So what was it that we’re supposed to do?

Many people will tell you what you’re NOT supposed to do as a marketer when attempting to leverage the variety of Social Media (SM) platforms currently at your disposal. It is common knowledge that marketers must abstain from the autocratic, one-way, didactic marketing tactics that they have traditionally employed and instead must use this new medium to interact with customers differently. The next step is where it can get confusing for marketers; what exactly should they do with SM?

Marketers have been hardwired with the need to push their message out to consumers, however SM requires a more subtle approach. Ultimately SM provides the opportunity for marketers to engage in a two-way conversation in which they can benefit from the collective wisdom of the crowd.  I recently read an article that did a great job outlining what things to focus on in order to fully realize the benefits of SM by creating a great customer experience.

1. Give Your Customers a Place to Talk
2. Integrate Social Media Into Your Customer Service
3. Activate Your Existing Customer Base
4. Be Proactive
5. Reward Influencers
6. Create Compelling Content
7. Stand Out From the Crowd

The key takeaway is that marketers must thoughtfully engage with their customers across the various platforms if they are to fully realize the benefits of SM. Customers have been empowered by SM and have been provided with a platform to share their thoughts and opinions. For businesses, it is imperative to proactively play a role in these conversations and communities, as this will provide rich consumer insights.  The resulting benefits of the relationships, insights and consumer understanding can be immeasurable to a firm; and this is where the true value of Social Media is for marketers.  Insights allow marketers to delight customers by delivering solutions that address issues that are important to them, and this is the key to any business staying relevant and viable in the long-term.

Social Media: More than Marketing

As a corollary to one of my previous blog posts, “Measuring Social Media”, it is important for firms to consider how they are approaching Social Media (SM) from a high-level strategic perspective. The strategy a firm employs will ultimately determine what they focus on and how the success of a particular campaign is defined. In order to fully realize the potential benefits that SM can have, firm focus should be on what SM can enable rather than the traditional marketing focuses of raising awareness and creating activity.  Although activity in the context of traditional marketing is a good thing, activity alone may not drive long-term business results.

Beyond marketing and technology, SM’s potential value to a firm lies in its ability to facilitate collaboration and engagement with all stakeholders both internally and externally. True breakthroughs in this space will require more than just signing up for a Facebook or Twitter account and hoping for the best. In order to become a truly effective “social organization”, firms must strategically leverage mass collaboration to create purpose driven communities facilitated by firm presence across the various SM platforms. The horsepower available to businesses that successfully leverage the knowledge of the crowd is off the charts, however as Rodney from Think Social Media said during his presentation, this requires a fundamental shift in thinking.  Management must be willing to relinquish some degree of control if they are to realize the full potential benefits of SM.  After all, your brand or product is no more then the aggregation of public opinion anyways.  You might as well be proactively involved in the conversation in order to address any concerns or negative sentiment.

Failing to approach SM from this perspective limits the upside of the medium. Firms should expect more than marketing from these new technologies; if they don’t, there is the danger that SM just becomes another channel for traditional autocratic marketing practices. Have a read of the following HBR article on the topic:

Measuring Social Media

Most firms feel as though it’s necessary to be active in the Social Media (SM) space, but don’t really understand how to participate optimally in this new medium or what the benefits are.  As we’ve discussed in class, many firms enter into this digital unknown if for no other reason then everyone else is doing it. So like lemmings, businesses from all corners of the earth, in all imaginable industries, throw themselves in to the digital abyss chasing this big shiny object known as SM. Unfortunately, as we’ve heard before it’s not a panacea, there is no magic wand.

Without clearly defined goals and objectives, it’s difficult to know what metrics should be monitored and tracked in order to define success.  With the sheer volume of activity and growth in SM there is an endless supply of data points and metrics. Consequently, IT minded people are producing huge amounts of data that overwhelm simple-minded marketing folk; resulting in sub optimal measurement and ultimately understanding of SM campaigns.

Businesses burst with pride when tallying up the number of friends, followers, subscribers, posts and tweets that campaigns have generated. But does this really matter? Is this an accurate measure of success? Avanash Kaushik says no.  What in fact matters is what happens AFTER you post, tweet or participate. In short, the measure of success should be whether or not your participation drove action.

In his blog, Kaushik proposes four distinct social media metrics that can and should be used as measures of success across any SM platform. Find the full article here:

1)   Conversion Rate = # of Audience Comments (or Replies) per Post

2)   Amplification Rate

  • On Twitter = # of Retweets Per Tweet
  • On Facebook or Google Plus = # Shares per Post
  • On a Blog or YouTube = # of Share Clicks per Post

3)   Applause Rate

  • On Twitter = # Favorite Clicks per Post
  • On Facebook = # of Likes per Post
  • On Google Plus = # of +1’s per Post
  • On a Blog or YouTube = # of +1’s and Likes per Post (or video)

4)   Economic Value  = Sum of Short and Long Term Revenue and Cost Savings

The above metrics give an indication of the effect that a SM campaign has had.  When leveraging any of these measures however, it is critical to have an understanding of what the intended outcome of the SM campaign is.  As a famous professor has been known to say, “That which gets measured gets done.”

Social CRM

You’ve got your CRM and you’ve got your Social Media. Well, I just read an article and learned that the two have been married together to form one of the newest buzzword sub-segments of the digital marketing universe, Social CRM (super original name). CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and in the past systems were put in place to do just that.  But the landscape is shifting.

We know that today’s customer accesses information and interacts with brands and products across many different platforms and in a much different way then the traditional customer. They are savvy, expect to be listened to and have much higher expectations in terms of engagement. More so then ever, the balance of power in the business-customer relationship has shifted with the advent of the “social customer”. This new “social customer” now owns the relationship and businesses must strive to earn their trust and respect.

In order to fully serve and meet the needs of this new “social customer”, businesses must be transparent, integrated and responsive. These new requirements have resulted in the evolution of traditional CRM, leaving us with what those in the esoteric world of eMarketing call SCRM. Paul Greenberg, author and leading authority on SCRM, stated that Social CRM is “…designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company response to the customer’s owning of the relationship.”

We have talked in class about the need to effectively triage and prioritize customer interactions via the multiple SM platforms that exist and this is central to the SCRM concept, as I understood it.  The following diagram maps out an example of this process.

The bottom line is that as customers change and interact with businesses differently, these businesses must in turn look at how they interact with this new breed of customer.  Have a read of the full article, pretty interesting.



Harnessing the Power of Bloggers

I recently read an article in the November issue of BC Business that discussed the level of impact that bloggers can have on any type of business and more importantly how firms might capitalize on their influence.

The idea of customers publicizing their own thoughts, complaints and feelings without censure is hardly new however with the proliferation of social media, the reach or amplification of these conversations is now off the charts. Businesses can now no longer be dismissive of bloggers or social media and have little choice but to be proactive and get involved. Enlisting the support and good faith of a popular and relevant blogger is high on the priority list for many firms.  This leads to the obvious question from managers… should we go about doing that?!?

Contrary to what you might think guys, don’t just go rushing in with wads of cash, that might end up doing more harm then good. A bloggers credibility is their currency; their life force, and the mere suggestion that their opinions may be purchased can cause irreparable damage to their reputations and subsequent relevance.

The first step for a firm is to identify the right blogger. Knowing which niche they intend to target is crucial as this will guide the search. A blogger being popular doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good, so choosing by number of followers as opposed to one with access to the right customers is a common mistake. Now that they are identified it’s time to approach them.

The process of “blogger wrangling” is so involved that many PR firms, on behalf of their clients, actually outsource this task and hire professionals to identify and win the good favor of the ideal blogger. University level courses have even been taught on how to pitch ideas to bloggers. Pitching, educating and sampling bloggers all have merits and must be considered, however it’s safe to say that there’s no exact science.  The only thing that seems obvious to me is that bloggers are important and getting a good one on your team who resonates with your customers should be high on the wish list of any business.