Archives for: February 2011

How can CMOs Build an Effective Social Media Strategy

This post was first published in the American Marketing Association blog.

Bazaarvoice and the CMO club recently published a report about how CMOs think about social media and how they are finding ROI (or not).  You will find a number of stats and details in the report itself. I want to share my own perspective on what I think are the implications made evident by the research.Crossroads

Social is Important. Every marketer knows it. Customers have shifted the way they buy. Social is here to stay, there is no question about it. Every CMO knows they need to have a social marketing plan. This should not be a surprise to anyone, the report simply confirms it.

Measuring results is harder than expected. The report shows social media is harder to measure than what CMOs expected. By looking at last year’s report, it is clear most of them thought by now their social marketing efforts would have matured enough to have a good measurement framework. Today, most marketers are measuring engagement, not actual business impact. Many are still chasing shiny objects. Consider how many companies are trying to grow their Facebook fan pages without a clear reason why they are doing it or a strategy to convert fans into business value.

Social Marketing is too tactical. Without an indication of results, CMOs can’t make investment decisions on social media. As a result, most companies are still in experimentation mode. Only two years ago, social marketing meant blogs and wikis. Last year it has been about Facebook and Twitter. Now GroupOn (which is not even social, IMHO) and Foursquare join the category of shiny objects. Small and large businesses are jumping on the GroupOn mania, getting 25 cents on the dollar, often without thinking through a strategy.

Sadly, without a framework for results, CMOs have a hard time deciding how much to invest in social. According to research by Altimeter, the average large company is investing only $830K per year in social marketing. This budget can cover salaries for a team of three people, maybe a community platform to run support forums and a listening platform.  The amount of resources, budget and results in social marketing is insignificant relative to overall marketing efforts. The danger is that a CMO hires a social strategist, two people to “man their Facebook and Twitter pages”, start a blog and ‘check’ – they have a social strategy, they can move on to more important stuff. 

CMOs know they need to shift their investments from traditional advertising to social and digital efforts, but they can’t do it blindly. Even if a CMO wanted to shift $20 million dollars to social, they would have a very hard time finding where to spend it.

Reading the results from the research can be heartbreaking. The obvious question is: How to build an effective social strategy? There is no easy answer, however, I want to offer four ideas to help you build social into your marketing strategy:

  1. Social is not a Strategy. Eventually, the word social will go away. Humans are inherently social, most human activity is social. We don’t talk about digital computers or electronic calculators, it is assumed. Companies are in business to make money. According to management guru Peter Drucker, the only valid business purpose is to create a customer. That is a paying customer. Social is not a goal, it is a means to an end. Should you experiment with social? Sure. What I am suggesting is to always think about how each social marketing activity will support your business goals.
  2. Social as a marketing tool. Social tools can help marketing, innovation, customer support and other functions. But this is a blog for marketers. Yesterday I was having lunch with a friend who asked me if he should hire a social media strategist. To his surprise, I said ‘No’. I suggested he should hire a marketer that understands how social media can support the organization’s marketing goals. A marketer that understands how social marketing efforts can work together with ‘traditional’ marketing efforts to create more customers. To make money.
  3. Smart social metrics. In any business functions leading indicators are important. For years, online marketers have measured page views as a leading indicator for customer engagement that then can be converted into paying customers. In the same way that email newsletter subscribers are an engagement metric that companies can leverage to do permission marketing to drive sales, the number of Facebook fans are also an interesting metric that enables permission marketing to drive sales. But you have to think through the experience: from leading indicator to business impact. Build a model that uses social media tools, to drive engagement and activity that then impacts business goals. Take a look at the model in this slideshare from two years ago, and at a more evolved model in Jeremiah Owyang’s Social Media ROI Pyramid
  4. Social drives Advocacy. Social Marketing can be used by marketers in many ways: to build confidence in customers, to learn from customers and monitor your brand to make your organization more customer centric, etc. If you are looking for a quick win, I suggest consider using social media to drive advocacy: tap into Facebook , customer reviews and other forms of social media to empower your customers to sell for you. Word of Mouth is nothing new, it has been around forever. Social Media online makes it easy for happy to customers to drive advocacy and makes it scalable – and often measurable – for marketers.

Good luck with your social marketing efforts. Have fun. Be authentic. Experiment. And learn.

This post was first published in the American Marketing Association blog. Bazaarvoice and the CMO club recently publishe...

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Social Listening, Customer Service and Social Blackmail

Social Listening has empowered organizations to listen to customers and respond in real time, primarily on Twitter. Here is an example where Southwest Airlines (from back in 2008) responded to a customer who had a bad experience. The mere act of listening to customers and showing some empathy can turn a very unhappy customer around.

A few weeks ago an industry expert shared his experience with a bank. He was having some trouble, called customer service and after becoming frustrated with the nonsense policies for the bank, suggested to tell his thousands of followers on Twitter about the experience with the bank. This story, and further discussion via twitter, led to a couple of thoughts:

  • Maybe, the people who demand better service via extortion, threatening to tell their followers about the bad experience, are using a form of blackmail. I know it is the new world of social. Just think about this before you do it.

 

  • In most cases, this influence is overstated. As I stated in a previous post, popularity is not influence. Further, If a user with 5,000 followers tweets a bad experience with a brand, only a fraction of those 5,000 people will read the tweet.  Even if 50 people read the tweet it is bad, I am only stating that not all 5,000 will be exposed to the tweet.

 

  • In any case, it would be unfair if people with more followers received better customer service. If this is the inevitable future, we should all create dummy Twitter accounts and use unorthodox (but common) methods to get a large number of followers so that we can get decent service.

 

  • Brands should realize twitter is simply a form of customer service. The teams monitoring twitter (or Facebook) for customer service issues and responding to those issues are not that different to the teams with a headset responding to the same type of problems for the same customers via phone or email.

 

  • Brands should therefore have consistent customer service policies that apply equally to situations independently of what channels you choose to connect with the company or how popular you are. Imagine if I called an 800 number to complain and told them I have 2,000 people in my Rolodex threatening to call all of them if they don’t help me.

 

  • Brands should be smart enough so that it does not take a social media crisis (á la United Breaks Guitars or a Comcast Technician Sleeping on My Couch) to fix basic customer service policies and pay attention to what their customers want. Delivering great products and great service is the way to become a great company. Solving customer issues won’t get you there.

 

  • Brands should encourage customers to address their concerns, problems and feedback via a private support channels such as email, online chat or phone. Using your Facebook wall as your customer service center does not help anyone but your competition. Other channels are much more efficient at providing customer service, for example, with clear connection to your customer transaction record, no 140 character limit. Just today Fortune published an excellent piece titled “Can I help you? On Twitter, the answer is no” that compares actual experiences on twitter vs. phone vs web for top retailers.

If you think about it, your team that is helping customers via twitter should not be part of the social media team in marketing, maybe this function lives in customer service, in the cal center, where customers can get a consistent experience across interaction points.

If you are a social media marketer, I am not suggesting you move to the customer service department. Instead I am suggesting you consider your career path. As Jeremiah points out, Social Media Strategists are at a critical point where they can either become the ‘social media help desk’ or customer engagement marketers.

Social Listening has empowered organizations to listen to customers and respond in real time, primarily on Twitter. Here...

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Adaptive Marketing

Welcome to The Adaptive Marketer.

As I reflect on my career I have been thinking about how the marketing profession has changed over the last few years:  the internet, mobile devices, social media and now tablets are just examples of drastic changes in the world we live that are changing the marketing profession.

In a way, the challenges marketers face today with social media (“I guess I need a Facebook page but I don’t know what to do with it”) are very similar with the challenges marketers had 10 years ago with the internet (“I guess I need a web page but I don’t know what to do with it”). The way people interact, research information and buy products has changed.

Consumers are evolving faster than corporations. The gap is a threat for existing businesses and an opportunity for entrepreneurs.

A great case study is Blockbuster. The company recently went into bankruptcy and was de-listed from NASDAQ.  What I find really interesting is that the rise and fall off Blockbuster happened over a span of only a few years. The chart below shows the stock price for the last 10 years. It is reasonable to assume the business failed because of an inability to adapt to the new world, a new world that created an opportunity that was captured by Redbox and Netflix.

It is easier to be a historian than to be a prophet, of course. I imagine there were conversations in the Blockbuster conference rooms talking about market dynamics and threats – but it is hard to change the status quo. It is really hard to fundamentally change a business when it is generating billions in revenue

Today marketers at large face a similar dilemma. The marketing tools that worked 50 years ago don’t work anymore.  Marketing no longer can be only about creating messages and buying media to broadcast those messages. Today’s marketer must think about how to empower and amplify customers to be advocates. CMOs know they need to balance their investments by shifting dollars and focus to digital and social, but the path is unclear. Marketers know mobile is another disruptive change – few know what to do with it.

As Christopher Stutzman from Forrester puts it, “To Avoid Extinction, Marketers Must Replace The Bad Habits Of Traditional Marketing With The Habits Of Adaptive Marketing”. In short, marketers must become adaptive.

I considered choosing a name for the blog that was centered on Social Media, but then I realized that social media is only one of the discontinuities that is impacting marketers. I already had a blog on Mobility. I have blogged about the web too. If I call my blog something about social media, I would have to change the blog in a few years. Or months.

Peter Drucker published The Age of Discontinuity back in 1968 (before I was born!). he wrote  “Businessmen will have to learn to build and manage an innovative organization. They will have to learn to build and manage a human group that is capable of anticipating the new, capable of converting its vision into technology, products and process, and willing and able to accept the new.

Welcome to The Adaptive Marketer. As I reflect on my career I have been thinking about how the marketing profession has...

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