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Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Social Media: How to turn customers into brand advocates

April 11th, 2014 1 comment

For many marketers, user-generated content is the upcycling opportunity of a lifetime. It’s free content created by customers turned brand advocates with a margin of credibility money can’t buy.

Sadly, this content often goes to waste in marketing, or worse, unnoticed altogether.

The challenge, however, for savvy marketers like Evin Catlett, Digital Marketing Manager, Amer Sports, often rests in finding strategic ways to repurpose content effectively.

In a recent MarketingSherpa webinar, Evin explained how Amer Sports was launching its first U.S. Instagram campaign in support of a new product. According to Evin, the launch would also focus on the overall goal of increasing social media engagement with U.S. consumers.

“We didn’t have a ton of reach,” Evin explained, “And while we did have really strong engagement, it was with a very small community.” 

social-media-engagement

 

Before Evin began, she realized one important element to the campaign was the need to inspire social media interaction with customers.

invitation-to-inspire

 

To help accomplish this, the team brought in key brand athletes to have a fairly robust part in interacting on social media with the product, and invited the social media community to do the same.

suunto-ambitions-instagram

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Top MarketingSherpa Blog Posts of 2013: 10 lessons in social media, content and email marketing

December 26th, 2013 2 comments

After tallying up the number of times our audience shared posts, social media, content and email marketing are the areas to receive the most tweets from your peers. That means inbound marketing as a whole once again reigned supreme on the MarketingSherpa Blog, earning 10 of the top 15 spots of 2013. We’ll break down these three areas with key lessons we can learn and apply to our efforts in the new year.

And, since this list is all about the tweets, we’ll include some interesting ones about select posts. Carry on to learn the top 10 lessons of 2013.

 

Social Media Lessons

Lesson #1. Adapt your social content so that it is appropriate for each social media platform 

In his post, “Social Media Marketing: Which type of content is appropriate for different platforms?” Jonathan Greene, Business Intelligence Manager, MECLABS, used an unusual set of analogies to help marketers understand what tone and content to use on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read this post to learn about the personality each platform has, and how you can effectively put them to work.

 

Lesson #2. Be able to answer why customers should like or follow you

When it comes to social media buttons, you should ask yourself why your customers should follow you. This can be a tougher question for companies that aren’t natural content producers.

You must provide some value for customers in exchange for the privilege to show up in their newsfeed. Value can be ongoing, like exclusive discounts just for Twitter followers, or a one-time opportunity, such as a chance to win a prize.

Read more about this question, and three others, in the post, “Social Media Marketing: 4 questions to ask yourself about social media buttons.” You can also use value proposition to better answer this question, as described by Jonathan Greene in this post, “Social Media Marketing: Why should I like or follow you?

 

Lesson #3. Add visual elements to your social media content

While a quote is just words, it doesn’t mean you can’t bring a visual component to the content. The New York Public Library created graphics for an already popular content type –  celebrity quotes – to create a social media campaign with impressive results. Learn more about its efforts from Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS: “Social Media Marketing: How New York Public Library increased card sign-ups by 35%.”

Interestingly, it seems this post was the most shared on Twitter for certain individuals:

 

Lesson #4. Go beyond the “like” to track your social media success

David Kirkpatrick, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS, broke down a chart covering social media marketing metrics tracking in the post, “Social Media Marketing: Social metrics from “likes” to ROI.” While social reach (e.g., “likes”) tops the list, some marketers are also measuring ROI, leads and conversion. See what other metrics your peers are using to benchmark success in their organizations.

 

Content Marketing Lessons

Lesson #5. Analyze your blog to identify areas for improvement

There are a lot of elements that make up your blog. When was the last time you stood back to evaluate if all of those pieces were working as well as they could?

In his post, “Content Marketing: An 8-point analysis for your blog,” Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, explained the eight points on which to focus your evaluation. From the frequency of your posts and their titles, to author bios and social media integration, you could have untapped potential waiting to be found.

 

Lesson #6. Use WordPress, or any tool, to its fullest potential

No matter what channel or platform you’re using, you want to get all you can out of it. For the post, “Content Marketing: 5 tips for WordPress blogging,” Erin Hogg, Copy Editor, MECLABS, broke down some ways she’s learned to improve a WordPress blog. Learn how to cross promote media with embedding, use basic HTML to improve the look and feel of a post, and more.

 

Lesson #7. Implement (and stick with) a style for your content

AP? Chicago? MLA? APA? There are many established styles, and one might work as-is for your organization. You could decide to create your own.  At MECLABS, we use the Associated Press Style Book as our foundation and supplement it with a set of our own guidelines.

No matter which direction you choose, it’s important to stick with the guide for all of your content. Having well-proofed and consistent content adds to the credibility of your content and builds the authority of your brand.

Erin Hogg explained this and other tips in her post, “Content Marketing: 7 copy editing tips to improve any content piece.”

 

Email Marketing Lessons

Lesson #8. Don’t forget about current customers when designing triggered email campaigns

In the post, “Email Marketing: 3 overlooked aspects of automated messages,” Daniel Burstein said nurturing current customers is one of the most overlooked automated email opportunities. He shared a list of triggered email types you can implement to strengthen relationships with you customers, including product education and upselling.

This post also features two other overlooked aspects of automated emails: customer lifetime value and the gap between what marketers should do and what they actually do.

 

Lesson #9. Test your emails to discover what really works for your audience

You could be using every best practice you’ve come across, but unless you know it’s best for your specific audience, then it might not be the practice you should be using. Testing lets you know what your audience best engages with.

Justin Bridegan, former Senior Marketing Manager, MECLABS, explained how testing revealed two segments of the MarketingSherpa email list prefer different email lengths. Read on to learn his other tips in the post, “Email Marketing: What I’ve learned from writing almost 1,000 emails for MarketingSherpa.”

Read more…

#TwitterTips: 5 steps for a successful 140-character conversation on Twitter

December 6th, 2013 1 comment

Tweets are limited to 140 characters, which allows readers to easily digest your content. How do we put out amazing shareable content in such a restricted template? Read on for five tips you can use to create engaging conversations on Twitter.

 

Step #1. Have a purpose

It’s good practice to begin with a purpose for each piece of content shared on social media platforms. Because Twitter is limited by so few characters, this especially holds true. Every tweet should have a purpose.

Your point has to come across very quickly and at the same time, make your audience want to find out more about what you posted.

When you compose a tweet, imagine how your followers will use that information and how will it help them.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself first to help narrow down your purpose before you tweet:

  • What message are you trying to convey to your audience?
  • Are you trying to influence, promote, sell, provide customer service, or maybe just attract attention?
  • What message do you want the audience to walk away with?
  • Do you want the audience to take action, to be better informed, or simply just be entertained?

 

Step #2. Learn how to use the medium effectively

Once you have the purpose nailed down, you need to figure out the best way to convey the message to your audience.

You want content that is engaging, purposeful, and most importantly, shareable. Depending on your audience, pairing a tweet with an image may drive the message home to your audience versus just providing a link.

The best way to discover the ideal messaging medium for your audience is by testing and measuring engagement.

There are two things to consider:

  • Is text the best format to put out your message?
  • Could video, links to other pages or images help drive your message?

 

Step #3. Set the right tone

Depending on your audience and purpose, I recommend conveying your message in a conversational tone that focuses on “customer-speak.”

Many brands focus on promoting messages using unfamiliar language and jargon I call “company-speak,” which often delivers a tone that can be easily perceived as talking “at” your followers rather than talking “to” them.

My point is to aim the tone of your message toward conversation. Here are some examples of tweets with a conversational tone.

 

Step #4. Hashtags

No blog post on the subject of Twitter could be complete without a conversation on hashtags.

A hashtag is a tool that makes words searchable and allows Twitter users to tap into a conversation around that word.

My recommendation is do not go crazy with hashtags. I suggest using two hashtags per tweet at most. This will help you avoid overwhelming your audience and keep the conversation relevant.

Here are some great examples of how the hashtag “#Salute” was used on Veteran’s Day to give you an idea of how hashtags drive conversation.

 

Step #5. Have fun

Twitter is a chance to engage with your audience in a setting where creativity and standing out is rewarded.

The example that stands out most for me is Oreo’s infamous Super Bowl tweet. While brand standards and voice guidelines take precedence, don’t forget that fun content can also serve to engage your audience.

Read more…

What the Country Music Awards Can Teach Us About Social Engagement

November 22nd, 2013 1 comment

A few weeks ago, I was watching this year’s Country Music Awards (CMAs) with friend of mine and her mother. I was surprised by a few parallels I noticed between the awards show and some of our recommended best practices at MECLABS.

 

 

Set goals that encourage awareness

For the CMAs, its goal, according to the mission statement on the website, is to “heighten the awareness of country music and support its ongoing growth by recognizing excellence in the genre.”

Consequently, the CMAs serve as an outlet for recognizing excellence, while providing an entertaining awards show to heighten viewer awareness.

The goals of the CMAs are not explicitly stated at the beginning of the show. This falls in line with a best practice of not stating your goals on your website, but rather, your intended goals should be the conclusion customers reach on your landing page.

To help you accomplish this, you should answer the question: “What do I want the visitor to do on this page?”

 

Active engagement matters

Another aspect I found interesting about the CMAs was its drive to involve the audience. For example, during each artist’s performance, their Twitter handle was placed at the bottom of the screen.

This encouraged audience participation with their favorite artists.

 

Yes, it even had a phone app.

Throughout the night, the hosts encouraged viewers to download the Shazam app. Viewers who used the app would receive exclusive access to content and free music downloads.

So, how did this engagement strategy pay off?

Well, according to Country Music Rocks, an online music news source, the strategy was a huge success.

People went directly from Shazam’s CMA experience to iTunes and Amazon approximately 50,000 times during the broadcast to buy the tracks and albums of the nominees, winners and performers – this does not include the two free tracks available for download.

– Country Music Rocks

 

Here are a few ways you can encourage active engagement on your website.

Leverage social media: Actively post and manage related content on your social media feeds. In addition, encourage your visitors to share, retweet or email this information to their friends.

Try to offer exclusive content: What you can offer will depend on your industry, but providing exclusive content will encourage visitors to come back and interact with your site in the future.

Offer lots of related resources: This can be anything from previous blogs or articles to encourage the visitor to stay on your website for a longer duration.

 

Ease of use is always appealing

The CMAs did a variety of things to appeal to every element of its audience demographics and made it easy for viewers to participate.

For starters, there were performances from artists both young and old, comedy skits and emotional speeches from award winners.

My point here is that appeal never gets old for your customers, even when delivered in large doses. There’s nothing more appealing I can think of than a landing page that is easy to use.

I recommend taking some time for usability testing, as this can go a long way to make sure the focus of your site remains customer-centric.

  Read more…

Multichannel Marketing: 6 challenges for planning complex campaigns

November 5th, 2013 2 comments

“The medium is the message.”

Or so says Marshall McLuhan.

But, when I think of cross-channel and multichannel marketing, I often think of the words of another 60s icon – Jimi Hendrix.

“You’re just like crosstown traffic, so hard to get through to you …”

Cross-channel marketing is difficult because it often involves lots of coordination to keep the messaging consistent.

For instance, you have the players involved …

Multiple departments (and often multiple companies), ranging from:

  • The brand
  • Agency vendors
  • Media partners
  • Channel partners
  • Freelance writers
  • Franchisees
  • Really, you name it

Also, don’t forget about the process …

You must get buy-in on budget, launch dates, incentives, brand use, legal regulatory compliance and real estate on the homepage or in-store.

The list goes on.

Needless to say, it can be very hard to get through to everybody.

So to help you herd cats … I mean, to help you with multichannel campaign planning, here are tips to help you overcome some key challenges. These are meant to give you a heads up on potential land mines you might hit and challenges you might run into, before you hit them, so you’re able to coordinate with all parties in a smooth, efficient manner.

Or, at the very least, appear to have some of your ducks in a row.

 

Challenge #1. Knowing who you’re talking to

No campaign, not even a multichannel campaign, should start with channels. Or even a message.

It should start with a person.

The customer.

It’s even better if you’re able to segment this starting point into several types of buyers.

“As the world becomes more connected and the consumer really has the ultimate control of the brand, I think it’s even more important that we put their perspective first in our marketing efforts,” said Tami Cannizzaro, Global Director of Marketing, Social Business, IBM.

Tami shared some of the persona work she’s done with IBM as an example …

 

“We developed ideas around the different possible stakeholders in an enterprise-buying decision. We put thought into their personalities and lifestyles,” Tami said. “I think the most important piece of the exercise was that we thought outside our standard viewpoint, put aside our knowledge and assumptions of the market, and considered our customers’ various needs first and foremost.”

To put a face behind those customer segments, you can include fun little doodles, real pictures or stock photos, but most importantly, try to put yourself in the customers’ varied shoes.

A mistake I often make is to think about how I would react to a certain message or piece of content that I’m working on. But, unless my audience is comprised only of devilishly handsome directors of editorial content living in Jacksonville, Fla., I’m missing the boat.

A great example of this often happens at marketing events. A speaker will ask, “How many people in the audience have smartphones?”

Invariably, 99% of the audience raises their hands. Then, they’ll say, “See, everybody has smartphones!” and then proceed to harangue the audience for not engaging in mobile marketing.

But, unless your target market is people who attend the same marketing conference as you, by following this advice, you are not considering the customer. If, for example, your audience is poor or old, mobile marketing may not be a priority for your company’s marketing budget.

So, never make the argument, “Well, I would love a campaign like this.” Instead, take a good, hard look at “Oliver Old Skool” in your buyer persona, and ask, “What would Oliver think?”

 

Challenge #2. Hitting it where they are

The purpose of a multichannel marketing campaign isn’t to get your message out to as many channels as you can. It’s to get your message out to the most effective, most efficient channels.

“A millennial is likely going to interact with greater frequency and preference on mobile, so mobile would be a priority channel if you’re targeting that audience. If you’re trying to reach a senior B2B buyer, that might not be your best channel,” Tami said.

“Social properties like Facebook and Twitter may provide you data and insight into your customers, your owned properties can provide your insight into how your customers seek information, engage and transact with your brand,” Tami suggested.

The personas can really help here, as well.

“Millennials might like less text and more video. The techy guy might like more hands-on demo. [The persona] forces the exercise of targeting so your website isn’t completely generic,” Tami said.

As you’re selecting channels, budgets have a way of focusing the mind. After all, if we all had our druthers, who wouldn’t want a Super Bowl spot? But, the varied channel costs, much like a fantasy football draft, force us to make those trade-offs.

As an example, in our “How much should leads cost?” panel at MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit 2013, Tom Reid, Executive Director, Hacker Group, shared the following media mix review for a health care company …

 

So, how do you get started?

“By starting with small tests and proper Web analytics and attribution, marketers can get a good enough grip on the role each channel plays towards reaching the campaign objective and allocate budgets accordingly,” advised Lori Davis, Online Writer, Qwaya.

 

Challenge #3. Finding their voice, not your voice

Once you know where to say it, you have to know what to say.

“Too often brands lead with product-focused messaging. It’s the wrong approach. Customers don’t know what you’re talking about, or worse, know that you’re trying to sell them something without providing them value. That’s a branding misstep,” Tami advised.

“Marketing should approach any customer-facing campaign by putting their customers’ needs first; it should provide value, it should be like a service. You need to build a conversation with your customers and first speak to their interest or pain point and then, after multiple interactions, consider a solution. It’s about relationship building.”

 

Challenge #4. Creating a consistent message and experience

To help build that relationship, once you know what you want to say, you must ensure everyone is saying the same thing across all channels – with a seamless customer experience to boot.

If the email department sees the campaign focused around luxury, and the agency copywriters creating prints ads think the message is about value, there can be a serious disconnect to the consumer.

As you’re thinking about this, take a look at the world of politics.

Political parties are essentially one big brand, with hundreds of owner-operator franchisees.

It’s also a world where a single slip-up by any one of those owner-operators will be broadcast across the 24-hour news networks and blogosphere with a maddening speed threatening to torpedo the brand.

To stay on the same page, the parties create talking point memos.

“In an attempt to influence public opinion, the leaders of both major parties — Democrats and Republicans alike — craft talking points, scripts for rank-and-file members to follow when discussing particular policy issues. Talking points, when used frequently, become the party line.” – FactCheck.org

Likewise, when you are launching a complex campaign across many entities, you need to ensure the messaging, and central thesis behind the entire campaign, is understood and embodied by all involved.

Your brand comes into play here. A clear primary value proposition along with derivative value propositions is essential.

But, it would also help to have your own version of a talking points memo. Tami presented a Campaign Message Map at Lead Gen Summit that her team uses, and she was kind enough to allow you to download it for free and use it for your own campaigns.

“We start by building a very simple conversation map. It starts with key pain points of our customers, then drops to the business value and finally to our capabilities,” Tami explained.

 

Beyond messaging, there is also the functional aspect of ensuring a consistent experience from one channel to the next.

“Only marketers think in terms of channels – consumers don’t. They consume content, not caring if it’s via the ‘mobile, social channel’ or via the ‘print channel.’ Keep that in mind to make sure the consumer’s transition between channels is natural,” Lori said.

Lori provided this example, “If you advertise a URL in offline media, make sure the website provides a good experience on mobile devices. Sounds obvious, but it is often missed.”

The next level is to gain a single view of the customer.

“You need to create a consistent experience and then you need the ability to track your customers whether in-store, online or via mobile so you have a single view of the customer and can personalize their experience in a way that they will appreciate, to build loyalty,” Tami advised.

Read more…

Social Media Tips: 5 easy steps to set up a Facebook business account

November 1st, 2013 3 comments

I’ve decided to start a Facebook account. Now what?

To start, we need to determine if we are looking to do a business account or a personal account.

Which type of Facebook account is right for you? For the purpose of this blog post, let’s focus on a business account.

If you are going to have a business account, you must start with a personal account. Facebook business pages are similar to personal timelines. A big difference are the analysis tools Facebook includes for business pages that offer in-depth knowledge to help you see how well you are connecting with your community.

Let’s walk together through setting up a page for your business. Please note that the Facebook landscape changes on a regular basis, so remember you can always visit Facebook’s Help Center for updated instructions.

 

Step #1. Set up your personal Facebook account

First, you are going to need a personal Facebook account to set up a page for your business.

The reason for this is driven by Facebook limiting your availability to access its business account process without an initial personal account.

If there is a silver lining to this, the business page will not interact with your personal page and your personal information is not public on the business page.

Facebook will allow you to switch back and forth from your personal account to your business account so you can interact as the business on the business page and then simply switch back to your personal account.

In addition, the business page is capable of being managed by multiple administrators if needed. Once additional administrators are set up for the page, each administrator can simply log in to their personal Facebook account to access the business page’s control panel.

 

Step#2. Select “Create a Page”

You can find this in the “More” section at the bottom of your personal account homepage.

 

Step #3. Select a page

Which page category should you select? 

 

Facebook classifies business pages into six major groups. Here’s a breakdown of each group to help you select the right one for your business.

 

Local Business or Place

  • If you have a brick-and-mortar store where customers physically visit, select the Local Business or Place page.

Company, Organization or Institution

  • If your business is mostly run online or has multiple locations, then you should select the Company, Organization or Institution page.

Brand or Product

  • If your business has products that are sold through multiple websites, resellers and/or retailers, then you will want to select the Brand or Product page.

Artist, Band or Public Figure

  • If you are in the public spotlight and your business is focused on promoting,  the Artist, Band or Public Figure page is the appropriate selection.

Entertainment

  • If you are looking to promote your television show, movie, book, radio station, magazine or other media, select the Entertainment page.

Cause or Community

  • If your organization is a community of action that supports specific issues, campaigns or nonprofit organizations, select the Cause or Community page.

 

If you feel like you made a mistake in your choice of page, you can always change your page type and category. You can do this after you’ve created the page through the admin control panel.

 

Step #4. Select your category and get started  

The category selection is just a simple category drop-down list.

After choosing a group that best fits your business, enter the required information for your page, read the terms, and if you agree, check the box and click “Get Started.”

Now that your business page is set up, the hard part is over!

 

Step #5. Create cover and profile photos  

Facebook allows for a standardized template design with two elements that can be changed on a regular basis.

These two components are:

  • Cover photo
  • Profile photo

These elements are essential to the look and feel of your page. They also serve as free advertising space for your business. Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of them.

 

Cover photos

Cover photos are the large image at the top center of your page that can serve multiple functions.

The size dimensions for cover photos are 850 pixels by 315 pixels.

 

To give you an example, let’s take a look at Motorola’s Facebook page.

Motorola has blended images of its products and text to thank fans for their engagement, which leads me to another point.

Cover photos are versatile and only limited to your creativity. They can introduce visitors to your page, promote special offers, provide contact information, and most importantly, help you set the tone of your page.

Even if you are not a designer or have very limited resources, you can still create effective cover photos.

Freeware like GIMP or Paint.net will allow you to size, crop and save your images as needed.

Also, here’s a tip – try not cover more than 20% of the image with text. The reason is Facebook has been rather picky in the past about the amount of text you can use in images.

I also recommend creating multiple cover photos initially, and then upload and swap them out on a weekly basis.

Creating multiple images is hard enough without adding in the reminder to change the cover photo once per week. However, at the moment, when you change your cover photo, your audience will be able to see that photo in their timeline. Another recent MarketingSherpa blog post dives into the details on Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm.

But for now, I suggest implementing this tactic as a best practice to keep your brand top-of-mind with your Facebook fans. Also, changing out the cover photo on a regular basis to keep your page looking fresh is a good idea.

 

Profile photos

The profile photo is the square box to the bottom left of the cover photo. The dimensions for profile photos are 180 pixels by 180 pixels.

 

Your profile photo serves one main purpose: every time your page posts an update, your profile photo will appear alongside the post on your fans’ timelines.

The profile photo is a small square, so you will want to minimize the amount of text used in this box to maximize the real estate.

A lot of brands safely use a logo in this space for identity, but there is no right or wrong choice here. As I mentioned earlier, your boundaries are the limits of your creativity.

I recommend taking some time to find the right profile image that captures the heart of your business.

 

Related Resources:

Social Media Marketing: A quick look at Facebook EdgeRank

Social Media: 4 simple steps to calculate social media ROI

Social Media Marketing: Why should I like or follow you?

Is Social Media Better for Building Product Credibility?

October 29th, 2013 No comments

I had a conundrum once at dinner when I was a young military guy stationed in Tampa, Fla.

I wanted to try something new, and I had my mind set on Chinese food. In an attempt to get an unbiased opinion, I fired up my trusty laptop and Googled “Chinese food Tampa.”

After sorting through a few million results, I arrived at a few good recommendations based on star ratings and other such nonsense. Just to double check, I phoned a friend who had eaten at the spot I chose.

Knowing my personality and my legendary picky eating habits, he recommended that I not go to my top choice. Of course, I completely ignored him and did it anyway.

Gripped in the depths of gastrointestinal distress two hours later, and surrounded by throngs of hipsters, I realized a simple truth: star ratings are a ridiculous way to gauge a product or service.

As it turns out, most Americans agree with me, at least in principle.

A recent report from Forrester Research indicated 70% of Americans trust brand or product recommendations from friends and family. To give you an idea of how high that percentage is, only 46% of Americans said they trusted consumer-written online reviews.

The takeaway from this research is Americans trust personal recommendations at a much higher rate than reviews from strangers.

 

That creates an interesting dichotomy since most e-commerce stores offer consumer ratings, but not friend and family recommendations via social media.

Take a look at this product page. It just so happens to be the Amazon product page for my recently published book. 

 

You’ll notice the product page offers a star-based review system whereby people who have read the book are able to review it.

This represents the traditional attempt by retailers to reduce customer anxiety about their purchase and increase credibility of the product by allowing real people to give their unfettered opinions of the product. The problem, of course, is the Forrester report has introduced an element of doubt about how effective consumer-written online reviews are at influencing the purchasing behavior of individuals shopping online.

Let’s compare Amazon’s attempt to assuage anxiety to another approach, below:

 

I really like this example of integrating a Facebook comment into a product page because it illustrates the potential for using social media to build your products’ credibility. The widget will allow anyone to comment on your product or service, provided they have a Facebook account.

The widget can be coded to display socially relevant results first. In other words, you can show any comments from your customers’ friends and relatives at the top of the list, and as we’ve discovered, the recommendations of friends can be much more trustworthy.

The only problem I can foresee with this approach is having a lack of comments on a particular product.

Could the Facebook commenting process be so foreign to people that it scares them away?

Do customers understand this is the functionality that they should use to leave a recommendation?

We don’t have answers to those questions.

It seems as if we’re left with a valid research question: which attempt at alleviating anxiety and boosting credibility will be most effective?

Will it be the traditional user-based “star” concept that made me sick, or the socially empowered “friends and family” approach?

Read more…

Why Social Media is the New Customer Service Hotline

October 15th, 2013 3 comments

Buying your first house is a big milestone in American life.

There are two entire HGTV shows, “My First Place” and “Property Virgins” centered around the experience.

Every episode follows basically the same trajectory:

Overly anxious buyers, with expectations that far exceed their budgets, hoping to find the “perfect” dream home to live happily ever after with no problems.

“Oh honey,” current homeowners say pityingly, as they shake their heads knowingly.

Good luck to whoever has those expectations. The really difficult (and least interesting) stuff happens once you move into that glorious, shining home.

Take a friend of mine for example – she recently made that big step into adulthood and bought her first home. Closing went fairly well, so she was feeling good when she finally moved in.

Then, like most first-time homeowners, she looked around and realized how much needed to be done, and how much stuff she didn’t have.

All at once the chaos of happily ever after began to unravel in a series of rescheduled deliveries and insanely long waits on the customer service lines. The real breaking point came when she was trying to schedule the delivery of her washer and dryer.

The company-that-shall-not-be-named rescheduled her delivery four times, and upped her backorder wait time from two weeks to six weeks. After being stressed out by multiple phone reps and receiving no responses to her emails to customer service (she’s still waiting for a reply, in fact), she decided to take the fight to social media.

She was shocked to see the company’s Facebook page promoting the backordered machine that had caused her so much trouble five weeks after purchasing. Not only that, but the website was making the dubious promise that people ordering five weeks after her would receive their washers only three days after her machine was scheduled for delivery.

In spite of posting her concerns, the only interaction she had was with other customers – the brand never commented or attempted to help.

The truth is, many large companies are still not placing enough importance on social media as a customer service channel that more customers have come to expect.

But, there is hope as some big brands are starting to use social media to truly enhance the customer service experience.

 

Social media is the ultimate opportunity to connect with customers

For example, Cisco is a large company that focuses on meeting customers in the social media sphere. Kathleen Mudge, Social Media Marketing Manager and consultant, Cisco, has previously spoken with MarketingSherpa about her views on different social media platforms.

Kathleen consistently embraces social media as the ultimate opportunity to connect with customers.

“Providing customer service can be an entry point to an ongoing relationship,” she said, adding customer service is a great opportunity for conversation and connection with the brand.

Because Cisco is such a large company, Kathleen said it can be “daunting and confusing for customers when an issue arises.  I love delighting customers with quick replies to questions, issues or concerns they post through their social media channels,” she said.

 

Make customers feel heard

Cisco’s social media channels are monitored year-round, Kathleen said, and her goal is to consistently be “extremely responsive to our communities.”

During off-peak times, when one of Cisco’s events isn’t ramping up or in progress, she said customers may expect a response within 12 hours, “but normally within the hour during the week.”

During events however, social media is in overdrive, and customers receive a response time that local emergency crews would envy – within three minutes or sooner.

Kathleen credits proper staffing to this feat, a necessity when “event conversations explode, as they did last June [during the Cisco Live event] with 46,000 total social mentions.”

 

Use complaints as an opportunity

Responsiveness is especially key when dealing with a complaint or upset customers, and addressing the issue immediately will keep the issue in check, Kathleen said.

“I may not have the answer, but I want to let them know I am aware of their issue and I am seeking an answer or solution or whatever it is they may need,” she said.

The same principles of customer service via phone, email or in-person are true in social media (perhaps especially important since it’s available for other customers to see) and making sure a customer feels seen and heard is paramount.

If there isn’t a timely response, “they will most likely continue to get more frustrated and their complaints may multiply, causing a very negative situation for the brand,” Kathleen said.

A complaint handled properly is an opportunity to solve the same problem for other customers who may be following the conversation.

“We can’t always provide a resolution that is what the customer is requesting. No brand can be all things to all people,” she said. But letting a customer know you are aware of their situation and troubleshooting it, “that does a lot to ease the aggravation.”

 

Use and promote positive interactions

Sometimes customers are using social media as an outlet to voice their excitement for an event or their overall experience with the company, and those positive updates, “truly make my day and are the favorite part of my job,” Kathleen said.

 

When Cisco customers post positive updates on Twitter, for example, Kathleen retweets it from the brand in addition to responding to them.

“When I see that I can make a positive difference for someone online through communication with the brand, I am absolutely thrilled and I want to amplify their update by a retweet on Twitter or a ‘like’ and response on Facebook or another channel,” she said.

Cisco’s events are also provide a great opportunity to  flaunt those positive customer interactions – as updates may appear on the big screen during a keynote in front of 20,000 attendees, as well as being available for their virtual audience.

Singling those comments out works for both parties: “They love being recognized and we love highlighting their comments,” she said.

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Social Media: 4 simple steps to calculate social media ROI

September 24th, 2013 2 comments

Recently, I went to visit some friends in Rochester, N.Y.

While waiting for my flight out there, I started browsing Facebook on my phone. After perusing a few status updates and pet pictures, I landed on Ray-Ban’s Facebook page.

Amidst the questions and comments, I saw a really nice pair of Clubmasters I like. While waiting for the return flight, I decided to catch up on some tweets from people I follow.

Coincidentally, one person I follow tweeted about the same Clubmasters sunglasses I was looking at on Facebook a few days earlier and included a link.

So, I clicked on it and was redirected to Ray-Ban’s e-commerce site. I spent a few minutes customizing pairs of Clubmasters to find the perfect combination to suit my tastes. I was tempted to order them, but it was time to start boarding – maybe some other time.

A week later, I noticed a PPC ad in my browser for Ray-Ban. I clicked on the ad, visited its site again, and checked out a video on “Clubmasters Remastered.” I was about to order them for a second time when the phone rang.  A few friends wanted to meet up at the Lemon Bar, a favorite dive for Jacksonville Beach locals.

After a few margaritas, I got a wild hair and decided to finally purchase those Clubmasters. I got home and plopped down in front of my desktop computer, navigated to the e-commerce site I visited earlier, and bought those suckers!

So goes the saga of the multidigital channel user and multidevice user, for that matter. What a mess!

 

Is accurate attribution even possible?

We have entered an era that presents new challenges for marketers.

How do we accurately attribute credit for conversions with so many possibilities? When it comes to crediting digital channels, a number of attribution models exist that can provide clarity. However, when talking about social media, some models are better at accomplishing this than others.

For example, social media is generally not a last click before a conversion.

Therefore, basing a marketing budget solely upon this method would undervalue the contribution of social media to the conversion process. Google Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushik wrote an excellent blog post on attribution modeling, addressing these issues. He opined the Time Decay Attribution Model does a fairly good job above and beyond the last click, and I would agree.

Time decay assigns more credit to media that is closer in time to a conversion, rather than giving full credit to the touch point closest to a conversion as last-click does.

In the Ray-Ban example, instead of Facebook receiving zero credit for my purchase, it would receive at least some credit even though it was my first touch point. This gives a much more realistic picture of how users are engaging versus a last-click model.  Of course, it is the lesser of evils, not immune to biases.

 

How should you attribute social media ROI?

Now that we have a pretty decent way of attributing credit to digital channels beyond last-click, the next challenge is finding a way to accurately quantify the monetary value of social media.

There are a number of businesses offering solutions on how to determine social media ROI. However, I am not aware of a totally foolproof method. It’s still like the wild west out there and one can become lost.

To provide some direction, I’ve reviewed white papers and other literature floating around in cyberspace, piecing together the most compelling elements into a set of steps to estimate social media ROI that goes a little further than the methods I’ve mentioned.

 

How does your social media stack up against paid channels? 

The idea of analyzing social media’s value here is by indirectly comparing similar paid channels to social media first. It’s like assessing what the cost of a social media page would be if it were equivalent to a banner ad, for example. We might multiply the number of Facebook page impressions by the typical CPM of our banner ad campaigns to calculate cost.

A white paper I found offers six ways to measure social media and is responsible for that particular example, which I illustrate in Table 1 below.

The article does a great job of laying out this concept for a number of social media platforms. Other sources have expressed similar approaches. I cheekily refer to the whole of them as “vicarious values.” It’s not quite catchy as an acronym, but it encapsulates the main idea well enough.

 

Step #1. Determine the vicarious value of your social media channels

 

Table 1. Calculating the vicarious value for Facebook 

 

It’s likely your business uses multiple social media sites, so you would need to account for the vicarious value of each social media platform to calculate total vicarious value.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume our only social media presence is on Facebook.

We can easily calculate social network revenue since Facebook’s vicarious value is the same as total vicarious value in this case.

 

Step #2. Determine how many time decay conversions are attributed to your social media channels

This is where time decay attribution comes in.

So, for our example, we used data were taken from the Google Analytics Model Comparison Tool found under the conversions navigation menu. Facebook is our only social media platform. We can go ahead and assume Social Network (Table 2, Row 5) means only Facebook.

 

Table 2. Facebook’s time decay conversions represented as Social Network

 

Under the Time Decay Conversions column, we see 3,029.57 conversions were attributable to Facebook.

 

Step #3. Calculate the revenue due to your social media channels

The conversions attributable to Facebook (Social Network) amounts to 2% of the total conversions as illustrated below.

 

Table 3. Channels as percent of total conversions 

 

 

Step #4. Subtract the vicarious value from the revenue attributed to your social network   

From here, you can calculate revenue due to Facebook by applying an average sale price for your goods or services to the number of conversions as seen in the formula provided in Table 4 below.

Now, do you remember that vicarious value we figured out in Step #1?

Here’s where it matters.

 

Table 4. Calculated estimate of ROI for Facebook 

 

By subtracting the vicarious value (labeled cost here) from the total revenue due to your social network, the remainder gives you the profit.

From there, we have all of the pieces to estimate the ROI.

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Social Media Marketing: Why should I like or follow you?

September 10th, 2013 5 comments

Once upon a time, I was the new kid at school. Since I was a fairly athletic kid, I soon found myself in the midst of a pickup football game at recess. Imagine my horror when, despite my lack of knowledge about the competition, I was selected as a team captain.

I remember asking kids to explain to me, as quickly as possible, why I should choose them for my team. Some kids gave excellent reasons. “I’ve got good hands,” says one. “I’m the fastest kid here,” chimed in another. Many of the kids, however, never offered any answer to my question. Some of them ended sitting out the game because they couldn’t articulate why they should be picked. In football, as in social media, the key to getting picked is selling yourself.

You’re probably used to selling your products, but do you sell your social media?

Here’s what I mean.

 

How does value proposition relate to social media?

The fundamental value proposition question is:

“If I’m your ideal prospect, why should I buy from you rather than any of your competitors?”

I’ve even heard the phrase expanded in an academic environment to include this add-on phrase: “or do nothing at all?”

The “do nothing at all” is an important distinction because given a set of equally depressing options, a consumer may elect to forgo any product purchase at all.

Therefore, the smart companies tailor product development efforts in such a way the value proposition question produces a satisfying answer in regard to product offerings.

This leads me to another important question.

If product developers know that answering the value proposition question effectively is the key to successful product development, then why can’t a similar logic be applied to your social media efforts?

 

Whose problem are you solving?

The biggest problem I see with most social media marketing campaigns is usually a paradigm problem. It’s also the primary reason why a company won’t ultimately become successful in the medium.

When companies launch marketing efforts, it’s generally to boost sales. But social media, however, is only successful when content solves a customer problem, not a lack of sales problem.

In other words, most companies are not asking the right value exchange questions. Let’s take Twitter for example.

The prevalent mindset is a company-centric focus of “how can we sell products using Twitter?” instead of a customer-centric focus on “why should potential customers engage our Twitter feed rather than any of our competitors’?”

Consequently, it would do well for marketers to stop and ask the fundamental question, “Is there any true value in our marketing proposition?”

 

From my experience, when marketers begin to ask these deeper questions about their social media content, the conversational ratio of their posts begins to change – usually for the better.

Here’s another fantastic illustration of my point.

 

Do this:

 

Not this: 

 

Notice how Publix has given the visitor a solution to their problem of wanting to eat more fish. They’ve included a free fish recipe, and a mouthwatering image of a completed meal.

The value of this post is clear and easily recognized. I want to engage with this content because doing so will enable me to cook a great fish meal for my family and achieve my goal of eating more fish.

The hoodie retailer, on the other hand, clearly has no answer to the question of why a user would want to engage with the content. Other than the gratuitous pandering about Saturday tailgates, the retailer makes no effort to solve any problem for the customer.

It even goes as far as to command the customer to “shop now.” Anybody who’s ever crafted a call-to-action knows that dog won’t hunt.

This post is designed to solve the retailer’s problem: the need to sell hoodies. It holds no value for customers whatsoever.

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