May 8th, 2009 by Mo
Original Article by David Nelles
All beginning is hard. The dialog with customers in user generated communication channels will be more than just a free will thing to do in the future, but utmost it will become the obligation of companies. After companies have been quite detached in the last decades from their customers in regard to the communications, and now they bring consumers and suppliers back together on the same level. The imbalance of power between brands and consumers has shifted in favor of the consumer. Through social media consumers are able to talk eye to eye with companies and brands. Thus, communication with consumers in digital area requires the long forgotten abilities such as dialog capability, authenticity, and transparency. The shift of media usage will put tremendous pressures upon companies to re-adopt these abilities. The classical work of the communication collides often with the new media. Thereby, five fundamental mistakes stand out the most in regard to the social media handling:
Not being true to self. Authentic dialog also means that brands i.e. companies are communicating themselves and hence, the communication must be transparent. Transparency begins there, where users i.e. consumers can recognize with whom they actually talk to. The temptation for brands to be actively engaged in a hidden way through social media is quite alluring, but over time this could actually endanger the brand image and dialog with users. Sony, Walmart and Vichy were example from the past for such failed and fake maneuver way into social media. Only a transparent dialog with target groups will help in countering this kind of risk.
Not listening to users. Even, when it somehow hurts, it won’t be often enough said: All beginning of the company’s efforts in the area of social media must be to listen first. Social media strategies are dialog solutions and not monolog strategies. Hence, the start of each dialogs lies in listening. If one foregoes a social media monitoring, then one can hardly find the right target group. Furthermore, one cannot determine which topics the potential customers in social media are actually interested on. Who is deaf and actively engaged as brands in the area of user generated media will harvest only on disappointment – that for certain.
Not finding the right words. Marketers are often having trouble speaking the language of social media. Real dialog is more than just a press release, advertising statements or tight- lipped PR statement. A good social media strategy is definitely not just another one-way channel for press releases and brand messages. Social media marketing means: Humanize your brand. Particularly, this applies in addressing the target group. The dialog must have a real added value for users, and for them this begins with a real authentic dialog.
Focusing solely on sales. This is in my honest opinion one of the cardinal mistakes. Social media marketing is not online marketing. Measuring the success of social media marketing strategies with metrics of classical online marketing is surely not the right objective. Social media can’t be reduced simply into relation between clicks and sales. Social media marketing is the building of consumer engagement and brand image. Such metrics might not lead to a direct or clear classified buying decision, but they do show quite significant influence for buying decisions in the future. Another reason, why sales and social media only contingently fit each other: What happen with party guests, who try to involve other guests in sales conversation? Yes – They won’t be invited to the next party. The same thing applies for brands, which in their social media efforts only try to get users to buy the products. Such brands won’t have the long lasting success in social media, since no one would want to listen anymore.
Micro instead of macro approach. Big companies have obviously problems in handling social media as one whole communication process and hence, online sales department might be in charged for a group page in facebook, or company communication in charged for a corporate blog and a brand with its own twitter stream. Multiple closed communication ways within the company is the result out of such strategies. This kind of approach would only lead to confusion and the target group would not perceive the company as one unit. It’s quite decisive for user to have a voice or at least to be able to communicate with other voices. Social media must exist outward as one uniformly communication string. Hence, the various activities should be coordinated and structured on top of one another.
The listed cases, which often occur by inappropriate application of social media, are certainly not the only rocky obstacles for professional’s communicators. Nevertheless, the cases do show how companies and brands still need to get use to the direct contact with their target group. This kind of contact needs not only a different way of thinking but also a mid-term structural change in the communication processes within the company. Hence, structures of the classical communication work require a change management as to keep in touch with target group in the future.
March 24th, 2009 by Mo
Original Article by David Nelles
Social media marketing only works when a user gets a real added value through his/her engagement. This means: The interaction with brands in user generated channels must result in a measureable ROI for users, as to achieve successful marketing in this area. Thereby, in his latest post – Tom Smith opts for a change in perspectives regarding this matter. It’s not about the added value of social media for companies but instead it’s more about the added value of big brands’ social media activities for users. Smith derives eight advantages for consumers through social media marketing:
1. Social media can transcend the “black box brand” of the past into a transparent dialog partner. Social media enables user a peek behind the scenes of a brand.
2. Social media differentiates bad products from good ones. Thanks to social media, it’s easier for users to get information about specific products before buying decisions are made.
3. Social media is the perfect channel for customer service. Comcast, Dell and Southwest are few of the best examples. The basic for brands should be to actively present themselves where the target group is, as to always be there for the costumers.
4. Social media allows users to take part in product innovation. The keyword is crowdsourcing for the creation of better products. Tchibo, Dell and Procter & Gamble show how companies can involve consumers in product development.
5. User decides if he/she wants to interact with brands. In classical online marketing, users didn’t have the power of choice to decline massive brand messaging.
6. Social media efforts of big brands are the prerequisites for a free of charge usage of Facebook&Co. However, for a continuous availability and development of social media platforms developers need the money, which would come from a booked and well-planned marketing campaign of big brands.
8. Brands in social media are alive through users. One way or another, users’ conversations about brands would take place, regardless of whether brands are choosing to be actively engaged or not.
In the end, it’s quite evident: Social media marketing i.e. active brands in social media offer users a real numerable added value. It starts with transparency through direct customer service and the power of choice, where users can decide for themselves whether they want to be exposed to brand messaging: users benefit obviously from this 2.0 brand communication. This user’s ROI is the key indicator for the success of a brand in user generated media. Brands communication in social media ignites two-way added value, both for users and brands. This applies only, if marketers abide to above mentioned added values. Hence, keywords like transparency and authenticity should be the core focus.
March 13th, 2009 by Mo
Original Article by David Nelles
Even for companies in B2C area, it’s quite evident that social media serves as a very efficient communication channel in the area of marketing and company’s communication. However, what about the use of social media in the area of B2B? Does a digital and interactive dialog with decision-makers i.e. buyers in user generated media make any sense at all? In regard to this question, Forrester published a survey with quite astounding results. Josh Bernoff described one particular result as followed:
91% of these technology decision-makers were Spectators — the highest number I’ve ever seen in a Social Technographics Profile. This means you can count on the fact that your buyers are reading blogs, watching user generated videos, and participating in other social media. Note that 69% of them said they were using this technology for business purposes.
Why should the communication behavior of private consumers change? Even buyers in companies use user generated channels just like private persons. Sure, the results of Forrester’s survey are referring only to buyers’ behavior from technological sector, but these findings are actually also a good indicator for the global development. A successful and modern B2B marketing should be able to adjust to the shift of media use. But, how should marketers act in B2B area? Just like in every starting process of social media strategy, a detailed market analysis is also needed in B2B:
• Conducting research to understand more about a prospect’s or client’s “buying desires.”
• Finding decision makers for certain products and services.
• Extracting names from a given community for lead generation.
• Getting answers to questions, reaching out to other experts.
• Finding joint-venture marketing partners and creating various “cooperative opportunities.”
Such analysis of target group, multipliers and brands relevant themes can only be the first step to take for the B2B marketers in social media. Besides consumer insights, a well founded Netnographic can also show the way into the relevant communities. Why shouldn’t companies use it? It is certainly advisable for companies to get into direct dialog in user generated platforms with their respective target company i.e. with the person in charge.
For example, it would offer the possibility for a wood processing manufacturer to be active in a carpenter forum. At the same time, it’s not about switching on banners, but foremost it’s about getting into direct dialog with carpenters about daily requirements of wood processing etc. With such dialog, the company can also manage their existing customers in the sense of digital CRM in respective platforms. In the end, a B2B company must implement their brands in user generated platforms to get into dialog with target group. Just like in B2C, such action would convey the brand image and awareness of buyers in respective company. Thus, the improvement of the two mentioned parameters could lead to a sustainable customer loyalty as well as new customers.
Besides the improvement of brand image and awareness, could a good B2B strategy in the area of user generated media actually boost innovation leadership of the company in the respective segment? Well, e.g. A blog – in which employees can classify branch news, comment and even describe the market development and trends – could actually provide strategic benefit for the company. Let us assume, that the results of Forrester survey in regards to the use of social media for company’s buying decisions in the technological area also meet the requirements of other branches, then a corporate weblog, podcast or video channel can be the perfect channel to underline the innovation leadership. Eventually, an image as innovation leader can leave traceable impacts on buying decisions of other companies.
It’s quite obvious that marketing in social media doesn’t exclusively apply only to B2C marketing. Even buyers in companies are increasingly using user generated media to inform themselves before making buying decisions. U.S companies such as Intel, Chevron and Millerwelds show, how it could work, and as shown by the case of Westaflex, German companies are also active in this matter. This development evidently shows that in the area of B2B marketing social media is already being used. Hence, the area of user generated media belongs as well to a fixed part of marketing mix for B2B marketing area. Justin Hitt is right, as he says:
Social media is something I added to my existing mix, in some ways it does it better (saving time, money, resources).
February 25th, 2009 by Mo
Original Article by David Nelles
What kind of myths in the context of social media marketing are actually NOT out there? Starting with the notion that social media marketing is for free, up to lack of measurability in this area. Often, one hears from marketers about the use of social media for the company’s benefits, which fit into the myths. I’ve summarized the Top 4 Myths in the area of social media marketing:
Myth #1: Social Media Marketing is cheap, if not free.
True is, social media tools are in most cases free for users. One can set up a free Wordpress Weblog, sign up for Twiter Account, and use Digg for social bookmarking or create a group in Facebook. However, it is essential for companies in social media to interact and get into dialogs with their customers in these free platforms. Meaning, companies must create a proper concept to begin with, and then integrate this concept into the existing company’s communications strategy. Thus, these efforts are tied to time and money. For example, a big advertising campaign in social media can cost up to six figures.
Myth #2: Social Media Marketing guarantees instant success.
Yes, it’s true; sometimes one can achieve huge marketing success in social media within the shortest period. One needs only one thing: Luck. Basically, time factor counts the most in the area of social media, since a sustainable and authentic dialog with consumers does not happen overnight. Marketers should not expect an immediate success of social media activities: corporate Twitter with more than 1000 followers or corporate weblog shows 15,000 unique users daily.
Myth #3: We do it best in-house.
If names like Robert Scoble or Jeremiah Oywang belong to circle of employees, then this argument could be justified. Otherwise such intern social media experts are really hard to come by in German big companies – of course with few exceptions. Thus, German companies do rely on support from external specialists for the concept and implementation of social media activities. Until companies enclose the first Heads of Social Media, like Scott Monty, as connector between marketing and company’s communication, more time would certainly be required.
Myth #4: Success in Social Media Marketing is not measurable.
If one takes the classical parameters of online marketing as scale, then this myth is reality. The success measurement of performance based marketing strategy doesn’t fit in the area of social media. But this doesn’t automatically mean that the success of social media is therefore immeasurable. A successful marketing in the realm of user generated media lies not in leads and sales, but in brand awareness and brand reputation. Meaning, the performance success of social media can be seen in conversation’s participation in weblogs, forums, communities and Twitter about brands as well as the tonality of statements.
December 16th, 2008 by Sten Franke
Original article by David Nelles (translated by Nils Maier)
A lot has been said about Do’s and Don’ts of corporate blogging. On his latest posting, Jeremiah Owyang enlists a quite meaningful set of rules for companies, in which each of these steps should in the end lead to the ultimate direct dialog with consumers. Basically there are eight main points, which should be taken seriously into account by communication executives.
1. Writing style:
How you write indicates how real you can truly be
Great: Blog is written in a human voice
Bad: Content looks vetted by corp comm.
Horrible: Rehashed press release
The written style of blog must be distinguishable from the art of the company’s communication. A blog is mostly about personal statements and evaluation. Hence, a blog should not be written like a press release, but instead it should reflect in overall the personal evaluation of the author. In a corporate blog, it should be about granting authors the possibility for personal touch.
What does the blog talk about? does it matter to marketing –or customers?
Great: Discusses the lifestyle (or workstyle) of actual customers.
Good: Discusses the wider industry topics
Horrible: The corporate blog exclusively talks about the company
We think, one should consider corporate blog as a medium and it must provide customers with added values. Keeping this in mind, a good content is one, which relates to everyday work and life of consumers/target group. For examples, mobile phones provider should talk about trends and new offers concerning the mobile phones usage and respectively a travel agency’s blog should inform its reader about vaccination and travel trends.
Perhaps one of the most important attributes, how human and real is this blog, or is it giving lip service?
Great: Admits when wrong and discusses in open the short comings of the company and product and demonstrates in public how it will be improved
Good: Admits shortcomings but combats and defends the criticism, also known as spin
Bad: Only discusses the company in the best possible light, and may link, but not take on critics
Horrible: Never discuss the short comings of the company on the blog
A corporate weblog should be the place for real and honest dialogs. To achieve honest conversations with readers, it’s pretty essential for communication executives to be able to deal with criticisms. Surely, it’s not easy for communication execs to admit mistakes about their products or services publicly, but in particular this ability to communicate openly belongs indeed to the area of communications. Thereby, only an authentic dialog with consumers – even if it means admitting own mistakes – could lead to a long lasting consumer relation. The danger of losing control – in the area of brand communications- increases immensely, if companies do not take criticisms seriously and react upon them accordingly.
4. Linking Behavior:
Links are the currency of the blogosphere, it indicates you respect someone else’s opinion so much that you’re willing to send them away from you.
Great: Links out to other sources, even competitors or critics as well as the next listed
Good: Links out to other sources, where other discussions are occurring
Bad: Primarily links to corporate created content 25% of the time
Horrible: Primarily links to corporate created content over 50% of the time
This point is in particular very important. The basic fundamental in social media is about sharing content. A good link to other weblogs enables users to form own opinions as well as to improve their knowledge in a fast and efficient way. The incessantly links to own articles give both readers and consumers no real added values. From economics point of view, one could call this kind of behavior as zero sum game. Thereby, links to other information sources are inevitable in order to realize a Win -Win situation for both corporate blog and readers.
5. Customer Inclusion:
Do corporate blogs allow their customers to partake? or are they only second class citizens
Good: Allows for customers to guest blog, or includes snippets of their experiences
Bad: Content is only published by employees
It could certainly be an interesting approach to involve consumers in the editorial creation of blog, but convincing marketers of this idea is yet another story. But that does not mean, one should not even try it. For me, this kind of approach is still new and speaking from experience, it’s really quite difficult for German companies to even recruit their own executives to blog for the companies. So, I think it will surely be more difficult to persuade consumers to write for a corporate blog. Still, there is nothing more authentic than the consumer’s testimonials written on the corporate blog.
Allowing for feedback can instill more trust
Great: Comments enabled and published instantly
Good: Comments enabled but reviewed causing time delay
Bad: Trackbacks only
Horrible: No comments allowed
Without questions, the best case scenario is for consumers to be able to use commentary section without any limitations. If company does want to enter into a real dialog with consumers, then this is a needed characteristic. I couldn’t agree more with Jeremiah: no comments policy is definitely the worst case ever. A weblog is a communication medium with feedback channel, if one doesn’t want to allow it then one should steer away from it.
7. Comment Moderation:
Blogs that allow for disagreeing comments are more real –and interesting.
Great: Comments (other than spam or off topic) are allowed, including direct disagreements
Bad: Negative comments are censored or altered
Horrible: No negative comments allowed
When company communicates, then be it on the right path. Deleting critical comments about companies or products is definitely not the best strategy for a corporate blog. As communication execs don’t actually delete the bad comments, but rather these comments are actually going into other channels, which probably harder to monitor or to control. In this kind of medium, one has to handle critics wisely and sees it as a chance. With open dialog company can try to placate the critics and foremost win them back as happy consumers. Company’s censorship would only achieve the opposite effect: long lasting dissatisfied consumers.
While more isn’t always better, having a steady rhythm of content is important
Good: A steady publication rate of posts appropriate to the speed of that market
Bad: Posts appear at a random rate, often starting off with apologies for not posting
Horrible: Posts appear to either promote the company during an announcement –or to combat a competitor
Authentic dialog as well as the regular feed of weblog with content is the key to success. This point is often underestimated by companies. The creation and physical appearance of weblog is by far not the whole concept and for certain it won’t keep potential avid readers interested. The success lies instead in the frequently production of weblog’s content – content in foreseen and manageable interval.
The corporate weblog can be a very important element in the field of communications. This applies to marketing as well as to internal and external company’s communication. Hence, companies must be brave enough to step up and be consciously aware of all the consequences. The rules of brand communications have changed through social media. If a company with a corporate weblog wants to engage in communications with user generated content channels, it must take the fundamentals rules in this area to heart: an eye to eye dialog with consumers – authentic, direct and open for criticisms.