Archive for the ‘Strategy’ Category

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—#2: Plan Carefully

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

Too many marketers jump right in and start using various social media tools and technologies—such as Twitter, Google+, and blogs—before they’ve even developed a strategic plan or thought about how those activities might impact the rest of their marketing initiatives. Don’t make that mistake! Take a little time to determine how to best integrate social media into your existing marketing strategy and mix. It’ll pay off for you.

Step one in the planning process is to nail down specific social media objectives, based on the listening activities detailed in Mandate #1. Now that you know what your constituents care about and are discussing on social media, how does that impact the messages you need to communicate to them? Step two is to integrate your social media strategy into your overall marketing strategy to ensure your resources can be leveraged most efficiently and effectively and that common goals can be more easily reached.

If you work for a large enterprise, you have two significant advantages over a small business when it comes to planning and budgeting for a social media marketing program. First, your company’s DNA most likely has a built-in “think strategically” strand, and second, it also probably has a fairly large wallet. If, however, you work for or own a small business, you have an advantage as well. You most likely can make strategic decisions and launch new marketing programs fairly quickly. That can be a huge benefit in the fast-paced social media world.

Finally, be sure you’re prepared to monitor and measure your impact and progress. Establishing benchmarks and other metrics that can be tracked over time will help you better understand what’s working and what’s not, and thus be able to make whatever adjustments are necessary to ensure the success of your social media marketing activities.

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

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

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.

Bridging the Digital Gap with SnapTags

By Jeffrey Hayzlett, author of Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits

If you are a marketer, I can almost guarantee that one of your goals for 2012 is to figure out your mobile strategy. You’re not alone. Everyone is talking mobile, but very few have figured out how to integrate a mobile strategy into an existing marketing plan. I found an answer to this dilemma, and it’s called “SnapTags.”

SnapTags are similar to QR codes but way sexier, offering more options for the user and a wider reach (SnapTags have capabilities on 88% of mobile phones, compared to 13% with QR codes). I’m encouraging marketers to integrate SnapTags into all their existing marketing campaigns. It’s a low-cost solution that bridges the gap between your physical marketing campaigns and your mobile and digital marketing goals.

In my case, I’m using SnapTags in my new book, Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits. Readers can “snap” a SnapTag at the beginning of each of the 37 chapters to view the video that accompanies each section of the book. This creates a more personal connection with my readers, as they get to see and hear me introduce each chapter on their mobile phones! Plus—and this is the best part—the reader is provided with links to my Facebook and Twitter pages each time they “snap.” I’m bridging the gap between the physical book and the digital relationship I’m building with my readers through social media.

The advantage of this strategy is that your brand can create more than a simple piece of print media. SnapTags enhance simple print media to:

  • Forge a digital connection across social networks
  • Drive new customers through your digital sales funnel
  • Create a point of purchase through virtually any placement

Some of the largest brands in the world are already using SnapTags, like Bud Light and Coca-Cola. Most recently, SnapTags were deployed in the September issue of Glamour magazine, being featured on the cover and across both editorial and advertising pages. This campaign netted Glamour more than 100,000 consumer activations and more than 500,000 consumer interactions (includes scanning the codes with an app, texting a picture message, taking subsequent actions such as agreeing to “like” an advertiser or article, signing up for the deal or sweepstakes being offered, or sharing the offer with friends).

Mark my words—in 2012, mobile integration will play a critical role in your overall marketing plan. The key to bridging the gap between your traditional and digital marketing campaigns is the mobile device. SnapTags Founder and CEO, Nicole Skogg says, “In 2012, you will see shopping SnapTags create a new way for consumers to buy whenever and wherever they encounter a brand message. Anticipate seeing SnapTags in some transformative brand marketing campaigns.”

I’ve already integrated SnapTags into my big marketing campaign for 2012. Have you?

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?

Google+: Where Do You Fit In?

By John Foley, Jr., Chief Executive/Marketing Officer at Grow Socially

Google+ has taken the social media world by storm. The search engine mammoth has finally created a social network with some traction, and everyone is taking notice, including Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team. At this point, businesses should be sitting up and paying attention. But should you be jumping into the new social venture?

Google+ offers features that can be highly beneficial to businesses. Features that even Facebook can’t match. For example, there is Hangouts. This feature allows for you and ten friends to video chat all at once. This is a simple, hassle-free way to video conference with clients, partners, and more. Video chatting can be more fun than a standard conference call, and it is a way for you to connect with your clients in a more personal way. Really get to know your cross-country customers.

Circles is another feature that can make life easier for your business. Have circles of friends dedicated specifically for the companies that you work with. Send out messages directly to the people you want to have read them. This way, you can keep up a personal, engaging relationship through the social network without the pain of having to sift through long lists of friends.

There is also Huddle. This is a way for you to chat with all the members of a Circle. You can use this for interoffice communication purposes. Keep everyone informed about meetings, time changes, new clients, and more.

These three great features of Google+ can easily be used to help your office’s efforts in communication. Google+ bridges the gap from social media interaction to real-time, practical, personal interaction. From the social network, relationships can improve with clients, prospects, employees, and business partners.

If you decide to jump into Google+, have a plan in place. Aggregate some influential and worthwhile Circles that can immediately give you people to connect with. Just like Twitter and Facebook, have a content strategy for when you are going to push out content and how you are going to engage your audiences.

Give Google+ a try. The more people who join, the better and more effective the features will become. And with a little planning, those features can greatly enhance your business.

Social Media: Still a Mystery to Most Small Businesses

By Amy Howell, CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies

Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about social media for business. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are all new media tools that can help bolster your Internet or digital “footprint.”

You can read all about how social media is ramping up the conversation by doing a simple Google search. But the more important question small business owners want answered is how to use social media to boost sales and get the phone ringing. I call it “turning on the water faucet.” Social media for businesses should mean one thing: free tools that can strengthen your organization’s SEO (search engine optimization), help get your message out, and engage with customers and prospects.

Now these tools may be free, but the time you must spend executing the work can be extensive. A lot of writers just re-hash what’s already been written, so what I find most helpful is to share what we help clients do in the trenches every day. Below are the main barriers to using social media and why it remains a mystery, followed by how to get started and what to do first.

The barriers for most small businesses using social media are:

  • Time and education: It takes time to read and learn about the ever-changing, growing tools online, and most business owners don’t have extra time to devote to this. I hear it every day, and as a small business owner myself, I certainly understand this constraint. Small businesses have limited resources and must focus on revenue development and all that comes with running a business. Social media can help a small business tremendously, but most owners have not had time to get up to speed.
  • Lack of resources: It takes a dedicated effort to employ social media tools. Most companies can hire help, but many simply don’t have the extra resources to do so.
  • Reluctance to embrace new media: A lot of people are just flat out skeptical of social media. There are legitimate reasons to ignore it, especially if you are in a regulated industry (banking, insurance, finance, etc.), as some governing entities such as the SEC have policies against any use of social media for work. I think that will change soon, as I’m already seeing some large organizations issue new policies on social media use.
  • Generational: Most people would be surprised to know that the average age of a Twitter user is between 40 and 55. Age isn’t an excuse to avoid social tools, but it is often an explanation.

How to get started if you want to add a social media strategy to your marketing toolkit:

  • Read, read, read. There are some excellent blogs (like this one) and other resources online that can tell you all you need to know. There is no “magic wand” that will do this for you. If you really want to jump in, you have to do the reading yourself. You can hire it out of course, but the ideal results spring from the business understanding social media and embracing it, even if it means only monitoring at first. Let’s take the Judy McLellan Team for example (@JudyMacTeam on Twitter). Judy hired my firm to help with a real estate marketing and PR strategy that included the use of social tools. At first, we did some of the tweeting and posting. But now, you can find Judy out selling homes while using her iPad and iPhone to tweet and spread information about her listings.
  • Pick one tool and learn that first. For me, it’s Twitter. Once I understood Twitter, I moved on to learning about some other tools. I think by mastering one tool, small businesses can see results faster. Let’s take Cheffie’s Cafe (@Cheffies on Twitter) as the next example. We helped Cheffie’s Cafe spread the word by using Twitter, along with traditional PR during the previous few months. A good Twitter strategy is key to a successful PR campaign.
  • Look at what your competition is doing. Get online and do a little research to see what your competition is up to in the social space. Let’s take OrthoMemphis, a successful orthopaedic practice in Memphis that adopted social media long before its competition did. We have helped OrthoMemphis (@OrthoMemphis on Twitter) use social media tools to not only market their sub-specialists (knee, hips, and shoulders), but also to launch OrthoStat, its acute care walk-in clinic. Combined with direct mail, PR, and patient communications, Twitter and Facebook have been tremendously helpful.
  • Get a social media policy in place and communicate it to your organization. There are some great examples online and free resources available. I suggest any small business that wants to use social media tools have a policy in place just like a media policy. Talking online is like talking in the newspaper, and it’s important to have a strategy and know the dos and don’ts of posting online. Good examples are Coca-Cola, Kodak, and Intel. (A list of these can be found on my blog.)

The smaller the organization (or flatter), the easier it is to employ social media. Even though they may have more resources, larger companies are often more bureaucratic and have more red tape. Larger companies are also usually slower to “get it,” and we have found that companies without all the red tape can move faster and are often more decisive. Social media gives the little guys a leg up and is a great way to have a big voice online.

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.

Going Gaga!

By Nina Buik, Chief Marketing Officer at HP Connect

I admit that I’m a fan of Lady Gaga’s music, but even more a fan of her marketing strategy:

  • Creates a globally recognizable brand image
  • Creates edgy, compelling headlines
  • Is “virtually” ubiquitous
  • Fearless of putting herself “out there”
  • Has built an incredibly loyal following

You don’t have to be “born this way” to be successful at social media, but you do have to have a successful strategy, or you may simply end up in a “bad romance.”

The social media explosion has proven that like-minded consumers/people like belonging to a group (e.g., ski club, track club, Lady Gaga fan club, etc.). They want to know more about the “thing” that makes them like-minded, and they want to communicate with one another. Thus the advent of social CRM.

So what is your strategy? Is it measurable? Is your entire organization part of and supportive of your strategy? What is your organization’s “love game” with your customers? Here are a few tips:

  • Other than your product or service, identify what your customers have in common.
  • Identify where your customers hang out—online and offline.
  • Take a good look at your brand image/messaging. Make sure it is current/relevant and “fits in” these virtual groups and/or physical locations.
  • Define measurable outcomes.
  • Assign passionate “owners.”
  • Provide tools to your foot soldiers (tweetsheets, blog templates, etc.).
  • Encourage your team to find the “edge” of their message (staying just within the guidelines).
  • Use a hub/spoke model (your website is the hub, and all external spoke messages refer the reader back to your site).

Lady Gaga has it right. Whether you enjoy her music or not, stop “dancing in the dark” and take note of her successful marketing strategy.

Four SEO/SMM Strategies to Get Your Blog Listed on the First Page of Google

By Marci Reynolds, Director of Operations for Global Help24 at ACI Worldwide

Business blogs have become critical tools in any social media marketing tool box, and they are an excellent medium to share expertise and build your business brand. But just creating a blog is not enough. You must also focus on blog SEO (search engine optimization) to ensure that it receives top placement in Google, Bing, and the other search engines.

I began blogging in 2009, when I launched The Sales Operations Blog, and in 2011, I launched a second blog called Rat Terrier Mom. What do the two blogs have in common? They both appear on the first page of Google for multiple search terms and get the majority of their traffic from organic search engine links. Social media marketing nirvana!

Here are four strategies that I recommend and have leveraged to get my blogs listed on the first page of Google:

  • Focus and differentiate the content on your blog. There are thousands of blogs on the Internet, so if you want yours to stand out and appear on the first page of Google, it must offer something unique. Before I started The Sales Operations Blog, I did some research on blog competition and the popularity of search terms related to my content. I found that there were thousands of blogs on “how to sell” but very few on sales support. I also discovered that the phrase “sales operations” was one of the more frequently used search terms related to my topic. So before launching your blog, check out the competition, do some research on how potential readers search for your content, and attempt to focus and differentiate your blog.
  • Include a power search term in your domain name. Google does not like cute, it likes relevant. For this reason, I chose the domains SalesOperationsBlog.com and RatTerrierMom.com. (Okay, Rat Terrier Mom is a little cute.) When choosing your domain and blog name, select a frequently used search term that aligns with your content. In my domain research, I have found that many of the most popular words or phrases alone are already taken, but if you add the word “blog” at the end, most of them are available. For example, B2Bemail.com is taken, but B2BemailBlog.com is still available. Check out GoDaddy.com to research domain options.
  • Identify and leverage the top 20 search terms in your blog content. Use Google Adwords or a similar tool to identify the top 20-ish search terms that readers use to find content like yours, and then use this intelligence throughout your blog. This includes your post titles, post content, categories, HTML image labels, and in-post HTML tags. Note that the search terms should enhance your high-quality, interesting blog content, not actually make up your blog content. In addition to using the Google Adwords tool, monitor the “real time” search engine terms driving traffic, as reported in your WordPress dashboard. Copyblogger is an excellent resource for tips on keyword research and blogging SEO.
  • Keep the content fresh. As part of your social media marketing plan, publish high-quality, relevant blog content, ideally once per week. There is a direct correlation to the frequency in which you publish content, your ranking on search engines, and your website traffic. Add your Twitter stream or another user’s topic-relevant Twitter stream to the home page of your blog. Every time a tweet is posted, your blog home page will get fresh content. Add a specific page to your blog that includes links to other similar, recent online content. Refer to the Other Sales Ops Articles page on The Sales Operations Blog for an example.

If you focus and differentiate, choose a powerful domain name, include popular keywords in your content, and keep your content fresh (and high quality), there is no doubt that your blog popularity and traffic will climb.

I wish you good luck in your adventures in blogging and social media marketing!

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.”

Social Media Marketing on a Shoestring

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

If you’re a small business owner or manager—or even a corporate marketing executive with a very limited budget—and you’ve been wondering how you could leverage social media to help grow your business, you’re definitely not alone. Almost every marketer I know is having to deal with limited financial resources in 2011, primarily because of the challenging economic times we’re facing right now. So what do you do?

No Money? No Matter!

In most cases, success in social media marketing doesn’t necessarily require a large financial investment. But depending on your level of involvement, it may demand a significant commitment of time. Jessie Paul, author of the book, No Money Marketing: From Upstart to Big Brand on a Frugal Budget, says, “Unlike media such as TV, radio, print, or even Google Adwords, which are capital intensive (i.e., the more money you have, the more successful you are likely to be), social media in its current form is labor intensive.” But because of the magnitude of the potential opportunities presented by social media marketing, that investment is often a wise one. Jessie goes on to say, “Social media gives marketers a chance to be in direct contact with customers. That is very hard to get in any other media and is worth quite a bit of experimentation to achieve.”

I’ve been active on various social media sites (including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) since early 2009 and have been amazed at the benefits and opportunities that activity has brought to me and my company in a relatively short period of time. As Jessie suggested, I didn’t have to invest very much of my marketing budget to reach my social media marketing goals, but I did spend a lot of time developing strategy, content, and most importantly, relationships. I have to say it has been worth every minute.

Key Social Media Channels and Sites

If you’re just starting down the social media marketing path, an important first step toward making the most of the online social scene for your business is to select the right channels and tools to use. Robbin Block, author of the book, Social Persuasion: Making Sense of Social Media for Small Business, says, “Knowing your own abilities and the impression you’re trying to make can play a big part in the types of sites you choose. There’s a big difference between creating original content and simply participating. For example, posting a response or voting is much different than writing an article. If you’re a creator—that is, you have the time, talent, or inclination to create original material—then content sites are a good choice.”

“Whether you choose to be a creator, a participant, or a blend of both depends on your strategy,” adds Robbin. “Certain types of small businesses are a natural fit with particular social media categories. For example, a speaker might post a video on YouTube, list events in online calendars (like Yahoo! Upcoming), and upload presentations to SlideShare. If you’re short on budget but long on talent, that may help you decide. Writers may choose blogs, videographers may choose content sites, social animals may choose networks, and subject experts may choose Q&As.”

Reaping the Benefits of Conversations

Once you’ve selected the right social media channels and sites for your individual situation, you’re ready to join the discussion, build relationships, and ultimately reap the benefits.

Recently, Network Solutions and the University of Maryland (UM) conducted a compelling study about the use of social media in small businesses. “Social media levels the playing field for small businesses by helping them deliver customer service,” says Janet Wagner, Director of the Center for Excellence at UM’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “Time spent on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs is an investment in making it easier for small businesses to compete.” Connie Steele, Director at Network Solutions, added, “Tough market conditions mandate small businesses to think and act creatively to sustain themselves. Social media can be the best friend for small business owners who constantly seek new ways to maximize productivity while keeping costs low.”

And those same challenges apply to most every marketer, no matter how small or large his or her organization may be. Eric Fletcher is the Chief Marketing Officer at McGlinchey Stafford (a commercial law firm based in New Orleans) and is one of the most popular CMOs on Twitter. He frequently writes about social media marketing-related issues. Eric says, “The ultimate goal of any social media marketing effort should be to enhance the brand and move forward on a continuum that leads to a new or deeper relationship with the target. Nothing accelerates the establishment and deepening of relationships like the give-and-take of conversations on social media.”

Eric is also acutely aware of the budgetary challenges marketers are facing today. “In an environment where marketing budgets are frozen (if not shrinking), a robust social media strategy is based more on the investment of time than dollars,” he notes. “We have always understood two things: the value of word-of-mouth marketing and the need to ‘fish where the fish swim.’ In social media, those two essentials come together—giving any enterprise, regardless of budget, a way to have a daily conversation with a world of prospective customers.”

SXSW: 8 Essential Takeaways for CMOs

By Margaret Molloy, Chief Marketing Officer at Velocidi

Since attending the SXSW Interactive Festival in March, a number of CMOs have asked me for my key takeaways from the event. Articulating these succinctly has not been easy. After all, SXSW provided such valuable insights into new technologies, inspirational speeches, and fantastic networking opportunities. Upon reflection, I can summarize my key learning in a few words: get back to basics.

The pace of the technological evolution is dizzying—racing to keep up with it can cause us CMOs to lose site of the big picture. Digital platforms are not an end in themselves, they are tools that help us more efficiently do what we’ve been striving to do for years: engage customers, know them, guide strategy, and achieve growth and influence in our markets.

Based on this premise, here are eight imperatives to guide us through our rapidly evolving digital landscape, garner internal support, and achieve growth:

  1. Align all digital marketing activities with your company’s business goals. Focusing on the bottom line will help you choose the right platforms to engage your customers and build the digital initiatives to help you achieve the right results. (Remember that innovation and learning can also be excellent desired outcomes.)
  2. Manage your brand’s digital presence (web, social) with the same vigilance as your CFO manages cash flow. A well-executed digital presence—and the appropriate investment in it—will yield the customer data and engagement required to drive business strategy and impact your company’s valuation.
  3. Know your customers in a better, deeper, more textured way than your competitors do. Leveraging social media platforms to understand your customers’ personal interests, preferences, and motivations can provide you with data required to drive powerful new marketing campaigns.
  4. Embrace customer segmentation and pricing with discipline, or risk margin erosion. Given the degree of price transparency and ease of information sharing online, your margins need constant vigilance—not all customer segments require discounts to establish loyalty, referrals, advocacy, and repeat purchases.
  5. Channel your inner educator, specifically your economics 101 professor, when addressing digital marketing tactics with management. Train your executives on the strategic metrics for your business, or risk them defaulting to the popular definition of ROI (number of followers, website impressions, etc.). If management doesn’t know how to assess and measure the effectiveness of digital marketing initiatives, it’s not realistic for them to fund the programs.
  6. Strive to balance long-term customer relationship building with lead generation, activation, and sales objectives. Avoid the temptation to jump in and close a prospect on the first signs of potential interest, or risk losing them.
  7. Consider your brand a publisher and be clear on your content goals—education, entertainment, community building, etc. Draw on the entire spectrum of content (brand-generated, partner-created, user-generated, curated, etc.) to select the right mix to cost-effectively engage your customers.
  8. Be authentic in your customer engagements through all communications channels. Customers are smart, well connected, and can easily identify insincere behavior and expose questionable tactics—honesty remains the best policy.

Focusing on these imperatives will ultimately provide you with a compass to guide you through the evolving digital landscape and toward the digital programs that will help you achieve your business goals.

“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?

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.

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.

Using Metastrategy to Amplify Your Media Performance

By Alan See, Chief Marketing Officer at Berry Network

The prefix “meta” is used to mean about its own category. For example, under the umbrella of business intelligence, you often hear the term “metadata,” which means data concerning data. For purposes of this short post, “metastrategy” could be described as an overarching marketing strategy determining which media strategies to use during various phases of the consumer purchasing process (strategy concerning strategy).

As your customers move through the purchasing process, multiple media channels have the potential to impact their buying decisions and shopping experiences. This makes an integrated marketing strategy more important than ever. There is strategic marketing importance in each phase of the consumer buying process in today’s competitive economy.

In the Berry Network Social-Ready Assessment, we asked respondents: “What level of priority does your company currently assign to social media marketing?” Less than 40 percent of our respondents rated the priority of their social media marketing initiatives as neutral or low. Interestingly, nearly 100 percent of those respondents are SMBs with revenues less than $100 million. Does that mean small businesses are anti-social? I don’t think so, but many are putting off their strategic marketing planning process since nearly all of the neutral and low responders also stated they “haven’t addressed social media related to corporate strategy on either a formal or informal basis.”

Not having a strategy is a dangerous place to be. In fact, in the Forrester report “Benchmarking Social Marketing Plans for 2011,” analyst Sean Corcoran states, “Any company not creating a long-term strategy, setting budgets, allocating resources, or setting policy is already falling behind. Interactive marketers should follow the companies that were brave in social media marketing and implement now rather than wait and learn the hard way.”

The current combination of declining customer satisfaction levels and economic concerns is creating the perfect customer experience storm. In this type of business climate, those companies that focus on an integrated consumer purchasing process will be the ones that come out on top. That means a relentless and coordinated approach to strategic marketing across all media channels has never been more important.

Fueling the Social Media Engine: How Building Relationships Online Drives the Growth of Brands

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

The world’s most successful brands go the distance. Beyond logos, colors, and shapes, brands endure over time and geography, attempting to do what no other commodity or service offering before them could do—or better yet, promise.

Brands are expected to perform, and customers expect nothing short of that promise. In fact, one must think holistically about the brand by understanding how multiple stakeholders are interacting, sharing, and perceiving the value of the promise across hundreds of brand touch points around the world. Then, one must get personal by understanding how emerging media and other Web 2.0 communities impact the development and maintenance of meaningful relationships—an emotional bond and distinctive brand experience for customers and stakeholders.

Is your organization capitalizing on emerging media technology as a key brand-enhancing activity to help differentiate it from the competition?

At Deloitte, the largest private professional services organization globally, social media is not just another buzzword. We boldly anticipate the success of social media in helping our people and clients to step ahead in the marketplace. Pragmatic in our approach, we are building on the success of several social media marketing campaigns to continuously grow our brand within the professional services market.

Our recent success with the 2010 Deloitte Fantasy Football engagement program, for example, allowed our 170,000-member firm practitioners, as well as our clients, to highlight their pride in cultural diversity, their love for the game of soccer, and a relentless approach to staying a step ahead of the fantasy competition during every World Cup match game. In addition to being an all-around fun game, Deloitte Fantasy Football was a strategic brand-building initiative that relied heavily on the power of building relationships online via social media channels, peer-to-peer recommendations, and real-time collaboration among colleagues, friends, and clients.

Social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, in particular) played an integral role in sustaining the momentum and energy behind the campaign, week after week. In fact, the results of the campaign exceeded our expectations:

  • More than 80% of Deloitte member firms actively promoted this event, leveraging unique opportunities for local market fit.
  • There was a ten-fold jump from Deloitte Australia’s original 3,000 participant count in 2006 to an impressive 33,848 total number of participants who registered to play the game in more than 160 countries.
  • More than 61 percent of the Deloitte workforce participated in the competition, complemented by a respectable level of client participation at 34 percent.
  • More than half a million unique online visitors from 162 countries and territories came to the competition site. More than 15 percent of these visitors had not previously visited a Deloitte Web site.
  • Each visitor spent an average of 7.38 minutes visiting the Web site—an equivalent of more than 4 million page views.
  • The Deloitte Fantasy Football campaign directly impacted our overall social media profile. We grew our official Deloitte Facebook page during that time from a fan base of 2,000 to more than 77,000 active users. Deloitte now has the largest global Facebook presence among its professional services competitors.
  • More than 40 Deloitte member firm practitioners from the South African firm acted as “green dot” reporters by blogging about the spirit of the live games.

Deloitte continues to shift perception from being just one of the Big Four to being the market-leading private professional services organization—in a category of one. To help accomplish this goal, Deloitte Fantasy Football (as well as other brand engagement programs) allowed our network of member firms to build on the exciting momentum of the world’s largest sports phenomenon, while exposing stakeholders to a variety of brand messages that appeal to clients and talent. By supporting these relationships in online social media applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs, Deloitte continues to break away from the pack.

Using social media as part of the marketing mix, Deloitte is able to authentically embrace the interests of its people and clients in a non-traditional way. From weekly engagement levels provided by Facebook metrics to a whole new database of potential clients, social media is a strategic business driver with the potential to positively impact lead generation, brand reputation, and risk, as well as advancements in thought leadership and new product development.

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.

Three Questions the Savvy Executive Asks about Online Marketing Strategy

By Stephanie Diamond, Author of Web Marketing for Small Businesses: Seven Steps to Explosive Business Growth

If you’re a leader whose business has an online component, you’d probably like to find some guidelines that make it easier to develop and sustain an online marketing strategy. There are lots of conflicting ideas swirling out there about what to do online. If you followed many of them, you’d be spinning your wheels with no revenue in sight.

As someone whose has worked online since 1994, I’ve watched the marketing “shiny object” change from Web site to newsletter to blog to social media network. And on it goes. I know that getting locked into a tactic with no clear strategy in sight is a common mistake.

If you’re uneasy around the topic of social media strategies, you’re not alone. Because you’re not down in the trenches tweeting and posting, you probably don’t have the “hands-on” feel you have for other areas of marketing.

If you attempt to delegate, employees suggest all manner of tactics to engage customers. You’ve heard that you need to engage with Twitter and Facebook, study ongoing analytics, present sparkling content, and co-develop with customers. Great advice. But without the strategy behind it, your campaigns are destined to fail. Like every other area of business, you need to create the strategy first and make sure it flows down to everyone in your organization.

In formulating an online strategy, here are three questions to consider:

  1. Value. Do your employees know the real value consumers place on your products and services? If you don’t develop and constantly hone that message, your employees can’t communicate it in their social media efforts. In turn, all the ratings and comments that show up about your company will not engender the “word of mouth” referral power they could. If your customers aren’t selling for you, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful weapons you have today.
  2. Intellectual property (IP). Are you encouraging your employees to mine the intellectual property hidden inside your business to create information products and services? I’m not referring to the patents or formulas your company owns. The IP in companies today can be found in their vast stores of information. The key is to evaluate that information based on enhancement of the customer’s life. Think broadly. Consumers today are hungry for quality information that solves problems. Can your staff take that information and create videos, e-books, and other downloadable properties with that in mind?
  3. Competitive advantage. Do your employees understand who your real competitors are? I’m often surprised when I work on competitive strategies with my clients that they overlook several real online competitors. It’s a mistake to focus on only those who sell your exact product/service in exactly the way you do. The Web provides the opportunity for your customers to pick and choose from a variety of options. For example, if you sell sales training courses, your competitors are online video portals, coaches (both in-person and online), downloadable audio courses, etc. Make sure your staff has looked at all the possibilities.

One more note—there are many visual thinking tools (like mind mapping) that your team can use right now to gather ideas from all internal disciplines. Consider using these techniques to get ideas from programmers and marketers alike. In today’s marketplace, you can’t afford to overlook a great idea.

By Invitation Only: Letting Your Customers in Behind the Velvet Rope

By Tom Quinn, Chief Revenue Officer at Passenger

“Invitation only.” “Private.” “Exclusive.” “VIP.” These words hold significant power in the marketing world. Nightclubs make their living off this allure; the retail world has been revolutionized by the success of invitation-only sites like Gilt Groupe and vente-privee.com. Although often a mirage (an invitation to a private sale club is often as simple as entering your e-mail), the allure of exclusivity has a profound effect on consumer behavior. Mainstream brands have taken notice and are incorporating this into their marketing strategies.

The Web offers exponential consumer touchpoints, making it easier to regularly engage with customers. The common online marketing approach has been bigger is better—many use public social networks or develop branded public communities in hopes of acquiring new fans. You can reach a large audience, and the interaction is completely open, making it easy to see how consumers are reacting to your brand/product/service.

From a loyalty and advocacy perspective, however, public initiatives can feel less personal and participants less “special,” as everyone can see what you are offering or asking. Competitors could be monitoring your community, so you have to watch what you reveal. Attempts at a personal brand connection through public social networks can also go horribly wrong: consumers can instantly amplify positive and negative experiences. Many brands struggle to create authentic intimacy without losing the scale and reach necessary to compete in the mass market.

A different approach is to focus in on your most loyal and vocal customers by establishing genuine dialogue in a private setting. Ask consumers to participate in an invitation-only online community to help shape the brand, services, and products they care about. This personal invitation gets them in the door; you can then foster the “velvet rope” feeling by sharing exclusive content and involving them in the creation process.

There is no better tool for creating intimacy than demonstrating that you are listening. Bring them into the product development process, solicit input on a new ad campaign, or ask what types of perks they might like as part of a rewards program. Then show them how their input is being incorporated. Reward their loyalty and enthusiasm with access to insider information, special brand experiences, or online “credit.”

Most companies find that a majority of their business often comes from a disproportionately small percentage of loyal customers. With this in mind, it makes perfect sense to start small and build real, tangible relationships with your inner circle of fans. In addition to fostering loyalty, this inspires those behind the velvet rope to broadcast your messages publicly.

A well-run community takes engaged members and turns them into ambassadors—driving interest around offline events and building buzz around the community and brand. This is something a Facebook and Twitter presence can rarely accomplish because the level of engagement is not as high. Treating your customers as VIPs and giving them exclusive access to your brand and the decision makers that shape it can drive unprecedented levels of brand loyalty and advocacy.

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.

Social Media Strategy Unclear to Marketers

By Diane Meyer, Owner of Marketing by DM

We’re hearing it over and over again from marketers. They’re saying, “I’ve sat down through so many Webinars on social media, and they’re all telling us to develop a strategy, but what is that strategy?” Well, we’ve heard you, but now we’re listening.

There have been several leaders who have addressed this recently, such as a story by @eMarketer entitled, “What Makes Up a Social Marketing Strategy?” Quality content here. Definitely save this as a favorite. I would like to take a different approach, however, to help those that seem to struggle with integrating social media in their marketing mix.

Let’s focus in on Twitter. If you don’t understand Twitter, you cannot possibly develop a strategy. As an example, I don’t know how to play chess, so how would I be able to strategize a move that is beneficial to me? Going nowhere is not an option and quite boring. In fact, I wouldn’t hold my own attention, much less anyone else’s.

Some of you may relate better to football. First, you have to really understand the game. I actually do and certainly get it when Penn State wins. Then your coach (Twitter) can guide you (football) toward your goal (whatever you decide that to be). Setting a goal may be to connect to like-minded business executives, marketers, and/or owners so that you can stay abreast of what is happening in your industry.

You must engage everyone on your team (those you follow) in order to reach your goal. Just throwing out the football (your tweets) will leave everyone cold, bored, and unengaged. They may even quit your team (unfollow you). Know what others are doing, saying, and care about, and be courteous as though you were having a discussion in person. Choose your words wisely. This is even more important than in person.

Your goal may become very different than what it was months ago. Last August, my objective was only to learn everything I could about Twitter through the sharing of links and information from SEOs, CEOs, and marketing leaders I was following. Starting with just 30 people to follow was a choice I made so that I could keep up. I didn’t even start contributing to the communication stream until after one month. More than a year later, I’m now ready to develop a strategy that is best for me.

Depending on your goals, type of business, and who you wish to reach, you will have to decide in which social media service you invest most of your time. My recommendation would be to have a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, but not necessarily in equal parts. Hopefully, your marketing mix already includes advertising, publicity, public relations, promotions, and sales. You will now add social media.

It is unfortunate if we view ROI only as dollars in return. For example, I like to think that my investment of time in Twitter results in ROE (return on energy). The energy I put into it comes right back to me ten-fold or a hundred-fold from some of the best of the best in the social media community. How do you attach a number that?

Have you reached a stumbling block on the strategy for your social media presence? Have you integrated Twitter or some other social media service into your marketing mix? Are you still confused? Should the goal always be dollars and cents?

LinkedIn: How to Properly Plant It into Your Social Media Marketing Landscape

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

LinkedIn is just one of a myriad of popular tools available in today’s rapidly growing and evolving social media world. So how do you justify the effort required to sow and nurture your presence on LinkedIn, especially the time and resources that could be invested elsewhere?

Lewis Howes (LinkedIn and Twitter) is a noted social media speaker and entrepreneur and co-author of the book, LinkedIn Working: Generating Success on the World’s Largest Professional Networking Web Site. Lewis thinks there a number of good reasons for putting down some of your social media marketing roots around LinkedIn. “With more than $109,000 as the average household income per user on LinkedIn (a far greater average than Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or the other popular social networking sites) and close to 45% of its members being business decision makers (versus 25-29% on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace), LinkedIn really is the place to be,” says Lewis. “It’s a great tool that can help you generate more leads and sales, drive traffic to your Web site, attract investors, control your personal brand, find your dream job or freelancing gigs, locate the right employees, build your database, get free PR, and position yourself or your company as a thought leader.”

But even if you agree that LinkedIn needs to be a focus for you or your company, how do you create a successful, impactful profile that will attract the right people and help accomplish your social media marketing goals?

Viveka von Rosen (LinkedIn and Twitter) is a successful entrepreneur, nationally renowned IA-certified LinkedIn trainer, and popular social media speaker. She is also the principal at Linked Into Business. Viveka teaches her clients and audiences that success on LinkedIn depends on several key actions. “Treat your LinkedIn profile like a Web site, and make sure it’s formatted, clean, and most importantly, filled with search engine-friendly keywords,” Viveka suggests. “Join strategically selected LinkedIn groups, and then invite members of those groups to join your network. You might even consider creating your own group. Then fill it with interesting and relevant information.”

Social Media Delivered, one of the largest and most respected social media optimization companies worldwide, is led by CEO Eve Orsburn (LinkedIn and Twitter). Eve believes that LinkedIn is a necessary component of any successful social media marketing strategy, especially in the business-to-business realm. “LinkedIn is the largest professional networking Web site in the world, with more than 65 million members,” Eve notes. “It’s also the most affluent social media tool and is ideal for reaching prospects in the B2B world, finding a job, obtaining venture capital, forming business partnerships, and growing your business.”

In the final analysis, it’s all about results. With the right strategy, tactics, and mindset, LinkedIn will quickly become an important part of your social media marketing landscape and will grow stronger and stronger over time, delivering measurable, repeatable results. This is especially true if you keep in mind the primary rules of social media: listen and learn first, share your knowledge, add value, always be authentic, and help others before you ask for help. On a related note, Viveka adds, “Remember to ‘give to’ more than you try and ‘get from’ other LinkedIn members. That’s the most important key to success.”

Social Media Marketing will Drive Product Innovation

By Gary Schirr, Professor at Radford University

Too much of what is being written about social media marketing (SMM) these days still has the ring of futurism. Wake up—the SMM era is already here! Companies are increasing their SMM budgets today, and their sales are being driven by customer-to-customer buzz at this very moment.

Much of the current focus on SMM by companies, as well as the business press, is about 1) designing marketing and PR to affect the C2C buzz, 2) monitoring how much and what is being communicated about their products and services, and 3) influencing the conversations about their products and services online. These direct efforts to create, monitor, and influence the online narrative of a company and its products will continue to be the focus of SMM strategy for most organizations.

However, SMM will also have a huge impact on marketing research and innovation in organizations. It’s no secret that many of the traditional marketing research tools (focus groups, surveys, brainstorming, and phone interviews) are woefully ineffective at uncovering the deep knowledge of customers and users that organizations today seek to enhance innovation.

More effective research methods, such as ethnography or individual interviews, have become more widely used but are viewed as excessively expensive or time consuming. SMM will change these economics. For example, online ethnography is already a growing area of study by anthropologists and marketers alike, and individuals are being engaged one-on-one synchronously, using Internet tools. These evolving online qualitative methods will provide better user insight and information to drive innovation.

As I have spent the majority of my career in service and product innovation, I may perhaps be biased, but I believe that ultimately the impact of SMM on innovation is likely to prove even more important than the much more publicized effect on how companies communicate with their target audiences.

Through the use of SMM, organizations will never have to drive innovation alone. Key users and customers will always be co-pilots. The nature of user involvement will vary, but it will be ubiquitous. Sometimes, product innovation will be driven through crowdsourcing. Sometimes, only “lead users” will have a seat in the cockpit. And at other times, users will be selected by criteria specific to a product. But users will be involved in the innovation. Actually, the difference between user innovation and simple user outreach is not always clear: users involved in innovation become engaged customers.

Certainly it will prove exciting to watch the evolution of SMM. And I look forward to monitoring the changing world of marketing.