Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Blending the Art of Marketing with the Science of Technology

By Jeff Schick, Vice President, Social Software at IBM

Investments in IT have long been the domain of the CIO, but all of that is changing as CMOs increasingly impact IT investments in today’s social and digital world. Given the business realignment between marketing and technology, the CMO and CIO can no longer afford to operate on separate stages. To succeed, they’ll have to forge a shared agenda to deliver business results through innovation and efficiency.

CMOs: imagine your job, but with next-generation skills, expanded peer networks, and the tools and technologies to transform your profession. CIOs: think about sharing your expertise in enterprise IT integration and expanding your horizons further outside the firewall. Together you can approach marketing as an essential enterprise system that delivers innovation, business results, and better customer experiences.

One area challenging both CMOs and CIOs is how to leverage the growing social sphere.

Today’s CMO is struggling with how to better reach and engage with customers. According to the 2011 IBM CMO Study, 82% of CMOs say they plan to increase their use of social media over the next three to five years. We know today’s consumer has unlimited access to information and can instantly share it with the world. This immediacy has raised consumers’ expectations for 100% personalized communications and top-notch service.

At the same time, CIOs are facing a similar struggle within the organization’s walls. That same empowered consumer is today’s empowered employee striving to meet deadlines and deliver superior results at an even faster pace. According to IDC, employees typically see up to 30% increased productivity using social tools internally to complete their work. With a workforce that is socially oriented and geographically distributed, CIOs today are struggling to provide company data on every type of device for their on-the-go, highly motivated employees.

While social is a common denominator for today’s CMO and CIO, what does it look like when they come together to achieve their goals and in the end realize business value for their organization?

Here are some examples of organizations across the globe that are leading the charge, pioneering this C-suite social agenda, and as a result, delivering a superior social, digital brand experience for their customers and employees:

  • Taking advantage of cutting edge digital experience and social technologies, Wimbledon has transformed its web presence to meet the needs of the 16 million people who tune in online to the annual tennis championships. By visiting its website, www.wimbledon.com, fans can share information, interact with, and connect to The Championships as though they were actually there.
  • Cars.com is similarly embracing web experience technology to provide a 360-degree view of its entire business operations, enabling dealers to examine current inventory, change pricing, and manage photos, among many other business activities—ultimately providing better services to its customers. Today, Cars.com has scaled to support 200 million unique visitors a year, an increase of 145 million visits since 2007.
  • Gruppo Amadori, a wholesale distributor of quality foods in Italy, has improved its online presence, enabling the company to communicate more directly with younger consumers and increase consumer loyalty. The organization can create new mini-sites up to 40% faster, saving time and costs. Amadori has also created an up-to-date database of consumer details, helping the company better understand the needs of its customers.
  • The region of Windsor-Essex, Ontario, Canada has created a community portal built to provide the region’s government and related organizations with the tools to help citizens with emergency and community services, transportation, health, utilities, and life events, such as getting married, having a baby, or retiring. Through the region’s innovative use of IBM technology, asthma attacks have been alleviated, a local automobile manufacturing plant diversified into the aerospace industry, and 250 tons of waste materials from a road construction project was made into new housing for those who needed it the most.

Despite a few trailblazers, like the organizations listed above, this collaboration between CMO and CIO is the exception and not the rule, but it’s clear that if your organization is looking to gain an advantage over the competition, this relationship is the ticket to success. It’s time as a marketer to knock on your IT department’s door and get collaborating!

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#7: Ensure Value

By Kent Huffman, Author of 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success

“What’s the ROI from all that social media stuff you’ve been doing?” your boss asks. One of his favorite questions, right? Or if you’re a small business owner, you’ve probably heard that same question from your partner or CPA.

Generating reliable performance metrics for your social media activities—gathered and reported in an efficient, easily interpreted manner—has become a major priority for practitioners of social media marketing to help them demonstrate the value from participating in social media and validate their investments in it.

Your boss, partner, or CPA wants to compare the investment of personnel, time, money, and other resources to the return. But without supplying verifiable ROI data and analysis, any long-term relationships that marketers hope to develop and maintain with their social media communities are most likely in jeopardy.

So how do you go about ensuring that you’re deriving value from your social media marketing efforts—and that you can accurately measure that value? Obviously, tracking online “chatter” can help expose the bad as well as the good. For example, your fans and followers may publicly laud your products or suggest improvements to them, giving you the opportunity to respond quickly and address their comments or concerns. Also, there are now a myriad of technology tools available that can help measure the financial impact of social media on your organization, including lead generation, e-commerce revenue, etc.

The social media monitoring and measuring process is still in its infancy. However, in today’s hyper-competitive environment and relatively weak economy, generating measurable, repeatable value from social media is no longer an option for most marketers.

(This is an excerpt from Kent’s new book, 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success.)

Next: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#8: Continue Listening

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#6: Build Community

By Kent Huffman, Author of 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success

Building a loyal community of fans and followers is not a snap-your-finger deal. You have to put the “right stuff” out there to attract and grow an audience, and you’ll have to continually nurture the crop before it bears any fruit. But the payoff for that investment can be significant.

Where to begin, you ask? Start by identifying key influencers and cultivating individual relationships with them that you can later aggregate into a group of people who share common interests. This is your foundation—the heartbeat of your social media marketing activity. These relationships will become the core of your community and will help you expand its reach and contribute to its growth and influence.

The key to aggregation is providing quality content to your community that interests your target audience—content that’s informational in nature, not a sales pitch. And make sure that content is always relevant to your strategy and your followers. Effective connections with your audience are built when you provide information that’s based on understanding your market segment and your community’s needs, and by presenting those relevant morsels in a concise, easy-to-digest way.

And make it easy for your community members to share your content with their other communities. This will help dramatically expand your reach. Also, you don’t have to create all the content yourself; instead, promote the submission of user content from within your community, so everyone who wants to get involved is able to do so.

Yes, community building can be difficult, mainly because it requires determination, dedication, and grit—and a lot of time. But it’s key to your longevity in social media.

(This is an excerpt from Kent’s new book, 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success.)

Next: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#7: Ensure Value

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#5: Demonstrate Leadership

By Kent Huffman, Author of 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success

Social media leaders—as is the case with their offline counterparts—are most often valued and respected for their knowledge, experience, passion, and vision. The most effective social media leaders also demonstrate a strong sense of responsibility, serve as standard bearers, have a relatively high tolerance for risk, lead by example, think strategically, plan for the short and long term, express humility, and have the innate ability to inspire others.

Another important characteristic synonymous with social media leadership is integrity—and because of the ability for others to quickly and easily spot insincerity and dishonesty on social media, a leader’s integrity must be solid as a rock at all times. Innovation is another hallmark of a strong leader. The most successful leaders on social media not only create new concepts and trends and serve as change agents, they also figure out unique ways to generate value and generously and consistently share that value with their online communities.

Are you an influencer? Every effective social media leaders is. In fact, many of their friends and followers are subconsciously looking to be influenced. It’s how they learn. And that’s why they keep coming back to the leaders for guidance and inspiration.

Finally, what about leadership style? Think about those leaders you know who are akin to a tyrant straddling a big black stallion. Or the other ones you know who are compassionate but have a firm hand on their ship’s tiller and wise words of advice for their shipmates. Which approach do you think has the most impact in the social media world?

Demonstrating leadership is probably the fastest way to create a loyal following on social media. But along with that comes responsibility. So take it seriously.

(This is an excerpt from Kent’s new book, 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success.)

Next: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#6: Build Community

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#4: Establish Trust

By Kent Huffman, Author of 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success

The success of virtually every brand relies largely on the bond of trust generated between customer and company. That same bond can obviously be created between individuals as well. But as is the case with Mandate #3 (develop relationships), trust also has to be earned.

To begin with, authenticity is essential in your social media messaging. Whether you’re speaking for your organization or yourself, always be you—just plain old honest you. Pretending to be someone you’re not is a shortcut to a credibility gap, and that spells trouble in the trust-building business.

Being the real you—and growing the trust factor—needs to come with a good dose of personality as well. However, don’t exhibit the steamroller mentality: a pushy, get out of the way, I’m on a mission-type attitude. On social media, it’s too easy to distance yourself from people like that just by unfollowing or unfriending them. So instead, strive to be known as a thoughtful, considerate, supportive member of the social media community.

Exhibiting an inquisitive nature and a funny bone can help keep you in good standing, too. A great sense of humor is always an effective ice breaker and door opener. In addition, strive to be as transparent as is reasonable. The more open and honest you’re willing to be—and the more information you’re willing to share—the more credible you’ll appear. And always do what you say you’re going to do. Nothing will impact trust in a positive way more than living up to your commitments.

As a marketer, you must realize that responsiveness also plays a major role in building trust. Especially when you’re dealing with a complaint or other negative issue, be prepared to address it head-on, and do so quickly.

(This is an excerpt from Kent’s new book, 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success.)

Next: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#5: Demonstrate Leadership

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#3: Develop Relationships

By Kent Huffman, Author of 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success

A true relationship has to be earned. It’s about respect and trust. And a balanced relationship is reciprocal. You do something for somebody else, and they do something for you. You exchange ideas. You use each other as a sounding board. For a relationship to last, it has to be a two-way street.

Followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook are not equivalent to relationships. Just as in the real world, a true relationship on social media has to go deeper than just a surface connection. Having 5,000 followers or 10,000 friends is meaningless if you don’t truly connect. If you’re not convinced of that, ask one of your Twitter followers for an opinion on that white paper you’re writing. If nothing happens, you’ve got your answer.

One of the keys to nurturing real relationships on social media can be found in the manner of your engagement. People want to be valued, and once they feel you value them, they will most likely feel a connection with you—and some degree of loyalty—and will also continue to expect an ongoing dialogue to reinforce those feelings. And you’d better deliver if you expect the relationship to grow and strengthen over time.

Successful relationships are also about helping to support others. It’s not all about you, your company, or your agenda. Social media is a community, and as a member of that community, you should not only contribute to it in various ways, but you should also recognize the contributions of others. For example, promoting other people’s accomplishments by “liking” their videos, retweeting their tweets, or sharing their latest blog posts will go a long way toward building connections and real relationships.

And don’t let those relationships stop at the keyboard. Get to know your social media connections in the real world whenever possible.

(This is an excerpt from Kent’s new book, 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success.)

Next: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#4: Establish Trust

LinkedIn Helps You Pay It Forward to Nonprofits

By Wayne Breitbarth, CEO of Power Formula and author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success: Kick-Start Your Business, Brand, and Job Search

You’ve polished your LinkedIn profile, developed a large network of valuable contacts, and joined the most advantageous LinkedIn groups. From a professional standpoint, you should now be reaping the benefits—growing your client/customer base, seeing increased activity on your website, and becoming a thought leader in your industry.

You obviously did not get to this point alone. Friends and business associates have written recommendations for you, used the introduction function to introduce you to key members of the business community, and shared your status updates with their networks. Along the way, you have undoubtedly assisted your connections as well, but now it is time to pay it forward in another way—by helping your favorite nonprofit organization.

Here are six ways you can use LinkedIn to benefit your favorite charitable group:

  1. Include information about the organization in your LinkedIn individual profile. In the Experience section, list as a current job your title and/or involvement, along with the name of the organization. You then have 2,000 characters to explain the organization’s mission, accomplishments, and needs. Once you do this, the organization will appear in the top box of your profile. You can list three websites on your profile. Use one of the three websites for a hyperlink directly to the organization’s website. In the Summary section, consider having a special section to describe why this organization is important to you. Include in the Specialties section the name of the organization or other keywords that describe the group. You can then be found more easily if someone searches for people involved in your specific group or other groups with a similar mission or purpose. Use SlideShare or Google Presentation to share a PowerPoint or video about the organization. Use Blog Link or WordPress applications to connect the organization’s blog to your profile. Finally, list the name of the organization in the Groups & Associations section.
  2. Use the Status Update Box on your home page or Discussions/News in groups you belong to. Here you can publicize an event, recruit volunteers, share results and accomplishments, ask a question of the group or your network that will help solve a problem, and find employees, suppliers, and/or vendors for the organization.
  3. Use the LinkedIn Advanced Search function to find out who in your network knows people at the significant foundations and companies in your marketplace. Then facilitate an introduction to the staff of the nonprofit organization.
  4. Search for and join LinkedIn groups in and out of your regional or local market that appear to be in the same space or have a similar mission as your organization. This is a great way to keep track of what others are doing, saying, and sharing.
  5. Start a LinkedIn group for the organization’s supporters, donors, and/or volunteers. A subgroup can be created to share information that is only pertinent to volunteers, for instance. Starting a group for an event you are planning can help you share information leading up to the event and wrap up information after the event.
  6. Use the Events application to promote the organization’s upcoming events.

Follow these six simple but highly effective steps—all of which can be done without leaving the comfort of your home or office—and then don’t be surprised when the phone rings with an invitation to join the board of your favorite nonprofit!

Turning Facebook “Likes” into More than Just Clicks

By Kelly Loubet, Social Media Consultant

Everyone knows that clicking the “like” button on a company’s Facebook page shows that company is increasing its fan base. But what happens after the click? For me, it’s often just that. A click. I’m sure I’m not alone. So how do brands turn a simple click into loyal relationship with consumers?

It all starts with engagement. If a brand can engage its audience, it’s on the right track. Being able to excite the fan base and get them to act is key in building a Facebook community. But in order to get them to act, there must be an exciting call to action. Contests, polls, and general questions encourage a sense of community. They’ve already acknowledged that they like the brand, now’s their chance to share their opinion.

In addition to a call to action, in order to engage the audience, a brand must also put out worthwhile content. Blog posts that both inform and entertain readers are a must. So many brands today are just putting out fluff pieces. Sure, these pieces of content keep their Facebook pages fresh, but audiences want something more. They want something they can relate to. A well-written post can be shared again and again across Facebook by loyal community members. Give them something worth sharing.

Finally, loyal community members want to be rewarded. Companies that find a way to give back to their fans have much more activity on their pages than brands who don’t engage. A simple “thank you” to fans when a certain milestone has been reached can go a long way: “Thank you to all our readers who helped us reach 10,000 fans. We couldn’t have done it without you and your input.” A message like this will prompt those who have been around from the beginning to comment and be proud of the community they helped to build.

Beyond words of thanks, giveaways are another nice way to show your community you’re happy to have them around. Brands might also consider a charity drive. Giving back always builds a sense of gratitude in people. Nothing builds community more than giving.

These are just some simple ideas that could be easily implemented with a dedicated team. Without a team willing to put the time in to keep the conversations going, it’s not going to work. Facebook is about people. It’s about relationships. No relationship grows without some cultivation.

If your brand is looking to step up your Facebook efforts, be sure you have the proper team in place. Soon enough, your Facebook community will be going beyond the “like.”

Will Social Media Change the Face of Modern Marketing?

By Debi Kleiman, President of MITX (Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange, creators of FutureM)

The very foundation of marketing is transforming before our eyes, and social media is playing a bigger and bigger role in the way marketers communicate.

MITX’s FutureM offers the community a week of events exploring the future of marketing and media, designed to promote innovation and bring the community together around the biggest and most exciting topics facing marketers today. FutureM events address the changing role of social media in marketing, so we reached out to our socially savvy event partners to find out their answers to the following question: “What is social media’s role in the future of marketing?” Here is what they had to say:

  • Ian Cross, Professor of Marketing at Bentley University
    “Social media is woven into the fabric of social discourse and upending conventions about what should be shared, discussed, and presented to society. But the medium is not the message; the message is defining the medium. Technologies will come and go, but the free exchange of real-time information is exciting, and it is challenging organizations and consumers. Tricky questions of censorship, organized riot and revolt, and online identity will need to be resolved. But right now, let’s embrace the unfettered exchange of ideas and technology that bring us together and resist efforts to command and control.”
  • John Fichera, Boston University student and intern, The Castle Group and CMO, FutureM Student Committee
    “Social media makes marketing personal. For example, if you see that one of your friends is into a certain product or brand (e.g., via Facebook), then this can spark your interest to at least research the product, raising name recognition.”
  • Chris Pollara, CEO of Convertiv
    “As adoption continues to grow, social media will become the preferred connection point and education vehicle between brands and consumers. Leading organizations will need to adopt and scale accordingly. Well-executed campaigns will motivate your community by fostering natural, self-sustaining conversation centered on consumer-generated media.”
  • Matt Rainone, Manager of Strategic Marketing at AMP Agency
    “The future of social is less about the channels and more about how, when, and where we’re accessing them. Our emotional connections to our devices point to a future where our social profiles, location-based services, and mobile payment systems converge to create an always-connected, one-step-from-purchase lifestyle.”
  • Marty Watts, Director of the Meltwater Group
    “In the future, social media will alter the role of (PR, advertising, and digital) agencies, and more importantly, how these service businesses are run. By leveraging the slew of new social media technologies, these organizations will be able to drive down fixed operating costs while generating net new revenues through digital client work. It will be exciting to watch which agencies embrace this sea change and succeed and those that cannot adapt and go the way of the Dodo.”

Social media is evolving as a force—if not THE force—in modern marketing. As e-commerce and social grow together, websites like Twitter, Facebook, and the young Google+ are becoming the playground for experimental marketing. This is creating new challenges for marketers, buyers, sellers, and others within the social ecosystem. As innovations—such as Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories”—show, there are plenty of up-and-coming ways to turn social media into a powerful marketing medium.

The modern social media strategist must be part technologist and part behaviorist. As marketing leaders, we must be willing to experiment with and implement technology while studying the changes in human behavior that come with new and evolving social media adoption. As our experts stated above, we are in the midst of foundational change. Who’s brave enough to create social media’s future?

The Trend: “Alone Together.” The Trigger? Web 2.0

By Berenice Ring, Professor at Fundação Getulio Vargas

There are now 2.1 billion Internet users on planet Earth—30 percent of the world’s population! And to access the Internet, we now have countless models of cell phones, laptops, tablets, and every other wonder technology has provided us with. We can no longer live without them!

Visiting friends recently, I witnessed an interesting scene in their living room. The father, an advertising professional, worked on his iMac. The mother, an interior decorator, chose fabrics on her iPad. The daughter, multitasking on a PC, searched the Internet to do her homework and listened to music on iTunes while still logged on to Facebook. And the son played video games. All of them, no doubt, had their cell phones on. A commonplace scene, no? The question is, were they actually together in the living room?

This is the latest trend emerging all over—”alone together”—driven by advances in technology and by Web 2.0.

Trends are behaviors that define change patterns that have been building for some years and are expected to last for another many years. Is this particular trend good or bad for society? As with everything else in life, there are several sides to the issue.

MIT professor and ethnography specialist Sherry Turke published a book earlier this year entitled Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Turk argues that, instinctively, we humans still need physical proximity, noticing the lack of satisfaction and increased alienation among users she studied.

With the recent explosion of technology and social networks, we might gather that human relationships are thriving as never before! However, what Turke suggests is that we are ascribing human attributes to objects and treating each other as things. She reveals the paradoxical picture of today’s human disconnect, caused by the expansion of virtual connections on cell phones and computers.

We are indeed alone in the room, alienated from our family and everyone in our milieu. And yet, when my family took car trips before the emergence of all this Internet paraphernalia, my daughter often announced that she was going to turn on her “isolation kit” (i.e., iPod) for the duration. So I ask, didn’t our Generation Y children already isolate themselves from the family in their rooms long before all these tools appeared?

And if, on one hand, we are alone in our living room, on the other, we are more united than ever with our friends through Facebook and Orkut, to people with common hobbies and tastes through communities in which we choose to take part, and to other professionals in our industry via LinkedIn and Twitter. Moreover, technology enables us to establish joint creative connections with other individuals through wikis, like the one that resulted in the fabulous phenomenon Wikipedia. The strength of like-minded masses even elected the American president! Using a reverse approach, Foursquare was created, already boasting 10 million users, bringing people together in the physical world—in bars and restaurants, for instance—with a digital “check-in” tool that enables us to inform people we know of our whereabouts.

It is worth keeping in mind that there is also a fraternization side to this story. A viral message received by a father, for example, may become a subject of conversation with his son, and vice-versa. There is surely still much to talk about regarding the consequences of this trend for both the family and society.

And what about corporations? Companies that keep an eye on trends are always ready to draw insights from them. Those that manage to deploy these trends constructively will be better equipped to see the direction where we are going and to build potential future scenarios more accurately. Their strategies to deal with the present will have a much greater chance of success! Not only that; by arriving ahead of others in the marketplace, they gain significant competitive advantage over their competitors.

There is no doubt that great business opportunities are waiting for us—in the physical, digital, and mobile worlds.

How about you? Have you begun thinking about your digital strategy?

The Sexiest Ain’t Always the Best

By Wayne Breitbarth, CEO of Power Formula and author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success: Kick-Start Your Business, Brand, and Job Search

Facebook is the bikini of the social media wardrobe. Some people choose to bare all, sharing intimate personal details, shocking photographs, and other information that is sure to make your mother blush.

Then there’s Twitter—short bursts of engaging verbiage that informs or moves others to action. Consider it the wardrobe accessories or the flashy, eye-catching addition to every outfit.

Now where does that leave LinkedIn? In the social media wardrobe, I would consider it the practical navy blue suit—a necessity in any professional’s wardrobe.

LinkedIn currently has more than 100 million members, with a new person being added every minute. As reported on the LinkedIn website, the average user’s household income is $91,566, 63.2% of users hold a college or postgraduate degree, and 20.6% are middle management or above. I don’t know about you, but those sound like the kind of people I’d like to add to my network.

Facebook and Twitter may be more fun—and I’m not questioning the value they can provide—but in my opinion, LinkedIn is where the real work gets done, especially if you are in the B2B space. Perhaps it is the less-than-sexy nature of LinkedIn that causes many people to include only the basics in their LinkedIn profile. If your profile is in need of a makeover, here are a few suggestions to glam it up:

  • Summary: I find this to be the most consistently underutilized section of the profile. I like to think of it as your cover letter. Some people may not read beyond this point, so take full advantage of the 2,000 available characters. There is a tendency to treat the Summary as a resume and focus on the past. I suggest you treat it as a presentation of your business plan. Briefly summarize specific, quantifiable accomplishments and direct the reader to a few of the most important parts of your profile. But then focus on what you are doing now, how you can help the reader of your profile, and what you plan to be doing in the future. Regurgitating your resume is unnecessary because those facts will be outlined in other sections of your profile. Ask yourself: If I have only a few minutes to share my professional story with a potential customer, client, or business partner, what would I want to say? Then use the Summary to tell your story in a friendly, conversational way.
  • Box.net files: The key to networking, whether face to face or online, is freely sharing your knowledge and expertise with others. This builds trust. Once they know and trust you, they will want to do business with you. Box.net enables you to post PDF, Excel, and Word files to your profile. These files can be downloaded by visitors. This is a great place to post white papers, articles, company brochures, photos of your projects or products, customer testimonials, and other documents that increase your credibility and helpfulness.
  • Google presentation/SlideShare: Let’s face it—most people would rather watch TV than read a book. These two applications allow you to post slide shows that showcase your personal expertise, presentations about your company, and/or photos of projects you have done. Video is becoming an increasingly important part of many companies’ branding efforts, and if video is part of your slide show, you can post those files here.
  • Other applications: LinkedIn has an extensive list of applications to enhance your profile. Some are industry specific (e.g., real estate pro, legal updates, etc.), and others can be valuable to most LinkedIn users. Connect your blog to your LinkedIn profile, use Events to find interesting professional events, or share your favorite books with your network through Reading List by Amazon. Whatever your LinkedIn strategy, there is a plethora of applications to help you achieve your goals.

These additions are fun, easy, and will certainly make your profile more appealing to viewers, but don’t overlook the blue-suit basics. Include a descriptive headline and professional-quality photograph, and thoroughly outline your educational background and employment history. And don’t neglect to seek out those all-important recommendations. They provide essential outside verification of the information you have provided in your profile.

While wearing the bikini and the glamorous accessories can be fun—the lasting impact and real productivity are products of the professional garb!

Freedom from Friends?

By Diane Hessan, President & CEO of Communispace and co-author of Customer-Centered Growth: Five Proven Strategies for Building Competitive Advantage

Would you post a Facebook status update containing your thoughts about innovative ideas for a brand? Most of us would not. But would you join a Facebook fan page to get a sneak preview of new offers from the brands you love? I bet you would.

Two recent studies from our research team help to shed light on this. In the first, we found that in the eyes of consumers, public venues are primarily for hearing from brands—and having their loyalty rewarded—whereas private communities are more conducive to advising them. In the second study, we found that participation rates in public social marketing sites still tend to follow the “90-9-1 Rule:” 1% of people create content, 9% respond to it, and 90% view the content without contributing. In contrast, participation rates (people creating content) in our private communities averaged 64% each month.

What accounts for that discrepancy? In the first study, entitled “Like” Me, we found that people mostly join social marketing sites and Facebook fan pages in order to get product information and promotions. Brands are “liked” in order to learn about sales/discounts, new products, and interestingly, local events. These tangible, “pushed” offerings are more important to them on fan pages than having their voices heard.

And it isn’t just our own research surfacing these trends. Our data complement findings from a December 2010 study by SSI which determined that the relatively small population of Facebook users who are willing to participate in surveys is skewed towards 13-17 year-olds, and it also noted that those willing to participate in surveys are not interested in participating in public discussions, thereby limiting the range of consumer input available to marketers and market researchers. Also, recent studies by Razorfish and ExactTarget found that consumers do not view Facebook and Twitter as proper places for having conversations and building relationships with brands. That conclusion was echoed in a study released by iVillage which found that women, in particular, are “more inclined to have serious discussions on focused community sites than on venues like Facebook.”

In contrast, consumers prefer private communities for giving their feedback and opinions on new products and brands. 92% of members in our study of 246 private communities and more than 86,000 members said they feel their opinion matters in private online communities, as compared to only 66% of members who said they feel their opinion is being heard in the other brand-sponsored websites. In private communities, they feel the brand is actually listening, and this makes them feel more invested in the community sponsor.

But it’s not just about feeling heard. What makes private or highly targeted public communities such gold mines lies in what people are willing to share. Five times more people are comfortable sharing pictures of the inside of their medicine cabinets in a private community than in any of the social marketing sites they visit. Four times more are comfortable sharing the details of their holiday shopping budget. And so on.

And why? Precisely because unlike a social network, in a small, private, password-protected, recruited (vs. self-forming) community, their friends and colleagues aren’t there. Private communities provide a sanctuary from the daily, real-world relationships that can inhibit sharing as much as support it. (See the second study, The 64% Rule.)

So as you refine your own social media strategy, step back and evaluate your objectives. Don’t abandon your fan page—it’s a powerful channel to consolidate your brand fans and win an even larger share of their wallets. But recognize that if you want to learn what makes your customers tick and want to engage them in a constructive, ongoing dialogue, you may be better served by providing them a safe haven, away from the prying eyes of their thousands of “friends.”

Influence Measurers: Will Klout Kill Community?

By Gary Schirr, Professor at Radford University

Like many of you, I sign up for the free influence-measuring sites. I am skeptical of all of them but check out my scores and those of online friends. I am well aware that I am no Justin Bieber (Klout score 100) or Barack Obama (Klout score 87) in online influence. But I take comfort if I am near the scores of tweeters I admire, such as @CKBurgess, @KentHuffman, @ChuckMartin1, @DavidAaker, and @WareMalcombCMO.

I find early efforts to measure influence interesting, but I am concerned that parties are taking these fledging measures seriously and making decisions based on them. Some tweeters choose who to follow by their influence score. A recent Wall Street Journal article discussed the importance that businesses are assigning to Klout scores: marketing freebies and even job offers may be tied to Klout scores.

Although I am not concerned that my tenure committee will pass me over for Justin Bieber or Britney Spears, I worry whether the influence of the influence measurers may impact SM communities. If tweeters believe that their online status, likelihood of being followed, and even employability may be affected by these measures, they will adjust how they act. A well-known management dictum notes that nothing can be managed until it is measured. The relevant corollary is that what is measured will affect behavior: bad metrics can lead to bad behavior!

Will the clout of Klout cause loutish behavior in social media? @Econsultancy summarized the flaws of Klout’s measures in a recent blog post. And in one study by @Adriaan_Pelzer, a bot achieved a 51 Klout score in 80 days simply by 1) tweeting gibberish once a minute and 2) not following back new followers. Senior officers at Klout responded to that study (and similar ones) by noting that they were working on algorithms to spot bots. Klout proposes to attack the symptom head on (who wants to be fooled by a bot?) but downplay issues of the metrics themselves.

What kind of “community” will Twitter be if everyone follows these “winning” behaviors? Do you judge tweeters by quantity of tweets? Is it optimal to have 10 times as many followers as people followed? Phillip Hotchkiss, Chief Product Officer at Klout and a serial start-up entrepreneur, commented on an earlier post I wrote on this issue. His most interesting observations are that Klout’s metrics are always being modified to measure influence, and that Klout is trying to differentiate between “bad bots” and “good bots.” It is good to know that Klout is constantly evolving in pursuit of good influence measurement. Phillip’s “good bots” are a little scary. Maybe there is a good science fiction story there!

Be wary of even well-intentioned measurers. For example, many researchers believe that U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings hinder educational innovation by focusing on reputation and resources that please faculty, rather than cost/benefit measures that apply to most services. Similarly, focusing on factors such as tweets that generate action (regardless of content) and on follower/followed ratios could impair Twitter’s evolution.

Be wary of these developing measures. Do not let the measures affect your behaviors or enjoyment of social media. Do not make hiring decisions based on Klout, unless you honestly believe that Justin Bieber is the perfect 100 and the most influential person online! And please, please don’t start tweeting every three minutes!

Why “Think Global, Act Local” is No Longer Enough

By Luis Gallardo, Managing Director of Global Brand & Marketing at Deloitte

“Think global, act local”—commonly referred to as “global-local” or “glocal”—is more than just a tagline describing the cross-border pollination of ideas and products of today’s global economy. It was originally used as a rallying cry for people to consider the health of the entire planet and take action in their communities. Today, it takes on a much broader context. From environmental to public policy to business, many have even embraced the “think global, act local” mantra as the philosophical foundation of running a successful global brand.

But why exactly are political pundits and global economists drawn to the ideals of this ubiquitous framework? Does it really provide the context for which organizations and businesses of all sizes can respond to rapid shifts within our economies of scale?

From my point of view, up to now, “think global, act local” has only scratched the surface of this tremendously complex issue. What we need now is a 360-degree view of how we can best prepare businesses for sustained, long-term profitable growth. What we need now is to “think holistic, act personal.”

Global vs. Holistic

Simply put, global is too broad and undefined. It implies that we should standardize and lead from the center, so that we can better drive efficiencies that meet the burgeoning demands of local markets. This is in stark contrast with thinking holistically, which I define as the ability to take into account complex linkages and interconnections in order to facilitate decision making of the highest order.

It is no longer enough to “think global.” We must:

  • Gain appreciation of the world at large, and in turn, know how to best position organizations to win the supreme jackpot of sustained profit and growth
  • Capture interlocking elements, interdependencies, and synergies of the commercial environment

After all, with brand as the pathway to value and gaining the recognition organizations deserve in the marketplace, what better way to drive that distinction than by thinking holistically about business?

Local vs. Personal

Similar to thinking globally, acting locally does not touch upon the essence of human behavior—what we do or don’t do in response to change, challenge, and the status quo. Acting personal, however, mirrors human dynamics and the multi-dimensional profile of each individual. Acting personal allows you to engineer communities, making messages and actions a relevant and timely response to the big picture needs of people.

At Deloitte, we see the benefits of acting personal in our social media efforts every day. Addressing the individual concerns and aspirations of our stakeholders—talking to them about what they really care about—drives the engagement to boost client and employee satisfaction, retention, profits, and multi-stakeholder advocacy. It has the capacity to not just act but to deliver “happiness” with each experience.

Thinking holistically about the recent tragedy that occurred in Japan, we can’t forget to consider how one tsunami has caused nearly half of the world’s most developed countries to reassess their nuclear strategies. The need to act local must be replaced with the need to act personal in order to go beyond action in our communities and address the specific needs of human suffering and post-traumatic stress.

Share with me your thoughts on “think holistic, act personal.” Follow me on Twitter or post a comment below. Do these terms help sustain growth and eradicate major challenges such as poverty, education, or sustainability related to business or the environment?

Who’s Branding “You, Inc.?”

By Adam Karwoski, Founder of Social Brand U

Two years ago, a friend of mine asked me if I was on Facebook. I replied in a somewhat haughty tone, “No, I’m not 16.” Today? I tweet! I’ve not only embraced social media but evangelize to others about it. I have a brand.

Shortly after I was laid off last summer, my mother, of all people, told me she saw a CNBC segment about how companies use Twitter to find talent, find customers, and build loyalty. I had to laugh. My mom is 74 years old and not exactly on the information superhighway. She does, however, surprise me from time to time with knowledge of topics of the day. The second thing I did was laugh again, because my impression of Twitter was that it was designed for Taylor Swift or Chad “Ocho Cinco” to communicate with their “fans.” Twitter, it seems, is the most misunderstood social medium out there.

I did a little research and found out she was right. The enterprise presence on Twitter was amazing. So I created an account and learned how to use it. My intent was to find out which companies on my “target list” had a presence on Twitter and how I could leverage that presence to get in front of the right people. What I discovered was a community of recruiters, career coaches, resume experts, industry leaders, job boards, and subject matter experts of all kinds expressing compelling information that was not only relevant, but extremely insightful, timely, and practical.

My interest skyrocketed, and as I added followers, I began to understand that Twitter is really about a conversation with a community of like minds. There were individuals willing to help, share, learn, advise, teach, inform, and ultimately, build relationships. I’ve spent my adult life in the wireless technology business and have a passion for communication. How did I not see this one?

I started to share with others in my circle of influence what I was learning about Twitter, and it was met with the same amazement and intrigue that I had experienced. I’m not sure if I’m more surprised by the number of people and companies using Twitter or the number who don’t. In addition, I never suspected that Twitter could be such an effective tool for branding either one. Zappos.com’s CEO is a great example of how effective it can be.

I spoke to some college students recently who I thought would be heavy users of Twitter, but I was wrong. They had the same misconceptions about Twitter that I did and had almost the exact same comment: “I just don’t get Twitter.” In today’s employment market, with so many experienced professionals needing jobs, college grads need any advantage they can get. Someone should be teaching these Generation Yers how to: 1) identify opportunities with the companies and industries represented on Twitter, and more importantly, 2) how to use social media, including Twitter, to brand themselves in the marketplace.

Those of us who are forty something can be using it, too. Once we get beyond the notion that Twitter can be used for something more than letting friends know where happy hour is going to be, watch out! Imagine the advantage we can have knowing how to use social media to communicate with peers, customers, and employers around the globe, in real time, accessing a wealth of education and experience from the tips of our fingers on any wireless device in the world. Our microblogging activities (i.e., tweets) actually help build our brand at the same time.

So I have one question for you. What’s your brand? The answer: whatever you want it to be. There are many ways to brand YOU. Twitter is unique because it requires you to be concise, compelling, and relevant. You speak to the topics you’re passionate about, and in turn, build relationships with others around the world or around the block. One tip: have the courage to be you.

What’s my advice? Think about what your brand will be three months or three years from now and start branding “You, Inc.” today. Oh, and always listen to your mother.

“Give Me that Old-Time (Marketing) Religion:” The Importance of Focus and Commitment when Using Social Media

By Jim Lyons, Professor at the University of Phoenix

Lately, I’ve been working on a LinkedIn project assigned to me by our local campus of the University of Phoenix. And in taking it on, I’ve repeatedly been reminded of the “marketing basics” which I profess, literally, at the very same institution. I’m finding that with social media projects, like any other marketing-related activity, time-honored practices—such as focusing on a well-defined marketing strategy with clear objectives, clearly identifying a target market, and committing to a plan over a reasonable time period—are as relevant as ever.

By way of a little background, the local campus staff had asked me to shore up the LinkedIn group we’d started a couple of years back, and which like so many other social media attempts had gone somewhat stagnant after a fast start. This interest fit nicely with my personal ambition to help give our faculty a better feeling of connectedness—getting to know each other better as both undergrad- and graduate-level instructors (all part-timers), as well as members of the much broader professional community where we each pursue our very diverse “day jobs.” My vision was to make the LinkedIn group a virtual “faculty office building,” where we could get to know each other and collaborate in the virtual world, something that the University of Phoenix knows very well, at least from an online education standpoint.

There, too, was an interest within the client organization of making the group a discussion forum to be joined by at least the more engaged students, as well as alums and even “friends” of the university, including local business and community leaders. Also, it could perhaps become somewhat of a job-seekers forum as well. It didn’t stop there, either, and with this growing set of objectives, I started to feel overwhelmed.

Focus

As I began to think about implementation, I went back to good, sound marketing fundamentals. And when it came to defining the product/service I was enhancing, I had to ask myself a key question: “Who is the target market?” Obviously, the answer to the question had quickly become “many groups.” The next question then became: “Can I successfully serve this many masters?” (The answer to this question is invariably on the negative side of the scale, at least when put to the reality test.)

We are still working on the right approach, but as time goes on, the objective of providing a fun and friendly faculty familiarity/recognition platform seems to be winning out. We may need to launch a new group or sub-group to target another set of objectives/markets, but when has this stopped a good marketer?

Commitment

As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Starting a new business, launching a new product, or kicking off an advertising/PR campaign takes time, too. We have all been there—we get impatient, pull the plug too soon, or get wooed by a newer idea. And in the world of social networking—just like face-to-face, old-fashioned networking—patience is everything.

I’m reminded of my attempt to help a former colleague get his footing after a long period of unemployment by having him as my guest at a meeting of our local entrepreneurs’ networking group. After that first meeting, he thanked me, concluding with something like, “Well, we’ve done that. Let’s see what happens,” (as if based on his six or eight brief introductory conversations, the job offers would start rolling in). Sorry, friend, but networking is a long-term investment, and even in this world, which we often perceive to be all about instant gratification, a commitment to a plan—and sticking to it—is as critical as ever.

Knowing your customer, not trying to do too much, having clear objectives, and exercising patience—just a little of that old-time (marketing) religion!

How Social Networks Help Us Choose

By Berenice Ring, Professor at Fundação Getulio Vargas

Have you noticed how many decisions we need to make nowadays and the amount of details involved in each one? Surely life was much easier in the early 20th century, when consumer staples were sold in bulk and housewives had their goods chosen for them by the shopkeeper, whom they relied on and trusted.

If you wanted to buy a car in 1915, the choice was quite simple. The only automaker was Ford—who had introduced the assembly line—and the options boiled down to one model, the Model T. In 1987, Brazilian consumers could choose automobiles from six makers: Ford, Volkswagen, Fiat, GM, Gurgel, and Toyota. By 2008, 36 car manufacturers offered their vehicles, exponentially increasing our options.

A 1991 supermarket offered 15,000 items; today, in the same store, we find almost 50,000—including 100 types of yogurt and 200 models of mobile phones!

However, abundance of choices does not necessarily mean better decisions. As psychologist and professor Barry Schwartz points out in his wonderful book, The Paradox of Choice, the huge amount of options adds excessive strain to the decision-making process, causing exhaustion and discouragement. Furthermore, making one choice means relinquishing all other options, so that your preferred alternative seems less appealing and even elicits a sense of loss.

Until recently, people counteracted this frustration by consulting other people they trusted. But today, our world has become an ocean of information. For instance, if you’re planning a honeymoon trip to New York City, sites like TripAdvisor will provide complete information on virtually every hotel in the city. For example, if you decide to spend your hard-earned money on a wedding night at The Pierre, the famous hotel featured in several movies, you can read online comments by the site’s user community, ranging from “Great hotel!” to “Disappointing.” It is a huge benefit to get recommendations not only from your travel agent but from people who have stayed there recently. And upon your return, if you invite friends over for dinner, you can visit Epicurious on Facebook to find recipes, or you can search Twitter using the hashtag #recipes to find plentiful tips from users.

Some brands have grasped this new trend and offer their customers a dedicated section for comments and criticism, such as My Kmart and MySears Community. Other sites were specifically founded upon this trend, such as byMK and Polyvore, which allow users to express themselves.

The penetration of social networks today is amazing. A recent survey shows that 90% of respondents know at least one—and on average, four—social network websites. Facebook is the best example, of course, with more than 500 million users and countless communities. And if you want to find customer reviews of New York restaurants, the American site Yelp lists 12,000-plus establishments—not to mention more than 7,000 stores—along with user reviews of dentists, architects, and even surgeons.

As a Nielsen study confirms, “Recommendations by personal acquaintances and opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising globally.” The study of 25,000 Internet consumers in 50 countries shows that nine in ten people trust recommendations of people they know, and seven in ten trust online recommendations from strangers.

In this scenario, a good social media strategy can do wonders for a brand in terms engaging its audiences. Can the brand help consumers make better choices or play the role of an early 20th century “shopkeeper” whom its customers trust and rely on? Are brands making the best of this tremendous opportunity?

Social Marketing: Building a Continuum of Access Points

By Allen Fuqua, Chief Marketing Officer at Winstead

Nat Slavin, founder and President of Wicker Park Group, is fond of saying that in today’s market, “one size fits one.” He’s right. For marketers and business developers in the B2B space, this must become the mantra for strategy and tactical execution.

Though many professionals see this as a burden, the reality is much more positive. For those of us willing to engage individuals on their own terms and with genuine interest in their issues and challenges, then the relationship process becomes an easy game.

But in order for “one size fits one” to be sustainable and scalable, it must be built into a go-to-market strategy and the appropriate corresponding programs. These must allow the organization to focus on listening, gathering client feedback, and then responding in a personalized manner. This isn’t new and really isn’t that difficult if you build the appropriate tool set. Here’s an example.

About 30 years ago, I was involved in a community outreach to a target market of some 150,000 people. Our objective was to engage people in a manner where they could obtain personal support from a small community group, investigate ways to build a better life and relationships, and work through any outlier personal problems. Yeah, pretty soft, personal, and “none of your business”-type stuff.

So how did we engage with a large target market in a personal way? We built communication platforms that allowed people to choose where and how they would access information and engagement. It looked like this:

  • We ran one-minute radio spots regularly on local stations with messages that inspired listeners to consider some aspect of their lives and relationships. Each spot had a way to connect with us if the person so desired. (Today, this might be a blog.)
  • We ran ads in the local newspaper that highlighted the issues we tried to address and provided a response option. (Online ads on targeted sites.)
  • We developed community events with speakers addressing very specific issues our target audience might be dealing with. These were publicized with ads and public notices. (Webinars, meetups, etc.)
  • We operated (here’s a time stamp for you) a “code-a-phone” number (for those of you under 45, a code-a-phone is a telephone answering machine which plays a message to anyone who calls that number) that ran a different helpful spot (much like the radio spots) on a daily basis and provided a response option. (Twitter.)
  • We operated a storefront, street-level office in the central downtown business district. People could access professional counseling and materials or enroll in a community group. (Surely you can make the connection here.)
  • We organized and facilitated community groups (10 to 12 people per group) that met in people’s homes and had audio/tutorial group materials and a trained facilitator. These groups provided an environment for people to explore any number of issues while building a small functioning community. (User groups, interest groups, etc.)

I share this with you so you can see what a continuum of social marketing options might look like. The point of this continuum is to allow each of our target audience members to choose where and how they are comfortable interacting with content and people. Those who are marginally interested or shy can listen to radio spots or call a phone number to hear a message. For those who are ready to interact publicly, there are seminars. For those who want to talk to someone personally, there is a storefront to access specific expertise. I think you get the idea.

Well, that’s also how personalization works in social media. We plan a continuum of access points and build in response capabilities at each point—based on the interest represented by the target’s actions. No one pushes except our target client. The client determines the context, the content, and the interaction. We give him/her options and are always at the ready, no matter what level of interaction they are comfortable with.

Build your social marketing capability with a continuum of access points and content. That will allow you to listen and your target to fit it to themselves.