Monthly Archives: January 2011

Converting Customers: The Digital Drip-Feed

You can’t deny it: social media does lack the grandeur held by an emotive, sweeping TV advert; lacks the visual ‘punch’ of a colossal billboard passed by hundreds of thousands of people every day.  Which I presume, is why so many people question its relative value as a marketing investment; especially considering the ROI debate continues to rumble on.

However, social media is rapidly becoming part of an integrated digital subculture that underpins our lives as consumers.  Our daily routines are now stitched together by a variety of different digital devices.  I walk to work in the morning and browse Twitter.  I ‘check in’ to a coffee shop on Foursquare.  I tag friends at a restaurant on Facebook in the evening.  Social media is a way of life, offering touch-points throughout the day.

And it’s this ‘digital drip-feed’ that makes social media so effective.

Today sees the launch of the UK version of ‘Facebook Deals’, with Starbucks, Mazda and Argos all signed up from the off.  The premise is simple: ‘check-in’ and receive discounts, offers and deals.  This symbiotic relationship offers brands a glut of digital buzz, whilst consumers benefit from some great promotions, leading to retention brand advocacy.

I’ve yet to find someone who doesn’t adore Guinness’ ‘horses’ advert.  Yet on a day-to-day level, will that make me go out and drink a pint of Guinness?  Probably not.  However, if faced with two high street coffee shops and my mobile device offers me a coffee for £1 just for checking in, I know which one I’d choose.

So with Facebook deals set for lift off in the UK, it’s worth remembering that social media is SO important as part of an integrated marketing strategy.  Cinematic, orchestral, art house adverts that tug at the soul may well get your brand some exposure.

It’s the digital drip-feed that converts them into paying customers however.

(CC image courtesy of GollyGForce on Flickr.)

Farcical Friday – Follow Friday Loses Its Way

In writing this, I’m aware that I’m being hypocritical.  After all, I often engage in the Twitter phenomenon known as ‘Follow Friday’ (#FF).  But in recent weeks, I’ve really started to question the value of this social practice.

I read an interesting blog post this week by Kevin Ball, in which he highlighted some fascinating work by Mark Granovetter conducted in the 1970s.  Part of Granovetter’s findings showed that:

“We have strong ties with people in the same network as ourselves and these are slow in creating change.”

He also claimed:

“People with strong ties are in the same circles, they listen to the same sources and they learn nothing new from one another.”

And I think that social media can be just as cliquey.

If you think about the concept of social media as part of a grand concept, the possibilities are mind-blowing.  A connected world in which we have immediate access to human interactions – to collaborate, share, learn, converse, help, advise, support.

Don’t get me wrong; despite these philanthropic possibilities, I also enjoy the banal, informal chat and banter that channels such as Twitter provide.  But I see enclaves of users mixing purely in their immediate circle and communicating only with each other – and as I stated at the outset, this is something I am also guilty of.

And here’s where #FollowFriday comes in.

Every week, I tend to see the same people telling us to follow the same people – in many instances, we’re all following that person anyway.  The premise of Follow Friday is very good indeed – but how many of you actually start following someone based on a recommendation of your peers?  Say you follow 100 people and each person shares 3 Follow Fridays.  Do you start following 300 new people?  And in a week’s time, a further 900 people?

No.

For me, Follow Friday has become a way of publicly doffing one’s hat to someone they like – a way in which to show someone that they like them.  But in terms of a genuine mechanic to share like-minded people and promote digital integration and collaboration, I think that Follow Friday falls short, especially considering the sheer volume of Follow Fridays that are published every week.

The premise of Follow Friday is excellent – but I feel many Twitter users have lost sight of its original purpose.

Gillette: Making Social Media the Call To Action

Aside from being, well, rather damn funny, Gillette’s latest advert tells us a lot about the validity of social media:

What is the call to action of this advert?

Visit the Facebook page.

More and more brands are using social media as valid platforms on which to generate buzz and build consumer engagement.

Traditional advertising continues to create ‘noise’, making various ‘announcements’.

Social media however, breeds ENGAGEMENT.

And THAT’S marketing Mecca.

Social Media: Time to DEFINE What You Want.

Take my fiancé’s voice.  It can be used to whisper tender sentiments that warm my heart, or, more frequently, to express irritation that I haven’t hung up the bath mat / put the washing out / hoovered up properly / {insert suitable misdemeanour here}…

As my German teacher continually used to tell me, I’m being facetious.  But the fact remains, that social media is very much like my girlfriend’s voice.  Why?  Because it too has many different uses – and this truth is something that simply has to become embedded in the minds of companies seeking to use social media effectively.

It’s 2011 and if we take a snapshot of the corporate / consumer landscape, it’s evident that many brands are starting, slowly, to ‘get’ social media – and, more pertinently, get it right.  But there still exists a plethora of brands who find themselves asking for resources to ‘do social media’, yet remain unsure of what they want social media to achieve.

Here is my list of social media differentiation:

i) Branding

Want to get yourself noticed?  Engage and interact with your consumers, clients, customers?  Build subcultural capital?  Grow brand awareness with your target audience.  Social media is a valid catalyst that will get your brand noticed by more people, in the channels they choose to be reached in.  Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Wikis, LinkedIn, podcasts, YouTube, Flickr – the key is to be amongst your target audience, be interested in the things they like and show them that they need to invest in your brand as consumers.

We live in an age of permission marketing – your target audience won’t grant you permission unless you can show them that you share their interests.

ii) Commerce

This point ties neatly in with the argument put forward by naysayers who claim social media offers no ROI.  Quite frankly, this is spurious nonsense.  Of course, Dell is the ‘ROI posterboy’, posting sales figures of $3m dollars (& that was June 2009!) directly through its Twitter account, @DellOutlet.

From a branding perspective, measuring branding through any channel (print, press, posters, TV adverts etc.) is difficult to say the least.  But when it comes down to cold, hard, digital e-commerce, the fact is, digital marketers can choose from a wealth of analytics packages to track sales sources.  And more pertinently, social media channels are a great way to reach consumers who may not visit your traditional outlets, be they physical, websites or email.

iii) Customer Service

And this is one that is fast outstripping traditional methods.  Five years ago, a disgruntled customer would submit a form on a website, with their query / complaint / demands being whisked off electronically to some virtual email black hole.  A week later, a customer service representative may get round to opening your email and issuing a ‘case number’, but the fact remains, this has taken too long in the consumer’s mind.

Take social media – especially Twitter.  A complaint aired socially can be picked up instantly by a team of social media customer service staff.  Instant replies offering direct phone numbers, website pages for help, details of someone to contact, money-off deals or compensation are fast becoming the norm.  I grumbled about BT on Twitter regarding what was clearly an erroneous bill.  Within a few minutes, I had received an @reply asking for more details, was asked for my phone number and called up then and there.  The issue was resolved within 10 minutes.  A bad situation turned into a happy consumer – all from a tweet.

***

Those of you that are au fait with social media (and are still reading!) will no doubt be aware of these three basic different uses.  But the point I wish to make is thus:

Social media in itself is not ‘a strategy’ or ‘a solution’. Like anything, it needs strategy, purpose and alignment with business objectives.  If more companies are looking to invest in social media, that can only be a good thing – but these businesses must define the purpose of their social media engagement in order to ensure that it is effective.

You can find me moaning about utilities companies on Twitter right here: @callumsaunders

CC image courtesy of Kelsey Ohman (kmohman) on Flickr.

Social Marketing Trends 2011

Although I’m loathe to add to the glut of ‘predictions’, ‘lists’ and ‘trends’ that are currently awash in the blogosphere / Twitterverse, it seems only natural to look ahead to the coming 12 months.  As far as social media is concerned, even the most sceptical marketing professionals now admit that social has some form of role to play in any business.

So in 2011, a year in which a VAT increase and public spending cuts will undoubtedly affect both consumer behaviour and marketing strategy, what will social media bring to the marketing mix?

i) Consumerism ‘as a game’

There have been countless articles published recently citing the psychological compulsion of competing, collecting and rewarding.  While Foursquare remains the poster boy for location-based apps, many other businesses are recognising this trend and are starting to offer ‘badges’ and rewards to their consumers.  ‘Review a product on our website and unlock 5 points’.  ‘Become a fan on Facebook and receive a 10% discount on your next purchase.’

In essence, incentivising consumers with a game mechanic acts as a virtual loyalty card, with the added benefit of offering visible kudos.  This won’t be suitable for every business, but in 2011 I predict this phenomenon will continue to grow significantly.

ii) Knowledge

This heading may sound rather vague, but I believe that ‘knowledge’ will be one of the most important developments in social media this year.  When people started considering the marketing potential of social media, a million ‘social media gurus’ came out of the woodwork, LinkedIn proving the most popular breeding ground for these ‘experts’.

However, the truth is that in 2011 brands and businesses now have access to a pool of marketers that have worked in social media marketing for 12-24 months now.  Yes, the medium is still relatively new, but social media marketers have now amassed some solid commercial experience, which I believe companies will utilise effectively in 2011.

iii) Social promotions

So you’ve accumulated 10,000 fans on Facebook.  And?  While 2010 became the year in which we raced to build up communities for visible brand advocacy, 2011 is the year in which marketers have to start making effective use of these groups.

I believe that consumer brands are very well positioned to start offering exclusive commercial offers through social channels, especially if these are tied in with incentivised activities such as reviews, ‘likes’ and newsletter sign-ups.  And for B2B businesses, social channels can offer access to ‘exclusive’ content that keeps audiences engaged and informed.  Social marketers sweated blood to build these communities in 2010 – 2011 will see them utilised.

iv) Exploration of technology

There was a time when ‘being social’ constituted ‘having a company blog’.  These days, mention ‘social media’ and that perception will have grown slightly to encompass Facebook and Twitter.  But even this is missing the larger picture.

Company videos; podcasts; social bookmarks; social email marketing; LinkedIn; blogs; Twitter; Facebook; Wikis; mobile apps; location-based services.  Digital marketers in 2011 have an absolute wealth of free, high-quality platforms through which to publish content, converse with consumers and market their products, offers and brands.

This year, expect to see big brands and small businesses alike making full use of the social spectrum – which will also highlight the importance of quality content.

v) Integration

I’m not talking about social media’s integration in our lives as consumers, but rather its integration with digital marketing as a function.  While social media marketing specialists have valid places within a marketing team, they are no longer bearded university grads who simply ‘get’ Twitter.

Social media can offer so much to a brand’s digital marketing activity and aligning this activity with broader marketing strategy is essential to business success in 2011.  We’ve all seen examples of ‘bad’ social media strategy consisting of random tweets and a monthly Facebook update – all too random to achieve any discernable commercial goals.

Integrate social media activity with the grand marketing plan however, and you’ll reach more consumers through more channels with the intended message, signalling success for your business and streamlined marketing communications.

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Social media has cemented itself as a valid marketing channel.  2009’s early adopters remain ahead of the curve, having learnt lessons through trial and error.  Brands that were initially hesitant have also got off the blocks, resulting in 2010’s scramble for Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and mobile apps.

There’s no doubt that social media has now been validated by the marketing profession – which bodes for very big things in 2011.