Social Marketing Grows Up! From Social Media to Social Business and ROI

social businessThe first wave of social media provided tremendous benefits to consumers.  Suddenly, corporate communications became  more than one-way messaging for companies who wanted to deliver their canned content to their customers. Social sharing sites—including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram—grew rapidly as users generated their own multimedia content and required brands to come up with more  interactive and engaging ways to attract and retain them as customers.  Large parts of the web became customer-centric  rather than company-centric, as users distrusted the blatant self-interest of brands in favor of information derived from  friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances. Even the opinions of strangers became more influential than corporate ads,  direct marketing, and promotions.

As consumers, we gained control over the companies we chose to conduct business with.  But what about our work lives? How  is the millennial, who grew up with social media and is joining the workforce, supposed to react to a typical SharePoint site as  a way to learn what’s going on?  And how can businesses benefit from social media as much, if not more than, consumers? Social business leverages social listening, collaboration, analytics and other “industrialized” versions of Web 2.0 technologies to improve business effectiveness and ROI. The following applications of social business demonstrate some of its power.

Social Intranets provide a more dynamic and personal way to consume and share corporate knowledge. They work very much like the social networks we use as consumers, but in a highly secure manner that is limited to a company’s employees.  Similar to LinkedIn, all users have a personal profile that describes their role in the company, areas of interest and expertise, as well as they type of content they publish. This enables individual employees to follow people who can help them perform their jobs more effectively.  Every time some you follow publishes new content, you receive a notification via a mobile application or through your email.  Just click on the link and the information is available for your use. Social intranets fosters knowledge exchange and collaboration within project teams, departments, and entire enterprises.

Social Listening provides an excellent way to understand what customers think of a particular brand, competitor, product or service provided by a company.  Marketers simply set-up the keywords that determine the content that is mined across social networks, blogs and the web at-large.  The highly unstructured information is given quantitative structure through the development of customized dictionaries and natural language processing to parse the information into a structured framework that can be analyzed and acted on.  The resulting market research data—collected unobtrusively without the bias inherent in questionnaires–provides tremendous feedback as to how the company can improve its products, services and reputation. Social listening tools often come with an engagement console that enables customer service representatives and product managers to respond to specific posts.  This enables companies to mitigate the viral spread of negative information that could damage the brand and to amplify the viral spread of positive information to enhance the brand image.

Branded Community Sites are developed for entire industries but also serve the interests of a sponsoring brand.  By providing content that is relevant to the entire community and enabling members to share their own insights, experts across the entire industry are motivated to join the community.  Once they join, they will experience the thought leadership provided by the sponsoring company and are likely to click on links that will enable you to market more directly to prospects who may currently be a customer of one of your competitors.  Branded community sites drive customer acquisition and retention efforts.

Social Customer Service solutions range from a presence on such open social networks as Facebook and Twitter to branded sites that are restricted to customers. Many companies have been successful providing proactive customer service on Facebook and Twitter.  In addition to responding to posts about service issues, customer service representatives can post resolutions to known issues generated from other sources.  When companies establish their own social sites for customers, they can provide an enhanced version of the experience. Gamification is often used to reward customers who answer questions raised by other customers.  For instance, every time a customer provides the correct answer to a question, they can be given rewards points.  It isn’t even necessary for rewards points to have monetary value.  As social beings, we are often satisfied with being recognized as a community leader as our screen names climb the leader board. Social Customer Service solutions not only increase customer engagement levels, but also reduce servicing costs by deflecting questions that would otherwise be answered by phone conversations with customer service agents.  The fact that the answers are seen by whole groups of people further improves operational efficiencies.

Social CRM shares some of the capabilities of social customer service, but serves as an extension of a company’s existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution. This enables businesses to market their products and services to prospects on social networks through both social and traditional communications channels.  It also enables companies to provide better service to existing customers via the social channels where so many people spend their time.

Crowdsourcing solutions foster corporate innovation as product managers and engineers collaborate with customers and suppliers. They can be used to develop new products and services, as well as ways to market and distribute them to customers. This is another area where gamification is helpful.  Because real profits are made by the new products and services, however, participants are given lump sums or percentages of profits commensurate with their contributions, rather than token rewards points.

Social Commerce applications leverage the recommendations of friends, family and others to stimulate e-commerce revenues.  This can be accomplished through marketplaces (remember e-Bay) and great e-commerce sites such as Amazon, where recommendations are made to the buyer based upon other customers with a similar purchasing behavior.  The large numbers of reviews on Amazon, moreover, have a far greater impact on purchase decisions than do the reviews of so-called experts.  A company can also integrate e-commerce with their Facebook page or with their branded community sites. There are also numerous applications that help friends view the same merchandise (at least virtually) to help one another on purchase decisions.  One class of such applications enables one of the friends to be in a store, while the other friend is on a PC or mobile device.  Videos, texting and voice communications can support the making of yay or nay recommendations.  Another class pertains to situations where both friends are online.  The combination of co-browsing, multimedia and texting becomes the next best thing to shopping together.

So we have come a long way from the early days of social media, when businesses seemed to lose their ability to control the messages received by prospects and customers.  Even if benefits were to be gained, there was no way to understand the ROI associated with their social media initiatives. This made it difficult, at best, to figure out how much to invest in their labor-intensive social media efforts or the specific areas that merited investment.  Today, companies have a broad range of social business applications that can be tailored to achieve a large array of business objectives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Internet Trends for 2013

Mary Meeker and Liang Wu of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers just published the industry’s most highly regarded study of Internet Trends for 2013. While I have linked to their original Slideshare document below, some of the most striking findings from this year’s reports include:

  • US is losing its dominance in internet users. While Iran has the fastest growing internet population (205% within the last year), China, has the highest number of overall internet users worldwide (204 million).
  • Ad money spent is not proportional to the amount of time people spend with different media sources. Thus while people spend on 6% of their media time reading print publications, companies spend 23% of their ad budget on print. Conversely, while people spend 12% on mobile devices, companies spend only 3% of the budgets on mobile advertising.
  • Content is growing multiplicatively, as the amount of digital content has increased 9X over the last five years and is still expected to quadruple by 2015.
  • Mobile usage continues to grow at staggering rates, particularly among tablet users.
  • Wearable devices will become more prevalent, providing more functionality with less interruptions, than current devices.
  • Short form media is overtaking longer formats as photos are increasingly uploaded to Snapchats (where they last for only 5 seconds) and videos uploaded to Vine (with a maximum length of 6 seconds

The original Slideshare presentation can be found at KPCB Internet Trends for 2013

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Latest Internet, Social and Mobile Stats, Trends, Forecasts and Implications

This has been yet another dramatic year in the growth of the internet, including the penetration of mobile devices and social communities.

How much growth has there been in social media?  What are the current numbers? Count on the 2012  annual gift from Erik Qualman to provide the answers in a concise, fast-paced video.

Seeking a deeper understanding of these trends and their impact on our culture and economics?  The latest update from Kleiner PerkinsMary Meeker and Liang Wu provide the data and the analysis, presented at Stanford University earlier this month.

Which stats/trends surprise you the most?  The least? What additional societal implications do you think are relevant?

 

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Microsoft Takes Page From 1980s Playbook by Acquiring Yammer

Microsoft LogoHave you ever heard of Wordstar, Lotus 1-2-3, Harvard Graphics, cc: Mail or Netscape Navigator?  If not, you are probably too young to remember a PC world that was not yet dominated by Microsoft Windows.  Those that know of these products may recall that they were once the most innovative, best-of-breed and market-dominating software for such PC applications as word processing, spreadsheets, graphics, email and web browsing, respectively.    That is, until Microsoft decided to buy/build similar software programs  (e.g.,  Outlook, MS Word, Excel,  PowerPoint, Paint and Internet Explorer) and bundle them with MS Windows.  Due to bundled pricing, a common user interface and tighter integration, the original innovative products became obsolete once Microsoft took these actions.

Now, hot on the heels of Salesforce.com’s acquisition of Buddy Media (to complement Radian 6 and Chatter for a strong social business offering), Microsoft announced Friday that they are acquiring Yammer for $1.2B. Yammer, provides Facebook-like features (e.g., profiles, activity streams) to improve the collaboration within enterprises. Microsoft of course already has a product a product within this space, SharePoint.  However SharePoint is generally simply used for content and document management.  While it is a favorite of IT, adoption among employees is generally poor.  This is generally attributed to difficulties users experience when  trying to find the information housed within SharePoint.  It also fails to have a social component that has been a critical aspect of the consumerization of IT, the underlying trend that has forced IT organizations to adopt some of the more compelling experiences that employees have in their personal lives.

Microsoft can take a page from its 1980s playbook by bundling Yammer functionality with numerous Microsoft products.  This might not only provide the most significant upgrades to such products to date, but also weaken or eliminate some of their competitors within the space.  By integrating Yammer functionality with several existing Microsoft applications, MS can provide product bundles that weaken or even eliminate competitors, as they did in the 1980s. By integrating with MS Outlook, Microsoft could bring Yammer’s social business functionality to the PC application that is almost always open on most  employee’s desktops. Rather than going to a separate application, relevant activity streams would be visible from within Outlook itself.  Integration with MS Office applications, moreover, will enable users to easily collaborate to co-author Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.  Better collaboration within MS Project would ensure that updates to project plans can more easily be seen so each member on the project team can adjust their work accordingly or negotiate further changes.

Yammer’s potential also extends to Microsoft’s enterprise solutions. By integrating Yammer functionality with Microsoft Commerce Server, Microsoft may be able to offer a social commerce solution, whereby the opinions of community members could influence the purchase decisions of others.  And of course SharePoint itself can be improved dramatically via integration with Yammer’s user-friendly, social features, as described above.

What does this mean for other vendors who have developed social business software (SBS)?  For instance, Jive software also integrates with MS Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and SharePoint.  But won’t Microsoft have the advantage by owning the source code for these programs?

Upon learning of the acquisition, Jive Chairman and CEO Tony Zingale gave eWEEK an optimistic assessment of the acquisition, as one would expect.

“No question that this news is a huge validation for the space. If you remember, the world’s largest software supplier claimed for at least five years that the SharePoint content management system was, in fact, their social offering. They tried in ’07, they tried in 2010; they were going to try in 2013 to put out SharePoint versions that were going to add social features. So by evidence of this announcement today, a $1.2 billion all-cash purchase, of a company that was nothing more than an activities stream and a ‘freemium’ supplier, it’s pretty significant evidence that as the enterprise retools, that Microsoft was behind. And they needed to take action to integrate social capabilities–not only into SharePoint, but also Office 365, their CRM tool Dynamics, and a host of other things inside that Microsoft stack.”

Yammer also has several known flaws.  Probably the most notorious shortcomings are related to its poor administrative features and security. These, of course, can easily be fixed by Microsoft, a true enterprise player. However, Yammer’s SBS functionality is itself quite limited when compared to other solutions available in the marketplace, as noted above by Zingage and what Moxie CEO Tom Kelly told eWEEK: 

“Microsoft’s acquisition validates the critical nature of social connectivity as an enterprise capability. However, the activity stream supported by Yammer is only one slice of the value possible through enterprise collaboration. If over the coming years MSFT is able to build out a fuller capability, they and the companies that invest in this technology  might see a return on their investment. What the market needs to know is that fuller capabilities are available now…”

Yammer also lacks the the externally facing features that other  Software Business Solutions (SBS) have to:

  • Provide better and more cost-effective customer service experiences.  Jive, for example, empowers customers to answer one another’s questions and customer service representatives (CSR) to find expertise throughout the enterprise to quickly provide better answers than CSR scripts or FAQs could possibly contain.  Such social customer service solutions improve customer service and engagement while reducing service-related costs.
  • Enable sales and marketing to leverage the entire enterprise to respond more quickly to customers and support marketing campaigns.  This capability impacts both top line revenues and bottom-line profits by facilitating customer acquisition and retention while increasing the productivity levels for sales and marketing personnel.
  • Drive product innovation by collaborating with customers, partners and suppliers.
Therefore, vendors that provide such externally facing social business solutions–including Jive, Telligent, Moxie, Chatter and Lithium–may fare better than those who do not.  The biggest loser appears to be Newsgator, who served as Microsoft’s partner to build social business functionality around SharePoint prior to the acquisition of Yammer.
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So what do you think of Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer?  
How do you think it will impact other vendors who provide social business collaboration solutions?  
How do you expect other large players (e.g., Oracle, Adobe and IBM) to react to this news?
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The 6 Ways to Increase E-Commerce Revenues and Profits

e-commerce shopping cartMy e-commerce clients typically  ask me “How can you increase my e-commerce revenues?” My answer usually references what I have dubbed The E-Commerce Equation.  In its simplest form, monthly revenues = average number of new customers (C) per month X the average monthly revenue per customer (R/C)). So R = C x (R/C).  This simplest of equations doesn’t help us figure out how to increase the number of new customers per month or the amount that customers spend per month. To inform our strategies and tactics for increasing e-commerce revenues, we need to understand how these numbers are derived. Continue reading

Social Commerce: How and why its a big deal!

groupon2 Driving traffic to a site is much easier than converting that traffic into sales.  Average e-commerce conversion rates are pitifully low, ranging from 2-4%.  For an etailer who purchases media (e.g., keywords for paid search, banners on other sites),  96%-98% of their budget is wasted by driving traffic to their site without making a sale, resulting in horrifically negative ROIs (aka, spending much more than you make!).  We have already discussed the importance of multivariate testing of landing pages and better online merchandising to improving e-commerce conversion rates.  Two trends have emerged that are dramatically improving conversion rates: Social Commerce and Mobile Commerce.  Today, I will discuss the impact of social commerce and reserve my thoughts regarding mobile commerce for my next post. Continue reading

What Are The Likely Impacts of Google Instant?

google-logoSince Google announced its search enhancement Google Instant last month, approximately 40,000 articles have appeared about its likely impacts on Organic and Paid Search. At this point, much of the discussion has been speculative because only time will provide the empirical evidence to support the implications that have been hypothesized. Continue reading

A Brief History of Online Merchandising and Thoughts About the Future

shopping-websiteBefore the web came along, catalog companies were the first to experiment with merchandising techniques designed to overcome the lack of a fully immersive in-store shopping experience. Punchy and persuasive product descriptions, detailed specifications, and imagery were needed to compensate for the lack of interaction with sales agents. The better catalogs have included lifestyle shots of how customers use their products, rather than merely listing products or showing photographs of products. Instead of listing products in alphabetical order, they tried groupings based on themes, styles, designers, complete outfits, etc. Continue reading

Landing Page Optimization: If They Come, Will They Convert?

field-of-dreams2When the World Wide Web was first utilized by companies before the end of the 20th Century, the objective was simply to have a website.  Just as in the movie, Field of Dreams,  there was this idealist belief that “If you build it, they will come.” Since then, you have been able to leverage search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), banner ads,  contextual ads, comparative shopping engines, affiliate networks, emails, blogs and your presence on social networks to drive traffic to your site.  As a result of these efforts you hopefully have lots of people coming to your site.   But what have you been able to do with these visitors once they arrive on your site?  Hopefully, you’ve either converted them to a qualified lead or sold them something.  Right? Continue reading

Why Tweet?

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...

I can’t believe how many people still can’t see the value of  Twitter! That’s because the hype has focused on the tremendous growth of Twitter as a social network. and the apparent lack of  Twitter’s ability to monetize their traffic (although this too is changing). That leads many veterans of the 2000 tech bubble to be wary of  “eyeball metrics” when business models haven’t been fully thought through or well executed.  Then of course everyone gets in on the 7 Tips for Optimizing Your Presence on Twitter gravy train which propels the lemmings into the Twitter sea, with no sense of  why they are there or where they are actually going. Continue reading

Marketing Your Way Through The Great Recession

RecessionSo your company is taking a big hit during this severe recession and analysts tell us that things will get worse before they improve.   Typically, marketing expenditures are the first to be cut in order make up for losses in revenue.  But is this the right thing for your business? Continue reading

Wow! We can now select among three fonts for Adsense ad appearance!

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

It doesn’t sound revolutionary does it? But for those who have been dying to have some impact on the design of their AdSense ad appearance, this could be the start of something very useful.  For the first time, Google is now offering the opportunity for non-premium users  to select among three fonts for their AdSense text ads:  Arial, Times and Verdana. (Larger premium publishers already had more control of the appearance of text ads on their sites.)  Hopefully,  Adsense  will increase these offerings in the future.  Google has already received a number of requests for Trebuchet MS,  since many websites utilize this font for content.  Others have asked for flexibility in the size of the font face.

How to Do It

To customize the ad units, AdSense users need to visit the “Ad Display” section within their Account settings and select the custom font they want to use for their ads.  Once they pick that font, they can update their account and, as soon as the updated code is copied to their site, all of their ads will immediately change.

The Value of Additional Fonts

By enabling website owners to match the look and feel of their Adsense text ads with the rest of the content on the site,  they are able to blur the distinction between the ads and editorial content on the site.  This should theoretically increase click-thrus and revenues for the publisher.    Of course its always best to test the different alternatives to see which actually outperforms the others.

What do you think?

For the full story go to http://adsense.blogspot.com/

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The Many Aspects of Integrated Marketing

To be effective (i.e., instrumental to sales), marketing must be integrated in several ways:

1. Consistency of messaging across different marketing vehicles and communications channels. So that you do not confuse your customers and prospects, the look, feel and messaging of your print advertising needs to be consistent with that of your website, exhibit displays at events, (as well as the venues themselves), direct mail, online advertising, social media and public relations activities. This helps to solidify and extend your brand.

2. Consistency of messaging over time. Instead of chasing “the opportunity de jour” with messaging that appears random to your constituents, you need to have a long-term strategy and the patience to stick with it for an enduring period of time. After all, repetition is the key to brand-building. Yes, mid-course corrections are sometimes needed as you continue to learn from the marketplace. While specific words and positioning can always change, overall themes must be preserved until you are ready for a major re-branding initiative.

3. Continuity of marketing processes from setting objectives > market research > product/service strategy > product/service development > communications strategy > communications tactics > analysis of results, with a feedback loop to ensure that past learnings improve future performance.

4. Integration of marketing with other corporate functions. Think of marketing as efforts to predispose prospects to say yes to your sales people, who are needed to close the deal. If the marketing message is inconsistent with what the salespeople are saying, you will confuse prospects and diminish sales. Every part of the company that touches the customer must be in tune with the marketing messages, including receptionists and customer service representatives. Each touch point with the customer either reinforces or diminishes your brand.

Future posts on this blog will provide more detail and illustrative examples of each aspect Integrated Marketing.