Category Archives: customer relations

Understanding Freedom of Expression

freedom of expression

Do you take freedom of expression for granted? Think about countries where the public is stifled – North Korea; women in many middle-eastern countries; and other people oppressed throughout the world. I believe that freedom of expression is an essential need of all individuals. If you are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, freedom of expression might fall within “safety needs.”

Maslow's Hierarchy

If we lighten it up a bit, I’ll share with you something my father used to tell me. His father (my grandfather) lived by the motto “children are meant to be seen not heard.” And today, teens express themself louder and wider than ever before thanks to social platforms (Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr … the list goes on). Sometimes their expressions are not appropriate, but the power is there to do so if they wish.

Everyone wants the power to express themself. And most people in the world can. People can express themselves in far greater capacity then even 10 years ago.

So what’s the point? The point is that as a marketer you must have empathy for this need. You must find ways for people to express themselves on your digital properties. You must allow comments and engagement on your social channels, your blog, and your site. You must have a user-generated-content strategy and plan.

Some brands are afraid to open the lines of communication for their audience. They are afraid people might say something disparaging about them. Well guess what … if you think stifling your audience is going to keep them from saying things you do not want to be said, you are wrong. They will find other avenues to share their concerns and it is likely that their comments will be harsher if you try to shut them down. Learn something from the Arab Spring as a pinnacle example.

It is time for your social marketing efforts to get social. This means “audience social” at least as much as your “brand social.” You need to do what it takes to not only enable audience communication, but also to motivate and encourage audience expression on your properties.

Get your audience to talk and do a bit more listening. You will likely learn something that helps your brand to be more successful.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve



Filed under behavior, brand marketing, customer relations, marketing, social marketing, social media, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Nothing Unveils Customer Commitment Like Social Media

As a digital marketing executive, I see two types of clients. Type A wants to increase sales. Type B takes it a bit further and knows that to increase sales brands need to provide an exceptional user experience to sustain continuous and long-term growth.

customer commitment

Let me share with you a correspondence I had this week. I have edited some of the conversation only to respect the privacy of those involved, but the nature and essence of the correspondence prevails free of any poetic justice on my part.

Potential client – “I wondered first and foremost what your fee would be to
help us with our social media page … We are a small company with an extremely small budget.”

My response – “Really more important than getting you on track is you and your team’s ability and bandwidth to keep social in motion. You (or your team) would need to produce constant content reinforcing [your brand value] … Would you be able to commit to an article a week, curating content, and providing a POV (point of view) on issues on a regularly bases? If yes, I’d be glad to discuss how I can help and my fees.”

You see participation and lack there of truly magnifies a company’s/brand’s commitment to their target audience. If you just want to get another number signed up to your company service, social is going to be a bad marketing mix choice for your company. If you want to use social to demonstrate your subject matter expertise, sincere interest in providing solutions, and a desire to listen to what your audience says, social marketing is an awesome addition to your marketing mix.

There is no social media expert that is going to turn your social marketing effort into success unless YOU are a) truly committed to your customer and b) are willing to learn your audience’s digital behavior and adapt or reallocate time and resources to meet their evolved usage patterns? Do you believe this mentality and approach leads to continuous sales growth?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

Footnote – The response I got from the prospect was – “I hear you. I do know that it would take time out of my already busy day. That being said, I’m not so sure if I have a choice if I want to gain greater visibility equating to greater income, or do I? Your question of course is understandable, but I guess it would depend upon the actual process, and just how time consuming it would be.”

An honest assessment that many must ask themselves. I do not typically share specific client correspondence and activities with my audience, but I really think there is a great sense of reality and honesty conveyed here. It is an issue that you will likely need to consciously face.


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

The Secret to Successful Integrated Marketing

Straight to the point I am not going to drag you along with an anecdotal story and make you wait to get to the secret of successful integrating marketing. The secret is simply – follow the customer journey.

customer journey

When I worked at the Ryan Partnership agency, we would often display the customer journey as pictured above. This spaghetti-like diagram is actually a simplification of a customer purchase path for a potential healthcare/beauty product. The diagram shows the consumer:

1) getting input from their friends, family, and colleagues, through social networks and other direct communications,
2) reading product reviews in print and online,
3) comparing competitive products and considering places to purchase,
4) taking actions at home before going to a store such as reading emails and searching for coupons,
5) using mobile apps while shopping,
6) sharing product experiences with friends and more widely via participation on social networks, and
7) experiencing in store displays and promotions.

Granted, the purchase journey will vary a significant amount based upon the product/service being sold and whether it is a consumer or business solution. The important point is to identify the journey and touch points for customers seeking a product/solution that your company offers.

Once you have identified the customer journey, you need to orchestrate marketing creative ideation, themes, memes, personalities, stylizations, and voices across all relevant marketing channels. Your brand and direct marketing needs to play like a Hollywood script across all marketing endeavors and channels. One brand story and supporting promotion that triggers repetitive purchase decision considerations and brand loyalty.

If you look at the different marketing groups that need to be involved as defined by customer behavior you should recognize that integrated marketing is really more about complete collaboration as opposed to integration. John Bell, former Global Managing Director at Social@Ogilvy, makes the point that “Collaboration Trumps Integration in New Marketing.” I recommend reading his article to gain insights on collaborative behaviors.

So when you wrap it all up, the secret of successful integrated marketing really boils down to behaviors. First the customers’ journey and target audience behaviors that define the focus of brand marketing efforts. And secondarily, the organizational collaborative behaviors that truly yield customer brand preference and loyalty. Is your marketing team taking this approach?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, brands, customer relations, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Social Media Posting vs. Winning Brand Preference

Are you just aimlessly posting or are you working to drive brand preference in your social marketing efforts?

brand preferenceLet’s be clear. The objective of social marketing is to create brand preference such that when individuals are ready to make a purchase decision in the brand’s category, they repeatedly prefer your brand. Brand preference can be measured by a Social Brand Index that considers awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. (Note – I developed and use the Social Brand Index when working with brand clients.) Social marketing success is measured by the degree of brand preference you capture. You need to “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like” before you start your social strategy, plan, execution, and collection of data.

So if you are responsible for your brands social presence, recognize that each posting is a small opportunity to create brand preference. Many can come up with a cute or humorous post, but how many can pull together a social presence that:

1) creates continuous brand preference, and
2) integrates across all other company activities?

Let’s take these one at a time. First, what does it mean to create brand preference via social marketing? It means that

• every posting,
• all the listening on brand social platforms and elsewhere in the digital space,
• every piece of content production,
• every digital conversation, and
• all promotion opportunities

are aimed at

• influencing positive brand perception,
• brand loyalty,
• brand love, and
• growing word of mouth marketing for the brand.

How many social effort areas are truly choreographed to accomplishing this? While social marketing posts must by timely and spontaneous (real-time marketing), opportunistic content and postings must still be aimed at achieving and deepening brand preference. Before you post something, simply run a litmus test … Ask, “Is this post aimed at further creation of obtaining brand preference?” This is what I mean when asking what the difference is between social postings and creating brand preference.

But the social marketing effort is not done there. It must be integrated with all other company areas that affect and touch the target audience … That would most likely be the entire company. Remember, the job of social marketing is creating brand preference. Thus, social marketers must collaborate with direct marketers (advertisement, promotions, PR, email, event, SEO, display, etc.), executive branches, customer service, and all other support services. The collaborative nature with other functional areas in the company must be give and take. That is, social marketers must deliver target audience information and perception to the company as a whole as a function of social listening. Social marketers must also capture activities (plans, strategy, stories, programs, thought leadership, etc.) from the extended company functional groups that should be shared to the target audience to help shape brand preference.

Far too often, brands take on social marketing because they think it is a must for their business without understanding what the objective should be and how to measure the results. From a strategic perspective, this means developing a plan, activities, and metrics that will yield true brand preference. From a tactical perspective this means stopping for 5 seconds before posting to ask, “Is this post incrementally helping to yield brand preference.”

Brand preference is established by having (at a minimum) a satisfactory product/service, but that offering is then supported by unwavering commitment to the buyer. Social media is a prime opportunity to demonstrate target audience commitment. In social marketing, the commitment shown by production of superior content (valuable information and/or entertaining media), listening and taking action on applicable posts on a variety of platforms, and engaging in conversation with socially active users (especially influencers).

What are you doing in your social marketing activities to create brand preference?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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

Do You Need 24/7 Social Media Hours of Operations?

open 24 hoursDetermining your brand’s hours of social media operations is one of the most difficult questions answer. Social purists will be quick to say 24/7 operations are required because user digital hours are very different than store hours. But it is very easy for someone that does not have the budget and profit/loss responsibility to state idealistic requirements.

Lets start with the obvious … One size does not fit all. The appropriate hours for social media operations vary from brand to brand, company to company. There is no blanket answer. It depends on the product/service offered, overall brand positioning, and target audience behaviors.

Before we attempt to come up with the right answer for your company, please consider a handful of relevant issues:

1) There are really four reasons why you potentially want social media activities beyond “typical” hours of operation: a) to engage in customer service issues and problem resolution, b) to expedite responses to postings on your brand social channels, c) to actively listen for brand mentions in the entire social universe to manage brand reputation, and d) for continuous real time content distribution to address your worldwide audience.
2) Social marketing and customer service are not synonymous. There is definite overlap and social media platforms may be be used in customer service. Therefore, you need to determine if extended hours of “social media operations” is a responsibility of the customer service team or the social marketing team. Start by defining requirements of the “use” of social media.
3) How important is it to respond immediately to comments on your brand social platforms as it relates to your brand position and reputation? Could a 12-hour delay in responding actually diminish your brand’s reputation such that it affects audience brand consideration, preference, and/or loyalty.
4) Recognizing that bad news is shared and travels fast, how important is it to have a disaster PR business plan in place? A disaster business plan that actively neutralizes negative social postings.
5) Does your brand need to proliferate compelling content throughout the 24-hour day, or are one or two compelling daily posts valued by your audience?

If you start by looking at your brand position and audience behavior and expectations, you will begin to zero in on your specific social operational hours required. I do not think 24/7 operations are required, but I do think there needs to be continuous social business plans that address 24 hour operations. Let me explain.

First off, I am saying that there need not be a “social manager” position working 24 hours in the day. The customer service team should have access to social monitoring tools and be trained how to respond on social channels. Maybe it is a customer service organization that requires 24/7 operations. This really depends on the size and portion of the audience that uses the brand product or service, or makes purchase decisions throughout a 24-hour day.

Second, social media publishing tools allow posts to be scheduled throughout the day. Social managers can queue up a number of posts during their working hours to be posted throughout the day. The speed of response required is more important in determining social operation hours than actual brand postings.

And last but not least, consider social business continuity plans. When I talk about social business continuity plans, I am suggesting that organizations work through a number of “what if” scenarios to determine how to activate social operations and responses. Activation of social operations is not the same as having social staff working all the time. It is kind of like the life of a journalist … A journalist does not work 24/7. For news media companies, there is always someone monitoring “events.” If a grand event emerges in the middle of the night, the journalist is on call to cover the event immediately. The ramifications as it relates to business social operations is that brands need to monitor and listen 24/7. This could be accomplished via an outsourced party. Brands need to pre-plan “what if social scenarios” and have appropriate people on call and workflows to take action immediately.

When you pull this all together, I am suggesting that social monitoring needs to be a 24/7 activity. Actual social managers need not be working 24/7, but a group of social responsible managers need to be on call 24/7. And this is not limited to the person with the social manager title.

I’d like to highlight one other point. Under no circumstances can social operations be limited to Monday through Friday operations. In most industries, target audience activity is not limited to weekday activity.

In summary, understand who you are, what you stand for, and your audience behavior. That will drive the right answer to the working hours of your social operations. Also, make sure you put in place an action plan for social events that happen throughout the entire day. You need to make sure you can react at any point as situations warrant. This requires having monitoring capabilities and workflows defined; not social media managers working 168 hours in the week.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, brand reputation, customer relations, customer service, social business, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Why Don’t We Re-launch Social Media Marketing as Relationship Marketing

Social media marketing is still so misunderstood. Executives see a strong wave of people using social media and determine that they need to launch a social media program. But this approach is flawed for two main reasons. First, social is not a program. It needs to be a long-term commitment. Second, your target audience does not want to se selling on social channels. They consider social platforms to be a place where they engage and interact, and get information they value. Furthermore, if a brand does nothing but sell on their managed social channel, they are not likely to gain much traction and engagement.

Thus, I recommend that you re-launch your social effort to be a relationship marketing long-term commitment. Yeah, I know … I am wordsmithing here. But maybe calling your efforts relationship marketing is what you need to reinforce to your entire organization what needs to be done, hint what success looks like, and drive the correct execution.

In my article last week, I suggested that the objectives of social marketing are:

1) To get in front of your target audience and establish interest, value, trust, and interactivity.
2) Generate brand preference.
3) Provoke referrals and word of mouth marketing.

relationshipThe reason why I stop short of aiming for additional company goals (such as sales) is driven by recognition of what users want from their brands in the social space. It is almost like brands need permission from an audience to “participate” in social channels. If brands do not play by their target audiences’ rules for engagement, they will be ignored on social platforms.

So lets talk a little about brand relationships for a bit. Relationships take time to mature and grow. As in one’s personal life, brands need to recognize this. Thus brands must be committed to a long-term social commitment. And why are strong relationships important for brands? Simply put, strong brand relationships define long-term sustainable success. Relationships that create brand loyalty and brand advocacy. And if you can get your audience to truly love your brand, they will do just about anything for you. They will be your greatest advocates. If your loving customers and advocates market your brand (word of mouth) you have the strongest and most authentic form of advertisement.

You would be amazed at how simply changing the labeling of social media marketing to relationship marketing adjusts and realigns your use of social channels to focus on what needs to be accomplished to drive successful results. And while I concur that all marketing efforts need to deliver value to a company’s top line revenue, I would argue that the way to get there with social media is not by aiming for direct sales. It is almost exclusively geared at relationship building. After all if you “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like” you will be committed to strong relationship building. Now all you need is to make relationship marketing part of your strategy and tactics. Don’t fake it …

Make it Happen!
Social Steve


Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, customer relations, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

Social Media Highlights the Important Difference Between Marketing and Sales

Marketing is not sales and yet so many seem to forget that. If marketing is not sales, why would we measure marketing success by sales figures? And if marketing shouldn’t be measured by sales figures, does it have any importance in companies?

Marketing and SalesSome tough questions here, but let’s start with a definition. According to Wikipedia, “Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers. It is a critical business function for attracting customers.” But I would take this a bit further and add that marketing is the act of creating desire, want, and need of a brand and motivating the target market to act. This “act” can be a number of things. Yes, the act can be a purchase, but it can also be many other valuable dealings.

You see, a salesperson asks, “What can I do to get someone to purchase my product today?” A marketing person should ask, “What can I do to get someone to want my product for a lifetime and share my product value with others?”

When you look at these two different questions, you see how brands should utilize social platforms. Social media is best used to build trusted relationships. As brands build trusted relationships they continue to deliver value to a target audience. The relationships create awareness, brand consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. Continuous communication and delivery of valuable content is what reinforces these attributes. And by the way, these things can be measured, and they tee up sales. So while these “marketing efforts” may not result in direct sales, they absolutely have value for companies.

The difference between sales and marketing is short term survivability and long term sustainability – when done correctly. And this is a value of social marketing – it provides long term sustainability as opposed to short term sales when done correctly. Thus the term social marketing is emerging. Social marketing is a valuable business function. Social media is the technologies that make social marketing possible.

Not surprisingly, you do not hear the term “social sales.” Yes, social marketing can tee up sales, but is not typically successful when going at sales directly. We do hear of social commerce. And social commerce “involves using social media, online media that supports social interaction, and user contributions to assist in the online buying and selling of products and services.” Social commerce includes:

1. Loyalty and referral marketing
2. Social CRM
3. Mobile social commerce
4. Better location-based marketing
5. Group buying
6. Social shopping
7. Ratings and reviews
8. Recommendations and referrals
9. Forums and communities
10. Social ads and apps

In most cases of social commerce it is the audience that takes an action. The promotion of sales in social channels comes best from the target audience as opposed to the company itself. It is more authentic and trusted selling. But you can only expect your audience to come rally advocacy and word of mouth as you continually deliver value to them. Don’t push sales in social channels. Let your audience do it as you market to them.

Think about social marketing; ease up on social selling.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve


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