In the world of online media everything is moving at the speed of light (at least if you're part of the business). This blog is a way for me to reflect over things I’ve pick up in research, when speaking to customer, partners or other people in the business. Hopefully the blog will start a conversation that will give me and other participants increased knowledge in the online marketing field. If you would like to know what I do for a living, visit www.impwell.com
Read an interesting blog post by Chris Brogan the other day. It was a about people abandoning their blogs and started using other vehicles to build their name & generate leads and sales. Of course, blogs are not a vehicle from which you will see fast results in leads and sales. You have to treat a blog as a loss leader, leading to other things that make money.
Content you publish on your blog show the way you think and the knowledge you have within a certain area. It also makes it possible for people to get a feeling for you as a professional without having to interact with you directly. Since most people today use search engines as a starting point for research, blogging makes you visible and build on your digital footprint.
Thus, disintegrating the blog from your channel mix might be unwise. Instead think about how the blog fit into the mix and have a solid strategy for the content you produce and how to create revenue streams in later stages.
One of the key things when engaging in social channels is to listening to what is being said about your brand and products. There are two main reasons for this:
1. You will find out what people really think about you and your products, and if your desired profile is in line with peoples’ perception of your brand
2. You will learn what drives conversation in your business and what makes people engage in brands and products
The first point is essential since it will tell you if your company profile is in line with what people actually think about you. If it’s not you will need to change, and now you have a perfect way to find out what to change (you have the largest, most authentic focus group at your disposal).
The second point is essential since it will tell you how to act in social channels to build engagement. Here I’m not talking about creating fun and provocative advertising to evoke responses or viral spread of content, though this could be part of the package. I am talking about building real long lasting engagement. This entails creating content that brings real value to your main audience.
A good example of this is Borders Media, which is the digital extension of the Borders book store. Borders realized that the book business is more than just selling books. People are interested in authors and what they say about their work. Thus, Borders created a media channel where they post interesting content for book lovers, such as interviews with trending authors, concerts at local stores etc. By doing this Borders managed to connect with their audience in much deeper way when before (when just selling books).
There are numerous of tools to use for listening. One of the best free tools is Netvibes. Netvibes is a keyword based tool that you can use to build your own intelligence center. Just do a search on the main platforms and subscribe to the service by RSS. You can also use one of the free readers, such as iGoogle or Google reader (do the same as for Netvibes when subscribing to the RSS).
When it comes to tools where you have to pay a fee I can recommend the Swedish tool Silverbakk. It’s also a key word based tool that is really easy to use and have a great interface that displays the information in different formats. Another great thing is that you can choose local languages sources.
When you have your intelligence center in place, you can start collecting and analyzing the information and start build your content in relevant channels. Keep at it and measure the response on what you post. Use engagement metrics like, # of retweets/ tweet, # of comments/ blog post etc to constantly refine you content until you find a format that makes people engage. You can use the URL shortener Bitly to measure the effect of your tweets, Facebook posts, blog posts etc, or you can use tools like the eminent Chart Beat.
When you begin to reach your engagement goals, it is time to start monetize the engagement you have created & that is the topic of my next post!
I have met quite a few companies that just plunge straight into the social pond without any purpose or plan. There is nothing wrong with that since you will at least learn how the different platforms work and how people interact on them.
But, if you really want to leverage the social web you should start by asking yourself these two questions:
1. Why do people buy my products and what kind of value do I bring to market that differentiates me from my competitors?
2. Who do I really want to connect with?
By asking and answering to these two questions you will have a good starting point for building your social media strategy.
According to a recent HubSpot study, SMB companies with focused engagement on Twitter are more successful in generating leads than companies not engaging on Twitter.
HubSpot found that companies with a critical mass of 100-500 followers generated 146% more median monthly leads than companies with 20-100 followers. Apart from the reach and possibility to engage in dialog with potential customers, the indexing of Tweets in the search engines would be the single most important reason for the increase in number of leads.
Being active in more social vehicles is a good tactic to increase your overall visibility and number of relevant touch point. The behavior of the customer, who is increasingly using the online channel for search and evaluation, favors social channels and organic search.
Key in order to generate bottom line results from channels like Twitter is to be consistent in your engagement. Be relevant and supportive and have a high frequency in the number of tweets you produce.
The ability to track ROI from social media activities will most certainly impact the size of investments in social channels moving forward. Today you can find several free tools for monitoring the buzz and where your brand/ products/ services are mentioned. Examples of these tools are; Google Alerts, Technocrati, readers such as iGoogle and Netvibes. These tools will give you information about where your brand appears and what is being said. You might also use these tools once you have a strategy for your social media marketing to monitor the impact of your content in selected channels. In combination with Google Analytics, you will even be able to build a reasonably good decision making tool. The only flip side of using free tools is that you will have the information scattered in different places, making it harder to get a full picture of engagement and impact.
Webtrends seems to have a good solution for this. In the Webtrends Social Measurement solution you have the ability to monitor the buzz, structure the engagement, measure the impact and analyze performance to improve your social media engagement. Webtrends have also opened up API:s for external partners such as Radian6 and Sales Force. With the latter you will be able to integrate your social media engagement with other activities to better manage your total customer engagement.
These types of integrated solutions will most certainly spur investments in social media channels. This mainly since hard ROI numbers still counts if you want to get funding for your social media ventures.
With better tracking possibilities the challenge will rather be not to put too much trust in short term numbers, and realize that social media marketing is slow marketing where you need to earn the trust of your community. Nevertheless, you will cater for the need of your management team to see real hard numbers from your investment.
I participated in a webinar a few weeks back. The webinar was held by Hubspot in cooperation with Marketing Sherpa on the subject social media strategies.
Marketing Sherpa had just finished a study on how US brands engage in social media marketing and specifically how strategically they act in these channels. A striking observation in the study was that most companies act on a purely tactical level in social channels. It seems that most marketers forget the basics of marketing strategy when moving into the social media space and just jump in without a plan.
As one dimension of the study, Marketing Sherpa looked at the maturity of the polled companies and classified them according to different development phases. The Trial Phase is the phase where companies just act without any plan or structure. In the Transition Phase companies have a plan and work in a semi-structural way, but lack the frequency in their effort. In the final phase, called Strategic, companies have developed a strategy for their presence and an organization for the execution.
About 73% of the polled companies were in the Trail (33%) or Transition phases (40%). Just under a quarter of the companies in the poll had an elaborate social media strategy.
Another striking thing was the decreasing importance of platform or channel as companies moved from Trail to Strategic. This is quite natural since companies in the strategic phase have found “their” channels and focus more on the execution of the strategy.
Key take away from this webinar - if you have a solid strategy, the advent of new channels and platforms will pose no problem and be quite easy to integrate into your marketing mix. So, before plunging head on into new channels, take some time to think over your strategy and what you would like to accomplish (at least if you want to see some real results from your investments).
Having a presence in social media channels is more than just marketing. Companies that have realized this will be successful in the social media space. I read a blog post by Mitch Joel on this subject today. I seems most companies bench mark their efforts in social channels against what they are doing in other marketing channels. In my opinion traditional marketing is not a good benchmark for social media activities. Instead companies should think about how they can connect with their customers and in the process build powerful marketing vehicles. I found a great example of this in Mitch Joel’s brilliant book “Six Pixels of Separation”:
The online book store Borders realized that people go to book stores for more reasons that just to buy books. Historically book stores have always arranged events such as author signings/ readings etc, to create extra value for their customers (and build traffic to their stores). In realizing the potential in expanding into value added content for their customers, Borders created Borders Media.
Borders Media is a separate section on the site where visitors and customers to the Borders online shop can see video interviews with authors, see chefs cook their favorite recipes and much more. In doing so, Borders expanded their business from being a pure e-book store to becoming a place to go for valuable and interesting content.
From a marketing perspective, letting the original content sit on the site and expand it to other channels such as YouTube or give customers/ visitors the opportunity to share it, you will eventually build healthy new traffic streams to your site (and hopefully sell more products since the traffic will be quite relevant for your business). On top of that your presence in search engines will be improved when the content is distributed in multiple channels and more and more people link to it.
Bottom line; instead of trying to find smart ways of pushing information out into social channels, think about the value you can bring to your customers by providing them with the right content connected to your products/ services. In doing so, you will create “hooks” that will build healthy traffic and sales to you business over time!
I resently read a blog post by Mitch Joel where he argued that there will be no more web sites, just publishers. This is definitly a shift in mindset for most companies and is quite interesting if you want to connect and create value for your customers.
This is what you could do:
If you are a company selling home electronic equipment you might consider to feed in external product reviews/rankings to your e-store, let your product managers blog about the products and how they can be used and, of coures, provide tools for users to post reviews and describe how they use the products in their daily lives.
I saw an exampel of this when I was about to buy a new washing mashine. I visited Tretti.se and found really good video content to help me in my purchase decision. The videos where informative and gave me insights of the strengths and weaknessess of the products. They actually helped me make the choice.
The essence is that you will give your customers valuable content to make purchase decisions and, if you do it right and ad external sources and user generated content, have the potential of becoming a trusted source for information (which will have a positive impact on your brand).
A nice side effect is also that you will become more visable in the search engine. This will be even more true when Google and other search engines start to display content as it is produced. The more “live” content you will be able to produce, the higher ranking you will get!
So what are you waiting for? Go become a publisher!