Category Archives: social marketing

Digital Marketers Should Start to Build Relationships Off of Their Home Court

digital marketing

A good part of my working day is spent thinking about how I am going to build an audience from zero to one million and beyond. I have recently started at a new company where I am responsible for social marketing and audience development. (DivorceForce is an Online Community for those in a divorce, contemplating a divorce, or seeking knowledge to better plan their future… launching August 3rd) So as I have the responsibility to grow and cultivate the audience, I want to share with you my strategy for doing so.

I am lucky to have an exceptional digital platform with stellar content and forums for engagement as a starting point. You cannot have a mediocre home base and expect people to value your offering. Likewise, yon cannot build the field of dreams and just expect people to show up. This is the reality and challenge for all digital marketers.

I go back to a concept I have been preaching for well over five years. Some of you might be familiar with my A-Path methodology. If you want a full explanation of the A-Path, please see the “Holistic Social Marketing” section in the piece titled “Three Social Marketing Fundamentals”. For now, I want to concentrate on the beginning part of that path where you get people’s “Attention” and get them “Attracted” to your brand and its digital presence.

In the referenced piece I take you through the theoretical steps. But here, I will share with you the exact operation I am practicing. My objective is to collect followers and drive people to our site. BUT while that is my objective, my execution has to be externally driven, not internally driven. Thus my approach is to find people in my target segment that I can help. This is key … helping people. Try to captivate them by simply helping them. Aren’t you automatically interested in someone if they truly help YOU? Marketers are often handicapped at this, as they are often too caught up in their professional responsibility. This clouds their strategy and execution to the detriment of attracting people.

The first step of my execution is to select a limited number of keywords. The keywords are used to search social platforms, blogs, and other online media sources. I use the search to better understand people’s behavior and communication on the topic of interest. First I listen. Then I plot how I can get engaged in the conversation. It is not just about helping people… flattery goes a long way. I want to reinforce people that represent a similar position to that of my brand. I want to tell them thanks, great job, and what an inspiration they are. This emphasis must be authentic. At the same time I still want to find people that need help. I want to be there for them. I forget about my internal objective for a while, but really just want to find the right people and determine the best ways to engage with them – either reinforce what they are doing or support them in some manner. This is the essence of social marketing relationship building. At the same time, I start to determine which people have the greatest reach and influence on my potential target audience.

As I start to engage with people, I find the right moment to mention my brand and possibly our online assets. This must be at an appropriate time. Not forced. Not pushed. Following the A-Path approach, I want to make sure that I am attracting people (not being pushy with them). I want to introduce them to my brand digital assets when I really have their interest and start of trust.

Once you get people to your digital assets you must wow them. You only have one chance to make a first impression. You can further read the A-Path approach in the section recommended above to learn about building affinity, your audience, and advocacy. For now, I just wanted to share with you how you get audience development started. Often, that is the hardest part. Even if you are not starting at zero, don’t you need to build your audience? Think about the approach I have recommended here and …

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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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

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There Are Only Two Things People Want from Your Brand’s Social Presence

brand social presence

How many brands’ posts’ get added to social channels in a given day? Some massive number close to a gazillion. (Now that is some empirical data for you :)) But how many of those posts actually resonate with the intended target audience and get shared. Unfortunately, the number is the inverse of a gazillion. That is because only a small minuscule percent actual gain traction. If you stop to think about it, you might get appalled at how much time, money, and effort are meaningless for brand social marketing.

So stop. Get back to basics. And at a high level reflect on why anyone would give any care to your brand’s social presence. It comes down to two simple mentalities. They want compelling content and they want a connection that makes sense for them, not you. Lets break these down a bit.

Compelling Content
Compelling content (from the audience’s perspective, not yours) must consists of educational and/or entertaining information. That is it. Forget all the other junk. Your audience wants to learn something important. And when I say your audience wants to learn something from you that does not mean product/service features. Give your audience something that enlightens them.

Content need not always be informational. It can be entertaining. If you go this route, think of your brand as a media company as part of a billion other media companies in a market. How is your entertaining content really going to stick out in a very crowded field?

It is worth noting that content can be both informative and entertaining. If you want more information on producing stellar content for your audience, I have written a number of articles on this topic. Some suggested pieces are:

Think of Content Marketing as Gift Giving All Year Round
4 Tips for Winning Content
Delivering the Content You Audience Wants
A Content Marketing Approach That Works

Connection
Yes, some people really value connections with brands. But that is only the case if you make it worth their while, not yours. Forget about connecting with customers. Your mentality should be to connect with friends that happen to patronize your business. Friendship mentality. Not customer mentality. If you connect with people in this approach, I guarantee that you will build strong relationships that pay dividends. Friendship means being there when someone needs you. This is how brands must treat their customers. Put your agenda on the back burner and the needs, wants, and desires of your target audience at the forefront. Have empathy for your target audience and be proactive to their wishes. Stay engaged.

You need both a winning content and connection strategy, plan, and execution.

I have painted a very competitive and crowded environment where it is tough to stick out. But the fact is I am still most bullish on social brands. Nothing can build stronger brand love than a great social presence. It is just a matter of doing it right or not doing it at all. Right by your audiences’ terms. Not your agenda.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Key Issue Making Technology Work for Your Marketing Efforts

digital communication

A few weeks ago I crafted an article that got a very strong positive response – “Great Marketers Are Perpetual Students.” Having your antennae up and looking at human behavior is part of being one who is constantly learning. This week, I saw something very interesting play out in my own family.

I witnessed two very different ways of communication by my daughter, a freshman finishing up her first year of high school. Maya was preparing for final exams; more specifically she was studying for a math final. She was confused about finding the angle size of a shape. To no surprise my wife and I were not able to help her, so she texted a question to a friend. The answer she got back added more confusion. She asked me what she should text back. I said, just pick up the phone and talk it through, that will be much faster than a million texts going back and forth. She would not oblige. She only felt comfortable texting with this “friend.”

In a second interesting instance, she was doing extra credit for a history project. She was video conferencing with a close friend. What actually surprised me most was that she let me witness the entire call as I was in the same room. (Well actually she did not invite me to watch, but the fact that she did not run off to her room and shut the door is surprising from a teenage daughter.) Anyway, her and her friend spent the conversation in a typical teen-like multitask way … part casual conversation, part sharing ideas and advice on the project, and part doing their own thing in their own physical environment. I was quite impressed how the two got so much accomplished and at the same time demonstrated a caring, bonding relationship.

Now I know you are probably wondering what this has to do with marketing, the subject I usually address in my writings. Well it has everything to do with marketing. In the first scenario, my daughter contacted someone she did not have a strong a relationship with. Someone that was not part of her everyday care. The communication between the two was poor. My daughter half-heartedly threw the first friend a question only to look to get back what SHE wanted out of the communication. In the second scenario, my daughter and the other friend had a very strong relationship. The communication was strong and they accomplished much. They got the assigned task completed and at the same time continued to build on their relationship.

So ask yourself as a marketer, are you just throwing something up on the fast moving digital marketing train without really knowing your audience and having no concern for their interests? Or are you using digital marketing technology to strengthen relationships and to drive brand objectives at the same time? An overwhelming number of digital marketing serves no value, no brand marketing success. And this is due to two main factors. First, not understanding the audience that you are speaking to and lack of empathy for that group. Second, I ask a very decisive question to you. Now be honest with yourselves … Do you really care about the audiences’ needs like they are in fact a true friend or are you only looking to satisfy your objectives?

Let me state something that is likely obvious, but yet often gets ignored in practice. You will only be successful using technologies if you really work to build strong meaningful relationships at the same time. You cannot simply post and expect people to react in a favorable way unless you are putting up your end of a relationship and reinforcing thoughtfulness for them.

People want their brands to care. They do not just want to be sold to. Are you executing in a way that demonstrates to your audience that you really care?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand communication, brand marketing, digital media, marketing, social marketing, Social Steve, SocialSteve

Understanding Social Marketing Means Understanding Audience Development

audience development
It still astounds me when I see an article questioning the value of social marketing. (Notice I said social marketing and not social media. Social marketing is a strategy, plan and activity that use multiple channels to connect, communicate, and engage with a target audience. Social media is a technology platform.) Many have questioned, and some have addressed, social marketing ROI. I myself have written a number of articles on the ROI question here and here. But the value of social marketing is not something to measure in terms of ROI. It should be measured in terms of audience development.

Lets start by defining audience development as it relates to marketing and such that it can be aligned to company KPIs (key performance indicators.) Audience development means that you begin by getting people’s attention and get them attracted to your brand. Once you have them aware of your brand, you want them to have deeper interest in what you offer. You want them to look for and desire more information as it relates to the product or service you offer. You not only want them to purchase your product, but to be a repeat buyer and develop loyalty for your offering. And ultimately you want people to love your brand and do objective marketing on behalf of your brand (make recommendations about your brand to others).

Now if you understand audience development in these terms, I would hope that it is easy to see how social marketing can work for you. What if brands really had friends? Think about how you develop friends. You have some common interest. You communicate and share. It is not just about you. Friends look for you to be there when you need them. Thus, you are there for your friends when they need you. So if we apply this mentality to common business objectives, isn’t it valuable for brands to have friends? Friendship is a relationship. A partnership of some kind. And partnerships are only valuable and last if both parties get something out of the relationship.

So brands need to give more than they did in the past. Brands need to do more than just have a great product. They need to be there for their audience in more ways than simply selling. They need to develop their audience.

It was exactly six years ago that I shared my perspective on audience development. Back then, I addressed it in social media terms, but I soon came to the realization that social media was a platform and that I would use various platforms to strengthen my marketing efforts. I talked about capturing “the ultimate audience,” but it really was not about “capturing” an audience, but rather developing and evolving an audience. I came up with what I have termed “The A-Path.”

As a brand, I first want to get the attention of a target group. Then I want them to be attracted to my brand. Over time I look for them to build affinity for my brand. At some point, they like my brand and user experience enough to opt-in and become a member of my audience either by email sign-up, joining my community, or following the brand. A subset of the audience members are power users and I look to develop very close relationships with these individuals in an attempt to create advocates.

Attention to Attraction to Affinity to Audience to Advocacy. That is audience development. And social marketing should consist of a strategy, plan, execution, and measurement aimed at these five stages of audience development.

So forget social marketing ROI in terms of sales. Your objective of social marketing should be audience development. Audience development in terms of the A-Path. You can build a strategy, plan, execute, and measure each stage of the A-Path. Go ahead. Develop your audience and see measured results. If you do so, I guarantee you all your executives’ KPIs will be realized.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Here is Why Social Marketing is such a Vital Part of Experiential Marketing

This past Tuesday I was watching the news on TV and learned about the horrific train derailment just outside of Philadelphia that killed 8 and injured hundreds. Now I do not mean to be insensitive making light of the chilling event to tell a social marketing story, but something extremely poignant played out. The various news stations could not get the story out. They did not have their team there yet. They were actually getting the story and bringing it to their viewers via social media monitoring of the public’s Twitter and Instagram posts.

That’s right, the public was their feed and source to re-share with their audience. Isn’t that exactly what marketers want to do to create the most effective and honest story telling of their brands? Get the audience to experience the brand, share the experience, and then amplify the information.

Marketers need to look at human behavior. They need to leverage what people naturally do as opposed to creating a story that does not resonate with their audience. Marketers cannot shove interruptive advertisement down the throat of their audience. Marketers need to create experiences that their audience want to share.

experiential marketing plus social marketing

Yes, experiential marketing includes events that everyone wants to share with their friend. Those are the big hits. But a brand cannot put on a Coachella-like event every week. Brand’s most successful marketing efforts come from developing and implementing a continuous series of small customer experiences. This can be as simple as stellar customer service or friendly and helpful engagement.

If we go back to the point I made about understanding audience behavior, you will release that people do not share mediocre or average stuff. They share extremes. Like the cases of the train derailment. People shared this because it was horrific. Your audience will share horrible experiences they have with your brand. But they will also share outstanding experiences with your brand. So marketers (and the entire company organization) must strive to create awesome customer experiences. They must then strategize ways to incentivize people to share these experiences.

You see social marketing is not so much about a brand posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat … (the list can go on forever). It is more about activating a happy and compelled audience to share your brand on the audiences’ preferred social platform. Social marketing is about motivating positive word-of-mouth marketing from their audience. That is power, because their word and accolades are far more believable then claims coming from the brand itself.

In order to accomplish this persuasive word-of-mouth marketing, brands must focus on the entire user experience. This is how experiential marketing must grow. Experiential marketing must focus on ALL the little customer experiences and not just a grand event.

Experiential marketing and social marketing can be a brand’s most effective integrated discipline. Give your audience amazing continuous experience and motivate them to share it with their audience.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Fantastic Opportunity for Marketers and Snapchat

My kids take selfies all day long and then snap it away. Yes, they represent the general population and behavior of teenagers and young adults. 400 million “Snaps” get sent each day and 77% of college students use Snapchat each day. Sadly enough, only 1% of marketers use Snapchat (Source).

snapchat

In order to understand a marketing opportunity, you need to first understand the target audience you serve. If younger generations are part of your target market and you are not leveraging the social media and other communication platforms they are addicted to, shame on you.

Second, you need to understand how different platforms work and how to take advantage of their features. Very simple and straightforward, Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to send and receive “self-destructing” photos and videos. Photos and videos taken with the app are called Snaps. The sender determines how many seconds (1-10) the recipient can view the Snap before the file disappears from the recipient’s device. But I think the greatest opportunity comes if you dig a little deeper and understand some platform features. While doing so, make sure you look at your audience’s behaviors. The intersection of the two yields marketing opportunities.

I see great opportunity with Snapchat’s geofilters. According to Snapchat, geofilters are special overlays for Snaps that can only be accessed in certain locations. Artists and designers are encouraged to use this tool to bring their one-of-a-kind style to the Snapchat community. Simply choose the geographic area you want your filter to be available in and upload an image asset. All images must be original artwork and have to be approved by the Snapchat team.

I have watched my kids use geofilters. First off, they think it is a creative way to add something to their Snap. The geofilters also play right into their hand showing off where they are and what they are doing. Last weekend, we were walking around a particularly happening street in Brooklyn and my daughter made a Snap that looked like a postcard with her in it with the use of a geofilter.

One of the great marketing levers to pull (especially for younger audiences) is FOMO (fear of missing out). Marketers should be able to use Snapchat with geofilters for their store, their product/service via a virtual store at specific locations. For instance create a geofilter that says “Shopping for a Prom Dress at Macy’s” and a number of other references of the sort. Restaurants, bars, and clubs could run their own geofilters. Converse sneakers, Obey clothing, and others could establish pop-up store locations.

To date, Snapchat has not opened up geofilters to businesses and logos and trademarks cannot be used. But if you look at user behavior, opportunities for marketers, and revenue potential for Snapchat, I think the planets align … there is a great opportunity for a business/user/platform to eclipse.

In order for marketers to truly be successful with measured results for their brands, they need to understand audience behavior. They need to understand how their audience uses different technologies that hit the market. It is not about interrupting people and pushing brands in people faces, but rather creating a use-case that is not only acceptable by their audience, but motivates individuals to actually act and share. Yes, Snapchat has not opened up geofilters to businesses, yet … I think it is a matter of time. (Snapchat – are you listening?) But brands need to use Snapchat now, because their audience is addicted to it. Simply start posting creative pictures and content that inspires your audience.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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