Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Digital Native: 5 Things You Need to Know

By Michelle Manafy, Director of Content at FreePint

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

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

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

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

When Crisis Knocks: Being PR Savvy through Social Media

By Amy Howell, CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies

Social media has been a game changer for PR folks across the board. No matter what type of business, industry, or organization you are in, social media means you can run for a minute, but you sure cannot hide.

I have been in PR and marketing for more than 20 years, working mostly in B2B organizations, and I have witnessed the drastic shift in how we communicate the corporate messages—good, bad, and ugly. I think that in order to appreciate and use what we’ve learned, it’s sometimes important to look back and think on what worked then, how things have changed, and what lessons we can carry forward to improve our role as PR professionals.

In the “good ole days” when agencies had fat budgets and big offices, often the PR strategy was crafted to “spin” a story a certain way to try and control the outcomes. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it would not. Either way, that control is largely gone with the use of social media, smartphones, and mobile communications.

I hear and read often that companies can’t control their stories. That’s only true if they let it get out of control in the first place. Sometimes it gets out without anyone doing anything. An explosion or fire would be this type of crisis. The media is relentless when it comes to a crisis, and a company has to be ready to be totally “bombarded” and handle all inquiries. A very tough skin is needed for this, as dealing with a heady crisis and doing good PR is not for the weak or inexperienced.

I have only had two really bad crisis client PR projects and—though we got through them as well as we could have under the terrible circumstances—it’s highly stressful and downright scary work. I’ve had CNN, AP reporters, international calls, and the local media all on my back at once, and there is no class or training that can prepare you for the actual day that happens. But I learned a ton, didn’t sleep much, and added great depth to my experience in PR under pressure.

Now, onto the three main points I would like to make. Corporations with big news to tell (good and bad) need to understand a few key points:

  • The art of being proactive and always anticipating what can happen: When crisis comes—often by surprise—you must immediately be ready to anticipate what will happen next. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a crisis PR/communications plan ALREADY WRITTEN before something happens. The most common thing to anticipate is that people love to talk about a crisis, which means you will have two major projects: one is dealing with and getting accurate information to the media (you want them on your team, and they can make or break you) and dealing with comments that are posted on the Internet. Immediately, you need a team that’s social savvy to monitor what’s being said, and you will need this 24/7. How you handle these steps is critical. In dealing with the media, you must be fair and straightforward, and you must set the pace. When we had crisis #1, I set up a system to communicate with all the media and used different tools to post information. The first was the posting of updates and statements as they became available to the top of the client website. This helped us do two things: control information in written statements and mass distribution (we didn’t have time to do press releases). The second tool was the use of the wire; we monitored the Internet. It took a team of four to six people dedicated to this, and I worked remotely in the client’s conference room for days.
  • The discipline and intelligence to use confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements: I hate to say “duh,” but I said it. Companies and organizations that can’t keep information from leaking out deserve what they get. And I would fire any communications staffer immediately if I found out he or she talked about highly confidential information. Rumors cannot exist if you want good PR results. For example, last year, one of my clients (and large employer) announced the decision to relocate its corporate headquarters to downtown Memphis. The CEO, COO, CFO, and legal team made everybody—including me—sign a non-disclosure. I had the pleasure of coordinating the press for the announcement and the event we held onsite. That was a difficult “secret” to keep quiet, but we did it, and that’s proof that companies can indeed control when big news gets announced, how it’s announced, and to whom it’s announced.
  • Telling a story well through both traditional and social: I think social media has given us the transparency we need to find real, truthful information and has forced companies and organizations to be more diligent about being truthful. My dad always told me that if you tell the truth all the time, you never have to worry about telling a story—a powerful lesson. Social media gives us great channels to be truthful and to be transparent. Social media has changed PR in many positive ways, and I think that the positives far outweigh the negatives. All of this is why companies need to already be “in” the game of social. Establish your footprint and tell your story, so that when you have to defend yourself in a crisis, you can. As my good friend and social media consultant @GlenGilmore says, “Build your tribe before you need it.” And believe me, one day you will need it.

Thanks for reading this, and I’d love to hear how social media has helped or hurt you in a crisis.

Wow, What a Story!

By Adam Karwoski, Founder of Social Brand U

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

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

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

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

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

Dare to Be Radically Transparent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Four Steps to Inspire Infectious Action

By Andy Smith, Co-Author of The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change

When you grab people’s attention, they sit up and listen. When you engage your audience, you connect with them and inspire them. However, too many efforts stop there, leaving people with good intentions that may never be acted on. Taking action requires individuals to exert themselves and to make the transition beyond being interested by what you have to say to actually doing something about it. When organizations combine the power of the call to action with innovative social media tools, they can achieve extraordinary results.

Consider these four design principles when you want to empower others to take action:

1. Make it easy. By demonstrating you value your audience’s time and by making use of their contributions, you simultaneously boost their effectiveness while giving them a greater sense of accomplishment. This increases the likelihood they will continue to participate. Helping people achieve small goals leads them naturally to adopt more ambitious behaviors, often without a bigger intervention. For example, if the big goal is to convince people to be more environmentally friendly, ask them to change a single light bulb in their homes. Let them breathe, basking in their success, and then intervene again, expanding the effort by making the target behavior something larger. Perhaps you might suggest they replace all the inefficient bulbs in their homes.

2. Make it fun. The fueling effect of fun is an important and often overlooked element of social movements. It will also make your endeavor more enjoyable for you and a whole lot stickier for your audience. Many charities organize runs, walks, or bike races to encourage people to donate time and money. Another way to harness fun is game play; it taps into our innate competitiveness and desire for recognition. Groupon infuses fun in every one of its communications—the company hired Chicago-area comedians as its copywriters.

3. Tailor the experience. To motivate people to act on behalf of your cause, you need to match their skills, talents, or interests with your needs. Whether being creative, as with Gap’s “Born to Fit” initiative (where customers can design new outfits), providing an endorsement or reference, or making a physical donation (such as when people with a needed blood type make a donation), the more that people feel they have uniquely contributed, the happier and more satisfied they will be—and the more likely they are to spread the word or return to contribute.

4. Be open. A critical step to creating a culture of sharing is to design with the principle of sustained transparency. Most companies believe they are far more transparent than consumers think they are. A second step is to ideate, prototype, and test frequently. By doing this, you will—by definition—be designing for feedback. Showing people they are actually making a difference is arguably the most critical aspect of encouraging action. A good example is DonorsChoose.org, a non-profit that allows people to help fulfill public classroom “wish lists.” Donors can watch incremental donations to their causes grow in real time. When each project is fully funded, all donors are e-mailed photos, a thank you letter from the teacher, and a cost report.

Social Media Marketing in a Crisis: VISIT FLORIDA and the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

By Will Seccombe, Chief Marketing Officer at VISIT FLORIDA

The Challenge

On April 20, 2010, the BP/Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank, resulting in a massive offshore oil spill. The spill became the top news story of the summer, and the live video feed of oil gushing from the failed “blowout preventer” was a real-time, persistent reminder of the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. In fact, 99 percent of Americans were following the story of the spill, 54 percent were following it closely, and virtually everyone was talking about it.

The stakes were high for the Florida tourism industry. Every year, 80 million people visit the Sunshine State, and more than 25 percent of those visitors choose Florida because of the 825 miles of beautiful beaches. Those visitors spend more than $60 billion and support nearly one million Florida jobs, making tourism the largest industry in the state.

As the official tourism marketing organization for the State of Florida, VISIT FLORIDA had managed hurricanes and “red tides” before, but the uncertainty surrounding this situation was unprecedented. How and where would the state’s coastline be affected? How do you balance the interests of directly impacted areas with unaffected areas fighting misperceptions? How do you keep visitors informed and continue to encourage travelers to visit the state? How can a marketing company be a trusted source of information in a time of crisis?

The Response

VISIT FLORIDA’s response to the oil spill focused on open, transparent, and proactive communication to provide consumers and stakeholders with easy access to credible local information to help them make informed decisions based on facts—not misinformation or confusion. An aggressive integrated communication program was launched on April 30 in coordination with the activation of the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC). (A complete timeline of VISIT FLORIDA’s response to the crisis depicts exactly what occured and when.)

The first step in addressing the spill was the activation of a Florida Travel Update on VISITFLORIDA.com, with daily updates on the status of Florida’s coastline from the EOC, as well as links to official information and FAQs from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health, and the Department of Agriculture.

As the centerpiece and call to action for all crisis communications, VISIT FLORIDA developed and launched a new digital platform, Florida Live. Florida Live is a unique combination of content from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and live Web cams that allowed travelers to see with their own eyes that, despite the massive media coverage, Florida was in fact open for business.

VISIT FLORIDA also activated Floridians from around the state to counter the negative images spewing from the oil spill. Residents were encouraged to upload real-time photos of their favorite beaches to Facebook, and more than 2,000 time-stamped photos were then featured in real time on Florida Live.

To communicate the scale of the state’s tourism product and address the hyper-local nature of the crisis, VISIT FLORIDA added Twitter feeds to the Florida Live site from local convention and visitor bureaus with up-to-the minute information on the status of their beach communities. The site also linked to live Web cams from around the state, daily fishing reports, daily videos, daily photos, blogs, and live weather reports.

Additionally, VISIT FLORIDA’s official corporate blog, Sunshine Matters, served as a hub of stakeholder communications to coordinate, inform, and align the tourism industry and to share industry resources.

The Results

The marketing response was both visible and credible:

  • 44 percent of Americans were aware of VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing efforts.
  • 49 percent attributed the marketing efforts to VISIT FLORIDA by name.
  • 73 percent said they trust VISIT FLORIDA.
  • Traffic to VISITFLORIDA.com increased 46 percent in June and 16 percent in July versus the same periods in 2009.
  • People who visited the Web site were 31 percent more likely to visit Florida before Labor Day.
  • Most importantly, total visits to the state increased by 3.4 percent in the second quarter (in the heat of the oil spill crisis) versus the same quarter in 2009.

Florida Live has since been recognized as a best practice in crisis communications, primarily because the Florida tourism industry embraced it, the media endorsed it, and consumers trusted it.