MAD Perspectives Blog

Is Your Social Media Plan Balanced?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Today's Web-Strategy post by Jeremiah Owyang really struck a chord with me.  In it he reflects on the dramatic shift by marketers towards excessive use of micro tools.  While these tools, aka Twitter, are fantastic for broadcasting a quick message, creating momentary awareness, searching for trending topics and sharing instantaneous opinions, they do not provide depth.  As each new social platform hits the market, we race toward it and test its use.   But, is our usage across social media platforms and across all marketing outlets balanced? 

I'm a big fan of having a social media plan.  In defining the plan, a company should be thinking about how each of the various social platforms works, the audience they reach and how they fulfill the company's business goals.  What do I mean about how they work?  I mean what kind of content can be shared?  Is it brief?  Is it meaningful?  Does it fulfill a customer need?  How long will your content reside on the platform and be visible?  In most cases your content is available on the platform indefinitely.  The challenge is in how many customers actually see it.

How about your audience.  Do you know which social platforms your customers are using to both share and seek content?  If they are not on Facebook (just for the sake of argument), then why are you?  A social strategy .that assumes a need to be on the every platform, is not a well thought out strategy.  Every companay needs to think about who their customers are and the kind of information they need to consume.  C-level execs want overviews with key value propositions.  Technologists want the gory details.  Business leaders want to understand market trends and know what industry influencers are saying.  Seekers of business solutions want information and education.

It takes a balance of both online and offline marketing to fulfill customer needs.  It takes an understanding of customer need and the role of different platforms to communicate effectively.  Jonathan Owyang provides great guidance in his blog as to relevant platforms, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel.  Check out his thoughts and think about how the platforms he references can provide balance to your social media strategy.

What's your perspective?



Watch Your Language!

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Social Media is immediate.  Video is memorable.  Online interactions via blogs, social networks or communities are forever.  We search online support forums for assistance with our PCs, cars and travel reservations.  If I’m acquiring IT products for my business, I can investigate user experiences for printers, servers, software and more. We are using the internet to find information that can help us in our buying decisions.  However, we’re not only seeking information, we’re checking out attitude.  We’re trying to understand how that company represents itself and its products.  We’re looking for a solution provider who “gets” our needs and our style.

Steve Jobs and Apple have been uber-successful in understanding our desire for intuitive, stylish products that make our lives simpler for both work and entertainment.  Apple may keep the details close to the vest, this culture of secrecy has only made them more attractive to their customers.  We are compelled to watch Apple's announcements, not only to capture the information but see Steve Jobs share his passion and excitement for every new , very appropriately, as their ambassador - announcing every new product, service or content relationships with enthusiasm and passion.    We, Apple's customers, crave the information and the manner in which it is presented. 

In today’s hyper connected online community, our thoughts, rants and raves are ‘out there’ forever.  We need to think about what we say, how we say it and when we say it with an eye towards its impact on our target audience.  I don’t mean to say that we should be scripted and working off a teleprompter.  In fact, in the social arena, this is contrary to the desire for authenticity and transparency.  What we do need to think about are the nuances of language and emotion.  Here is just one example and you’ll see what I mean:

  • A business leader participates in a web video interview about a technology company’s participation in the first practical implementation of a new global initiative

o   He describes the initiative, from a technical perspective, without naming the participants

o   He explains his company’s role in the initiative, at a high level

o   He does not explain business benefits to customers

o   He does not acknowledge the intelligence of the other members participating in the discussion

o   He does not seem particularly excited about the topic

o   His body language is very closed (arms crossed, legs crossed, little eye contact)

  • This business leader failed to inspire action from his audience due to his lack of authenticity, passion  or interest in his topic. 

Personal style is increasing in importance as we communicate socially.  Think about your colleagues.  I bet there is a least one who just fantastic in business meetings.  What makes him or her so successful? Most likely it is their ability to align the conversation with their customer’s needs.  They communicate in a way that resonates with their customer.  They use the appropriate language or buzz words.  They listen and look for verbal or physical cues, and respond to them.

As we communicate socially, we need to listen and respond to those same cues.  It’s a little harder when your audience is not in the same rooms as you.  However, if you can inject energy, passion  and intelligence into content that is aligned with your customers needs, you will be successful.  As businesses, we must listen to our customers other via blogs, twitter, facebook, linkedin and understand priorities, needs or challenges.

Think about your customer’s needs.  Then watch your language!  Communicate in a way that is meaningful to them.  Use the language that helps them realize that you “get” them.  Use language to get them to want to work with your company!

What's your perspective!

P.S.  As I finish writing this blog, I’ve clicked on a link from one of my Facebook friends.  I’m not alone in my thoughts.  Check out:  http://eatsleepsocial.com/ we’re on the same wavelength!



Voice of Customer drives Relevance

Peggy Dau - Thursday, February 17, 2011

I've been talking with colleagues about successful communications versus unsuccessful messaging.  Its funny how many companies, even with the rampant use of social media, still define a message and push it across all platforms regardless of relevance or context.  There is a lot of online discussion about the voice of the customer.  Imagine - the customer has a voice!  The customer has interests, questions, concerns and opininions that he would like to have addressed by vendors.

Does your company invest in research to understand its customers needs?  I'm sure it does. Does your marketing reflect those insights?  It should.  However, many times marketers get caught up in supporting a corporate message that doesn't actually resonate with their customers.  They deliver this message across every communications channel, regardless the kind of information the customer may really want to consume.

For example, should a blog consistently reiterate feature and functionality of a companies products?  Or would it be more interesting to discuss market trends that influence product functionality?  Instead of only tweeting links to product information, it might be interesting to debate industry announcements. The goal is to align the right content to the right channel to the customers using that channel.

The social web provides tools and platforms to gain insight to what your customers, competitors and industry influencers are saying and where they are saying it.  The most robust tools can be expensive and they don't necessarily make it easy to interpret all the data gathered, but they can provide  insight into trending topics which should be addressed by your content marketing.  Don't forget social media is supposed to be about authenticity and transparency.  Simple reinforcement of existing marketing messages isn't enough to drive increased customer interaction which can lead to leads and ultimately to customer acquisition.

Take the time to listen to your customers' online interactions.  Then take more time and think about the context of what they are saying and how they are saying it.  I bet you will gain some valuable insights that may surprise you!

What's your perspective?



The Medium is Still the Message

Peggy Dau - Thursday, February 10, 2011

Marshall McLuhan famously stated the “medium is the message", (or massage, thanks to a publishing error), in 1964 and his prescience is still right on the money.  “The medium is the message” because it is the “medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action.” (Understanding Media, NY, 1964, p. 9).  As we read about the impact of the iPad (and the various competitive products from Samsung, HP and others) and iOS and Android based smartphones, we are seeing that yet again, the medium, is shaping our human interaction.

The medium is the Internet and its plethora of websites, search engines and  social networks that we utilize to gather and share information for pleasure or for business.  The medium is the device through which we access content 24x7.  The medium as a device has proven that it can shift industry business models.  One only has to look at iTunes impact on the music industry and wonder if the iPad will have a similar impact on the publishing industry.  NewCorp’s recent announcement of “The Daily” and its willingness to agree to a revenue sharing model with Apple, because they are the medium, is telling.  It made me wonder, do we pay for content, or do we pay for the medium?

Content owners will argue that they are the ones creating value.  They invest in the creation of a story that we want to consume. And – this is an expensive process whether it is development of a news story, TV program, feature film, novel, or pop song.  However, we cannot consume it without the relevant medium.  Thus the medium, or the distribution channel and device, also provides value.  In days gone by, the medium was a newspaper, book, TV or record.  Today we are digital.  All content, entertainment or business, is available in multiple formats for consumption via multiple devices.

So, what is the message?  Is the message that we must be connected 24x7?  Is the message that new devices enrich our lives by simplifying our access to the content we crave?  Or, is the message the content itself – created and provided by media companies, enterprise business, small business and individuals.  I think we can agree on a few features that fulfill McLuhan's mantra of the medium impacting human association and action:

     1.
Availability -  Our ability to easily search, find and consume content feeds the desire for more content

     2. Accessibility – Our ability to easily retrieve content via our wired or wireless devices and networks feeds our desire for newer, better, faster devices and networks

     3. Simplicity – The medium that allows us to readily devour content attracts a wide audience and compels us to both create and consume increasing volumes of content

Look at the success of Facebook.  The look and feel is quite simple.  It is available 24x7.  It is easy to find or invite friends.  We can scroll through recent posts or we can search for specific topics or groups.  We can access Facebook on our desktops, laptops and smartphones.  We can access Facebook at home or on the go.  We can just read or we can post status, pictures or video.  What’s the message?  In this case the medium is Facebook and the message is connectivity and the understanding that your message/status can reach far beyond your identified set of friends.

The medium is the message.  We only need to look at the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt to see how the medium has enabled the organization and alignment of dissatisfied constituents.  The internet as the medium facilitated the voicing of concerns to drive government leaders to respond to messages received (or ignored) through other mediums.

What medium is next?  How will it accelerate our human interaction? 

What’s your perspective?

If you haven't read Marshall McLuhan's books, check them out at Amazon!



Social Media Lessons from the Snow!

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, February 01, 2011



It's been quite a winter here in the northeast.  There has been a snow storm every week since Christmas.  The snow is pile high by the roads, driveways and sidewalk – and we’re all wondering where we’re going to put the snow from this next storm.  I’ve been wondering if there are any lessons to be learned, about social media, from all this snow.   I think there are:

 - You can’t stop it.  Nope, you can’t stop mother nature, nor can you ignore the impact of social media.  It’s all around us.  Everyone is using it from individuals to stay in touch with friends and family, to consumer centric companies to promote sales, to B2B companies to increase lead generation.

     - It piles up.  Yep, just like the snow by the roadsides, social media can start to pile up.  The number of tweets, friends and overall volume of content is increasing in a way that makes all this snow pale by comparison.   We need to figure out ways to effectively and efficiently sift through, analyze and capture the value of social media.  Listening solutions are just the tip of the iceberg in gathering social media data.  What are we going to do with all this data? 

  •      - It must be managed.  As communities throughout the northeast figure out where to put the snow, we must figure out which social media data can actually help us accomplish our goals.  Can social media help us increase sales?  Sure, but can it help us target customers.  Of course!  We need to know how, when and where to utilize social networks for our enjoyment or business benefit.  We must be focused in our use of social media.

 

  •      - You have to plan for it.  We all head to the supermarket or gas station before a lot of these snow storms.  We don’t want to be trapped without the essentials (e.g., milk, bread).  Social media requires planning and integration with an overall marketing plan.  I emphasize this point constantly as it seems to be the most challenging for many companies.  Who and what do you want to be socially?  Which social networks help you fulfill your business goals?  How will you measure success?  It should be more than the number of fans, friends or followers.

 

Enjoy the snow.  Make some snow angels, build a snowman.  Find your inner child.  But, above all – be safe. Explore your options and get focused on how you’re going to make social media work for you before it piles up and creates other problems to manage and resolve.

 

What’s your perspective?



B2B Marketing Budgets - Show Me the Money!

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

OK.  We're almost one month into the new year.  How's it going for you?  Have you been buried in snow?  Awash in floods?  Bemoaning the loss of budget dollars and resources to pursue effective marketing and communication strategies?  I've been looking at the plethora of data provided by marketing firms such as Marketing Sherpa and Marketing Profs related to B2B marketing budgets for 2011.  Just in case you have not seen their reports or presentations, I'm going to share some highlights.

The good news is - marketing dollars are on the upswing.  Of course, this is an increase after 2 or more years of dramatic cuts, so we're not really back to normal.  But then, what is normal?  The past few years have seen a marked shift from offline marketing to online marketing.  The question is, where is the money being spent and how effective are the different marketing strategies.  The key metric for ALL B2B marketers is Lead Generation. 


Offline marketing activities such as executive breakfasts, PR, tradeshows and insides sales/telemarketing are still big parts of the budget, yet their effectiveness is shifting.  Inside sales is considered one of the most effective strategies for improving the number and quality of leads, yet companies continue to limit the budgets allocated to this valuable effort. At the same time PR budget may be stagnant, but these agencies are increasingly asked to expand their capabilities to include social media.

This leads us to the discussion of online marketing.  This segment is seeing budget increases for 2011.  The key areas for investment are corporate website, search, webinars and social media.  Despite many statements in the past year that social media and Facebook in particular, will displace the need for a corporate website, B2B companies place their website as the fulcrum of their overall online marketing strategy.   This is a smart decision by B2Bs.  Their websites are the validation of themselves as a meaningful, differentiated, competitive business.  Optimizing the website for search, ease of use, availability of relevant content and interactive discussion requires ongoing investment and a cohesive strategy.

Note the topics related to the corporate website.
  
     - Search - this is more than keyword analysis.  This is development of content and web pages that will improve organic search on Google (where 93% of B2B buyers start their research).  This is also social search.  How, when and where are B2B buyers seeking recommendations about the solutions they need.  Are they on LinkedIn?  Twitter?  What terminology do they use to search?

     - Content - There is simply not enough that can be said about creating and delivering the right content at the right time to the right audience.  while the corporate website can become a repository for piles of information, it is important that prospective buyers can find the content they need easily and quickly.  

    - Social Media - Social platforms enable a company to increase their reach.  They allow companies to become more personal.  They also allow companies to understand their customers better.  It is about more than just listening to what their customers are saying.  It's about engaging, resolving, promoting, inciting and inspiring.

    - Webinars - This is the MOST effective online tactic as reported by Marketing Profs.  This is also one of the leading areas for increased online marketing investment.  This technology has become more sophisticated (incorporating social chat, polling and survey capabilities) and more affordable, enabling even the smallest B2B company to inform and educate its target audience.  Bottom line (as I've mentioned repeatedly), video is memorable.

The challenge is to balance your marketing budget across the most effective marketing channels.  Sometimes the less effective channels consume an inordinate amount of budget.  Understanding your customers and where they will be physically or virtually may help justify shifts in budget allocation.  Understanding how your customers are talking about your company will help you develop a content marketing strategy that leverages online and offline channels.  Check out both Marketing Profs and Marketing Sherpa (yes, I'm a member of both groups) to see their 2011 projections and the details that I allude to here.  The online marketing landscape continues to shift and evolve.  Will 2011 be the year for B2B breakthroughs via social media?

What's your perspective?



Influence B2B Buying Decisions with Social Media

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What actions do you take to encourage your customers to make a purchase?

The goal for any company is to drive revenue, manage expenses and earn profits.  Companies employ a variety of strategies to encourage customers to purchase their products or services.  These strategies increasingly incorporate different types of digitial media, from online advertising, SEM and SEO to social media, from online video to video conferencing.  Use of any of these customer centric efforts is to motivate customer action.  The ultimate desired action is for the customer to make a purchase, however, there are many other actions that may lead to that purchase.

Much emphasis is placed by B2B companies on lead or demand generation.  The basic premise is that the larger the funnel of opportunity, the greater the number of closed deals.  However, how does a B2B company inspire action through social media?  B2C companies offer special promotions or discounts to their fans and followers.  B2B companies have not, generally, seen increased sales directly related to limited time offers or discounts.  However, they have seen increased webinar attendance, increased whitepaper downloads and website visits when using social networks to enhance the visibility of the companies' programs.

North Plains, a digital asset management vendor (see North Plains case study), participates in many DAM related LinkedIn Groups.  By promoting their educational webinars in the groups, they increased anticipated attendance at their webinars.  Increased attendance equates to increased awareness and potentially increased sales.

The goal is consider what phase of the sales cycle your audience  is in.  Are they building knowledge?  Are they assessing vendors and options?  Or, are they in the decision making phase?  Aligning your content efforts with these different phases can help drive a desired action.  TechTarget shared the following findings in 2009 as related to IT buyers interest in online content based on stage in the buying process. 



This study provides some interesting insights that can help you target your content efforts to drive the desired action.  It reinforces the need for an integrated marketing strategy that incorporates social media, streaming media, marketing collateral and whitepapers, shared across a combination of your corporate website and social outlets.  It reinforces the need for a strategy that aligns content development efforts with all phases of the buying cycle.  It reinforces the need to understand your customer's needs when creating content to drive a specific action.

Social networks are a relevant source of information.  They can help a potential customer increase his/her knowledge of your company and its products.  They can faciliate community discussions.  They can inform a potential customer on where or how to find more detailed information, but can they actually convince a cusotmer to make a purchase in the B2B space?   In my opinion, the jury is out on this topic at this time.  While there have been many reports indicating that B2B marketers have found success increasing awareness and knowledge, I have not seen clear evidence that shows Twitter or LinkedIn, much less Facebook, are driving significant sales of B2B products and solutions.  Companies such as IBM claim to have sophisticated listening tools to help them uncover leads, however that is not a sale.  Perhaps it's a matter of time.  Perhaps it is dependent of understanding key drivers influencing the buying decision and aligning that understanding with the right social networking.

How well do you know your customers?  Stay tuned for further discussion on this topic.

What's your perspective?



B2B Social Media - just more Push Marketing?

Peggy Dau - Thursday, January 13, 2011

So, it's 2011.  How are your social media efforts working out for you?   2010 was a watershed year for companies adopting social media as a part of their overall marketing strategy.  Large companies, small companies, mid-size companies - they all jumped on board and started tweeting and blogging and posting...and wondered about the benefits. 

Many social media marketing firms talk about the benefits of Pull Marketing over Push Marketing.  Just as a brief reminder, Pull Marketing is the development of content, messaging or ads directing at the end customer who will make a purchase decision.  The content is created to drive an action by the customer to inquire or purchase your product.  On the other hand, Push Marketing is the development of content, messaging or ads directed at a distribution channel or other intermediary that provides your products, with the intent to get them to promote your product on your behalf. 

social media pundits emphasize the benefit of social media marketing in giving companies an opportunity to interact DIRECTLY with their customers.  This means they can implement a greater number of pull marketing strategies.  They can interact with customers to understand their needs, provide discounts and other incentives, not available through other channels,and inpsire action by the customer.  This works reasonably well in the consumer space, but how about the B2B space? I have talked to companies who have offered free software, free iPads, free services to fans or followers, without any meaningful result. Therefore, we could state that Pull marketing does not have the same impact in the B2B space.  And,  I would argue that the implementation of social media by B2B companies is an extension of Push Marketing, rather than an increased use of Pull Marketing.   Is this a problem or is this ok?

Right now, it's probably ok.  Many B2B companies have adopted social media to increase brand awareness, to be perceived as thought leaders, or to address customer service issues.  When we look at the goals for these types of communications, measures of success are not centered around customer action (except for customer service).  To date, measures of success have been about numbers of fans or followers, but not about actual sales. Social media is yet another communication channel through which the company can educate its target market about the company culture, industry trends, product developments.  These companies may sell their products directly or through a distribution channel of some sort.  Regardless of the purchase model, they want to increase knowledge about their products.  They do want to be "top of mind" when potential buyers are defining their requirements and considering potential solutions.  Social Media provides the opportunity to increase the volume of communication.

Social media continues to be one part of an overall marketing strategy.  The focus on a 360 degree integrated strategy is still very important.  I have mentioned before, that it is very important to tailor your story to your audience and the channel through which they hear your story.  While it is reasonable to re-purpose existing content for use through social channels, it is important to remember the origin of these channels.  They are personal.  They are meant to be interactive.  Adapt your social media marketing to reflect the culture and personality of your company.  It's ok for social media to be another push marketing channel, but think about ways to drive meaningful interaction with your customers.  Think about what will have real impact on your business?

I'll be blogging further about inspiring customer action, measurable benefits and meaningful storytelling over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!

What's your perspective?



Social Media as Your New Years Resolution

Peggy Dau - Monday, January 03, 2011

It’s a new year and you’re making your resolutions.  How about a resolution to jump on the social media high speed train?  You’ve read the buzz but you’re a bit skeptical about time, effort and results.  These are fair concerns.  There is not a company who has engaged in social media that has not posed questions about how they are going to leverage this dynamic medium.  I have just a few bits of advice about getting started:

  1. Think about why you want to use social media.  In most cases it starts as an effort to increase market awareness.  This is a great way to get started!  My advice then would be to think about the image you want to present to the market.  Do you want to be an expert?  What does that mean?  Does it mean you need to be the smartest person in the room or that you can bring the necessary resources to the table?  Bottom line, social media is going to help you share your perspective in a new way
  1. Get organized.  Figure out who in your organization will be your social advocates.  It will be beneficial if you think about how representatives, from different business groups, reflect your business.  These individuals can provide your customers with unique perspectives that can help them understand your business and its products, strategy and culture.  Align your social communication with your overall marketing plan and strategy.  Commit to a plan!
  2. Define your social content strategy.  Think about who your customers are and what content will fulfill their needs.  Social media is about personalizing your business and its content.  This means that simply pointing customers to your website is not going to win a lot of new customers.  However, sharing your insights about industry trends, emerging products or markets, business benefits of your solutions or seeking input from your audience, will drive awareness.
  3. Select the relevant social platforms.  You need to be where your customers are.  Here is a quick summary of some of the most popular platforms:
    •  
    •  - LinkedIn – for a business person or business this is the default platform to use.  It’s more than a virtual rolodex; it is a platform for sharing content about your capabilities, engaging in conversations with like minded individuals via LinkedIn Groups, and increasingly a tool for employee recruitment.
    •  - Blogs – I’m a BIG fan of blogging as a means of communicating with customers is a casual way.  Blogs provide the ability to flesh out your thoughts in a less formal manner than traditional briefs or whitepapers.  They also enable feedback from your customers which can educate readers about your company, impact product roadmaps, or simply influence further blog discussions.  A small firm can share insights abut what drives their day to day business while a large company can encourage individual bloggers, from different business disciplines, to discuss the topics that influence their activities and decisions.  In all cases, the blog should reflect a unique point of view.
    •  - Twitter – In many cases, twitter for business can be just keeping up with the Jones’.  However, many companies use twitter to actively listen to their customers.  By searching on keywords a company can capture a trend, discover customer satisfaction issues, and invite debate on a trending topic.  Twitter is immediate and democratic, meaning it is wide open like the Wild West.  However, the Wild West is now very heavily populated and the direct benefit for B2B companies is unproven.
    •  -  Facebook – this is the ultimate social platform for individuals.  And, let’s remember this platform was created by a college student to find, connect and communicated with other students.  Its role is consumer centric.  Its focus remains the individual despite a company’s ability to create a Fan Page.  Companies that have found success on Facebook are those with a consumer audience and who create a unique proposition on Facebook.  There have been debates about Facebook displacing the need for a traditional website.
    • For B2B, I completely disagree.  Facebook does not easily enable a B2B business discussion.  It does not allow you to share documents.  However, it is a great platform for personalizing your business.  Post pictures or videos from industry conferences, community events, internal celebrations.  Emphasize the company culture and the unique individuals employed at your company.  Now prospective employees have a much better understanding about the culture of your company.
    •  - YouTube – Video is pervasive and memorable.  YouTube has changed the face of video forever, making user generated video and its lesser quality – acceptable.  Video puts a face on your business.  I’ve seen whiteboard sessions, mockumentaries, product demos, and corporate advertising posted on YouTube.  It is possible to create your own channel which could be beneficial for companies who want to post a series of videos.  Like all marketing & communication efforts, video efforts must be planned and organized.  See my previous blogs on this topic

Don’t be afraid to just try one platform.  Be persistent.  Don't let social media be the resolution that fades away!  It’s ok to experiment and figure out what content and which platform works best for your business.  Despite all that you read, no single company was an instant success at using social media!

What’s your perspective?



Happy Holidays from MAD Perspectives!

Peggy Dau - Friday, December 24, 2010