Tagged by: Social Media

10 Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing

There are many guides, best practices and tips for social media marketing out there. This is a different list. These are 10 principles that are fundamental for organizations that are building a social media plan. The goal is to help you establish a mindset that will help you come up with a strategy. I learned these principles after more than a decade of working on social media and community strategies for startups to Fortune 50 organizations..

To start on a light note, let me share an extended version of an entertaining way to explain social media 101

Social Media Explained

– CLICK IMAGE FOR A LARGER VERSION – 

OK, now let’s get to the important stuff. For each principle I provide a summary and a link to an older post where you can read more on the topic.

The 10 fundamental principles for social media marketing

1. Social Media is not a strategy. Social media is interaction, it’s a channel, a tool that can be used for many things – like email, or video conferencing technology or a CRM system or in-person meetings. Social is most effective when integrated with other parts of the business to support a business strategy. Read more.

2. Social strategists are coaches. A mature social team crafts the strategy, provides a technology foundation, guidelines and coaching to enable multiple groups in the organization to be active in social media. If the social media is the only one participating in the conversation, you are doing something wrong. Read more.

3. Social Media is changing fast. My 14 year old daughter has no idea what Foursquare is. Her group use Instagram and Vine more than Facebook and Email. AOL is history. Be aware of social network and style preferences for each of your target audiences. Prepare to be adaptive. More stats.

4. Social media marketing will go away. Soon. Why? Because everything will be social or will have an aspect of social. Every well-rounded marketer must have social media skills and experience. Just like every well rounded marketer requires knowledge of SEO, web technologies or digital marketing. It’s just marketing.

5. There is no social media ROI. The exact value of a Facebook like or a Twitter follower is zero. At least until you come up with an integrated plan to engage fans and create value, they are worthless. If you are measuring ROI for social media activities you are doing something wrong. You must measure the contribution of social media tools and tactics to greater company strategies. Like customer acquisition, branding, support and customer feedback. Read more.

6. Correlation is not Causation. When measuring Social Media effectiveness it is easy to say things like ‘people who follow us on Twitter buy 40% more and buy 3x more often’. We are inclined to believe customers buy more because they follow us on twitter, while the opposite is more likely to be true: customers who like us, are loyal and buy more are likely to follow us on twitter. Correlation does not create value. Read more.

7. Don’t oversell social media. Ads on Facebook or Linked in is not Social Marketing, it is just Advertising. Publishing discount coupons on twitter and other social channels is just taking advantage of an audience to run promotions. Measure value holistically and take into account all costs (including effort, focus and cost of opportunity). Read more.

8. Most communities fail and die. It is alluring to ‘own’ our community of customers and advocates. The reality is that it is very hard to create a community. A better strategy is to fish where the fish are and participate in existing communities. We talk a lot about social media success, we need to talk more about our failures and learn from them. Read more.

9. Becoming a social business is not about adopting social tools, and launching a social campaign. It is about changing your culture to be more customer centric and putting the customer at the center of the business. Read more.

10. Social is just one of five key factors that are changing our world along with mobile, sensors, data and context. Read more about the Age of Context in this post.

If you are building a social strategy for a company, let me suggest this presentation by Warren Lee of Adobe. It provides a useful framework for organizing a team, integrating it with other areas in marketing and specific KPIs that is well aligned (is a good example even) with point #5 above.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below

 

There are many guides, best practices and tips for social media marketing out there. This is a different list. These are...

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Interview with Ted Rubin the Worlds Most Followed CMO

This is the second in a series of interviews of marketing leaders and CMOs that I respect and admire.

Ted Rubin CMOToday I am honored to interview Ted Rubin, one of the most forward-thinking and influential marketers. Many people know Ted for his enthusiastic, energetic and undeniably personal connection to people. besides his work as CMO, Ted is a leading social marketing strategist, keynote speaker and brand evangelist.

Ted is the most followed CMO on Twitter according to Social Media Marketing Magazine and  #13 on Forbes 2013 list of Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers. I had the fortune of meeting Ted when he was the CMO at e.l.f. cosmetics and later at OpenSky. Here is what he has to say:

1. What company is an example of good marketing today? Who do you admire?

Duane Reade is doing a great job marketing and building relationships. They are leading the way for their parent company Walgreens. I admire Calvin Peters at Duane Reade for being open to innovation and for using social media and content to build relationships and enhance the rest of his marketing and PR efforts.

2. Did you have a mentor or a person you learnt the most from? What was a key lesson?

I have had many mentors over the years, and constantly seek out those I respect and admire. The most important lesson I ever learned was to listen, observe, and trust my guts instincts.

3. What story of a successful marketing strategy could you share?

The strategy I put together with the Collective Bias team for Duane Reade detailed here: Duane Reade Surpasses 1 Million Followers, Becomes Twitter’s Most Followed Retailer in the Drug, Food and Mass Arena Worldwide

You can read the case study published by Twitter here, but in summary, the company combined organic tweets with promoted accounts with geo-targeting to reach twitter users in specific markets like New York, Boston and San Francisco. Duane Reade’s VIP Blogger team featured rich media and promoted useful and interesting content highlighting content created by customers.

As a result, the company saw a 6,700% increase in followers in one year (almost 1.5 million today), a 4% promoted tweet engagement rate and 28% increase in sales during a specific campaign. Very nice to see some real ROI number (as in sales lift) from a social campaign.

4. What is your marketing superpower, the most important skill that makes you a great marketer?

For me it is all about Looking People in the Eye Digitally… truly doing my best to connect, be responsive, and care.

5. What interesting book have you read recently?

Best social media book ever written was authored in 1936, and it is more relevant, valuable, and important today than it was then… How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I keep a copy on my iPhone, iPad and coffee table and read from it often.

6. What new, modern tactic, tool, or aspect of marketing should marketers pay more attention to?

The ability to go into the “social” homes of their consumers and prospects, see and hear what they are talking about and interested in, and really get to know them where they live instead of waiting for them to come to their Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and YouTube channels. It seems so simple, but is being totally overlooked my almost all brands and marketers.

7. What good aspect of basic marketing have marketers neglected in recent years?

Oh, that’s easy. So many have forgotten about marketing to their target audience, and the importance of frequency. Make it relevant and of value and do it again and again.

8. What skills will marketers will need in the future? How do you stay sharp?

Clearly they will need to learn to wade through vast amounts of data. But more importantly they need to trust their judgment, guy instinct, and common sense, and not to make it all about data like some are suggesting.

9. What was the turning point in your career?

I have had many turning points in my career, but most recently is was jumping with both feet into the opportunities presented for relationship building at scale by the growth of social platforms, and not looking back.

10. How do you increase marketing’s relevance and influence in the organization?

Marketing’s relevance and influence will rise to the top when marketers not only use social tools to market to their consumers, but wrap a social shell around the entire organization to add value, create deeper employee loyalty, more effective knowledge sharing, improved brand reputation, lowered costs, and most importantly, increased revenues.

11. What blog would you recommend?

Here are three: www.Sethgodin.com, www.Mediapost.com, and  www.BusinessInsider.com

12. How would you summarize your digital marketing strategy?

BE Authentic, don’t just ACT it. This might seem obvious… but authenticity is on the verge of becoming just another buzz word in social media marketing. TRUE authenticity (not just using that word often in your tweets and posts) will set your brand (product or personal) apart in today’s highly competitive market.

13. What experience in your past has best prepared you to be a marketing leader?

Being a divorced Dad, fighting to keep my daughters in my life, and then having to re-build my relationship with two teenage girls who were alienated from me.

14. How marketing leaders can be better mentors and true leaders of their teams?

Take the time to listen to your employees. Even when it’s about what they did for the weekend. Make it known that you truly care.

14. Any final thoughts or anything else you would like to share?

Welcome to the ‘Age of Influence,’ where anyone can build an audience and effect change, advocate brands, build relationships and make a difference. ANYONE

Relationships are like muscle tissue… the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become.

Thanks Ted!

As you can see Ted is all about relationships. His book, Return on Relationship was released January 29th.Connect with Ted via twitter at @TedRubin and follow his blog  http://TedRubin.com

return_on_relationship

This is the second in a series of interviews of marketing leaders and CMOs that I respect and admire. Today I am honored...

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The Conversation Company – Embracing Social Customer Engagement

Social media strategy? Yes, we have one. We are advertising on Facebook and we hired a social media manager to tweet our promotions and publish stuff on Facebook. Sorry, that’s not a strategy. Since 2009, I have been promoting the idea that social media is not a strategy. In fact, Facebook is not a social media company, it is an advertising company.

This is why I immediately connected with The Conversation Company, Boost your business through culture, people and social media by Steven Van Belleghem. TheConversationCompany

Here is my favorite quote, from the prologue by Joseph Jaffe “You are only as smart as your actions. And yes, your results: the impact you make on your business, your brand and your earnings”. This is an important guiding principle for all social media marketers and really for all marketers. It’s not about the followers or the ‘cool’ marketing campaign that uses the latest social media gizmo. It is about creating positive impact for the business.

In this book, Steven gets is right: social media is only a tool for customer conversations. A channel for engagement, just like email. The hard part is not using social media tools (there is too much focus on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook). The hard part (the meaningful part) is changing the company culture to make the entire organization customer centric. “The challenge is for companies to become more human”

This sounds very cool, high-level strategy speak. Similar to mission statements published by many companies stating customer is at the center of the business, yet nothing happens. To make this vision actionable, the author provides very clear and specific guidance such as: “To be effective at using social media for customer service, you must first embrace customer service and stop looking at it as a cost center.  Instead consider it can work as a conversation starter.”

“The focus must be placed in conversations between people. Because they influence opinions. Online and offline. Customer conversations form the basis of growth for a company.” Over a decade ago, the Cluetrain Manifesto established that markets are conversations. Steven has taken this idea and wrote a book to guide you how to make it a reality inside an organization.

The book provides a very complete 3-step roadmap for implementing a customer conversation strategy including best practices and real-world examples . For example, one of the first steps the author recommends: encouraging customers to have a conversation about their experience with your company – to capture their testimonials and amplify their voice.

Steven goes on to say the traditional 4 ‘P’s of marketing should be replaced (or augmented) by the four ‘C’s: Customer Experience, Conversation, Content and Collaboration. These are four key areas of customer engagement. I would suggest adding one more: Context (relevance) which implies also the creation of Value for customers.

Social Businesses engage in conversations. This means they embrace every customer contact as an opportunity to engage with customers, learn from them and add value. Customer engagement (conversation) experts are not social media tool managers. They are change agents tasked with making the customer the center for the company.

Re-inventing the business into a conversation company is hard, it requires making deeper changes than executing on a tactical social media marketing plan. The transformation starts with company values and impacts all aspects of the company.

Sounds like a job far beyond the scope of a marketing department? Not really. Today, Marketing is at the core of the business. The opportunity is for marketers to step up and drive the strategy, play a much larger role in the organization. This is the new role of marketing. This book is a good first step. I can certainly recommend it to anyone looking for ideas to maximize the value of social media.

Social media strategy? Yes, we have one. We are advertising on Facebook and we hired a social media manager to tweet our...

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Are you ready to become a Social Business?

What is a Social Business

What Exactly is a Social Business?

Here we go again – we have a new buzzword, all the social media experts are talking about the “Social Business”

Peter Kim defines social business [link http://www.beingpeterkim.com/2012/03/what-matters-in-social-business.html ] as “a social business harnesses fundamental tendencies in human behavior via emerging technology to improve strategic and tactical outcomes” – interesting but it sounds like something a consultant would say.  IBM defines it as an agile, transparent and engaged organization (of course, they sell collaboration, community and social listening tools).

I don’t think it is that complicated. What does it mean to be a social business? To me, it is not about having a team of people monitoring Linkedin, Twitter and, if you are in the ‘leading edge’, Google+ and Pinterest. Those are tools, communication channels.

 

Photo courtesy of Tobym http://www.flickr.com/photos/48089670@N00/with/66419210/ under the Creative Commons license

What it means to be a social business can’t be relegated to a small rapid-response, crisis-prevention team. The social strategist should be a customer interaction strategist, not the leader of a support team that is trying to move quickly to avert a Comcast-like crisis or a United breaks guitars viral video incident. There is no formula to make content viral either.

To me, running a social business has a much deeper meaning. I say ‘deeper’ because it requires a fundamental culture change that spreads across the business and changes the way the business operates.

Social Business is about being sincerely interested in listening to customers and empowering employees to have an open conversation with them.

What do I mean? On one side Marketing is paying (struggling) to reach to customers to tell the company message while ‘customer service’ is trying to reduce call volume- that is, trying to talk less to customers. Does that make sense to you?

Why would a company provide better service via the social media team on Twitter than via the 1-800 phone line. [link https://twitter.com/#!/augieray/status/187539854303838209] Figure it out. Previously I talked about how Social is not a strategy [link http://theadaptivemarketer.com/2011/02/20/how-can-cmos-build-an-effective-social-media-strategy/ } and how companies need to develop holistic customer interaction and customer service strategies that span traditional and social channels. http://theadaptivemarketer.com/2011/02/16/social-listening-customer-service-and-social-blackmail/

Is your Business sincerely interested in listening to customers and empowering employees to have an open conversation with them? To help you find out, here is a short Social Business test

  1. You are not a social business if you leave people on hold for 30 minutes. If you do that, the message to customers is ‘we don’t want to talk to you’. I am proud to work at Rackspace where on average it takes customers 6 seconds to connect with a person who cares.
  2. You are not a social business if the emails you send to customers come from ‘do not reply’. Think about it: you are talking to customers and telling them, “Please don’t even try to talk to us, we don’t care, your email won’t even make it”.
  3. You are not a social business if you don’t publish your contact information on your site and encourage customers to contact you. How many times have you as a customer navigated nests of pages to try to find an email or 800 number? How many buttons does it take in your phone system for a customer to speak with a human?
  4. You are not a social business if you don’t have a formal customer feedback process, that gives the team designing products and services the opportunity to understand what customers want. A system that makes it easy for front-line customers to pass feedback, makes it easy for customers to volunteer feedback, a system that collects and summarizes it, and a product development team that reads the summaries and acts on it.
  5. You are not a social business if at least everyone in marketing spends time with customers every week. When I was responsible for social strategy for a F500 company back in 2004, every single employee in a division of many thousands was required to spend at least 4 hours interacting with our customer community. Ask your team, when was the last time they spoke with a customer (and listened)?
  6. You are not a social business if you don’t empower front-line empowers to help customers. If you don’t allow them to have an honest conversation with customers.
  7. You are not a social business if you speak to customers in a different language: you can’t connect with customers if you talk to them in consultant-speak, corporate-speak or marketing-speak (I am trying, it is hard). Talk to people like people, like you would if you were having a conversation between two humans (you are).
  8. You don’t have a social business if your social media team spends most of their time fixing customer problems via Twitter and broadcasting self-centered communications and discounts via Facebook.

To drive the point home, you can have a social business even if you don’t have a social media team and if you don’t have a Twitter account. Think about the small business that talks to customers every day, where employees know customers on a first-name basis and not only know about customer’s personal lives but they actually care about them. Everyone in the business understands what customers want, and there is a relationship with customers that goes beyond transactions. To me, that’s a social business.

Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are only tools to interact with customers. They are awesome tools that have incredible potential to transform your business and the relationship with customers. But you may want to start by simply answering the phone and talking to customers.

This post originally appeared at MarketingProfes as a contributed article.

Update: based on the comments I received to the MarketingProfs post, I want to add that I am not against the philosophy aof social business as expressed in the social media and collaboration circles. I am a fan of Peter Kim and many of the contributions from the Dachis Group. In fact, I have been an advocate of taking advantage of social media for almost a decade as well as empowering employees with enterprise social collaboration (now thwe Enterprise 2.0 conference calls itself the Social Business conference – how quickly buzzwords evolve).

The key point I am trying to make is that we marketers are too quick to chase the shiny object and pursue ‘advanced’ marketing technique when we have not really though about the basics. Markeitng is common sense. Becoming a social business is part of a business strategy that is centered around empowering employees to share knowledge and a personal interactionw ith customers, it is not about a set of ‘social media’ tools that a company can license.

Looking forward to more comments.

What Exactly is a Social Business? Here we go again – we have a new buzzword, all the social media experts are talking a...

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Facebook Marketing – What Makes Sense?

This week Sucharita Mulpuru wrote a blog post about Facebook commerce that turned out to be quite controversial. Sucharita’s previous post on the topic was aptly named 500MM users.. so why can’t they show you the $$. A bold quote from the post “No one’s revenue will come from Facebook”, along with a recommendation to stop wasting time chasing F-shiny objects, and focus on fixing the basics (like search and ratings & reviews) which have proven results.

My thoughts are pretty aligned with Sucharita, in the sense that no one seems to be making money from Facebook other than Facebook, Zynga and a few agencies – in the gold rush the money was made selling picks and other mining tools. I see brands confused about how to even think about Facebook and chasing meaningless metrics such as number of fan “likes”. When marketing leaders share their goal for social marketing this year is to get to 100K or 1 million likes, I ask them what they will do with the customers that have liked the brand, usually resulting in blank stares and confusion.

So I want to share my humble opinion on the role of Facebook for marketers.

One of the principles I feel strongly about is that social media is only a set of tools to help you achieve business objectives. Then, let’s start with the basics and think about how can interactive marketers leverage Facebook to achieve business and marketing goals. “Social media goals” don’t count, unless they are leading indicators in the context of a broader strategy. Think about it: the main reason marketers care about Facebook for one simple reason: there are over half a billion potential customers using it every day. As I wrote in a previous post, you have to fish where the fish are – but you have to bring them home (your site) to cook them (make money). It was the same with video and other new tools available to marketers.

Sounds logical, yet, brands continue spending millions of dollars in media sending customers to Facebook. The traffic should flow the other way around.  Getting customers to respond to an ad is difficult enough to send them to a site where you have little control with the hopes they will “like” your brand and maybe someday somehow and up on your site or buying your product.

A couple weeks back I saw an online ad for Sierra Mist Natural, curious to learn more about the new drink I clicked on the ad, which took me to Sierra Mist’s Facebook page. Not only was this not the experience I was expecting, I was unable to learn more about the product, learn what makes it natural (is it using Stevia for sweetening, natural flavors or something else?) and landed on a Facebook page where a couple customers had quite negative comments on the product.

To sort through all the confusion it could be useful to think about Facebook as four discrete opportunities:

1. Encouraging fans to advocate your brand on Facebook

This is the most basic, but also the most powerful Facebook tactic so far and it’s free. I have blogged about this extensively. People trust recommendations from their friends. Chances are their friends are on Facebook too.

 If your brand has 50,000 fans (Sorry Facebook, “likes” does not work as well), and if you can get one of every five to tell their friends how much they like your brand, you would have 10,000 people advocating personally to an about 1.3 million potential customers about your brand. 1.3 million customers you probably can’t reach through your traditional marketing efforts. Your customers can advocate on Facebook without even having to “like” your brand. You don’t even need a brand page on Facebook – customers can advocate directly from your website.

2. Your brand’s presence on Facebook (brand page) and “Likes” associated with it

Most brand pages on Facebook are quite boring and expose visitors to customer service issues or provide irrelevant information to customers. It’s time to get creative and map a proper brand experience on Facebook. The possibilities are endless, but don’t create siloed microsites or just copy your website in the Facebook iFrame.  Do something useful like providing reviews, Q&A, links to your site and resources that will engage customers in a social context. There are so many things a brand can do here that it would be impossible for me to provide best practices, so I won’t try. This is an area where a good agency can help.

3. Facebook commerce

To clarify, with F-Commerce I mean not only adding your product catalog to your Facebook page but actually enabling transactions within it: you can complete an order without ever leaving Facebook. I think it makes sense for a few select use cases: buying tractors on Farmville, buying a song using iTunes credits, etc.  However, I am really skeptical this will be mainstream – ever. For a couple of reasons:

  • Leaving Facebook to complete the transaction on the brand’s main site is easy. It takes seconds and can be completely transparent for the user.
  • The user experience will probably be better on the main site. Brands have invested millions on content management systems, search capabilities, interactive features, social capabilities and other elements that give customers a better on-site experience than what is possible on Facebook.
  • Many consumers probably consider most brand sites to be more secure and reliable than Facebook. With the news about Facebook security and privacy issues I guess people would rather share their credit card number with an established business than with a social network that has no good track of protecting personal information.

Alvendia (now 8thBridge) shared the total sales on Facebook across all the brands they serve peaked at $100K in December. That’s less than $3 million per month, a number that is largely insignificant for their client base. Brands should still make their product catalogs available on Facebook to encourage advocacy and sharing, with an easy link to the product page on the main site.

4. Advertising on Facebook

In the end, Facebook is not a social company – it’s a media company that makes money by selling advertising. Advertising on Facebook should be evaluated like you would consider advertising on any other media outlet: based on audience profiles, advertising formats, targetability and ultimately, click-through rate. I am not an expert, but it is common knowledge that CTRs for Facebook are pretty low compared to industry averages. Maybe because when customers are in “social mode” they are not so interested in ads. The risk is that customers start mentally ignoring the ad space on the right most like most of us ignore banner ads on most web sites.

Then again, for the right reasons, with the right strategy, advertising on Facebook may be the right thing to do. Back in 2004, I was one of the first to advertise on Facebook when we were promoting the Imagine Cup. That particular campaign yielded decent results.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you start with your business goals in mind (and not with “let’s do something on Facebook”) then go on to evaluate the four ways you can leverage Facebook for your business in the context of a customer experience journey, Facebook can be a really powerful tool that produces top-notch results.

 

This week Sucharita Mulpuru wrote a blog post about Facebook commerce that turned out to be quite controversial. Suchari...

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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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Building an Effective Influencer Strategy

Influencer strategy seems to be one of the pillars of social media marketing. There are many questions about how to identify, reward and empower influencers. So let’s say you have identified the top 1000 influencers in tour space. And then what?  It reminds me of the U2 song that goes “We thought we had the answers….it was the questions we had wrong”.

 What is an influencer? Often an influencer is measured in terms of the number of friends of twitter followers. Fans and followers are a measure of reach or popularity, not influence, but it is related. An influencer is someone who can convince other people to buy from you. That’s all that matters. From all the options for social media marketing activities the only ones that matter are those who result in someone buying from you.

 “influencer” is not a label for people in general. It’s not a species. There is no influencer gene that I know of. People have different levels of influence in different topics, it is contextual. For example, I am an influencer when it comes to photography, but a normal guy when it comes to sports and very much not an influencer in terms of cosmetics.

 How do I know I am an influencer in the context of photography? Because many of my friends and colleagues have purchased digital cameras based on my recommendations.  Many people I don’t even know have done the same – people I have never met, never exchanged emails with, people that don’t follow me. How? I have influenced them because they have read my opinions online and relied on my knowledge to make a buying decision. They trust me because I am a a normal consumer, like them, and I have lots of passion and experience about photography.

 All consumers, myself included, avoid or ignore advertising. When exposed to advertising most people don’t believe what it says. Grab a photography magazine and look at the ads: all of them say their cameras are awesome. People don’t trust marketers. But they trust people like them. They will be influenced by other customers who have experience with the products they are considered. People who like talking about their experiences, share their knowledge and opinions are advocates.

 The most common influencer strategy is to find the top influencers and reward them for their advocacy. Depending on the nature of your business, this could be a good strategy – or not. Often these customers, identified as influencers, are already predisposed to buy. Surely they deserve some recognition and special treatment, and you must empower them to be advocates. However, you cannot influence the influencers easily. They are experts; they know their stuff and probably know more about your products than most people in your company.

 Here is an interesting idea: instead of finding influencers why don’t you create influencers. Or better said, you can turn a customer who is very satisfied into an advocate by empowering him or her to influence others.

Imagine you are in the banking business. Now imagine you have a customer that is really happy with your checking account, the service from your credit card and your credit services. This customer is willing to tell other people about how great your bank is.

Imagine how powerful it would be to put this customer in a center of a room full of customers who are interested in checking accounts. Imagine if he had the ability to share his experience with your bank, in his own words, to all these potential customers. That would be really powerful, right? This room full of prospects is your website, they are visiting the “checking accounts” page, or the “credit cards” page. They are interested in your services, why else would they be there?

 That’s the power of empowering customers to share opinions and experiences (what we at Bazaarvoice  call reviews and stories). They allow customers to become influencers, enabling “normal” people to become advocates for your brand, in a very authentic and very convincing way. By enabling this conversation on your site, on your product or service pages, you are creating an influencer strategy that results in more sales. It’s a proven system.

 A great thing about a customer influencer strategy is that you don’t even have to find these influencers. You don’t have to identify them or know their name or pamper them with special treatment. However, you can still recognize them. You can give the more influential customers a badge that recognizes their contributions or their expertise.

 And this recognition can be helpful for customers. It helps them find among dozens of other customer opinions and give content to these opinions. In fact, customers can vote on the helpfulness of other customers contribution and sort them based on their helpfulness.  The helpfulness votes help identify the most influential customers, those that write reviews that help customers make decisions, which earn them badges in turn.

 All these pieces work together to promote advocacy, identify and recognize influencers in a way that helps customers buy. This system of advocacy and influence is customer centric, customer-driven and helps customers. Except for the sales, which benefit you and your business.

 10 ideas for developing an influencer strategy:

  1. An influencer is someone who helps other people buy from you
  2. Influence is contextual
  3. Popularity is not influence
  4. Passion, knowledge advocacy and popularity are factors of influence
  5. Everyone can be an influencer about the topics they are passionate about
  6. You don’t have to know your influencers (but it can help). Instread of finding them allow influencers to sel-identify
  7. Influencers are “turned-on” by empowering them to be advocates
  8. Most influencers are hard to influence. You can’t buy influence – stay authentic
  9. Your most influential customers are already predisposed to buy from you
  10. Influencers are often driven by status: recognition is more important than rewards
  11. (bonus) If your products suck it will be really hard to find influencers. The opposite is true, of course.

Influencer strategy seems to be one of the pillars of social media marketing. There are many questions about how to iden...

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Joining Bazaarvoice

BV Logo

It’s been almost three months since I joined Bazaarvoice as Sr. Director for Product Marketing. It has been a very rewarding and fun experience. But let me start from the beginning:

I worked for Vignette in a similar role for about a year and a half. Then the company was acquired by Open Text and I was offered a position to run strategic communications, which I did for a few months. My team included PR, AR, social media and a new CXO/executive relationship program.

This was a very exciting position from the perspective that it was all about influencer marketing. However, I had significant differences of opinion with the senior management team in terms of strategy, company culture and marketing position. Once I started working on that position I felt like I was an evangelist for a religion I did not believe in. Almost at the same time, Bazaarvoice presented me with a unique opportunity.

My Social Media background

For the last almost 10 years I have been working with social media and online communities. At Motorola we created the first mobile developer communities back in 2001 for the earliest smart phones. Developers have relied on peer-based online and offline communities for learning and support. Then I had the unique opportunity to lead Microsoft’s community strategy starting in the developer division and as the driver for the Broad Customer Connection initiative company-wide. Looking back, we did some pretty amazing stuff back then that would still be considered leading edge today.

During my time at Vignette, I helped the company transition from Enterprise-content management to a vendor that uniquely understood how to manage both enterprise content and social media content. The Vignette social media strategy was looking good until the acquisition.

Four Areas of Social Media

I see four discrete aspects of social media as they relate to how companies interact with it.

  1. First there is the Social Web made mainly of social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Flickr, eVite, eBay, Slideshare – etc. There are many case studies about how companies are using these tools to connect, listen, respond, interact with customers. I have a pretty cool story I will share in a future blog post.
  2. Peer support communities proved their value many years ago. This includes developer communities, support forums, NIkeID and others that are mainly knowledge based or break-fix.
  3. Social media in the enterprise, better known as Enterprise 2.0 took the concepts of social media and Web 2.0 into employee Facebook-like applications converging with collaboration and knowledge management. SharePoint and Salesforce Chatter have a good chance of dominating this market.
  4. Standalone marketing community sites. Often times these appear as complements to brand sites, as promotional micro sites or as standalone sites that aim to capture a conversation, increase engagement and somehow magically produce business results. I feel like this is the least mature aspect of social media. This is the space where I will focus the rest of this post.

Build it and They Will Come

The initial idea was great. Essentially marketers love the idea of being the center of attention, of hosting the conversations around their brand and their market. If your business is selling guitars online it would be very compelling to be the Facebook of musicians and host the space where they would gather and chat about stuff, giving you “permission” (in Seth Godin’s terms) to market to them and turn them into buyers.

The problem: Facebook won. Music aficionados are on Facebook. They are probably also fans of organic food, classic rock, the Gap, etc. But they don’t think about these brands when they want to discuss topics related to these markets (food, music, clothing) because their conversation is happening on the social web, where their friends are today. In Jeremiah Owyang’s words “fish where the fish are”. 

Think about it from your perspective: how many things are you passionate about, how many brands you like. Do you maintain a profile in each of these brand’s communities? Are you active there? Or do you do all your social webbing on Facebook and twitter?

The idea sounds great but it’s a myriad. I recently blogged about this in what I think is a controversial post that includes some informal research about the failure of online marketing communities.

Where’s the beef?

For the last two years companies have been hiring social media experts. Many of them are good communicators, experts in the use of social media tools but lack the track record of driving real business results. Companies realized they needed to do something in social media and given their lack of experience CMOs had to trust social media experts and give them free reign to do whatever they wanted. They wanted a social media strategy.

Last year companies started asking themselves, after doing this for a few months, Where is the ROI? How much should we invest next year in social media? How do we know what tools to use? Facebook fans don’t make payroll. Business week published an article “Beware of Social Media Snake Oil” based on ideas from David Armano. A year ago, my presentation at Web 2.0 focused on the lack of measurement and idea that you don’t need a social media strategy because social media is a tool that should support business objectives.

Some stats: (about a year old) . eMarketer found 84% of marketers don’t measure social media ROI at all. A survey I did with the Marketing Leadership Roundtable shows only 12% of Web 2.0 initiatives are rated as effective. The Marketing Sherpa Social Media benchmark shows social media has been most effective at influencing brand reputation and awareness, improving search engine rankings and increasing traffic. 

Social Media has produced soft benefits: awareness, participation, customer feedback. There is no question Social Media is a great tool to interact with customers, listen, broadcast and solicit feedback. What about making real money?

Enter Social Commerce

Social commerce is the practice of leveraging customer interactions to drive real business value. It started by taking customer’s opinions to help other customers make decisions on what to buy: ratings & reviews. Today, ratings and reviews are one of the primary drivers of eCommerce sales. Think about the last time you bought something on Amazon. As soon as I land on a product page I scroll down past all the traditional marketing content to land directly on ratings and reviews.

Now social commerce leverages not only opinions – also knowledge (questions and answers), experiences (stories), the Social Web, mobile shopping and a number of innovative tools. The direct correlation to business results is proven: higher sales, lower costs, reduced returns. For more stats see www.bazaarvoice.com/stats . Furthermore, social commerce can help companies breathe customer oxygen to understand the voice of the customer and derive insights that transform every aspect of the organization.

The secret is in what I call contextually relevant community. It is about using social media in a way that is relevant to the user based on their intent (what they are trying to accomplish) and their desired experience (i.e. the websites where they go to accomplish this). Social Commerce makes relevant, trusted advice, opinions, knowledge and experiences available to people as they look for products, decide what to buy, or learn how to use a product.

The conversation is not about what you had for lunch last week or the pictures of your dog: it is about the relationship that exists between you and the brand: the products you like, the people that enjoy products like you , your knowledge about these products, experiences you have had with them. It is contextually relevant to the brand as well.

Why Bazaarvoice

Leaving a global, public company with hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, in a job where I was innovating how to work with influencers and had three directors reporting to me to a small startup in Austin was a difficult decision. There were tradeoffs and risks.

Today I am 100% confident I made the right decision. There is energy and passion at this company. I work with really bright people. Our executives are smart. Brett, CEO inspires me. I enjoy every day at work. My wife told me after two weeks I am a different person at home. She loves Bazaarvoice too.

It’s good to be part of a successful company. Today, Bazaarvoice serves over 600 of the leading brands globally, including over 50 of the top 100 retailers in the U.S. We are hiring as fast as we can. There are probably 80 open positions on our website today. We have close to 10 full-time recruiters. Our ability to grow is only limited by our ability to hire top-notch people.

If you have heard about Bazaarvoice you probably heard about the culture. Our CEO has made it a priority. Proof? The vacation policy is entirely based on trust: “take as much as you need”. Many employees enjoy the weekly massages, guitar hero in the game room, free snacks, etc. Others enjoy the wacky sense of humor. Austin Business Journal named Bazaarvoice the number one place to work in Austin. All the pampering reminds me of the dot com days, except that this company is a real business that is growing on solid footing based on delivering real value to our clients.

Steve Joined Bazaarvoice a few days after I did. We have similar views.

At Bazaarvoice I can employ my experience in product marketing, my passion for customer centricity  my background in web technologies and  e-commerce and my 9+ years of experience working with social media. It’s a pretty good fit.

In these first three months, my team has delivered tremendous value for the organization. We are making a difference. I feel very proud of what we have done. I feel super excited about where we are going. Fasten your seatbelts. It will be a fun ride.

Hey, if you have read so far – thank you. This is a long post. I owe you one. Leave a comment. Say Hi. My promise is to blog more often. Here and on bazaarblog.com

Gerardo.

It’s been almost three months since I joined Bazaarvoice as Sr. Director for Product Marketing. It has been a very rewar...

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The question no one is asking

Can you Build a Community?

I have had the privilege of working with online communities for over 10 years. In the technology world, online communities -mainly forums- are a fundamental part of how people learn, share and help each other with technical questions.

As companies evolve their thinking about how how to leverage social media, CMOs are realizing social media is not a strategy, but a tool to support a strategy. This was one of the central points for my Web 2.0 presentation almost a year ago. The freedom that social media strategists enjoyed to experiment (and spend) without any ROI measurment is coming to an end. As Mike Svatel told me yesterday, pageviews don’t make payroll.

I have had the privilege of working with online communities for over 10 years. In the technology world, online communiti...

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Social Media in the Enterprise – my Web 2.0 presentation

 Last week (this was in 2009) at Web 2.0 I presented a session titled The Social Media Trilogy: Three Vital Components for Building a Successful Online Strategy.

The room was designed for 250 held well over 350 and some people were turned away. It looks like this is a topic of interest for most organizations, probably because of the immaturity of this model, which is one of the topics in the presentation. I posted my deck on slideshare.

I am writing a white paper that expands on the presentation and provides a bit more detail as well as social media guidelines and other resources. To get both the white paper and a PDF of the slides please register at www.vignette.com/citizen NOTE: This offer is long gone, sorry.

 Last week (this was in 2009) at Web 2.0 I presented a session titled The Social Media Trilogy: Three Vital Components f...

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