market needs to be aware of. The collaborative team must define how social media will be leveraged and used as an imperative channel for product/service success.

Wrap Up

In my experience, these are the three top issues that need to be overcome. It started with social media FUD. The next issue that is going to get more and more press is the looming social media bubble burst. And then from an execution perspective, a majority of people still do not know how to work social media into their organization and go-to-market initiatives.

All you need is some rationalization to address these issues head on in your organization. Need some help? Feel free to leave a comment and we’ll connect.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, change management, marketing, social media, social media marketing, social media organization, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

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

The Most Important Brand (You) and Social Media

What would you say to the entire world? How do you want to be perceived? What would you like your epitaph to be? Do you actually think of this as you tweet, update your status, and post?

While the news is saturated with stories of young teens sexting, texting, and posting scary stuff, it is not just a juvenile issue. Whether you accept it or not, you are a brand now. And social media communicates your brand more so than a resume/CV will ever display. You are building a portfolio of information that sets your brand reputation. The hell with “Big Brother” watching, it is all out there … unless YOU control it.

So I’ll share with you my brand, Social Steve …

When I first set out using Twitter, WordPress, and LinkedIn, I was working on a start-up venture that delivered a unique way to monetize social networks – an alternative to existing advertisement models. I wanted to attract potential investors and partners without being blatant about it. I would post about challenges with digital advertisement and hint that there were excellent alternatives. After some period of time, a couple of companies contacted me and were interested in having me help them out with their social media initiatives.

My social network monetization start-up did not move forward, but my social media consulting sprung. At this point, I wanted to continue to grab the attention of potential businesses looking for some guidance and after building a relationship (very important to do first) would ultimately yield some paid engagements. This caused a slight change in the brand, Social Steve. I provided information, tips, and guidance on the intersection of marketing and social media. My goal, establish a reputation as someone with strong subject matter knowledge and experience.

At the same time, it is important to make sure that your target audience sees a person behind the brand. You must humanize the brand – make the real you come out. I decided that I needed to add some of the personal side of me to the Social Steve brand. The areas of my life that I decided would be best to humanize the Social Steve brand were my two loves – my family and music. From time to time, I tweet or post about activities I’m doing with my family and music I am listening to.

I am no longer a consultant and now work at Hachette Filipacchi Media (ELLE, Woman’s Day, ELLE Decor, Car and Driver, Road & Track, Cycle World, Premiere.com) heading up social media. While I am employed full time and I am not currently looking for a consulting contract or new position, the likelihood is that HFM is not the last place I will work at in my life. For me, it is important to keep the Social Steve brand alive. No agenda other than to spread useful information about marketing and social media. But you never know. I may be interested in something else at some time. I continue to build my portfolio and reputation. It will likely matter in the future.

You’ll notice that I did not mention Facebook as one of the social channels I use. I do actively use Facebook, but not for professional reasons or my brand Social Steve. Here is my litmus test for determining who I connect with – if I want you to see pictures of me, my wife, and my kids in our bathing suits on the beach, I’ll connect via Facebook. Hey, this even eliminates “friends” at work. Early in my social media days, I did accept some professional connections and I do regret it now. I no longer do. This is my conscious decision.

I provided a brief layout of my choices. By no means are there any specific rules that are correct. These are personal decisions, but the point is that you should set your own predetermined “brand position” and select the appropriate social distribution channels that are right for you.

Often, when I worked with companies in my consulting business, I would have them write out a positioning statement. The positioning statement template looks like this:

• For …………………… [target customer]
• Who …………………. [key qualifier - form]
• Our product is a ……. [product category]
• That provides ………. [key benefit]
• Unlike ……………….. [main competitor]
• Our product ………… [key point of differentiation]

Now I am not saying that you should fill in this template or that it is exactly applicable for personal brands, but look at it and give it some thought as it pertains to you the brand.
How do you want to be perceived and what differentiates you. Set this in you mind if not written down.

Something else to think about. I’ve interviewed a number of candidates for open positions and hired a few in the past year or so. Do you know how much I find out about people by just searching online? I remember the days when you went on an interview and you would research the company and find out about them. While this is still true, the reverse is more telling. The hiring manager can filter you in or out because YOU have left a trail. Does this trace shed you in good light and communicate your desired brand reputation?

Back to your use of social channels … remember, what you communicate should either reinforce your “personal position” or humanize you the brand. Both are extremely important and there should be a good balance of both. But also remember that when you convey the human side of you, your communiqué should never jeopardize your position and how you want to be perceived.

Have you thought about this and are you executing appropriately?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Uncategorized

A Snapshot of Social Media – 4th Quarter, 2010

One thing is perfectly clear. There are NO social media experts! It is impossible. The social media industry is young and evolving and I expect there to be continued great advances. How can there be an expert of an area that still is going through so much evolution. Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely optimistic about the power of social media and the extreme importance it will play as a staple element within ALL successful businesses.

So let’s take a snapshot in time (4Q, 2010) and take a look at “The State of Social Media.” Kinda feels like “The State of the Union.” Ms Speaker of the House – “The State of Social Media shows great promise. …”

While I am not a social media expert, I am a social media activist and continuous student. I have been involved in social media since 2008 – first with a social network start up business, then as a social media consultant, and now I lead social media endeavors at Hachette Filipacchi Media (ELLE, Woman’s Day, Car and Driver, ELLE Decor, Road & Track, Cycle World, and Premiere.com). In the past few weeks, I attended four seminars/conferences/summits (OMMA Global – New York, OPA Lunch and Learn with Facebook, eConsultancy Peer Summit, and AdWeek Social Media Strategies Conference). This is the bases for my perspective on the state of social media. Thus, without further ado, I’d like to suggest some consideration points for companies and their social media activities ….

Successful Brands Take Chances and Try Things

At the Peer Summit, the main concern I heard was getting the C-Level Suite to understand the importance of social media. CxOs have trepidation. Thus, they are holding back and missing some great opportunities. How original was the Old Spice campaign? You don’t think this was the first time that a promotion of this nature was presented to a corporation, do you? Kudos to Proctor and Gamble for taking it on.

Any given social media program is not a guarantee of success. Frankly, you have to try things and measure results. This is what P&G did. And you know what the kiss of death is? … Being asked “Who else is doing this?” This shows just a total lack of creativity and really a shortcoming of desire to stand out in a crowd where there is so much competition.

This is the exact problem that Blockbuster faced. Why the demise of Blockbuster? “… because of what you could call the ‘internal constituency’ problem: the company was full of people who had been there when bricks-and-mortar stores were hugely profitable, and who couldn’t believe that those days were gone for good.” (Quote taken from an article in The New Yorker, titled “The Next Level.”) Rest on your laurels and don’t address the changing tide.

This is the same exact challenge for social media in so many companies. CxOs – if I may be so bold … Social media is here. It is not a fad or hype. It is not perfect. (Have any of your marketing or customer service efforts ever been perfect?) Get on it; get involved; try things; learn; measure; and start now or you will be another Blockbuster or CompUSA.

You Must Be a Great Listener

It starts with listening. This was a common topic at many of the forums I attended. Listening is hard. Everyone wants to be in the action, but in order to have a solid foundation for action, businesses need to listen first. While this may slow the process somewhat, the likelihood for success is far greater. If you want to get a deeper understanding of the importance of listening, check out, “Social Media Conversation: I Know You’re Talking, But Are You Listening?” Want more, observe how Ford listened to “customer feedback on design and engineering issues (for) the (Ford) Fiesta … This was particularly important given that Ford … introduc(ed) this version of the Fiesta—a European car—into the U.S. market for the first time.”

Be Human – Converse and Have a Personality

If media is an important channel for your business, how can “social” media not be paramount? I love how Nick Bilton, of The New York Times R&D Lab and author of their Bits Blog and new book I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works, says that “conversation is the most important part of the future of media.” And a conversation comes from a person. Social media is a people thing, not a corporate thing. Let the personality of the company AND the personalities of the people behind the company come out. Find that right intersection of the brand voice and social voice of your communicators. I think Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia and Wikia, said it best – “humanize communities to increase trust.”

Measure

Social media measurement continues to be a main topic of discussion. Surely not perfected yet. But I like the three categories Adam Lavelle (Chief Strategy Officer of iCrossing) suggests for “measuring social media: awareness, action, advocacy.” They are the right groupings that should be considered, but the actual specific data items for these categories will vary for each company. I always emphasize that you want to measure engagement and relationships and I make some suggestions of how to do this in the article, “Measuring the Value of Social Media.” You need to connect the dots. How does what you are doing relate to brand awareness, brand perception, lead generation, or creating advocates.

Integrate

Social media is not this stand alone thing. It should be completely integrated into every part of the product/service definition and marketing. This is so often forgotten. You know how many times I have heard and seen the social team being pulled in at the 12th hour. It always comes across as, “Oh yeah, we need a social element.”

I’ve been in marketing for over 20 years and I have never heard it put quite as elegant as when Cam Balzer, VP – Marketing for Threadless (a very cool community based T-shirt company), said “marketing is the result of an awesome product.” How spot on. You can’t BS a mediocre product with marketing and this is certainly magnified even more with social media. Everything needs to be authentic and if you are using social media as a marketing tool, you better be real. It will be obvious if you’re not and you’ll be called out.

Many great companies turn to their audience for input on their product or service. Ford has done it. I am not sure any company does this to the extent of Threadless. I am not suggesting you need to go that far, but I am saying that social should be integrated into your product/service definition. I have led focus groups and advisory councils at a number of companies, and let me reassure you, social media is far superior for valuable customer input than the contrived alternatives.

Social media needs to be integrated into every step of product, program, marketing, and customer service plan.

Social is the new SEO

If you got on the bandwagon of SEO, why the question of social media? Adam Ostrow, Mashable’s Editor-in-Chief thinks “optimizing for social is so much more important than optimizing for search.” I not only whole-heartedly agree, but I captured this exact sentiment over one year ago when I proclaimed, “Social Media – Should Make Companies Rethink SEO.” As social media matures, we will find out about the stuff we want from our network and trust their input more than turning to search.

Wrap Up

Social media will continue to evolve and change so I question anyone that proclaims that they are an expert of something still taking shape. But at this time, I think there is a greater importance looking at companies’ use of social media. Businesses must change their conservative nature or they will be left the way of the dinosaur. They must be willing to take on some risk. What they need to learn is not to be afraid to fail on something. Don’t get stuck in your comfortable way (hello Blockbuster). Be creative. Be able to laugh at yourself. Bring in your audience for their comments and input. (Ford and Proctor and Gamble).

In this article, I have listed some areas that MUST be addressed. In my previous article “How You Can Execute Social Media Successfully,” I gave you a foundation and ideas for a social media planning. It is time to move forward. “The State of Social Media” is not matter of assessing social media, but rather how companies are using social media and if they are willing to try something new and different. (You can’t repeat something that was done before.)

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brands, change management, company organization, marketing, marketing plan, measuring social media, social media, social media marketing, 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

Social Media Success: Creation or Participation? Creative or Effective?

Okay, so you are planning your social media activities. What does a successful outcome look like? Is it important that you create something or inspire participation? Is it important that you are creative or effective?

Yes, creation and participation, creative and effective, often go hand and hand. But this is not always the case and when setting successful objectives for social media activities, metrics should be defined around quantifiable variables of participation and effectives.

This past week, Forrester released a study that concluded that social media content creation is waning. Forrester Research Consumer Insights Analyst Jacqueline Anderson stated that “a lack of growth in social creation translates into a lack of fresh ideas, content, and perspectives … The traits required to create social content are unique, and at this moment, the consumer market interested in these behaviors has plateaued.”

(Note: social content that is created … it can be any form of media – articles/blogs, video, audio, pictures, carousel slide show, events, broadcasts … don’t be limited by the definition of “content”.)

Also this week, I attended a panel session at the OMMA Global New York Conference titled, “Social Distribution Channels Part of the Creative Strategy.” The problem statement for the panel was that few if any campaigns that appear in social media are as memorable as any number of those seen in print or on TV. (Maybe the one recent exception was the Old Spice man, because it went viral.) There were some interesting comments made – the best one coming from the audience. The discussion was centered on “creative campaigns” and someone in the audience questioned whether the objective is “creativeness” or “effectiveness.” Ding, Ding, Ding – JACKPOT! There is too much confusion around creativeness/effectiveness. I would much rather have a noncreative campaign that was highly effective than the reverse. Additional comments were made (from the panel) that the Old Spice campaign was one similar to others that had been pitched to many companies recently, but Proctor & Gamble were the ones that had the chutzpah to implement it.

So back to the Forrester Study and Creation versus Participation … a number of things come to mind:

1) I think there are still a number of fresh ideas out there but the barrier for creation are corporate risk aversive nature and individuals not knowing how to go about rising above all the noise.
2) Borrowing a line from @johnhutson, “Content is NOT king. Conversation around content is king.” It is the participation that should be sought.
3) I work for a content company, Hachette Filipacchi Media. (www.hfmus.com) We DO provide great creative content! As the social media lead there, I would never tell our brands (Elle, Woman’s Day, Car and Driver, etc.) how to create content. But I do recommend ways to provoke conversation and participation around their content. This is a new objective for media companies as an engaged audience is more likely to be loyal and advocates.
4) Often, creation does not need to come from the brand. Remember, participation is what we seek. Therefore, UGC (user generated content) is an excellent campaign to get your audience participating, engaged, and more loyal to your brand. Instead of “creation” maybe a more effective campaign is sourcing a crowd to provide UGC and get involved. Think of the sharing and viral possibilities.
5) Social media can not be thought of as a campaign. Yes there are campaign elements – limited time messages and programs. But social media should be a continuous symphony composed with numerous movements. You need to be continuously engaged with your audience and seek their participation to be effective.

So start by planning for participation and effectiveness. The creation and creative will come out, but should not be the initial objective.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Social Media and Business Continuance

“We’re down and we’ll get back to you soon.” Would anyone be comfortable allowing this to be a communication coming from their business?

This past Thursday (9/23/10), Facebook was down for about 2.5 hours and called it the worst outage in four years. It was the second consecutive day of outage for Facebook. It won’t be the last time.

Have you ever read this from your favorite blog platform: “_____ is currently experiencing a network outage? We’re working on getting things back up ASAP.”

Do you know the airborne whale? If you have used Twitter for more than an afternoon, you know what I am talking about.

These are examples of platform/network outages. Add to this scenario, hijacked and hacked accounts. While the usage and dependency of social media is clearly on the rise, companies are doing a poor job of social media integration and business continuance. If you are using social media and one of your channels goes down, do you know what you need to do? Do you have a plan in place?

A number of years ago, I ran the product line for mainframe computers at a large technology company. Our “STAR” (Secure, Transaction intensive, highest Availability, Recovery) capabilities were tailored for mission critical environments (financial services, government, military, police, commerce sites, travel and air traffic control) because downtime and system outage had significant ramifications either financially or potential loss of life.

Now I am not saying that usage and dependency of social media has this potential for such a catastrophe, but business operational interruption needs to be addressed proactively. Let’s use business continuance for mission critical environments as a guide. Business continuance is defined as everything you need to do to recover from a business system interruption or even a disaster. Typically three specific areas are addressed:

1) Restoring platforms or business applications
2) Back up to offsite locations
3) Expertise in place to implement the recovery

If you are running social media implementations, you should take some cues. Understand the criticality of the social activity. Is it supporting a time sensitive event? Is it an element of your customer support environment? Is it part of an active dialog with your audience? Or simply providing valuable information to continually support your brand position? The answer here should help define your recovery time objective – days, hours, or moments.

If you know the necessity of recovery, it should indicate a direction of your plan. As an example, say you are using Facebook to promote a very near term upcoming event. Facebook goes down, or your account is hacked. How will you reach your audience? You should understand other channels your audience may or may not be using to connect with you. Use appropriate alternate channels to provide event information as well as a vehicle to provide status on the platform that is down. Secondarily, do you have a database of customer information? Have you asked your customers to opt-in for email communication and segmented communication preferences? Maybe specific individuals have not opted in for partner information or your weekly newsletter, but would opt in for information in the event of an outage.

Until such time that Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms provide a “high availability” offering and committed SLAs (service level agreements) *, companies will need to assume that these communication channels they depend on will go down and need to have contingency plans in place. I’ve preached this many times before – social media needs to be an integrated process in the rest of your business strategy and operations. Thus, add business continuance as another area to address in your social media plans. Plan ahead! Live, learn, and correct!

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

* Note: predict this will be an offering for enterprises in the near future for social platforms. A no brainer – revenue opportunity for the platforms, enterprise level of service that has been missing thus far.

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Practicing What I Preach in Social Media

It is not a question of “to be or not to be.” Rather “how to be.” My emphasis lately is highlighting the “how” of social media more so than the “if”. I lived through a number of “how to go about social media” preparations this week as I have been preparing for three presentations on social media strategy for three different brands. Two of the presentations are for brands at Hachette Filipacchi Media (www.hfmus.com), where I work, and the other is to kickoff a film festival, WilliFest. Each offering (and thus each social game plan) were very different. Even the two at Hachette – different industries, audiences and objectives. One size does not fit all!

I went through the same process and approach for each. Maybe you can benefit from me sharing my take and some good reference points to help you develop your social media strategy and plan …

No matter what the product or content offering is, you want to provide something compelling and of value to your audience via your social media activities. You do not want to be selling to your audience but rather traversing them through a loyalty path as suggested in my A-Path approach. If you think in terms of achieving Attention-Attraction-Affinity-Audience-Advocates as a sequential process and design execution stages to accomplish this, while being sensitive to building relationships as opposed to selling, you’ll begin to appreciate the difference of social media implementations for any brand or person. The use and selection of onsite and offsite social channels will vary. (I’ll probably write an article about this shortly.)

For starters, think about what you need to decide before starting with your social media initiative. Well over a year ago, I provided a high level primer to help you structure these prerequisites. Also, recognize that your emphasis is on building relationships, not sales. People like to buy things from people (or brands) they feel comfortable with. This requires what I have termed the LCR Mentality – Listen-Conversations-Relationships.

Now at the end of the day, we all need to be accountable to driving revenue. After all, we’re not going to get a pay check if there is no revenue. And while I continually evangelize that social media is about awareness and lead generation as opposed to sales, I am not foolish enough to ignore sales. Social media needs to be INTEGRATED into as sales function. Social media is NOT a stand-alone thing. I like to use the traditional sales/marketing funnel approach. Know where the hand-offs are between sales, marketing, and social media.

So while it has been a challenging couple of weeks pulling together social media strategy and plans for numerous brands, the guidelines that I have been sharing with you for the past two years are really what I use myself. I thought it was important to review, re-emphasize, and share these foundations with you.

Try it out. Let me know if it works for you or not.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

PS – If you are still questioning if social media is good for some business and not others, read “Is Social Media Right for Every Business” by Mitch Joel … great stuff.

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Reality Check: Social Media Integration and Measurement

I am pretty sure the go/no-go debate of using social media is behind us as many companies are adopting social initiatives. Now the debate shifts to ROI and measurement of social media.

I see the same banter and arguments going on that have plagued all of marketing for a hell of a long time. Case in point: When I ran the marketing for a mainframe computer brand, there were a handful of marketing programs that had specific package solutions. Each of the leads of these programs would claim that their solution attributed $50 million to sales. So we have a total of 5 program leads each claiming $50 million of sales for a total of $250 million, and the entire brand is only generating $100 million of sales. Sound like a familiar scenario to you?

So how does this happen? An obvious reason is that marketing people (I will proudly include myself in this group) have a tendency to over state their impact and relevance. Let’s face it :). The second less obvious point is that marketing is a combination and integration of numerous efforts, solution sets, and events. Not to mention that you have to have a product or service of value to market in the beginning. This value is the most important attribute of success even before you start any marketing plan or execution. It is extremely difficult to isolate one marketing effort as being the sole cause for success. Combined and integrated marketing efforts should produce synergy – the some of the parts is greater than the individual parts. Not the reverse where the some of the parts is less than the total (as in the mainframe marketing example above).

Social media is another piece of marketing. (Note: social media is not just marketing – consider customer support and operations.) Is your social media an integrated piece of the entire go-to-market or is it an isolated piece you use just to communicate your product or service? The bottom line is that social media MUST be part of an entire integrated marketing strategy and not just the piece for some sharp, young social media manager to use by tweeting and posting on Facebook.

And when (and if) social media is holistically integrated, how can you measure its success. Ahhhh – the never ending debate. Not sure if we ever even solved this question for marketing in general. BUT – there are elements that can be measured and should be used as KPIs (key performance indicators).

Successful social media produces awareness, generates buzz (lead generation), and produces advocates. I covered social media measurement in an article “Measuring the Value of Social Media” well over a year ago and I still stand by my recommendations from back then. Generally speaking, there are three categories of parameters to measure: 1) mentions, 2) comments, and 3) members.

Mentions: everyone wants their content to go viral. The more mentions, the greater awareness is created. You should use some tools to measure the number of mentions. A good list is provided at “A Wiki of Social Media Monitoring Solutions”.

Comments: it is highly desirable to have an engaged audience. Comments are a good indicator. Comments are especially interesting in the context of Forrester’s Social Technographics. The Social Technographics describe a segmentation of online creators, critics (commenters), collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives as percentage breakdown based on demographics. Something to think about using this model … if this model is data driven as a function of percentages of a group demographic, what happens when the number of commenters rises. Do the number of collectors, joiners, and spectators rise also? Commenters increase awareness so, yes.

Members: when someone elects, opts-in to follow, friend, or join a network of your brand, they are indicating some degree of loyalty. Do note that membership numbers are important, but not the complete picture as mentioned in the article “Quantity vs. Quality: What Gets You Ahead in Social Media?”.

So now we have 3 categories of things to measure success of social media. There are the metrics, but be careful to get into discussions of social media ROI. I’ll outline why …

Look at the chart above. The take away is that like all marketing lead generation efforts, there is a gestation period or lag between awareness and conversion. So six months down the road or so, social media awareness will be some input to your brand sales conversion parameters. It is not an immediate result. Some momentum and inertia needs to be built. And when you are seeing an uplift of conversion, is this attributable to social media? Tricky question here and I would refer you back to the mainframe computer example at the start of this piece. Yes, there is some correlation, but the relationship of social mention and conversion is not entirely related, but rather partially related. Conversion is a function of a number of parameters and marketing efforts.

In summary, here are some musts for your social media initiatives:

1) Integrate social media into your business and marketing strategy and execution. Don’t look at it as a mere broadcasting mechanism on Twitter and Facebook.
2) Define parameters that truly indicate a degree of success on your efforts.
3) Expect some lag of time between some media measured success and increased business.
4) Be careful to solely attribute social media to sales conversion.

And as always …

Have Fun!
Make It Happen!

Social Steve

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31 Great Social Media Reads

Most people put out a summer reading list at the beginning of the summer. I’m putting mine out at the end. (I always pride myself on being different.) Actually, the list below captures some of the best articles on social media from the summer. Each has a great perspective, information, and/or data. If you really want to learn about being successful deploying social initiatives, take time to check out each of these (or at least many of them).

Is Your Social Media Project Failing? Maybe it’s Your Strategy (Key – must read)
The 2010 Social Business Landscape (very nice mapping of social media evolution to maturity)
What Does a Social Media Strategy Look Like? (so much useful info here – don’t just wing it!)
No, You Shouldn’t Wait To Start Using Social Media For Your Business (great look at why Forrester is wrong about LBS)
How Social Media Has Radically Altered Advertising (maybe the best article I’ve read on Mashable)
Social Media #6 – Friends Help Friends, Keep Friends (some good info here on customer bounding)
Why you need a social media strategy, not a Facebook strategy (amen!!!)
Social Media is all about the LISTENING…Does YOUR Co. get it? (great info from an interview with Jeff Hayzlett)
“the object-idea”: the future of what used to be called advertising (some real thought leadership here)
Don’t Do Social Media (read before you jump to a conclusion)
Six Ways Brands Should Think of Social Media as a Party (I like this approach – very rational)
The Social Media Imperative (so spot on!)
Six core tactics for social media managers (really like this list)
Social Sites Get People Talking, but Marketers Must Earn Trust (need substance and credibility too, not just a loud voice)
“Social Media Art” in the Expanded Field (unique perspective)
Awesome group of visuals on social media by David Armano. (some of the best slide work I’ve seen)
4 Ways to Master Social Media Marketing (very good one!)
Five-step social media risk management plan (been said before, but on target)
Once More, with Feeling: Making Sense of Social Media (love most of Brian Solis pieces, including this one)
The clash of the social media know-nothings (Got Marketing Fundamentals?)
27 Social Media Marketing Stats and Facts (numbers tell a story)
How Social Media Drives New Business: Six Case Studies (nice examples of wins with social media)
Top Execs Dish About Social Media Strategies (good perspectives)
When the Conversation Goes on With or Without You (why it is important to be in the conversation)
Ten Corporate Social Media Mistakes (very good list)
Rethinking the Value of Social Media (yep! – value = relationship level)
There’s a difference between disagreement, and being disagreeable. (some excellent stuff on personal positioning)
7 Responsibilities of the Enterprise Social Media ‘Center’ (helps define who should be involved in social media)
Top ten ways social media is teaching us to be human again (title says it)
Forgive and Remember: How a Good Boss Responds to Mistakes (important in the context of doing social initiatives)
The Best-Ever Social Media Campaigns (“social media campaign requires creativity, a clear message and needs to make a splash at the right time”)

What do you think? Were there any particular stand outs here for you? Any others you would like to add to the list?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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