Category Archives: marketing

For Brands, Community Members Trump Loyalists – Really?

Brands should be more concerned about building a community than building loyalists. The rationalization for this is that brands are better off having emotionally connected customers as opposed to repeat customers.


Let’s break this down a bit. Loyalists believe in the product or service that a brand provides. They see value in the product/service compared to other offerings in the market and reward the brand by being a repeat customer.

A brand community member is not necessarily a loyalist that is a repeat customer. BUT, a community member has a vested interest in the brand. They have a genuine interest in what the brand offers and/or what they stand for.

The distinction that I make here is that you get more out of a community member. The community member will help you better shape product/service success by providing continuous feedback (good and bad) and they will also advocate on your brand’s behalf when you deliver excellence. Your community will help you stay on top of the competition. That is if you listen to them. And when you do listen to them, the community members as well as their audience reward you. The added value of a community member is that they will market and advocate on your behalf because they are an emotional bond connection and customer.

While putting together thoughts for this article, I came across an absolutely fabulous article, “The New Science of Customer Emotions.” The premise of the article and supporting study is that if “companies connect with customers’ emotions, the payoff can be huge.” The article states, “’emotional motivators’ provide a better gauge of customers’ future value … including brand awareness and customer satisfaction, and can be an important new source of growth and profitability.” There is no better way to create an emotional connection with an audience than to make them feel like they are a part of the brand. A community where their comments and opinions are listened to. A community where they can engage with others that share common interest. People just like them.

As a brand’s community builds, there is no better place to understand your target audiences’ needs. You learn from your audience AND you create emotionally connected customers. These customers have greater lifetime value than loyalists, because they provide further word-of-mouth about your brand and help you win new customers.

Two points I will make in closing, hopefully to make you contemplate about my position that a community member is far more valuable than a loyalist.

First, I recognize that it is often difficult to build a community around certain products/services. Could there be a community around soap? The answer is yes. Just look at Dove (both men and women products) and look at the social movements and communities they look to build. This is more about brand imaging than brand features. There are many takeaways to learn from their approaches. Examples you can see are here and here. There are many others as well.

Communities come in many forms. I do not mean a Facebook page or a forum per say. Yes, these are examples of platforms that help to build a community that may or may not be part of the execution strategy. What is important is to create a social movement that aligns to both your audience and your brand values. Then determine the strategy and execution channels.

When I talk about building a brand community, I define this as platforms and vehicles for engagement between brand representatives and the target audience. A community must also allow communication among the target audience without the brand necessarily being engaged in the conversation. BUT, the brand needs to be able to listen to these conversations. Having this audience engage in a platform that is a brand asset is most imperative for a couple of reasons. 1) It allows the brand to listen, and 2) The fact that the conversation is enabled by the brand creates reinforcement and emotional commitment to what the brand stands for.

I have worked on building brand communities for the past 10 years. I confess – it is difficult. It is definitely a new methodology of marketing for winning over an audience. But unequivocally, it pays long-term brand value and financial reward.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, brands, community, loyalty, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

A Case For Changing Up Your Marketing

Time for Change - Ornate Clock

If you have been a regular reader of the Social Steve blog, you may have noticed that I have not posted for a bit – apologies. I have been blogging for about seven years and posting a weekly article, regularly. Recently, I have felt that my posts got a bit stagnant. I continually emphasized the importance of listening, engaging, and creating the ultimate customer experience for your audience. After about 300 articles, I find myself thinking maybe I have covered the topic in too many ways.

I had gotten a bit bored with my own writings so I figured maybe my audience had too. (Although I continue to get a strong number of pageviews – and I am very thankful to many for reading them.) But that is not always the case – especially when it comes to consumer or professional brands. I know it and you know it. We have all experienced a decrease marketing results at some point in our career.

Unfortunately I find an abundance of marketers that are “stuck in the same story” challenge. Each morning I Google “marketing” and look at the latest news. As I have suggested to others, “Great Marketers are Perpetual Students”. I want to keep up on everything – the latest trends, success stories, and information from experts. But I have to tell you that lately when I Google “marketing”, I feel like I am reading the same thing over and over again. I am bored and uninspired. The marketing world and people covering it need a kick in the @$$.

Could this be happening to your target audience – they are bored and uninspired because they are getting tired of your digital and mobile presence. Are you saying the same thing over and over again with a slightly different tone or shade of color?

If you want to continue to keep your audience engaged, interested, and advocating on your behalf, you must change it up a bit. Make sure you have data that shows what people are coming back to read. What people interact with, comment on, share, and like. And then everything else, change it up.

I have been leading social marketing and audience development for a startup since July 2015. In this position I had been producing a very good increase of marketing results as measured by growth of audience, followers, subscribers, and other KPIs (key performance indicators). In the past couple of weeks however, things began to diminish a bit. So my team and I started experimenting with some new things – the way we present our content, the content we cover, using new writers, curating different types of content. Mixing many things up. After a week and a half of doing so, we are seeing measured results snap back.

As I mentioned, I have been doing this since July 2015 … less than nine months. In that short period of time, it is easy to get overwhelmed by numerous responsibilities and stay comfortable in what you present to your audience. The lesson to be learned is that you need to regroup and brainstorm some new approaches to keep your existing audience engaged and excited while at the same time assessing new ways to capture a larger audience. I am sure your experience dictates that you need to do this. So …

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under audience development, change management, marketing, marketing plan, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Why Inbound Marketing is a Must

Let me tell you a little story that highlights the power of individuals making their own decisions. A while back, I was a cigarette smoker. I knew it was something that served no redeeming value, and actually was a detriment to my well being. Numerous people tried to “push” me to quit. “Pushing” was ineffective. I had to come to my own decision to quit. No matter how much pushing I got from others, I did not quit smoking until I decided that it was important to do and I was committed.

Now you may ask, “What does that have to do with marketing?” My answer – everything. Here’s the point … if your target audience decides they need your product/service/solution, that is a hell of a lot more compelling then you telling your audience they need your product.

inbound marketing

This is the crux of inbound marketing. Lets start with a definition of inbound marketing. From Wikipedia

Inbound marketing is promoting a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, enewsletters, whitepapers, SEO physical products, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing, which serve to attract customers through the different stages of the purchase funnel. In contrast, buying attention, cold-calling, direct paper mail, radio, TV advertisements, sales flyers, spam, telemarketing, and traditional advertising are considered “outbound marketing”. Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects’ attention. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found, and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content.

When done successfully, inbound marketing activities cause individuals to have an emotional bond to your brand over time. Given the fact that consumers and clients have access to a wealth of information, reviews, and other data from a wide jury, means that brands cannot push their agenda. Brands need to appease and appeal to their audience while subtly reinforcing their value. This is accomplished by producing compelling content and information that make your audience want more. Provide your audience with content and information they value whether it be educational or entertaining. If you do this successfully, your audience comes to you. This is the essence of inbound marketing – motivating audience behavior that drives individuals to your site, your social channels, and your physical locations. All of this is done by appealing to your audience’s needs, wants, and desires as opposed to pushing your brand agenda.

Go back to the story at the beginning of the article. Individuals cannot be pushed into something they have not decided to do. Consumers are skeptical. How can you win them over when they have access to a plethora of information and opinions from your competition and other consumers? The answer is you appeal to what THEY want. You give them what they need. Brand push is dead. Consumer/client cultivation wins awareness, consideration, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy. Work to create a marketing strategy, plan, and execution that motivates your audience to come to you to get more … more information, education, and/or entertainment.

I could tell you what to do, but wouldn’t it be better if you came to that conclusion on your own. How can you help your audience come to a conclusion that makes them desire your brand? Understanding this nuance is what successful inbound marketing is all about.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

On Time, On Budget, Exactly What You Were Expecting

Here is a perfect scenario. You work on a project (either internally or with an agency) and the project runs on time, on budget, and ends up exactly as you were expecting. Has that ever happened to you? Likely NOT.


Back in my days as a software engineer, we used to joke – on time, on budget, expect what you set out to do – pick the two you want No one ever hits the trifecta here.

This past week I saw the following posted on LinkedIn:

Back Up Plan


Nothing ever works exactly as planned. How can someone expect things to work out perfectly and not have a Plan B, a back up plan?

Back to my point in the beginning. If you had to pick two – on time, on budget, and expect what you set out to do – which would they be? Now I am not saying to give up on pushing for execution excellence. I am just saying you need to be prepared for the inevitable.

When you are planning a marketing effort be prepared. Are you willing to spend a bit more to get exactly what you want? Are you willing to allow more time to get exactly what you want? If things are not exactly as you want, do you release it anyway?” Is time of the essence?

When I develop a strategy, plan and execution, I usually “pad” my plans. My project timeline has some filler for time. Usually a timeline is composed assuming everything works out perfectly – it never does. I also plan that a project always costs more. I add some “slosh” money somewhere – you always need one more revision to be done or you always need to spend in more places than you were planning to. The hardest decisions come when things do not turn out exactly as planned. You want your brand to standout and mediocrity is never a good thing. But at the same time, if you want to catch a great opportunity you need to move forward in a timely manner.

What I have presented here is not earth shattering. It is common sense.   I am likely emphasizing something you already know. But knowing and doing are two different things. Are you setting contingency plans? Are you ready to except two out of three – on time, on budget, or exactly what you want?

Be prepared. Plan ahead. Plan for the best. Be prepared for the worst. If the worst happens, be prepared to execute in a prudent matter.

Make It Happen!

Social Steve


Filed under brand marketing, marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Successful Marketing – Here It is in a Nutshell

successful marketing in a nutshell

At the end of the year, many bloggers and/or self accredited experts put out their end of the year lists. These lists most often start with titles that entice readers to click through. Titles like, “8 Best Ways to Make Viral Content,” or “5 Biggest Marketing Trends for 2016.” As we have learned from digital marketing data collection, starting a title with a number provokes user behavior. And furthermore, the promise of unveiling information in a list is very compelling to users.

While I question the validity of the content in so many of these articles, I am guilty of producing similar titles (not here but certainly have in the past). But hopefully, you trust that the information I provide you leads to well thought out and proper marketing strategies and implementations. (Trust – we will revisit that issue shortly.)

I’ve looked at the 60 plus articles I have published (here on this blog and elsewhere) and I find particular themes for winning marketing solutions for the new consumer/client –driven world. There are 2 paramount evolutionary characteristics that have caused the need for marketers to morph their approach and tactical executions. 1) The consumers/clients control your brand reputation more so than you do. Brand position is reinforced and rejected by your target audience in full force and outcome. 2) Technology has changed allowing customers/clients to have a dominant role in brand marketing AND allow brands to market to consumer/client behaviors in a most accurate way.

Early in the year, I penned an article “5 Characteristics That Define The Future of Successful Marketing.” Successful marketing lies in a brand’s ability and commitment to

• Listen (to the target audience)
• Understand (their needs)
• Engage (on a personal and broad scale level)
• Deliver a great user experience
• Build trust

Listen, Understand, Engage

The key to marketing success is to truly know your audience. What turns them on, turns them off, and motivates them to take action. Think about it – your audience’s behavior literally says “Marketers – Be There When I Need You.” If you are there when your audience needs you, there is a very strong likelihood that the audience will support your brand with both purchase decisions and advocacy. You can only be there for your audience when they need you if you listen to them (by monitoring what they say about your brand and topics important to your brand), understanding their wants, needs, desires, and then engaging with them.

It is extremely important that your marketing communications are not old school broadcasting. You need to engage with people directly. Consider the recommendations defined in the article “Mastering and Scaling Personalized Marketing.”

Great User Experience

One aspect that truly makes a brand standout and win audience, customers, and advocacy is a great user experience. We look to create an emotional attachment between brand and target audience. The best way to accomplish this is to create an awesome user experience. Think about extending your product/service differentiation by providing an absolute stellar user experience. The user experience should consider every aspect of consumer/client – brand interaction. Interactions online, offline, experiential. Digital and experiential marketing should intersect. This is touched upon in the article “Here is Why Social Marketing is such a Vital Part of Experiential Marketing.”

If you are not convinced of the importance of a great user experience checkout “ROI (Return on Investment) of a Great User Experience and Social Marketing.”


Marketers can no longer make bogus claims. The general public is now the judge and jury via their communication proliferation using reviews and social conversation. In this past year, I really emphasized “Successful Marketing is a Matter of Trust.” In the referenced article, I highlighted ten ways to build trust. The end result becomes “In Brands We Trust, Or Maybe Not.” If you want to increase trust:

• Review regularly
• Show empathy
• Talk naturally
• Act fast
• Become the hub of the issue

Learn more about this.

Ultimately, you want “Magnifying Business Integrity to Market Brand Trust.”

Building an Audience

Remember, there is a slight nuance between sales and marketing. Marketing is really about building an audience. An audience that is queued up for sales conversion. An audience that continues to value your brand. An audience that becomes an advocate for your brand. There are “5 Keys to Audience Development” :

1) Monitor and listen
2) Engage
3) Find influencers
4) Have a content strategy
5) Use paid media

Social marketing is a key to audience development and “Understanding Social Marketing Means Understanding Audience Development.” But if you implement social marketing to build your audience, “Digital Marketers Should Start to Build Relationships Off of Their Home Court.” In this referenced article, I highlight the importance of engagement and audience development on social channels, forums, and blogs that are not your brands digital assets. Go where the conversation is happening and engage. Do not expect to have all conversations on your brand’s digital assets.

But marketing should go beyond audience development. Audience development is step one. Step two means developing something a bit deeper than an audience. Work to build a community. Community is a deeper connection than an audience. If you want to learn more about this see “In Marketing, A Community Trumps an Audience.” Here are some suggestions on “Building a Strong Community.”

Two other points I think you should consider to up your marketing game. The first deals with connecting with influencers to strengthen your marketing reach, perception, and overall reputation. Many think they can just find subject matter experts with a large audience to get them to push their brand. Wrong. My recommendation – “Stop Looking for Influencers, Find Great Partners.”

The second key point I want to make is that “Great Marketers are Perpetual Students.” Are you doing what is required to stay on top of changing audience behaviors and new technology? If you want to be successful, this is a must.

So there you have it – The Social Steve yearly summary. A summary that should help you to be most successful in the coming year. Not a list of unfounded trends. Recommendations you need to consider and implement. Make it a great year. Make it a successful year.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under audience development, behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, brand reputation, brand trust, brands, community, experiential marketing, influence marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve, user experience, Word of Mouth Marketing

Two Very Different Ways to Use Social Media Successful

I manage two brands. I focus on building awareness and advocacy for both of them via social marketing. But my strategy and execution is very different for both of the brands as shown below. These descriptions are provided with complete transparency. I hope they provide you with strong insights that help you drive brand success via social media marketing.

point counter point

Consider the two brands I manage – “Social Steve” and “DivorceForce.”

Before you even start with any marketing endeavor, you must clearly define the objectives you look to achieve. There are definite differences in the objectives I look to accomplish for “Social Steve” and “DivorceForce.” Let’s look at each brand’s objectives and then how these objectives drive different social media marketing approaches and executions.

Social Steve –

I blog and tweet under the moniker of “Social Steve.” I do so for two reasons: 1) I am passionate about sharing what I have learned about marketing, brand marketing, digital marketing, and social media marketing throughout my career; and 2) I look to reinforce my marketing leadership, knowledge, and value in order to sustain a strong career by appealing to potential employers and clients. I want to continue to be known as a true marketing leader – no hidden agenda.

In order to achieve the Social Steve objectives, I generally execute in three manners. 1) I produce a regular blog article on The Social Steve Blog; 2) I tweet regularly looking to provide valuable information to my followers; and 3) I participate on LinkedIn in regularly. Here are some notable things I do not do and the reasons why:

• I no longer work to increase followers. My information is there for those that value it. If you follow me, great. If not, so be it. I am not concerned with a numbers game.
• My blog contains my content only without ads (except ones wordpress might insert) or guest bloggers. I have had offers from people to guest blog on my site, but I have no interest in guest bloggers on my site. It is my site to share my knowledge and perspective. (I do allow reblogging of my articles.) I have had offers by advertisers. I am not interested. I do not want any influence of paid media.

DivorceForce –

The objective of DivorceForce is to build a community of people that are contemplating, navigating, or have been through a divorce. We look for people to help one another, to share expertise by a wide breath of subject matter experts, and allow people affected by divorce to gain the support and inspiration they deserve. DivorceForce is a community as opposed to a pure information resource. Yes, we provide valuable content, but we are not the sole experts on divorce. We value diverse inputs and perspectives by other contributors and members of the community.

Driven by the objectives stated above, I work to drive relationships between DivorceForce and two groups of people: 1) people affected by divorce; and 2) subject matter experts in various topics related to divorce (legal, finance, therapy, relationships, etc.). This means that I actively look for people mentioning their divorce. I look to engage with them, help them, and suggest that they checkout I also use many tools to search for valuable content for the divorce community. I highlight others that offer great information for the divorce community. I mention them and their articles in tweets. I connect and look to build relationships such that the subject matter experts contribute content to DivorceForce and share DivorceForce with their audience. With DivorceForce, I look to engage on all channels where my audience participates – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. I go where my audience is.

There are two distinct differences in the Social Steve brand and the DivorceForce brand. The Social Steve Brand is a brand that looks to create authority on a particular topic. DivorceForce is a brand that works to bring together many points of view on divorce. Social Steve looks to be the voice of expertise while DivorceForce looks to attract experts to be part of the community. The social marketing strategies and tactics vary between the two brands.

Of course, there are more specifics to the strategies and tactics of Social Steve and DivorceForce brands. Hopefully the two disparate approaches I have described (driven by brand objectives) provide you direction on how to use social media to work for your brand. Understand what you want to achieve and how you want your audience to perceive your brand. Make sure your social media marketing reinforces your brand presence.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


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

The New Way of Getting People Motivated to Do What the Brand Wants

motivate audience

I get it – marketing is all about getting your target audience to move in a direction that is beneficial to the brand. It is a company initiative that must turn measureable results. It is a business function that must be accountable to company goals and objectives. It is not an altruistic function.

But something has dramatically changed. Your audience is skeptical of your marketing ploys. Your audience rejects your marketing push if it is interruptive and lacks relevance. Remember, your audience engages with their own network. They often market for your brand and also against your brand. Your audience’s behavior and influence of your brand success has changed, so you must change your marketing approach.

In marketing, we aim to have our audience respond to brand “call to actions.” But we can no longer go straight for desired brand outcomes. We must first build relationships, build trust, and cultivate our audience. Old school marketing communication no longer works. Marketing communications cannot push brand agenda and be a way one pushes brand content. Audiences no longer react positively to this form of brand marketing.

Look, I know I go by the pen name “Social Steve” so you would expect me to push the importance of social media, social marketing, social media marketing – call it what you want. My recommendations and actions are driven by one facet – audience behavior. Current audience behavior dictates the need for you to change your marketing approach. Not social media hype, but mainstream audience behavior.

Last week I presented to 60+ top level executives at an executive forum. I stressed the importance of their need to change their understanding and participation in social marketing. I would say my message resonated with about 1/3 of the audience. The other 2/3’s of the audience seemed very uncomfortable with my push for them to change their marketing approach given current audience behavior. Far too many seasoned professionals are stagnant in their leadership approach. The need to change makes them uncomfortable. All I can say is “shame.” If you are a leader, you must lead based upon the behavior of the audience you want to capture.

So what is the change that must occur to “Getting People Motivated to Do What the Brand Wants?” From a theoretical approach that is easy. You want to build relationships so that your target not only loves your product or service, but they love your brand as well. They love what you stand for and your commitment to customers. The hard part is the execution of this because it takes times. There is rarely love at first sight from a customer to a brand. You must earn their trust, love, and commitment to your brand.

I’ll give you an example. I currently head up audience development for a start up. I am constantly under pressure to increase the number of subscribers. I understand that is the company’s main objective. I get directions from my executive management to communicate, “respond by signing up today.” I know that I cannot ask for that call to action until I have built up some trust from the individuals I look to convert. While my management measures my success on number of sign ups, I must stay committed to building relationships with my audience. I cannot give in to the pressure of pushing for sign ups too early. That will not turn winning results. So while everyone wants results immediately, I have been cautious not to push my audience too early in the relationship. Now, four months into my stint at the start up I am seeing inertia and momentum. I am building strong relationships with the target market and our audience is responding most positively.

Moral of the story, it is easy to give into the objectives and KPIs (key performance indictors) of your company. But in the long run, the results will not be successful. Patience and commitment is required.

If you want to motivate your audience and drive brand objectives, understand your audience first. Play to the audience’s whims and do not be myopic to your company goals. This may sound trite, but play nice, make friends, and then ask for what you want to accomplish. Think about it.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve


Filed under behavior, brand marketing, brands, change management, leadership, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve