Category Archives: social media

How to Count on Serendipity in Social Marketing

Ok – that title may seem a bit twisted and strange. How can you count on serendipity if “Serendipity means a ‘fortunate happenstance’ or ‘pleasant surprise?’“ (source)

serendipity

So what is serendipity in social marketing? It might be as simple as networking and finding that partner (professional or personal) that is the yin for your yang. When we look for business goals and objectives of social marketing awareness, lead generation, and advocacy are likely to be at the top of the list. What if you had a plan in place to accomplish these objectives? At the same time you need to understand that results will not be accomplished in a short period of time. What if you were committed to being a helpful valuable resource to your audience for a lifetime, not quarter by quarter in a given year? Maybe that approach produces good karma. Maybe that approach produces serendipity. Maybe luck is the residue of design.

Let me share with you a bit about my own experience in social marketing. In 2007, I was working for an Israeli technology company as the VP, Product Marketing. When my boss, the CMO of the company left the company in the US, my position was relocated to Israel and that was not an option I considered. I got involved in social media because I saw a change in how customers/clients reacted to traditional marketing. Social media gave people a place to voice what they really thought about particular brands – good and bad. I began to share my thoughts and experience. Over time, I have built up a small, but important audience. By continuing to be active in social and contributing to the evolution of marketing strategies, methodologies, and approaches, I have been rewarded. I have had opportunities show up as “pleasant surprises.” I am at the point where my participation in social is part of my ongoing marketing for my professional brand. It is difficult to know exactly when a new opportunity comes, but I have become accustomed to serendipitous projects and introductions to new people as a result of my commitment to helping a targeted audience. Social marketing has become part of a practice within my life. It is natural part of my professional existence and daily rituals. And making content production and social sharing and engagement part of my MO (modus operand) pays serendipitous dividends.

A quote I found on Wikipedia really nails my perspective on social marketing serendipity – “Serendipity is not just a matter of a random event, nor can it be taken simply as a synonym for a ‘happy accident’.” If you as a professional, or your brand is committed to helping your audience long term, good things happen. Opportunities pop up. It is hard to plan exactly when openings will emerge, but it is something you count on happening. Is this serendipity? Is this a happy accident? Is it luck? In some ways yes due to the impossibility of planning when it happens. But in other ways, definitely not. Your serendipity is the outcome of a solid social plan and execution. You can count on it.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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SocialSteve Answers – Is Social Media Dead? Is Social Marketing Dead?

Given my name, Social Steve, you are probably thinking I will answer these questions from a very subjective manner. But let me assure you, that is not the case. I will answer the questions from the most relevant perspective – examining audience behavior.

social media marketing dead or alive

Recently I read an article where Fred Wilson (one of the sharpest Venture Capitalist on the planet) stated “the social media phase of the Internet ended.” He goes on to say, “This may have happened a few years ago actually but I felt it strongly this year. Entrepreneurs and developers still build social applications. We still use them. But there isn’t much innovation here anymore. The big platforms are mature. Their place is secure.” While technologists may have hit a saturation point, people use social media ubiquitously in some form. A VC may not see a need to continue to evaluate social technology, but should marketers continue to see strong opportunities in social marketing?

If you look at Facebook these days, it is easy to say social marketing is dead. Organic reach of brand posts is at an abysmal one or two percent. Yes there continues to be opportunities for paid social to allow brands to target specific demographics for their native ads. You have to pay to play. The days of brands doing daily postings may have reached the end of usefulness. But before you dismiss social marketing, let me remind you or enlighten you that half of Americans get product recommendations from social media.

I would take this one step further and say more and more people get recommendations before purchasing products. These recommendations come from friends, online reviews, industry experts, family, and colleagues. Social media may or may not be the vehicle for this product recommendation. While the exchange of this information may or may not be digital, digital technologies including email, text, blogs with product reviews, etc. have exponentially exploded word-of-mouth marketing.

I often do social marketing training sessions for companies. I start off by defining social marketing. As I prepared for an upcoming session to be delivered this week, I included a slide I usually deliver …

social marketing defined

But for this upcoming session, I chose to highlight the communication between social users talking about the brand as opposed to communication and engagement between the brand and individual audience members. This is because new social platform algorithms limit organic reach and hamper communication between brand and user. There needs to be greater marketing attention focused on motivating users to communicate and share the brand amongst themselves.

Social marketing is not simply the use of social media. Social marketing is the art and science of inspiring communication from one person to another (or group of people) on behalf of the brand. The successful outcome of social marketing is motivating word-of-mouth marketing.

Is there anyone out there that believes that word-of-mouth marketing is not extremely valuable in motivating lead generation? Social marketing is far from dead. Anyone who is dismissing social marketing either a) is not following their target audience, or b) is allowing Facebook to be the sole platform that represents social marketing.

We need to understand our audience and evolve as they evolve. People share product/service recommendations and information that cannot be monitored and tracked by marketers. Emails. Text messages. Reading an article and/or review to yield purchase decision. These actions (and many more) are called dark social. Dark social is the word-of-mouth marketing that happens but happens in the dark … it cannot be seen.

Social marketing continues to be an important aspect to spawn lead generation. Marketers need deep commitment to developing programs that motivate people to share recommendations of their product/service. There are new innovative tactics required in social marketing. It is not as simple as putting up Facebook or Twitter posts anymore. But the foundation of social marketing, that is, the strategy and plans to get your product/service shared, is still alive and most important today.

I will emphatically declare that social marketing is far from dead. Your turn. Chime in.

Make it Happen!
Social Steve

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

Top 14 Social Steve Digital Marketing Blogs of 2014

social steve top 14 of 2014

2014 was a pretty good year for digital and social marketing. We saw a number of companies make deeper investments in digital marketing. Many companies began to reap success as shown by their audience-focused, creative, and analytical approach.

I am most appreciative of your support and interest in my digital marketing perspectives, guidelines, and coaching in the past seven years. I am especially grateful for the increased audience growth in the past year. If you have not been able to keep up with me this year (or have and want a simple review) here are the top 14 posts of the year. Please comment and also let me know if there is something in particular you want me to cover in the coming year.

Until then, as I always say (and MEAN) …

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

14. After 10 Years of Facebook, 10 Things You Should Know About Social Marketing

13. The Content Development Plan Every Marketer Should Use

12. Experimental Marketing and the Importance of Being First

11. Why Your Budget Must Include Website Re-Investment

10. Why You Need a Chief Engagement Officer

9. 5 Marketing Musts for a Successful Year Ahead

8. Here is the Deal with Facebook

7. Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community

6. The Dramatic and Fundamental Change in Marketing and What You Need to Do

5. Enough Smoke … Here is How To Build a Social Media Marketing Strategy

4. Facebook is Dead for Brands, Now What?

3. Top 7 Reasons Why Brands Fail at Social Media

2. Social Media is NOT Social Marketing and Why It Matters

1. Here is the ROI for Social Marketing

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9 Factors Separate Social Marketers that are Ready to Kick Butt

It was seven years ago that my marketing career took a new turn to the world of social marketing. I noticed early, that brands would lose some control of their position and reputation as dictated by the democratized public. The people had a strong set of platforms to share their likes and dislikes for companies, brands, and products. In fact these objective opinions and declarations trump brand-marketing communication. The audiences’ voice is loud and moves fast.

Then I felt like I was pushing a boulder uphill in social marketing. But now I see the struggle easing and a good deal of the smoke clearing. I see that brands want to plug into their audiences’ behaviors and actions. Companies have a strong interest in leveraging digital and social technologies. Trepidation has been replaced by exuberance and to outsource or employ knowledgeable and experienced social marketers. And now I see that there are a number of social marketers ready to kick butt and make a real difference in empirical results that align to companies’ KPIs (key performance indicators).

social marketing success

So what are those successful social marketers doing that set them apart from wanna-bes? There are nine factors or social marketing practices that when executed together distinguish social marketers that will rise to the top.

1) Strategy – A while back I wrote an article “Where You Start in Social Media Strategy Defines Where You End Up.” You cannot just “do social.” You must start with a mission, goal and objective, and follow up the documented strategy with a plan.

2) Listening – When it comes to social marketing, I know you are talking, but are you listening. A key element to building a relationship is listening. I always liked the line; “we have two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as mush as we talk.” Social marketing champions listen to people talking on the brand’s digital and social assets and the ones that the brand does not own. They listen for brand mentions as well as keywords that are relevant in the brand category.

3) Empathy – probably the greatest factor in social marketing success is having complete understanding and empathy for your audience. Successful marketers understand their audience. They know what turns them on and turns them off as well as what motivates them to deliver word of mouth marketing for the brand.

4) Messaging Strategy – this is a function straight out of marketing communications 101, but at the same time not an area the social marketer always tackles. Shrewd social marketers know exactly how they want their brand to look and sound in social channels. They make sure all communication and correspondence uphold the brand image they desire in social communications.

5) Content Strategy and Plan – In order to have a successful brand social presence, you need to have a continuous and compelling stream of content. Brands need to think like media companies. Many marketers find it difficult to shift from an advertorial mentality to a softer content marketing approach. (Required as a function of target audience perception and behavior.) To help here, I have offered advice. Start with three articles from this year – a) “4 Tips for Winning Content,” “Delivering the Content Your Audience Wants,” and “The Content Development Plan Every Marketer Should Use.”

6) Sharing – the best social marketers understand and plan how to get their brand content shared. It is more than simply having social widgets attached to a blog article. Rich relationship building and seeding various calls to action spawn greater brand sharing.

7) Personalization and Engagement Plan – in the day and age where just about every brand is going to partake in social media, successful brands need to be most relevant to their audience. Relevance comes from understanding individuals through engagement and personalization. Leading social marketers increase relevancy to their audience by having personalized communication and well defined engagement plans and then fine-tuning them based upon executional results.

8) Community – More and more social marketers and community managers are learning from the strengths and shortcomings of having a brand presence on Facebook. They are learning the true value of having an online community of loyalists and advocates that can be unleashed to do marketing on behalf of a brand. Now, Facebook has practically abandoned non-paid brand presence. At the same time, brand communities activate loyalists to produce advocates. Given these circumstances, I recommend you check out “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”

9) Know How to Measure Results – I do not care what role anyone has in any line of business. You have to show results that are meaningful to the executive team. For social marketers this means going beyond “reach and engagement” because most executives I know cannot translate “reach and engagement” to their KPIs. If this is an area that still has you befuddled read “Here is the ROI for Social Marketing.”

So yes … I think there is a fair share of movers and shakers in the social marketing arena. And yes there are still a greater number of fakers out there. But the point is that you now have a large enough talent pool to go after to make a difference in your business. Drill into your candidates and make sure they have experience in the 9 areas I outlined above. And as always, if you have a question or need some help, contact me.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brands, community, content marketing, Facebook, loyalty, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social media ROI, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Word of Mouth Marketing

Facebook is Dead for Brands, Now What?

Facebook deadIn the summer, Facebook reduced the organic reach of brand’s posts to less than 2% of the brand’s likes. With dismissal results like this, why are brands continuing to have a social strategy that includes Facebook?

According to a Facebook spokesperson, “We’re getting to a place where because more people are sharing more things, the best way to get your stuff seen if you’re a business is to pay for it.”

Fast forward to the present and Facebook is reporting record growth. The company earned $2.96 billion in ad revenue in the third quarter, up 64 percent from just a year ago. So yeah, Facebook is not dead. It is just dead as a social sharing option for brands. For brands, Facebook is nothing more than another mass audience platform to deliver advertisements. Smart companies no longer use paid Facebook to produce blatant sales ads. They create paid stories on Facebook to adapt to users’ behavior. So yes, Facebook is a good platform for targeted paid media. But what should brands do to build relationships and grow their target audience organically?

A good two years ago plus, I suggested that “… Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community” over two years ago. While Facebook has changed much in the past couple of years, my premise has stayed the same. And now it is punctuated more than every.

When it comes to Facebook (or any other platform) you must remember – You do not own it. You never owned the complete data set of your likes and that should have been a yellow flag all along. Facebook has changed its rules of engagement for brands more than any other social platform, but you can expect other platforms to follow course. If you want to manage your own social strategy without having your strings pulled, think about embedding your community on your own site.

The first response I get when I tell (non-strategic) people this is, “But Facebook has a gazillion users that I need to leverage. I could never get as many ‘likes’ on my own community.” And you know what … they are correct. You could never get as many followers on your own community. But your own community can still yield great results.

First off, of all the likes you have converted on Facebook, an overwhelming majority of them never really followed you to begin with. Most of them were enticed by some promotion and then never paid attention to you after that. And now with a practically non-existent organic reach, just about no one sees your post anyway.

The second reality is that if someone opts in to be a community member on your own site, they really are interested in your brand. Yes the number of onsite community members will likely be significantly smaller than the number of Facebook likes. But the community members are true brand loyalist (assuming you give them compelling information, stories, and promotions as a community member). Would it not be great if you had 500 community members and 100 of them were true advocates spreading the word about your brand? What is the value of having 100 objective people sharing your brand, marketing your brand to their friends and family?

Early this year, I gave you pointers on “Successful Social Marketing Integrating Content and Community.” In another article I told you ”Why Your Budget Must Include Website Re-investment.” Consider these two strategies going forward. Make sure the digital assets you own are most valuable and compelling to your audience. Build a marketing strategy based upon the capture and conversion of your target audience on YOUR OWNED digital assets. Then use other social platforms and channels to drive traffic to your digital asset.

In summary, let me ask you a rhetorical question … where do you think you can best monetize your target audience … on your digital asset or one owned by the other person?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Here is the ROI for Social Marketing

social marketing ROISocial marketing ROI; not social media ROI. I hope everyone realizes that “Social Media is Not Social Marketing and Why It Matters.” Additionally, we are talking about social marketing. Not social sales. A successful marketing outcome is lead generation, which is one step short of sales. The successful outcome of sales is a sale. (Pretty profound – huh?)

It is also worth noting that it is very difficult to attribute a specific sale to a social interaction. First of all, many peer-to-peer conversations cannot be monitored. If a verbal exchange happens where one participant recommends a product/service to another and the recipient responds with a purchase, attribution is near impossible. Similarly, most conversations on individuals’ social channels are private. If someone asks their friends for a recommendation on Facebook, and people reply, the individual’s privacy settings most often eliminates the ability to track such exchanges.

So the ROI of social marketing is not sales. It is audience adoption, development, and relationship building to yield awareness, consideration, enthusiasm, loyalty, and advocacy for a brand. And take note that I said brand. Not product/service. The brand is an extension beyond the product or service. It is the personality, stories beyond and overall customer experience that go beyond the specific product/service.

So what exactly does audience adoption, development, and relationship building mean such that it can be measured to evaluate ROI. Let’s start theoretically and then we will move to empirical.

Audience adoption and development means that you are taking the appropriate steps to make target segments (not the entire universe) aware of your offering. You do this by engaging in places the target segments frequent. You aim to go beyond getting their attention and actually get them attracted to your brand. Continuous audience development means that you remain an active participant in the digital channels they frequent so they start to build affinity for your brand. Relationship building continues when your target segment members literarily opt in to be part of your audience by their action. They sign up to receive emails, follow you, like you, and subscribe to your blog/site via RSS. Once they have become a member of your audience you have an opportunity to really enhance their user experience and develop an emotional bond. And the most successful outcome of the relationship for a brand is not a sale. It is having that individual refer and market your product for you. Yes they will buy the product along the way, but if they can influence people to try your product, ultimately you will yield grander sales.

So that is the theoretical side. But as one post-it read on the door of an executive at an agency where I worked, “there is no time for theoretical,” I’ll give you the empirical ROI. That is what matters for all types of executives.

Over two years ago, I wrote an article “Know What Successful Social Media Looks Like.” But like I said in the beginning of this article, social marketing is not social media. So that article requires an update. (And thus this article. :) ) In the original article, I made a point that social was poor to be used as a direct sales tool. But I said social was excellent for teeing up sales as a function of the other stages of a sales/marketing funnel – awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. I talked about a Social Brand Index I formulated which was a complex measurement with different coefficients for various parameters highlighting increased awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy. Below is a chart showing some of the parameters I used.

measured-social-media

But here’s the thing. Yes, successful social marketing increases the Social Brand Index month over month. But the real ROI of social marketing comes from your specific goals and objectives.

First understand what social marketing CAN do – the theory behind it. The value related to audience adoption and development, and relationship building. Understand how those facets relate to your company’s KPIs (key performance indicators). Determine what you want to accomplish, your goals and objectives. Back to marketing and lead generation … Do you need to increase awareness and consideration? Understand your company’s drivers. For example, many companies look at the cost of customer acquisition versus retaining customers. Others look at lifetime value of a customer. Loyalty is key in both these areas. And then of course there is the paramount value of social marketing – advocacy. Advocacy is the ability to unleash objective individuals to market your product/service to their friends, family, and colleagues. Is your company looking to accomplish this?

Social can do all these things, but you may be focused on some specific objectives. Determine this in the beginning of your social marketing effort. Then collect the data and show trending empirical results. Review some of the parameters I provided in the chart above and tweak for your own scenario. This is YOUR ROI. When you make a friend, what is the value of that friend? Different people would answer this question in many different ways. It is analogous with social marketing and companies. Everyone knows there is value in audience adoption and development. Everyone knows there is value in building relationships. But the ROI (the value) of these activities may be different for companies based upon the companies’ KPIs. It is also worth mentioning that different social marketing executions will yield various results on increasing awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy.

In summation, the ROI of social marketing IS audience adoption and development as well as relationship building. Social marketing does have an ROI and can be measured. Based upon specific goals and objectives, various companies can measure social marketing ROI differently. But social marketing ROI can be measured if your strategy addresses what you look to accomplish and how the social marketing strategy contributes to your organization’s KPIs.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Where Social Media Marketing Starts and Ends

For the past couple of years, there have been a number of articles that state the career of the social media manager has a limited life. The rationalization is that the responsibilities that go along with the position will be “natural” functions of everyone’s job. This may be true, but it really is a question of where social media marketing starts and where it ends.

social media marketing start - finish

Let’s recognize that social media and social marketing are not the same thing as discussed in “Social Media is NOT Social Marketing and Why It Matters.” I am reminded of this just about every week in my social consulting profession. If you were to ask ten people where social starts and ends, you would get about eleven different opinions.

This past week I was interviewing for a position at a company for the role of Social Media Director. The interview was going great. About five minutes into the conversation, the interviewee realized that my skill set and experience stretched far beyond the job description of the Director of Social Media. She mentioned there was also an open position for an Audience Development Director as well. Interestingly enough, the Audience Development Director position had some social media responsibilities.

I always thought the job of some one in social media was much more than putting up Facebook and Twitter posts. (And now a host of numerous other possible platforms). The job of “social” should really be about moving the target audience further down the line of brand awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy.

Does this mean that the job title is misleading? Besides Audience Development Director, do we sometimes call these roles Digital Marketers, Inbound Marketers, Experiential Marketers? Probably so. As so many others and I have said countless times, social media cannot be a separate thing and/or an after thought. “Social” must be integrated with many marketing disciplines driven by audience behavior. Nothing else and definitely not organizational structures aimed at putting people in simple boxes. At the end of the day (and profitable year :) ), you want someone that has the ability to capture an audience and get them emotionally tied to your brand. So emotionally tied that they want to tell everyone how great the brand is.

So back to the question at hand … “Where Social Media Marketing Starts and Ends?” I would say that “social” job responsibilities should include the following …

• Set marketing strategy based upon brand position, brand value proposition, target audience demographics and behaviors, and competitive differentiation.
• Set marketing plan consisting of defined objectives, target audience definition, target audience perceptions, defined offering, and call to action(s).
• Determine marketing communication messaging theme and content.
• Develop content strategy, plan, and calendar.
• Determine marketing channels (owned, earned, and paid media) to utilize and converse interactively in.
• Define use of brand digital assets (website, social) to maximize audience participation and word-of-marketing.
• Listen to target audience and interact with them to optimize brand awareness, loyalty, and advocacy.
• Develop brand community and grow.
• Community management – including brand channels and engagement on non-brand owned channels.
• Increase community subscription.
• Identify brand category influencers.
• Use digital PR and digital outreach to brand category influencer.
• Develop partnerships (bloggers, media sites, technology providers).
• Increase email (newsletter) subscription.
• Collaborate with sales team to help advertisers leverage brand content and presence without disenchanting brand audience. (Develop programs for advertisers beyond “display”.)
• Product marketing and road mapping.
• Plan digital presence for events and execute.
• Use analytics tools to gain insights and drive strategy and plan modifications.
• Monitor digital channels for brand mentions and keywords in brand category to gain awareness and increase brand loyalty.
• Deliver quantifiable results – website traffic (visits, unique visits, time on site, lower bounce rate) and social brand index (brand awareness, brand consideration, brand loyalty, and brand advocacy).
• Complete integration of SEO, paid media, and all other marketing efforts (online and offline).

What would you add or subtract from the list?

Make it happen,
Social Steve

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