Archive for the ‘Listening’ Category

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

By Eric Fletcher, Chief Marketing Officer at McGlinchey Stafford

All listening is not created equal.

Consider how a physician uses the stethoscope in order to measure the activity of the human heart, or how a mother calibrates her ear to detect the faintest whimper of a newborn, or how a conductor trains the ear to pinpoint the one-out -of-a-hundred instruments slightly out of tune.

Compare these with the ability to tune out a barking dog, or half listen to the rant of a coworker, or subconsciously mix the rhythm of the rain to the precise sleep-inducing decibel. Now consider how we interpret tone, process innuendo, translate vernacular, and compose a whole new message—all while we (theoretically) listen in the context of conversation.

Indeed, all listening is not the same.

Listening is done at many levels. But as we become skilled at reactive listening—mixing to a manageable level everything we’re taking in—we’re inadvertently contributing to the demise of effective communication.

What’s missing? Intentional, proactive listening.

Intentional listening reveals the voice of those with whom we want to connect. And by voice, I mean the cares, aspirations, and concerns of your target audience. It’s the key to the most basic principle of effective communication—that connection takes place in the context of shared experience.

Put another way, intentional listening will identify, outline, and define the language of the closest you will ever come to a can’t-miss message. And it’s the key to the instigation of a whole new brand of experiences—those uniquely shared by you (or your business) and your most coveted customer.

Translation: the shortest distance between where we are today and a relationship that results in the development of stronger brands and better business is less about the construction of a long list of capabilities and more about one or two questions that instigate dialogue. It’s less about what we do and more about where our clients live each day. It’s less about what we know and more about what we can learn if we’ll listen first—and then build experiences that center on ways to continue to listen.

Game-changing social media marketing plans and strategies—not to mention the path to lifetime customers—just might be less about beginning with a compelling marketing message and more about intentional listening.

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

Start at the Beginning: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#1: Start Listening

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#1: Start Listening

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

I believe that listening is the single most important key for marketers who want to be successful in social media.

Although the average person spends about 45% of his or her waking hours listening, most of us are simply not very good at it. Various studies conducted over the years have shown that we comprehend and retain only about 25% of what we hear!

With that challenge so prevalent, applying good listening strategies and skills in the social media environment becomes even more critical. “Intentional listening,” as my friend and colleague Eric Fletcher calls it, should be front and center in your social media marketing strategy, as it plays an integral role in ensuring that you can find your target audience, hear and understand their wants and needs, and then effectively communicate with them in such a way that establishes trust and strong, long-lasting relationships.

At the outset of your social media marketing program—even before implementing your listening tactics—do your homework. Conduct surveys and focus groups. Gather responses and evaluate. And spend some quality time “lurking and learning” on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media channels to find out what your target audience has to say.

Finally, make sure you’re carefully monitoring your competitors as well. Are they listening to their constituents or just broadcasting marketing messages? You’ll have to do a little old-fashioned detective work, but remember that with social media, the playing field truly has been leveled. You don’t have to guess about who’s doing what—just listen.

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

Next: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#2: Plan Carefully

Using Twitter for Marketing and PR: Do the Pros Practice What They Preach?

By Kent Huffman, Chief Marketing Officer at BearCom Wireless and Co-Publisher of Social Media Marketing Magazine

It seems that everyone claims to be a Twitter expert these days. Of course, most are not. But several of the real Twitter pros I know—including those who have written books about using Twitter as an effective marketing and public relations instrument—have figured out how to best leverage the 140-character microblogging tool to promote themselves, their books, their firms, and their clients. And some of them actually follow their own advice!

How Smart Marketing Book Authors Use Twitter

The Tao of TwitterFor example, Mark Schaefer of Schaefer Marketing Solutions is the author of the book The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time. He and his firm provide affordable outsourced marketing support to address both short-term sales opportunities and long-term strategic renewal.

Mark uses Twitter to help deliver on that promise for a number of his blue-chip clients, including Nestle, AARP, Anheuser-Busch, Coldwell Banker, Scripps Networks, Keystone Foods, and the U.K. government. He also very effectively promotes himself and his book on Twitter as part of his own marketing, branding, and relationship-development strategy.

“I’ve literally built my business from networking on Twitter and connections from my blog,” Mark said. “That’s what most people miss. Twitter can be a powerful business networking platform. It’s so much more than ‘what you had for breakfast!’ ”

Hollis Thomases is the CEO of Web Ad.vantage. She is also the author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day, a book that offers marketers, advertisers, brand managers, PR professionals, and business owners an in-depth guide to designing, implementing, and measuring the impact of using a complete Twitter strategy.

Hollis uses Twitter to generate qualified website traffic that gets converted into actions, leads, and sales for her clients, most of which are challenger brands or large non-profit organizations.

Much like Mark, Hollis’ strategy includes using Twitter as an effective promotional tool for her book and firm. She also leverages Twitter to expand her speaking engagement schedule, which features topics such as “Social Media 101,” “Twitter Automation,” and “Social Media Etiquette.”

And finally, Laura Fitton, co-author of Twitter for Dummies and founder/CEO of oneforty, has been an active Twitter user for some time. She has amassed approximately 80,000 followers and engages with them daily.

Laura’s firm helps people get started with Twitter, organize the chaos of their daily social media routines, and connect their social media efforts to their core business to drive ROI.

“The single most important thing is to make yourself useful, which you can do by curating great content, answering questions, shining a spotlight on others, and trying to turn everything inside-out to make it more about your readers,” noted Laura. “I tell people to ‘Listen. Learn. Care. Serve.’ (in that order), and then keep cycling through that process.”

Twitter’s Impact on How Journalists Search for SMEs

In an environment where fewer and fewer journalists are covering more and more stories than ever before, media members are increasingly taking a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” approach to finding sources and stories to cover. Rather than waiting around to be pitched by traditional PR reps, many media members are looking for their own sources—not only Google and HARO, but Twitter as well—to search for and connect with subject matter experts (SMEs). Book authors and other experts who have built digital platforms that showcase their credentials and provide valuable information on their topics have widened their nets to catch such queries on Twitter.

Beth Gwazdosky is the Vice President of Digital Marketing at Shelton Interactive, an Austin-based firm that works with its author clients to create social media and interactive marketing/PR strategies and platforms that generate attention—online and off. “We help our authors understand how best to use Twitter and other social media channels to stand out in this new environment,” said Beth. “Creating strategies to organically pull media hits, speaking opportunities, and client relationships has proven to be much more efficient than trying to pitch our way onto the air.”

So if you’re interested in promoting yourself, your book, your organization, or your clients, why not use Twitter to your advantage? But don’t jump in without a well-thought-out strategy. Pay attention to the real Twitter pros who are actually practicing what they preach, and then emulate their approach.

The Digital Native: 5 Things You Need to Know

By Michelle Manafy, Director of Content at FreePint

Between all generations lie gaps. Yet in the course of some generations, major events occur that cause tectonic shifts. The fact is that many individuals and businesses today face a massive and growing generation gap. As this digital native generation—which has grown up immersed in digital technologies such as the mobile phones, gaming, and social networks—becomes our dominant employee and consumer base, those in older generations must learn to navigate a radically altered landscape in order to succeed in business going forward.

Here are five key insights into the digital native generation that will help you understand how best to leverage their distinct worldview to achieve your business objectives.

  1. They live publicly online. Without a doubt, the notion of privacy didn’t change overnight with the advent of the Internet. For better or worse (or for lack of a better word), we’ve seen an evolution of privacy. It was once the norm to keep one’s dirty laundry tucked away out of site. This gave way to a generation that would share from the relative privacy of a therapist’s couch. More recently, we have witnessed the era of trash-mouth talk shows and reality TV. However, with the digital native, businesses must address the expectations of a generation raised in social networking environments, in which they routinely share every detail of their activities and opinions with a potentially limitless group of friends. Tip: Often, businesses are hamstrung by outdated notions of privacy. They fail to recognize and capitalize on the digital native’s openness. We need to understand the native’s natural inclination to live publicly to guide these activities so that they are consistent with our business objectives. We can also build business models that leverage on this openness, both in the way we structure our employee activities as well as customer interactions.
  2. They share knowledge. Once we recognize that the natives are living their lives out loud, we can begin to understand how this behavior is shapes all aspects of their lives. Despite a good deal of hyperbole about social media and marketing via Twitter and social networks, as many as 50 to 75 percent of organizations limit or ban the use of social networks while on the job. What this demonstrates is not simply a fear of exposure through inappropriate use of social technologies, it shows a distinct lack of understanding of how to effectively manage and channel the knowledge sharing inclination of this generation. Tip: Beyond crafting guidelines to regulate the appropriate use of social networks on the job, proactive use of socially mediated, open, collaborative ways of working can help companies capture otherwise transient knowledge assets. The old adage was that knowledge is power; for the digital native knowledge shared is power.
  3. They believe transparency yields trust. Because digital natives live publicly and value knowledge sharing, organizations that demonstrate a similar level of openness will be the ones that attract and retain them as employees and customers. Digital natives make new friends, followers, and fans every day. However, it is important to keep in mind that it takes a lot of work to maintain the kind of genuine relationship required with the digital native. If digital natives dislike your brand, they will make it publicly known. Luckily, the reverse is also true. Today’s ultra-connected consumer, raised to share and monitor sentiment, may seem like a fickle friend, but that’s only if organizations don’t stay involved by listening, responding, owning up, and doing the work it takes to maintain a genuine, long-term relationship. Tip: When it comes to attracting and retaining this generation as employees, it is essential to recognize that today’s best employees are also monitoring opportunities and discussing employers online. For recruiting, this can provide insights into who the best, brightest, and most social media savvy are. And for employee retention, employers can leverage these same tools and tendencies to make sure they are competitive in the market and respond to concerns in order to attract and retain the best and brightest.
  4. They are timely, not time managed. While most people are painfully aware that the line between “at work” and “off duty” is increasingly blurred, for the native this will be taken to a whole new level. The digital native will move beyond what previous generations called a work/life balance to a new sort of work life integration. For the digital native, work and social activities are ever present—they travel with the native anywhere and anytime. Digital natives may log more hours at their computers during the course of a day than those in previous generations, but they switch back and forth between work and leisure in short bursts. Though this may strike some managers as inappropriate, it helps to realize that while an older worker might head to the break room or a co-worker’s desk to clear his head, natives are more likely to “info snack” or catch up on a quick burst of Facebook updates. Tip: Moving forward, companies that emphasize collaboration, learning, and socialization will see key benefits in comparison to companies that focus solely on productivity. The native doesn’t need to play all day to be happy. However, there’s no reason that work inside an organization can’t be constructively influenced by the expectations of our younger workforce.
  5. They believe in interactions, not transactions. Social networking, social media, social . . . with all this socializing, one might begin to wonder how any business ever gets done. Suffice it to say, it does, and it will continue to do so. However, organizations that develop good social skills will have a competitive advantage over those that remain socially inept. One quality that will be essential for business success going forward is recognizing that this generation is not interested in traditional transactive business models, which are based upon exchanges of money for goods annd services. This is a generation that is interested in interactions. Tip: Unlike a transaction-based system, an interactive one is based upon social currency. The fact is that all aspects of business will need to embrace interaction, from marketing and CRM to product and content creation. This generation doesn’t just want to do business with companies it views as friends; it wants to do business with itself and expects to see its ideals and objectives reflected in the companies it chooses to do business with.

While there are many digital immigrants who are wholeheartedly adopting digital tools, it is not simply emerging technologies that must be mastered. A lifelong immersion has affected the mindset, behavior, and expectations of the digital native generation. To succeed in business with them, we must understand it and build models based on this new native culture.

“Like” is the New Link: How Facebook is Reorganizing Google’s Web

By Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media and author of Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (& Other Social Networks)

You wake up one morning and your back really hurts. You’ve been putting off finding a new doctor ever since you moved to town, it’s been forever since you’ve had a check-up, and now you’re paying the price.

The pain is too much to wait any longer, you’ve got to find a chiropractor now. So you grab your computer, go to Google.com, and enter “back doctor” and your town’s name. You see a list of a ten chiropractors who have paid Google to be listed there and dozens of others who come up in the organic search results. But do you really want to trust your throbbing back to a complete stranger in an emergency?

Then you think of another idea, and you head to Facebook and again search “back doctor.” At the top of the results is a doctor’s listing with a sidebar telling you that three of your friends “like” this chiropractor. “Sweet,” you think. “Someone I can trust, because my friends like him.” You make a quick call, and you’re off to get your backache taken care of by a recommended doctor, a professional your friends “like.”

This scenario and scenarios such as this aren’t happening en masse quite yet, but the use of Facebook and the social graph for search and commerce isn’t far off. Think about it. Why would you possibly make a decision about a doctor, an attorney, a mechanic—or any important product or service for that matter—based on advertising or Google placement when you can make that decision based on the preference and recommendations of trusted friends? Facebook and social media have made it infinitely easier to do the latter. It’s nothing short of a gamechanger for marketers and businesses of all sizes.

The great news about the new world of communications we live in today is that everybody has a shot. Build a great product, get the word out to a few people, make it easy for people to share with their friends, and you can win without spending a boatload. Just five years ago, for instance, if you went to a new restaurant that you loved, you might have shared your thoughts with a few of your friends, family, and/or neighbors. Perhaps if you really loved the restaurant, you may have raved about it for a week to as many as 10 or 15 friends. Today, you can share those thoughts with 200 Facebook friends, or 300 Twitter followers, or 150 LinkedIn connections—all with one click on your computer or smartphone!

No matter what the size of your organization or client’s business, you too have the ability to follow the simple rules of social media to reap the rewards. Senior management—and anyone in a communications position for that matter—needs to know that marketing in a social media and Facebook world is not about broadcasting your message and getting the largest reach and frequency, it’s about tapping into the conversation by listening, engaging, and empowering. The loudest, biggest spenders don’t win anymore—the smartest, most flexible listeners do.

The Power of “Likes”

By Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media and author of Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (& Other Social Networks)

I was standing in line to check in at Las Vegas’ then-trendiest hotel in town, the Aria Resort & Casino, for nearly an hour. It was June 2010, and I had just arrived after a six-hour flight from New York. The last thing I wanted to do was waste an hour of my life waiting in line. Frustrated, I pulled out my BlackBerry and tweeted, “No Vegas hotel could be worth this long wait. Over an hour to check in at the Aria!”

Interestingly enough, the Aria didn’t tweet back to me, but a competitor did. I saw a tweet from the Rio Hotel & Casino just two minutes later. If you’re anything like most people with whom I’ve shared this story, you’re probably thinking, “What did the Rio tweet, ‘Come on over—we have no line.’?”

Had the Rio tweeted such a message, I would have likely felt annoyed by them, too, as if they were stalkers or some creepy characters looking to manipulate me and benefit from my bad experience. On the contrary, however, the Rio tweeted the following to me: “Sorry about the bad experience, Dave. Hope the rest of your stay in Vegas goes well.”

Guess where I ended up staying the next time I went to Las Vegas?

The Rio used social media to listen and be responsive, showing a little empathy to the right person at the right time. An ad or a push marketing-like message simply wouldn’t have worked. But the hotel staff’s ability to listen, respond, and be empathic did. The Rio essentially earned a $600 sale from one tweet—one message that got my attention and ended up being integral in my decision as to where to stay the next time I was in the city. That would be considered an excellent ROI by anyone’s standards. But the story doesn’t end there.

Before I even arrived in Vegas for my next visit, I “liked” the Rio on Facebook by clicking the “like” button at Facebook.com/RioVegas, thereby letting my 3,500 friends—and the world at large—know of my endorsement of its customer-friendly practices.

A few months later, my friend Erin was looking for a hotel to stay at in Las Vegas over the New Year’s holiday, and I received the following message from her on Facebook: “Hey Dave, I noticed you liked the Rio’s page. Thinking about staying there for New Year’s. What do you think?” A friend’s recommendation is more powerful than any advertisement, and Erin ended up staying at the Rio as well.

Dozens of other friends have surely noticed my tweets and Facebook “likes” about the Rio and have been influenced since. So, one tweet led to one “like” on Facebook and, in fact, thousands of dollars worth of business.

It used to be that happy customers tell three people about their good experiences, and unhappy customers tell ten about their bad ones. But as my experiences with the Aria and Rio hotels demonstrate, today—thanks to social media—happy customers AND unhappy customers can tell thousands of people their feelings about a company’s service or products with just a few clicks, relying on the “like” button as a virtual endorsement. The Rio leveraged this fact to its advantage, while the Aria did not.

Wow, What a Story!

By Adam Karwoski, Founder of Social Brand U

Isn’t social media cool? Since I graduated college in 1992, I’ve been involved with two of the biggest fundamental shifts in communications in our history: mobile phones and social media. I started selling cellular phones in 1994 for BellSouth Mobility and just left that industry last summer. I started dabbling in social media since that time, and I’ve uncovered a new-found passion. Long story short, six months later, I’ve started my own social media consulting company. (I think that’s kind of cool, too. Owning your own business is part of the American dream, right?)

I began to put pen to paper to find out what really jazzed me about social media. What’s the catch? In my last blog post, I talked about a friend of mine who in 2009 asked me if I was on Facebook, and I said, “No, I’m not 16 years old.” Little does he know that I remember that comment to this day.

Here are the reasons why I think social media is cool and why people love it, companies love it, and our culture loves it:

  • I love technology, and I think we all do. Social media is a new kind of technology. In a lot of ways, it’s a lot like cellular technology back in the day. You couldn’t see the voice transmissions of a cell call, but making a call on a Motorola flip phone was just “cool.” Social media is real-time communication on a speakerphone with the world, where everyone or just a few loved ones can see talk, write, send videos, share photos, write articles, find jobs, get advice, or listen to what their favorite movie star or football player has to say. Technology is awesome, and social media has taken it to a new level.
  • Our entire existence is based on relationships. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, chances are we’re communicating constantly and building relationships. A hundred years ago, it was around a campfire in the wilderness. Fifty years ago, it was in a mother’s home over tea and Tupperware. Today, it’s online and on our smartphones almost every hour of every day. There are plenty of downsides to social media, but that’s for someone else to write about. I love people, I love building relationships with people, and I love to learn from other people. Social media allows me to do all three all the time—and that’s cool.
  • The best parts of social media are the stories; e.g., your story. Everyone has a story to tell. And I would argue that almost everyone has a compelling story to tell. If the volume of books, articles, and blogs are any indication of how many of us have a story to tell, then it makes complete sense to me why social media has exploded in recent years and will continue to evolve, expand, and become even more popular. Small business owners are learning that social media allows them to listen to their customers’ “stories” while allowing them to share their own. That conversation is taking place every day on social media.
  • Stories draw people in. There’s power in telling stories. Look no further than Hollywood (Mark Zuckerberg has a cool story to tell). And social media success stories are everywhere, especially in business. Many small businesses understand social media and use it quite effectively because they haven’t forgotten how to tell their stories, which helps build relationships with their customers. But it requires you to be transparent and genuine. That builds trust. Trust with your customers builds your business. And whether it’s an idea, a product, or a vision, people buy from who they know, like, and trust.

Technology, relationships, and stories. Those are the reasons why social media has exploded. What’s your story? Whatever it is, share it and start a conversation. You will build relationships with others that will inspire, teach, encourage, and “wow” you.

Five Tips to Leverage Your Social Media Strategy

By Jeffrey Hayzlett, author of The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Really Breathing?

Traditionally, ROI means “return on investment.” And that’s a very important component to consider in any marketing strategy. However, it can be difficult to track when it comes to zeroes. In the absence of hard numbers, ROI becomes something I call, “return on ignoring.” It’s especially relevant in your social media strategy.

Social media is happening with or without you, so what’s the worst that can happen? Most likely nothing, but consider that via Twitter and Facebook, the worldwide impact of the death of Osama bin Laden was readily apparent. The leading social analytics company, PeopleBrowsr, demonstrated these results in a recent blog post. There were more than three million mentions in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands of mentions in countries like Brazil, Venezuela, and Canada in the 48 hours after the news hit.

Another great example: during the Super Bowl, folks were tweeting and commenting on the commercials. The reach and impact of companies advertising during that event was just as important and viable via social media as it was through traditional commercials during the game.

Five tips to leverage your social media strategy:

  • Overcome the challenges and capitalize on opportunity
  • Set a policy for engagement
  • Decide who speaks for your company and make sure they speak with one voice that represents your organization and brand
  • Get out there—establish and protect your brand
  • Quality over quantity—your message must have value and impact

Even if you’re a small company with a limited budget, you can still achieve big impact. If your message is relevant and genuine, and you listen to your customers, they will often sell your product or service for you.

Dare to Be Radically Transparent

By Jeffrey Hayzlett, author of The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Really Breathing?

I speak frequently about the value of social media, that’s no secret. And how we use social media is as important as how we use any other medium. Social media is now the mainstream. There’s no going back.

Take the Super Bowl ads for example. Not only were they on during the game, but they also had a social media component. Now people watch TV and tweet at the same time. For those who question whether we can really do that—they said the same thing when they added radios to cars. It’s real, and it’s happening.

Companies who thought they once controlled their brands are realizing that social media is the new norm. It’s not about catchy slogans—it’s about listening and being radically transparent.

So what is radical transparency? It means we need to be genuine in our approach. Don’t just spew forth information. Social media is about hearts and minds, not ears and eyeballs.

That said, it’s also about being who you are. If I say, “bite me” in a post, it’s because I mean it. You may disagree, or you may not like it. But for me, radical transparency is all about being true to who I am, and it’s also about being true to you. What works for me is what works for me. It will be different for you—and for everyone else out there as well. That’s why it’s called “social” media and not “one kind” media. The old rules don’t apply in the same way. For as many fans as you have on Facebook or followers on Twitter are the number of ways it can be done.

And ultimately, we all have a choice in who we follow or friend. If you don’t like what I have to say, you have the choice not to follow me. And we can agree to disagree. At the end of the day, those who follow me know that I’m the big, brash guy from South Dakota who tells it like it is, really wears those cowboy boots, and loves to ride horses. I’m me, and I won’t change who I am.

So be true to who you are—in social media and in business. Be radically transparent.

Social SERPs: Social Media’s Growing Influence on Search Engine Results Pages

By Dana Todd, Vice President of Performance Innovation at Performics

In “ancient” times (circa 1999-2009), traditional search engines were a one-stop shop for people to search, find, consider, and purchase things online. Then social media emerged. Facebook—with the help of Twitter, Foursquare, and others—enabled people to search, find, consider, and purchase things online with a little help from their friends. Now people spend more time on Facebook than on Google. According to comScore, Facebook drove ten percent of all Internet pageviews in 2010.

Google and Bing are keenly aware of this new reality. To keep their users, they’ve recently adapted by layering social on search. And to stay relevant, they must continue to make search engine results pages (SERPs) more social. Google and Bing have started by incorporating various social aspects into their SERPs—from reviews in Google Place pages to tweets in real-time search to embedded user-generated YouTube videos. Google’s new +1 button enables searchers to “+1” (or “like”) search results, so that other searchers, like their friends, can see that a result was helpful. Similarly, Microsoft has partnered with Facebook to incorporate Facebook “likes” into Bing SERPs.

The effort to socialize search has resulted in SERPs that are controlled by 1) the brand owners and 2) the consumers—more appropriately called the “participants”—and by extension, their networks. In ancient times, brand owners exercised the most control over their brand’s SERP goodwill. Today, brand owners still control the SERP’s paid search ads (“paid content”) and can employ SEO tactics to boost digital asset visibility (“owned content”). But the participant has the most control over the SERP’s “earned content”—opinions, reviews, recommendations, social chatter, and videos.

There’s no doubt that the social SERP complicates search engine marketing (SEM); it requires brands to take a grassroots approach to reputation management—one that starts on the social networks. And brands must accept that their SERP goodwill is built with their customers’ participation and collaboration. When a person searches for a brand, they now see results potentially influenced by friends’ opinions, links, and experiences. Search engine marketing thus becomes word-of-mouth marketing.

The good news is, word of mouth can be influenced at its source—the social networks:

  1. The first challenge is building and organizing a meaningful number of participants (i.e., building the fan base). Twitter Promoted Accounts and Facebook Engagement Ads provide a creative platform to gain fans/followers through guaranteed reach. For instance, Redbox gained 269,000 Facebook fans in ten days using Facebook Engagement Ads (counting direct ad impacts only; nearly twice that number joined during the period measured, above normal baseline, which appears to have been influenced from seeing their friends join). Redbox incentivized people with ad copy that offered a free video rental to anyone who “liked” its brand.
  2. Once a fan base is established, the second challenge is mobilizing those fans/followers to talk positively about the brand—ideally in venues or channels that are indexed by search engines. This can be accomplished through incentives, promotions, polls, questions, or by creating highly sharable content. For instance, Baskin Robbins mobilized its 18,000+ Twitter followers on April 27th through its 31-cent scoop night promotion, which included a charity campaign partner. On April 27th, so many people were tweeting about the promotion that a Google search for “Baskin Robbins” showed a first-page link to 300+ real-time results.
  3. Third, keep it up. Sometimes the most difficult part of marketing is consistency and long-term commitment. Given that digital marketers consistently complain of being overworked and under resourced, it’s no wonder there are so many “ghosts of social media campaigns past” floating around out there. The companies that are succeeding the most in harnessing the powers of social media are distributing the workload between various departments (e.g., customer service, HR, PR, and marketing) and regularly inserting highly creative campaigns to keep the momentum going.

Of course, there’s the other side of the coin—the negative social media conversations that can make their way to the SERPs. Once again, these conversations can be influenced at their source. Savvy brands today employ social listening tools to uncover what people are saying and quickly address customer issues/gripes before a negative conversation spirals out of control. In many cases, these “fixes” become part of the social SERPs and can help offset any negativity. This becomes important in presenting balanced information for consumers and search engines. (Recently, there’s evidence that Google is using sentiment analysis that may weigh against a site or asset based on negative reviews).

As search becomes more social—and social drives more search—influencing participants to engage in positive social media conversations around brands is fast becoming the most important tactic to fund. Social media itself links customer experiences seamlessly from device to device, and it is thus of significant value as consumers move through the screens of their lives and express their intent through more search tools than just Google and Bing. Winners in social media can more easily be winners in mobile search and barcode/QR code search, Internet television, news search, and beyond.

How Social Media is Helping Marketing, PR, and Sales Become Better Friends

By Michael Brenner, Senior Director of Global Marketing at SAP

The biggest question I get asked on B2B Marketing Insider is about the challenges of sales and marketing alignment. I try to address the big issues in B2B marketing—such as integrated marketing, demand generation, and social media—but somehow, the topic comes back around to the relationship between sales and marketing. And it extends to our colleagues in PR.

I guess this shouldn’t be a huge shocker. I started my career in sales. Then I quickly moved into marketing to follow my frustrations. The alignment problem is what drove me into marketing.

BtoB Magazine recently reported on a Forrester survey that proves the point that this is huge challenge: only 8% of B2B companies say they have tight alignment between sales and marketing. Just 8%. They identify marketing’s long-term view vs. sales’ short-term view as the main reason for this disconnect.

So how can marketing and PR lead our organizations to better alignment with sales? The answer is social media.

A recent survey of 175 CMOs by Bazaarvoice and the CMO Club tells us that 74% of CMOs will tie their social media activities to quantifiable ROI in 2011. While that should help address the timing differences, I think there is more to it.

Today more than ever, marketing sells and sales people are marketing. And we are all communicators—some of us just more highly trained or capable. As Joe Pulizzi recently exclaimed, “Yes, We’re All Media Companies. What Now?” We need the content we produce across our companies to be professional, solve real customer problems, and be easily found.

Along comes social media, causing even more of a collision between sales, marketing, and PR/communications. The reason? We are all trying to align around customers through social channels. Add customer service, support, HR, and operations folks, and we have a real social media cocktail party happening.

Steps towards social alignment:

  • Define the goal. Marketing and PR should help lead our organizations to a better total customer experience in alignment with sales, but also across our entire organizations.
  • Work together. Social media can help us all get along (better). Marketing and PR should continue to take a leadership role in social media by defining how to best orchestrate social media strategy with sales, customer service, support, and other customer-focused groups across our companies.
  • Develop a crisis plan. This is really where PR can take the lead. They have the skills and best practices knowledge, but they also need to partner with marketing, sales, HR, and customer service so that a 360-degree process is identified. As the Kenneth Cole fiasco on Twitter showed us, the crisis can come from anywhere, even within. So get your crisis plan in place today.
  • Manage responses. One of the biggest opportunities for companies in social media is to develop a full response plan for inquiries, complaints, and so-called “trolls.” Here is an excellent example of a social triage process that can be used a model. By taking a leadership role in defining how we listen to social conversations and how we will respond, our companies can begin to achieve the true goal of a positive total customer experience.

I believe that by following these steps, we will start to see marketing, sales, PR, and all the functions across our companies become much better friends. And we just might create some new, happy customers along the way.

People Have the Power: How Social Media is Changing Business and Why the Old Guard is Terrified

By Barry Libert, Author of Social Nation: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and Grow Your Business

For as long as anyone can remember, the expression “those who have the gold, rule” has worked. But times are changing. Today, the power is shifting to the masses, and they are using the power of the sheer size and capabilities of the Internet to make sure their voices are heard. And this is making the old guard—existing management teams, boards, and investors—terrified for lots of reasons.

Most companies and their leaders have perfected business processes and competencies focused on making, marketing, and selling “things”—not listening, facilitating, and sharing information and experiences. The skills and technologies (command and control and assembly lines) required for the former are different from those required for the latter (empathy and compassion and social media). However, I think it is time for the old guard to get on board and recognize they have a unique opportunity to participate in the revolution—or risk losing their heads the way Marie Antoinette did.

Understand the Power of Social Media

The unprecedented growth of Facebook (550 million users), Twitter (200 million), bloggers (150 million), and text messaging resulted because there were tremendous unfulfilled demands by customers and employees that were not being met by traditional organizations or tools. These demands were basic: to communicate and connect. Further, the demands were profoundly valuable and important to almost all constituents—to be heard, connected, recognized for their contributions, and ultimately, self-actualized.

Facebook and other social media entities surfaced to satisfy those needs and reap the benefits, along with the organizations that invested in them.

Embrace the Voice of Your Customers and Employees

Most traditional organizations don’t have a team—let alone a senior ranking professional—charged with building their social media initiatives and developing their communities. If we look back just 10 years ago when e-commerce was first taking off, traditional leaders of brick and mortar companies thought that e-commerce was just a passing fad and would only be used for selling technologies. Obviously, they were wrong, and the same is true for social media and community engagement.

We are just at the beginning of a structural shift to the socialization of organizations. It’s important to build your social media team now, so you can join the conversation and hear what your constituents have to say. Don’t let the voices of your customers and employees go unheard.

The Crowd Can Help You Grow and Prosper

Regardless of what you think of your employees, customers, prospects, or alumni, there are more of them than you. Most importantly, you never know where the next great idea will come from, which could include your existing people or people from outside the four walls of your organization (and by extension, your partners). Research has repeatedly shown that crowds have wisdom, expertise, and passion that can help you grow and innovate.

It doesn’t matter how big your company is or how long it has been around. The growing size and popularity of social media signals a seismic shift from institutions and their leaders to individuals and their peers (e.g., communities). It’s time for a new organizational model: “business by the people, for the people” (not by the leaders, for the leaders). Leaders have to learn to become true followers of their constituents (customers, employees, partners, etc.) and join the social media revolution. It’s time to ask yourself if it’s better to be terrified of the masses or to join them and ensure your future success. It’s your choice.

Engage Your Most Dissatisfied Customers for Radical Thinking

By Dr. Philippe Duverger, Assistant Professor at Towson University

I agree with Tom Quinn’s recent post on the SMM Magazine blog—By Invitation Only: Letting Your Customers in Behind the Velvet Rope—where he advocates for a by-invitation-only brand community that leverages customer engagement in a private and exclusive environment. Facebook Pages and other initiatives that inform and lead your consumer base (customers and potential customers alike) to follow your brand and try your services and products is a different strategy than listening to your most valuable customers. Both strategies are valuable and have their place in the social media environment.

A social media strategy using Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other open-to-the-public environments will raise awareness, trial, and traffic. But it will also allow competitors to listen in on the conversation. If you are in need of radical service ideas and want to mine your customer base or test new ideas, you should create a secluded environment where only trusted and creative clients can participate.

This is where the dilemma exists. Should you invite only your loyal customers to participate in idea generation through online brainstorming sessions? Or should you invite your most dissatisfied customers? I advocate for the latter strategy.

Your most dissatisfied customers are probably thinking about switching providers. They are more likely to feel underappreciated or have experienced sub-standard service from you. They might have logged a complaint, only to receive an unhelpful administrative response, which further enraged them, thereby increasing their dissatisfaction. So it is more likely that they can tell you what is wrong with your business.

You might not want to hear it, or you might dismiss the complaint as a rare occurrence or subjective to the customer’s unrealistic expectations. And you might be wrong. That customer could be a visionary who will feel compelled to find a service provider that will satisfy her needs. If none of your competitors provide it, the customer might decide to provide it herself (assuming she has what it takes), become your competitor, and drive you out of business. Too far, you think? Take entrepreneurs like Richard Branson (Virgin Group), Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn), or Howard Schultz (Starbucks). They all have a common characteristic: they did not like what was available in the market and went on to create it for themselves.

Interestingly, Starbucks recently engaged in a Web-based brainstorming exercise where anyone—including its competitors—could participate and watch. Starbucks collected thousands of ideas. Great… except that only one radical idea would suffice to make a winter-coffee company an all-season coffee and smoothies company. The Frappuccino, according to Schultz’s memoirs, was a customer’s idea and now accounts for almost half of Starbucks’ revenue.

Certainly, among the tens of thousands of participants, there are bound to be creative consumers, satisfied or not. But the most dissatisfied and creative ones either won’t participate or will be outnumbered by the conservative, happy, and loyal customers.

Cyberbullying is explained by the balance theory where a customer posting a radical idea might preface it with a complaint, leading others to defend the brand by bullying the culprit out of participating. The solution? Segregate your behind-the-velvet-rope communities between radical thinkers and those who only have improvement ideas. Or, more practically, have a radical-thinking community composed of your most dissatisfied customers. And then listen.

Embracing Social Media Measurement

By Deirdre Breakenridge, Co-Author of Cyberbranding: Brand Building in the Digital Economy

If there’s one area of marketing strategy that deserves significant attention, it’s measurement. Back in the days of traditional communications, marketers were always held accountable for the results of their campaigns. We had to know if the marketing efforts raised awareness, created consumer loyalty, and moved products off the shelves or if our initiatives helped the brand’s reputation. However, much of our measurement was based on eyeballs or impressions. How much did that advertisement cost and how many people actually saw it in their favorite magazines or heard it on the radio during their morning drive to work?

Then we morphed into digital communications and were able to target our campaigns to capture activity and sales from clicks to conversations. And we became no strangers to the terms PPC and CPM. Today, as a result of social media marketing, we are focused on conversations and participation in the social sphere. Consumers are becoming more active in their Web communities and trusting the advice and word of their peers over the brand’s messages. As a result, marketers know they need to create opportunities for brands to engage with their consumers through high levels of interaction. Of course, social media engagement can lead to any of the following: awareness, perception, reputation, education, conversations, authority, leads/sales, etc.

With so much listening, monitoring, and measuring that needs to be done, how do you select the right tools to capture the metrics that show value to the brand? How can you tell the difference between the high-level/high-value interactions versus the Facebook “like” or follower on Twitter that never leads to a product sale? I’ve found a couple of different measurement techniques that show good value for any brand that takes the time to invest in these types of measurement. They are “share of voice” and “social influence marketing (SIM) score.”

If you are unfamiliar with these two metrics, here’s a brief overview:

Share of Voice

A brand’s share of voice includes any type of brand mention, which could appear in social networks, blogs, microblogs, message boards and forums, video and photo sharing sites, wikis, etc. Share of voice lets you hear what people are saying and where they are saying it, how they perceive your brand, and what they think about it. You can compare your brand’s share of voice to that of your competitors. You can also capture those communities that have a greater share of voice, allowing you to capitalize on any brand champions speaking on your behalf by building better relationships with them as they continue to be your advocates. It’s also a good practice to evaluate any weak areas where you can create stronger ties with your stakeholders and engage in more meaningful interactions.

Social Influence Marketing (SIM) Score

The SIM developed by Razorfish supports a brand’s attempts to track, analyze, and improve net sentiment by setting benchmarks against itself and also by comparing the SIM scores to that of its competitors. The SIM score is calculated by looking at the brand’s positive, neutral, and negative mentions in relation to total conversations, both for the brand and the brand’s industry. For example, net sentiment for a brand (which is calculated by positive mentions plus neutral mentions minus negative mentions) is divided by total conversations (positive plus neutral plus negative) to get a brand sentiment score. The same calculation is used to obtain the net industry sentiment score, calculating the positive plus neutral minus negative mentions, and then dividing by total industry conversations. The SIM score is equal to the total net sentiment divided by total industry sentiment.

These are only a couple of the metrics that can be used to measure the results of social media marketing. With so many conversations to capture from our consumers and other stakeholders in Web communities, we must embrace social media measurement. Whether you are using free tools (such as Social Mention and Alterian) or automated services (including Radian6 and Sysomos), it’s critical to turn up the volume on our listening/monitoring and measurement practices and show our executives that no matter where we market, there are results, and we are accountable.

Do CMOs Really Understand the Value of Twitter?

By Kent Huffman, Chief Marketing Officer at BearCom Wireless and Co-Publisher of Social Media Marketing Magazine

In a recent blog post on Forbes.com, CMO Club CEO Pete Krainik noted, “Most Chief Marketing Officers see the value of engaging with customers—and the value of engaging them where they hang out, talk, and spend their time.” Pete is surely right about that. But then why are only a very small percentage of CMOs active in the social media world themselves, particularly on Twitter?

I attended the CMO Club’s semiannual CMO Summit in San Francisco last week. Again this year, it was an excellent event and was well attended by a nice cross-section of B2C and B2B Chief Marketing Officers from around the country, representing all different types and sizes of companies and organizations. On the last day of the Summit, I was part of a panel who discussed the business impact of social media and community building, including the most effective social media marketing tools. But surprisingly, I discovered that out of the 80-plus heads of marketing in attendance at the Summit, only 16 who carry the official title of CMO for their organizations are currently active on Twitter:

B2C Chief Marketing Officers:

B2B Chief Marketing Officers:

B2C/B2B Chief Marketing Officers:

This is obviously not a scientific study, but two things struck me when reviewing this list: 1) even though there were more B2C CMOs at the Summit than B2B, more B2B CMOs are active on Twitter than their B2C counterparts, and 2) very few “big brands” in either the B2C or B2B world are represented by their CMOs on Twitter. It’s also interesting to note that you can make the same basic observations when reviewing the list of the top CMOs on Twitter that I curate as Co-Publisher for Social Media Marketing Magazine.

So why is that the case? Do most CMOs not understand the value of Twitter and other social media tools? Or do they just not consider them a priority for their careers or their companies?

“Most CMOs barely understand the value of building relationships with customers and giving them a voice, let alone how to navigate and make use of the world of Twitter. Social media marketing to most in the C-suite is still something campaign based, but social media marketing needs to be woven into fabric of all marketing channels, strategically managed from a 360-degree perspective,” said Ted Rubin, Chief Social Marketing Officer at OpenSky and the most-followed CMO on Twitter. “The key here is to convince CMOs to get personally involved in social media by having someone with hands-on knowledge mentor them, so they get first-hand knowledge, build their own personal following, and learn from the ground up. That way, they can properly guide and manage the integration process,” Ted added.

John Dragoon, the Chief Marketing Officer at Novell, noted, “All markets are conversations, and good marketers are embracing new tools to have these conversations. The beauty of social media tools is they allow you to experiment quickly and learn even faster. Active participation is the key to success. And make no mistake—your customers are listening.”

Could Big Brands Learn a Thing or Two from Singer Leann Rimes? Hell, Yeah!

By Aaron Strout, Chief Marketing Officer at Powered

I have always been a music enthusiast, but I’ve never been that interested in country music. And while I’m not ready to race out and fill my iTunes account with the likes of Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks, I recently purchased a few songs by the lovely and talented Leann Rimes. Why the sudden change of heart? If you must know, it was because of a single tweet. Well, it was actually two tweets… and the fact that during a show I saw at the ANA’s Masters of Marketing event, she was authentic and genuinely made an attempt to connect with the crowd of 1,500 senior marketers.

As someone that embraced Twitter back in 2007, I regularly use it to learn, engage, and build relationships. To that end, I often make a point of acknowledging people, companies, and organizations when I feel like they are doing a good job. This may or may not mean anything to them, but it’s my style, and so far, it’s borne a lot of goodwill and business value for me.

Getting back to Leann Rimes and her performance at the ANA conference last week: as she was wrapping up her set, I took the time to look her up on Twitter and send her a thank you tweet. Imagine my surprise when she actually tweeted me back!

The reason I’m sharing this experience is not to show off—although who doesn’t love having a successful female country singer tweet them back—but rather to point out a lesson that big brands could learn from this experience. For starters, it doesn’t hurt to follow Ms. Rimes’ lead and ensure that your brand is perceived as credible and authentic. That was the thing about Leann that got me to tweet her in the first place. But more importantly, the fact that someone as busy as she must be took the time to tweet back to a potential fan was huge.

Did she do it because she knew that I was on the fence about liking her? I don’t think so. Looking back in her tweet stream, it appears she does that with a lot of people. It’s just who she is. What I can guarantee is that while she is a very talented singer, one of the main reasons she has become so successful is because she engages her “customers.”

Now would I have been as excited if a brand like Lexus or Starbucks tweeted me back? Probably not. But I do appreciate it when a brand takes the time to acknowledge me, and it has made me more likely to stick with that brand. For example, in the case of WiFi provider Boingo, I’ve actually become one of its biggest fans, primarily because Boingo regularly engages me in conversation on Twitter. Now Boingo only earns $120 per year from me, but I tell everyone I know about Boingo, have mentioned it in blog posts, and have even gone so far as to be interviewed in an article about Boingo and the “network effect of super fans” on the FASTforward blog.

So is your company engaging its customers? It doesn’t take a lot to get started—just a good listening tool and an internal and/or external resource that can help reach out to customers (or prospective customers) who are mentioning you. You’ll be surprised how far a tweet, a blog comment, or even a Facebook “like” will go in turning people’s heads.

Is Farming Out Selling Out?

By Phyllis Neill, President & CEO of WeMentor Social Media Marketing

The more we learn about social media marketing and management, we realize that the devil is in the details. We now know it’s not enough to simply be in social media, but we need lots of relevant, compelling content, frequent updates, and ongoing efforts to find followers. Most importantly, we need to inject our authentic brand voice, which cannot be outsourced. Or can it?

The good news is, there can be a happy medium. The secret to success is knowing what to farm out, what to keep in-house, and having a strategic plan that helps you do both.

What You Should Farm Out

You could feasibly farm out the creation and posting of 70 percent of the educational content you need to be providing:

  • Make a list of the top 10 to 15 sites where your target and current customers spend time, such as blogs, online news sites, niche social media sites, etc.
  • Engage someone to do a weekly “listening” campaign, where they select the top two to three articles or blog entries from each of the sites you identified.
  • From the list of top articles and blog entries gathered, engage someone to turn them into educational tweets, and have them post these three to four a day throughout the week for you.

What You Should Keep Within Your Company

Even if your business is trying to establish itself as an expert in a specific field, you will need to do more than have highly relevant article link tweets to get you there. Part of the appeal of social media is the intimacy factor; the ability to really get to know a company and its people like never before. Therefore, it is critical that you are able to inject your brand personality into your social media efforts, or people simply will not continue to follow you:

  • Create mini-blog entries. Have your social media marketing company create an editorial calendar that maps out suggested blog topics for each month, giving you the ability to give out guest blog assignments way in advance with a topic already suggested.
  • Post company events on Facebook. If you had a summer picnic, a charity fundraiser, or a trip for your top salespeople, post pictures of these events with personal captions under each picture. Nothing gives a customer or prospect a better feel for the company brand and culture than getting a peek inside how the company celebrates.
  • Develop a relationship with Twitter followers by commenting on other tweets and retweeting interesting articles.
  • Create real-world interactions out of social media meetings. Plan once-a-week LinkedIn lunches to stay top of mind with your LinkedIn contacts. Or write a handwritten note to someone you’ve met through your social media efforts.

The Importance of Strategy and Relationships

The bottom line is that it is possible to outsource a lot of the legwork involved in your social media strategy and still remain highly involved in the messaging. Just make sure to stay strategically involved in the relationship-building piece of the program, and your social media program will be a success.