Marketers – Be There When I Need You

marketer helpWhy do marketers engage on social platforms? Why do marketers invest in content marketing? What does it mean for a brand to be interactive? There is an abundance of brand social presence. Why would anyone care?

The answer to these questions and rationalization for brand participation takes on numerous explanations. But there really is only one solid reason why brands should devote time and money. Brand marketers need to be ever present and interactive with their target audience because the existing and potential customer base need their help and assistance.

The emergence of digital technologies allows brands to have a voice that travels wider and faster then traditional media advertisement. But the mere fact that a brand can use digital to reach out is not a reason to do so. Simply throwing up content and posts in blogs, media channels, and social platforms are not only useless, but may be counterproductive as well. You may in fact turn off your audience by producing content they do not want to hear and value.

The magic of digital marketing is sharing something that your audience wants or needs at the right time they are looking for it. So how can you be sure you are accomplishing this?

It starts by listening; not talking. Know the sentiment and heartbeat of your audience. In the past year buzz words like real-time marketing and contextual content have been thrown about. But if you really deliver information that makes sense to your audience based upon their needs, desires, purchase history, and challenges in a timely manner, you are addressing their necessities. That is what it means to have successful real-time marketing and contextual content.

The next step after listening is engaging. Have conversations. Learn more. Build a relationship such that your audience begins to open up to you. If you build trust, your audience will tell you exactly what they want. If you have this information in your pocket, your marketing becomes easy. There is no guesswork.

Back in 2011, I wrote an article “The Most Important Word for Marketing.” The answer was and still is empathy. If you have any empathy for today’s consumer and business professionals, you know they do not like to be interrupted with blatant hard sells. As a consumer, don’t you hate pop up ads on the Internet? How many still watch live TV and actually listen to the ads (besides the Super Bowl)? How many of you on LinkedIn, get a request to connect, and then the first thing they do after you accept the connection is email you a letter offering to increase your leads? This is a complete turn off and no trust is ever won.

Digital technologies and its ubiquitous use allow us to communicate with just about anyone. But beware. Do not abuse this privilege. Don’t interrupt people in your marketing efforts. I don’t care if your responsibility is content marketing, social marketing, interactive marketing, inbound marketing, digital marketing, online marketing, real-time marketing or whatever your title means. If you want to capture an audience, you better know them and deliver to their needs. A brand that espouses their agenda fails. A brand that delivers what their audience needs wins.

Listen. Understand. Know. Deliver.

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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Mastering and Scaling Personalized Marketing

personalized marketing

What is the buzzword for marketing as we head into a new year? The heck with buzz. I will guarantee that you will always be successful with your marketing endeavors if you follow your target audience … their behaviors and what turns them on and off. So let’s be clear on a marketing approach that will last forever. Not buzz. Not technology invoked. It is simply “Target Audience Marketing.”

Target audience marketing means that your position, communication, and entire user experience performs for your existing and potential customer base’s needs, wants, and desires. In the words of Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) you exceed expectations. In agency speak; we call this surprising and delighting the customer. Let your customers know you want them and value them.

Nothing makes a person feel more wanted than providing a personal touch. Something that says I recognize you as an individual with a unique lifestyle and interests. How does it feel when someone actually reaches out to you and shows they know something about you and crafts a message for you based upon this knowledge as opposed to mass marketing? It feels pretty good. It makes you feel wanted.

Today, you can capture information about people very easily. People unveil characteristics about themselves in their social profiles and their post. Take time to look at their social presence.

Intuitively, most people know this is a winning approach that will yield successful results. But a majority of marketers are scared off fearing that way too much time is necessary. I hear you. Scaling personalized marketing is definitely a challenge.

I can recommend how to scale personalized marketing. But first, let me ask you a question. Did you send out holiday cards this year? Did you send bulk cards or did you personalize them? Did you have time to write a note of personalization?

What if you committed to sending one, two, or even three personalized messages to individuals in your target audience per day? How much extra time would that really take out of your day? By the end of the year, think about how many people you reached out to as individuals. Think about the opportunity to convert sporadic customers to loyalists. Think about the opportunity to touch people such that they become your advocates and do a good portion of your marketing for you – for free – and most compelling given they are objective sources.

I am suggesting that a little bit of personalized marketing each day goes a long way. I can attest to the fact that it works. Think about what it means to network with people in your professional life. Networking means keeping in touch from time to time. Not looking for immediate payoff. But over time, keeping in touch with peers and professionals pays dividends in the long run. I am suggesting that you do the same exact thing in the marketing of your brand. A little bit each day will enhance users overall experience with your brand.

You can scale personalized marketing. It takes commitment day in and day out.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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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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Think of Content Marketing as Gift Giving All Year Round

I am actually surprised by the amount of holiday eCards I have gotten this year. Some from companies I never heard of.

Holiday cards, the corporate style, what is the point? Why would a company send out cards? Because they want to wish all their potential and existing customers best wishes in the holiday season. AND there is one more reason … They want to say, don’t forget I am here when you are ready to make a purchase or order decision. Perfectly good reasons. But don’t you want both of these messages to resonate with your target audience all year round?

great contentThe message should be strong – we care. The message should be subtle – remember our brand when you are ready to buy. That is exactly how you should go about your content marketing strategy and execution throughout the year. Think about the stories, information, and entertainment that your audience will value each time they read it. It is not about pushing the product or service you offer. It is about delivering something your audience values. It is about letting them know you care – all the time.

Is caring just a seasonal thing for your business? Do you only care about your audience for one particular time of the year? Let your customer base know you care and you want to help them all year round. Do it by having a content plan that first examines what your audience wants. Cater to their desires. Measure their reactions – traffic, comments, and shares.

I hope you have found the content I have delivered to you valuable throughout the year. Here’s to a great year ahead for all.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

PS – starting next month I will be producing an article twice a week for Appinions. If you are not familiar with Appinions, it is a platform that provides real empirical data to help you drive your content strategy and execution. Learn more at appinions.com and make sure to read my column on content marketing tips at blog.appinions.com starting in January.

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Chasing Your Dreams – a Couple of Different Perspectives

chase your dreams

This past week included one of those moments that sticks in your mind for the rest of your life. My son was completely stressed out the day he would hear from the only college he really wanted to attend. Max applied early decision and was notified that he would find out the decision on Thursday at close of business.

Max is truly an inspiration to me. Yes … The son inspires the father. Ever since he was a preschooler, he has been extremely focused and committed to academics (and any other project he would take on). Max is a top performer … Getting just about straight A’s throughout his 12 years of education. I have never met someone so driven. I certainly was not at his age.

On Thursday, Max was on edge all day. He told me that it was the most important day of his life. After school, he was so worked up that he just had to get out of the house. About an hour later, Max calls me … his friend has a flat tire. I tell them I will meet them to help them out. As I am changing the flat, Max checks his college status online and starts to scream … In joy!

Max had his life long dream come true through hard work, dedication, and focus. But actually it is not a life long dream, it is only one chapter of his life. Granted it is a pinnacle moment. But his life will be full of greater accomplishments that will flourish beyond this moment. And hopefully he will see continued success in capturing his dreams. But does anyone really capture all his or her dreams?

This takes me to another scenario … Me, Social Steve, chasing my dreams. I am at the age when most people stop dreaming. An age when people get complacent where they are. They accept what they have achieved and continue to idle along. But that has never been my style since my post-teen years. The chorus of Victoria Williams’ song Century Planet rings in my ears …

Do you want to come out and play the game?
It is never too late.
Hey, do you want to come out and play the game?
It is never too late.

I am still chasing my dreams. I have not reached them. But I still chase my aspirations with the dedication, focus, and commitment my son displays every day. I continue to be led by a line I learned decades ago – “luck is the residue of design.”

This is not to say that I do not have a fulfilling and good life. I have an amazing family that keeps me level headed all the time. Their presence makes me stop and appreciate everything I have. But I do not stop dreaming and chasing. Someone asked me for five words to describe my life. My reply was – “blessed and stressed learning journey.” My life view comes from having a handful of awesome people surrounding me and still reaching for the stars.

So sometimes you chase your dreams and get them. Sometimes you don’t. Another motto I live by is “it takes more failures to succeed than it does to fail.” You have to keep on trying and never have complacency … Even if you have accomplished your dream. If you become content capturing your dream, what are you going to do the rest of your life? The reality is that life is made up of chapters. Is your book of life finished?

My message to you is that you should always be driven and committed to chasing your dreams … At any age. Do not think dreams you attain and ones that elude you define the quality of your life. I think Leo Burnett said it best – “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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5 Marketing Musts for a Successful Year Ahead

5 marketing mustsIt is the end of the year and many are making their predictions on marketing trends for 2015. Yes, I am sure those trends like mobile, content marketing, and big data will make many lists. Heck, I think some prudent blogger will even say smart small data will be bigger than big data.

But I don’t think it should be about trends. I think it is about taking what you have learned about your target audience and putting that to work for your brand. If you want your business to thrive, you need to understand the people you serve. I am often quoted for saying “marketing is the psychology of business.” How do you get their attention? How do you gain their interest? How do you get them to buy your product over the competition’s? How do you make them enthusiastic and loyal to your brand? And most powerful, how do you turn them into your brand advocate such that they share the supreme value of your brand with their friends, family, and colleagues. A business psychologist knows how to motivate people.

So if you take this mentality and examine people’s shopping and purchasing behavior (both B2C and B2B) in the past year you will know what is important and imperative for your marketing strategy and execution. Understand the psychology of your audience. Understand how you appeal to their emotions. Taking this approach I have identified five marketing musts for the coming year.

1) Storytelling – disruptive advertisement is out. People do not want ads thrown in their face. They react negatively and many now ignore ads. 86% of people skip TV commercials. 44% of direct mail is never opened. 91% of people have unsubscribed from company emails they previously opted into. On the other hand, people love compelling stories. “Storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences. Stories are universal in that they can bridge cultural, linguistic, and age-related divides… Storytelling can be used as a method to teach … Learning is most effective when it takes place in social environments that provide authentic social cues about how knowledge is to be applied. Stories function as a tool to pass on knowledge in a social context.” (Source) One thing has not changed since the beginning of mankind … People like stories. People remember stories.

2) Holistic User Experience – Consider how your audience captures information. Who their influencers are? How they become aware of products and consider them for purchase. What path do they take on their journey to purchase and how do they remain loyal. What motivates them to become an advocate? Aim to get your target audience emotionally bound to your brand by having deep empathy for them. And then leverage that knowledge of empathy by delivering a user experience in every company-customer touch point that is truly appreciated and valued by the target audience. (By the way, if you want some excellent suggestions on integrating storytelling with your user design, checkout Adam Kleinberg’s article “Storytelling and User Experience Are on a Collision Course” in AdAge.

3) Personalization – people are rejecting brand communication because they are inundated with uninteresting and irrelevant correspondence being thrown at them. Companies need to use information sources to better understand their audience. Companies need to deliver meaningful engagement based upon social listening and profiles, purchase history and other CRM data. Individuals are much more likely to accept brand communication if it is relevant to them personally.

4) Community – A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values. Don’t be preoccupied with the number of community members. Rather, think of each community member as a potential brand advocate. Your brand should not only demonstrate that it shares common values with its audience, but also be the source for people to engage with other likeminded individuals. If the conversations between people with common values happen in the brand domain, the brand is further associated and valued to each member of the group. Learn more about the business value of community in the articles “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community” and “Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community.”

5) Advocates – Nothing is more influential then an objective person telling another about the greatness and value of a brand. The word of friends, family, and colleagues clearly trumps a company marketing their brand. So what if a brand focused on a finite relatively small group to engage with to get them to love their products and brand. What if the marketing strategy was to then unleash this group to rally support for the brand? I am not suggesting forgetting about the mass target audience. It is not an either-or brand-marketing proposition. Do both. But recognize the results you can drive with a set of advocates. Make advocacy one of your marketing pillars.

And there you have my marketing suggestions for the next year. It is not a list taken from assessing technology wizardry. Not a list based upon trends and hype. It is customer centric. Always going back and understanding the behavior and motivations of your audience will drive success.

Marketers need to evolve because their audience is smarter and has more control than in previous years. Marketers’ brand position and reputation is now partly defined by the democratic people. I believe that marketers now need to think of themselves as running a successful media company. That is, they always ask themselves, “How do I get the audience to consume my brand, my story, my video, my picture, my article? What will make them share it with their friends?” If you follow the five areas I outlined, you will get there with measured success.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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