How to Integrate Email Marketing, SEO and Social Media

by Eric Tsai

Social media is changing how businesses find customers and how customers engage with brands. There are many reasons to believe that it will eventually overtake email marketing, but I’m a firm believer that it’s here to stay.

In fact, I believe email marketing combine with search (SEO) and social media will the best strategy moving forward.

However; let me get a few things straight. First, email is the original social network. Second, you need email to open social network account and get alerts.

And third, search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing) will continue to index and aggregate social network data not to mention most social network has their own internal search engine as well.

It sounds like there is a lot of cross-over between the three, so how should you use these three tactics to help you strategize your marketing efforts?

It’s hard to realize how these tactics can impact your business without some basic understanding of the big three. Let’s look at how each works and what you can do to get the most bang for your marketing bucks.

The Big Three #1 – Email Marketing

Why email – Today it’s hard to find someone without an email account and majority of account holders have had it for a while (I still check my hotmail from 14 years ago) thus letting it go is not likely for most.

Account holders may reduce the time they spent on email but it doesn’t have the abandon rate (Facebook, Twitter) like majority of the social networks.

Almost all basic business communications are done via email not via social networks.  The perception is that it’s more secure, private and user friendly (centralized contacts, integrates with calendar, easily accessible via mobile devices).

Simply put, people will use what’s easy to achieve the same goal – to get work done and to communicate.

Another benefit of email is that it’s a direct private channel of communication to alert customers on new product offerings or promotions. At the same time, customers can use e-mail to provide feedback and ask questions.

Done right, you will be kept away from the spam folder and earn a permanent spot on the white list.

This is why great email marketers tend to focus on delivering high value content at the right time, with the proper frequency using attractive subjective lines that encourage clicks and forwards.

Building your email list should still be all marketers’ top priority. Give people a reason to subscribe and to remain subscribed is the ongoing art and science of email marketing.

The Big Three #2 – Search Engine Marketing

Why SEO – This one should be a no brainer. What is the first thing you do when you’re looking to buy a product? If you do your homework you would first Google it.

This applies to almost anybody looking to learn more about a company, a product or how to do something.

Often times, people don’t even question the search results because it’s just easier to trust Google’s rankings and feel good about the decisions you’ve made based on what was found.

It’s no surprise that 79% of United States hiring managers and job recruiters search online information about job applicants according to a recent research commissioned by Microsoft.

This is why smart businesses (and individuals) are putting more emphasis on content marketing and shifting their mindset to operate more like a media company.

They understand search engine is catered to “people” and people want relevant, valuable content that’s going to move them a step closer to identify the information they’re searching for.

The key is to create great content around what your customers are interested in when looking for your product; such as how things work (the outcome of your product or services), step-by-step guides or research reports that reveals product comparisons.

Then tie these high quality content with relevant keywords and over time you’ll likely to move higher through the non-paid “organic” rankings. And today you can SEO anything from websites, blog posts, videos, images, podcasts you name it.

SEO is one of the key marketing arsenals especially for retailers, direct marketers and authors.

The latest Internet Retailer Survey (some sample data below) clearly shows a growing interest and investment in search to drive more online sales. It’s not a matter of why, but how.

There is simply too much information and too little time. Search engine is our instant gratification to today’s ADD (Attention-Deficit Disorder) society.

The Big Three #3 – Social Media

Why Social – If search engine is a way for people to find information, then social media is a way for people to find conversations and be part of them.

It adds the credibility fuel to the fire of trust since social media is basically word-of-mouth. Instead of just believing in what you read from company websites or reviews you found online, you can talk to people you trust or listen to experts you follow.

Similar to search, you can get people to your site with social media, and it’s a great tool to tell customer stories, demonstrate expertise, and stack up your social proof to win business from competitors.

The goal is to connect with customers on an ongoing basis to further understand their needs, wants and concerns.

This will help you to build strong, lasting and engaging relationships with your customers for future business as well as referral opportunities by getting people to share your products on social networks to bring in traffic and find new customers.

And since social media is word-of-mouth, it’s your brand’s reputation on the line. Your digital reputation is your first impression and perception is reality.

How The Big Three Can Work Together

Although you can choose to only do one or two of the three, but to get the most out of your marketing investments, you should consider doing all three.

Here are a few ideas to consider on how to leverage the big three:

1) Create Once, Recycle Many– Focus on content not just promotions and sales, it’s about facilitating people through the sales cycle.  People usually don’t buy base on just one piece of data think of it as adding “trust points” to people’s decision to buy.

If prospects consumed a great piece of educational content on your landing page, that’s one point.  If they read some great reviews about your product from a third party site, that’s another point.

If there is more positive comments than negative ones about your brand in social networks, that’s another point.

The goal is to accumulate enough trust so prospects feel good about why they’ve made the decision over you than others.

You want to invest your time and money on creating the best blog content, how-to articles, educational videos, whitepapers or anything that will get your audience to bookmark, download and share.

Then make sure you optimize the content for search engine with the proper keywords and deliver them to the right people in your target channel via email and social networks.

For example let’s say you have a really good article on how to do something (try not to involve your product first, focus on solving the problem then introduce your product later when appropriate), you can package it in a downloadable PDF put it on a landing page that’s highly optimize for SEO.

Then abstract the summary from the content for your email newsletter so you can send your subscribers to that very same landing page, a typical web marketing campaign.

But let’s take it a step further by turning that piece of content into a video (using screen capture tools like Camtasia, or with a webcam or FlipVideo) and upload it to YouTube, Ustream or Vimeo to drive traffic back to your landing page.

Then post the video on your blog, tweet it out via Twitter, send it to relevant groups on LinkedIn or submitted to social network sites like Technorati, Digg, Reddit or StumbleUpon. Continue to produce great content and after 3-6 month you can recycle that piece of content with some updates and do it again.

2) Streamline with Process – Think about how your customers consume information and respond to connections.

It’s NOT jamming the information down their throat like traditional one-way push advertising but allowing them to discover and get permission to establish a relationship.

Talk to your customers, ask them what they read, who influence them and why? Understand what they don’t care about (don’t be surprise if it’s a lot of what you do) is just as important as what they care (a lot of what you should know).

If you make the wrong assumption it will bring you the false conclusion which will impact on how you strategize your campaign.

For example if you know your customer reads certain blogs regularly, should you advertise on their site or is it better to build a relationship with the blogger?

Once you’ve made your decision, focus on identifying the path to your web properties.

Take out a piece of paper and map out that path and create a process to streamline every possible step that your customer may take so you can funnel them via your sales pipeline.

Remember, not everyone consumes media the same way, some people like to read while others prefer to watch videos or listen to a podcast.

It’s important to have as many media options as possible available to maximize engagement opportunities.

3) Target, Track and Repeat – Without the right data you won’t know where to focus your marketing efforts and no accountability in your actions.

What happens after your prospect conducts a search?

What actions were taken after consuming your content?

Was it shared on Facebook or forwarded to a colleague?

The biggest benefit from tracking your email, search and social media analytics is that you will be able to tie them all together and figure out your ROI.

You’ll know where your site visitors are coming from, which email links they clicked on and what gets shared so you can make adjustments to improve conversion rates.

Why continue to do something that doesn’t work?

You need to know so you can keep doing what works and stop doing what doesn’t. Perhaps Facebook is not the best social network to target your audience or is it because your marketing messages aren’t resonating with them?

Marketers must aggregate customer behavior information to build a holistic view of the customer.

This means analyzing quantitative data to measure and monitor customer-related metrics such as customer attrition rate, customer retention rate, number of products purchased, repeat purchases, likelihood to recommend, etc.

When you have the right customer insights, you’re in a position to address customer needs, improve processes (to shorten the sales cycle), and to maintain a strong connection for an opportunity to turn customers into fans and fans to brand evangelists.

Do Your Homework, Fish Where Fish Are

Before you start, you should learn where your customers are at, the tools they use and why.  This allows you to make better informed decisions and build a framework for your assumptions before you jump in. You can find some valuable research data from the internet and here are two examples I’ve found.

First is the Morgan Stanley Internet Trends Analysis, which has a lot of in-depth information about all things internet, mobile, cloud computing, email, social networks and more. (Check out slide 12 on social networking vs email usage).

Morgan Stanley Internet Trends Analysis

The second report is from Edison Research on “Everything You Need To Know About Who’s Using Twitter.” I found it particularly interesting that people actually go to Twitter to learn about products, far more than they do with other social networks. (51% of active Twitter users follow companies, brands or products on social networks)


Twitter Usage in America 2010

The take away: Email marketing, search engine optimization and social media are all great, but it takes a combination of know-how and creativity to get people just to open your e-mail, to click on your search results or to retweet your messages.

Business owners and marketers need to have some technical knowledge of what methods produce positive results.

Your goal should be to have a mix and balance of the big three utilizing content strategy that is useful and easy to share.

Think like a publisher, not only do you have to figure out ways to engage your subscribers (and to remain subscribed) but also prospects, people on the fence and try to sway influencers your way.

Yes, it’s time consuming like what Jay Baer mentioned recently but think of it as investing in your customers, you get what you put in.  It’s easy to setup your email newsletter, social network accounts and have SEO gurus optimizing your site, those are executions of tactics NOT strategy.

First, learn before you start, listen before you talk and research before you decide.

You’re better off investing your marketing dollars to build your own targeted database (and customer segmentation!) with accurate information.

Questions on email marketing, search engine optimization or social media? Subscribe to my newsletter and get more tips on the full potential of integrated digital marketing.

How to Find Customers Online Using Google and Twitter

by Eric Tsai

The three most important elements when starting out with marketing on the internet is to 1) define success and 2) know your target audience 3) listen to your customers.

Once you form a foundation for your web strategy, the execution becomes easy. The goal is to constantly test and use different campaigns from Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to email marketing in an attempt to achieve business objectives.

I often hear business owners talk about wanting to increase sales and generate leads but fail to define what success look like to them. In order to define success, you must first realize your current state of business from an analytical and financial perspective.

Do you have any existing data to help you take the pulse of the business? What kind of financial (Return on Investment or ROI) and non-financial (business impact) objectives and metrics are available?

Without real knowledge of your true costs, you run into a potential misconception of what your real ROI is.

Understand that ROI includes not just how much you pay for web hosting or your overheads, but also other costs associated with running the entire campaign such as, cost of time working on the campaign (broken down into average hourly wages), amount of labor burden costs (cost consisting of all indirect labor costs incidental to operations), SEO costs (monthly or accordance with your budget), email marketing costs, technology infrastructure costs etc.

Understand Your Costs and Metric

Once you have a true total cost of you running the campaign, you can run those numbers against your traffic and sales conversion rates to identify your ROI.  Here is an example of how you can create a simple metric chart:

sample social media metric

Assuming I get those numbers, with a quick glance the data shows that by spending 3 times amount of money on this campaign, the result returns 8 times more sales with the cost per sale reduced by more than half. This is a high level overview to help you define your goals for each metrics. Again, watching your real cost of the campaign will bring clarity to your true profitability.

Using Google and Twitter to Identify Your Customers Online

Once you define your goals and know what success looks like, the next step is defining your customer profiles then search for them online.

For starters, you should at least know the age demographic, income level or occupation. After you know who your typical customer looks like, you need to find where they are online and what they’re talking about to get a step closer to engage them.

This is where you should be looking at using some free online tools to help you gather useful data.

Let’s look at using a combination of Google and Twitter to find your customers. As an example, I’m going to assume that you own a local retail apparel store and you want to drive traffic to your store.

First you should come up with a list of keywords that people are searching on Google.  The simple and fast way to do it is to use Google Keyword Tool and Google Insights for Search.

Google Keyword Tool

Google offers the keyword tool so you can search and find what popular keywords people are searching around your products or services.  I’ve used the keyword “evening wear” and as you can see, it returned all relevant keywords and the volume of searches for the past 12 months.

Feel free to make adjustments to show the data in different ways (I’ve sorted the list by Local search volume) and how much people are paying for those keywords.

Google KeyWorld Tool

There is no doubt that “evening wear” is the most popular keyword locally. This indicates that most people simply put in the keyword “evening wear” so if you want to target a narrower range like “evening wear tops” you will have less competition for the same keyword.

Click on Add and you can create your list (will be displayed on the right) and when you’re done adding, you can export the entire list in text or excel format.

Google Insights for Search

Once you have a basic list of keywords, head over to Google Insights for Search to compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, time frames and properties.

Now you can take popular keywords you’ve found and insert them into the search term area, and you’ll find more information about your keywords.

Unquestionably the keyword “dress” out paced all other keywords I’ve insert (evening wear, women’s shoes, handbags).

And you’ll also find that New York is the place where people search most for dresses.

Google Insights for Search

Play around with the different settings and you can also export the results in excel format.

Google Wonder Wheel

The Google Wonder Wheel was introduced to simplify and arrange search results. It’s basically a pre-defined mind mapper which helps the user get all the related search results in a wheel shaped like display.

Simply go to Google.com and input your search term, click on the “show options” link and find the “Wonder Wheel” link on the bottom left to get your search terms mind-mapped.

Google Wonder Wheel

Google Wonder Wheel

Once you get to the Wonder wheel, you can explore around the related keywords and it’ll expand into another wheel.

Google Wonder Wheel

I went ahead and clicked on the “discount evening wear” and the most popular and relevant keywords associated with discount evening wear shows up.

This is another great way to narrow your search term down to what your customers may be looking for in order to personalize the message.

Google Wonder Wheel

So if I’m running a promotional campaign or sending out newsletters, I could use content such as:

“Discount designer evening gowns perfect for cocktail parties or formal events!”

Or combine with my findings from Google Insights,

“A night out in New York? Checkout our discounted cocktail dresses from BCBG! Available in plus size directly from Macy’s.”

Combining Google with Twitter

Since Google have no problem indexing Twitter’s data, you can now use Twitter’s search engine to find you target customers using keywords as well as conversational phrases.

First go to search.twitter.com and click on advanced search and start looking for conversations phrases around what people would say when they’re looking for clothing.

The example below shows a search for people saying “what should I wear” within 100 miles of Los Angeles, CA.

You can also leave it blank for broad search to view everything around the world, perhaps you have an online store so tracking both local, geo-targeted search and broad search make sense.

Twitter Search

As you can see, the search result would return a stream of conversations with people saying “what should I wear.” You can take a moment to scan over the conversation, perhaps follow those individuals, checkout their profile and “listen” in on their dialogues.

However, you don’t want to spend all day reading people’s conversations, and searching for the same phrases every time.  This is where Google Reader comes in handy. Google Reader is a great tool to aggregate all your RSS feeds into one place and it also has some analytical capabilities.

On your Twitter search results page, find the RSS feed icon on the top right hand corner, right click on it and copy the link address of the feed.

Twitter Search

Then open your Google Reader and click on “Add a subscriber” and paste the link into your Google Reader to start building a collection of feeds around your target search phrases.

Google Reader

Once you’ve added the feed into your Google Reader, wait for a couple of days for the data to aggregate before you can start analyzing it (ideally you want to have at least 30 days).

You can start checking the data by clicking on “show detail” on the top right hand corner.

Google Reader

You’ll see data for the last 30 days, time of day and day of the week.  Depending on how you look at it, you can see which day of the month people start talking about your search term.

Maybe it’s the end of the month, everyone got paid so a discussion about shopping starts; or perhaps everyone goes out on Thursday evening in LA so on Wednesday people are talking about what to wear for Thursday.

The time of the day is a good area to gauge when these people log on to Twitter to talk about your search term.

Google Reader

Another good use of these data is to figure out when to send out your coupons, promotions and newsletters so your message arrives when people’s minds are on your product or service.

Remember, personalized messages delivered at the right place at the right time are key ingredients to conversion.

Search Twitter Profile Using Google

Another method to find your target customer on Twitter is to search through people’s Twitter profile using Google.  Go to Google.com click on advanced search and put in

intext:”bio*love shopping”

and you’ll find a list of people that indicated they “love shopping” in their bio on Twitter.

Basically intext:”bio*xxxx” tells Google to search for text within the Twitter bio section. So replace xxxx with whatever you like that matches to what your target customer may put in their Twitter bio.

Search Twitter using Google

Now that you know from your Google Insights that shoppers in New York have the most interest in searching for dresses, how do we target people who loves to shop and lives in New York?

This is what you put in

intext:bio-*-love shopping intext:location-*-NY

Search Twitter using Google

Notice that there is a minor tweak to the search input. You will need to add – in between the * mark.  So intext:bio-*-xxxx intext:location-*-xx where the xx is now searches within that state.  Give it a try and you’ll find extremely targeted individuals

I don’t usually do detailed step by step posts, but I had repeatedly explain this to many business owners and marketers so I  thought to share some of my tips to help you find your customers online.

I hope you find the above information helpful and it’s a very useful way to build your customer segmentation list.

I hope this helps you to set up your social media “listening station.”

And if you like to learn more tips like this, sign up for Profitable Knowledge FREE course below!

How Augmented Reality Affects Marketing

by Eric Tsai

I received some feedback and questions on Augmented Reality (AR) after my last post and thought to provide some additional inspiring ideas with regards to where AR is heading. The best example can be seen from Yelp’s Monocle app that allows users to see location-based reviews from their iPhone screens.

The result is crowd sourced commerce with social proof data to enhance purchasing decisions on the spot. It’s an integration of social media with physical space to bring relevant information based of our physical behaviors such as the places we’ve visit or the reviews we’ve posted online.

This new technology integrates real-time social networks, location-based tracking, and the semantic web to aggregate qualitative data. Information you want will run towards you instead of the other way around, fully customized to your personal taste based on your friends, location, and how you search online. The cultural ramifications represents a step forward towards artificial intelligence.

As for marketers, it’s important to monitor how consumers and businesses interact with AR technology that creates deeper and more meaningful engagements which may lead to new marketing opportunities. However, everything does hinges on privacy policy so it’ll be highly regulated on what information can be abstracted.

The fact is, consumers are more incline to take action if the ads are what they want to see from providing coupons to what’s on sale at the moment on location. From a brand’s perspective, it helps to improve data quality to deliver impactful, targeted integrated marketing campaigns enabling a dynamic social commercial connection through multiple touchpoints. It improves the branded experience.

If you haven’t look into AR, I suggest you to checkout some of the examples below.

Here is a demo at TED2010, where Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos new augmented-reality mapping technology from Microsoft.  This one shows you how far technology can go, very inspiring.

As augmented reality applications get better, and people have the ability to aim their camera at any real world object and get real-time information on the fly, it’ll be interesting how consumers will take interest in utilizing this feature. Here is an alternative way to improve online shopping experience using AR.

Augmented reality on print is probably the simplest to start, the idea is to integrate the AR with your offline marketing activities as part of the sequential advertising to tell your story like the examples I’ve provided in the last post. For brand experience, a great example is the Adidas Augmented Reality Sneaker Experience.

I think it’s worth reviewing the cost of integrating such concept on a smaller scale just to keep an eye on it. Ultimately it’s another touchpoint marketers can use as part of an advertising campaign but also an added element in abstracting ROI. I welcome any thoughts on this, what do you think?

5 Ways to Engage Social and Mobile Customers

by Eric Tsai

If you’ve been keeping up with the current marketing trends, you should be in the process of exploring how to utilize social media to benefit your business.

By now, most of the “how to use” social media content is everywhere especially from reputation resources such as Mashable, Social Media Examiner or Twitip to name a few.

While most large organizations such as Fortune 500 companies are slow in adopting social media, many have started pilot programs to experiment with this new tool.  Brands such as Dell, Coke Cola, Ford, Starbucks, Zappos, Best Buy and even sports league like NBA and NFL have found rapid growth by allowing fans to engage directly with athletes.

Share content that people find useful and want to share with others is the new mantra for new media marketing.

Particularly small businesses have found social media as a way to demonstrate leadership and command influence in niche communities.

The latest data from the Small Business Success Index shows that “Social media adoption by small businesses doubled from 12% in 2008 to 24% in 2009. The biggest expectation small business owners have from social media is expanding external marketing and engagement, including identifying and attracting new customers, building brand awareness and staying engaged with customers.”

The small and medium size businesses (SMBs) get it.  They are using this recession as an opportunity to connect and expand their sphere of influence.

While social media is still in its early phase, the business benefits of social networks are very real.

Every small business is looking to integrate “social” into their eCommerce sites, direct mail campaigns, webinars, blogs and SEO tactics hoping to build top-of-mind brand awareness.

Certainly you’ve heard that it’s about conversation, customer engagement and providing value.

However; it’s also quickly becoming a spam destination and experienced users have started to be very selective on who to connect and how to communicate.

Sure, you can learn all the tricks and tactics in getting followers on Twitter, ramp up fans from Facebook and connects with hundreds of professionals through Linkedin but the real engagement is when you involve the entire community to take action and interact with your brand.

Understand Social Media Users

Social media is about conversations. It is important to understand why and what kind of conversation users are more incline to engage themselves in.

Accordingly to the latest survey of social media users conducted by Crowd Science, “Users want to be heard. Overall, 45% reported liking when others notice them—leading some to stretch the truth or reveal too much personal information… But 36% believed others are simply interested in what they have to say. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to marketers, who know many users will tell all their contacts about good (and bad) experiences with products and services.”


Detailed Study Results

These new social customers will look up Yelp for reviews and tweet customer service for support.

It all boils down to the fact that every single customer from B2B to B2C has increased their influence throughout the buying process, gaining control of your brand’s perceived value, commanding more attention to satisfy their needs.

Lior Arussy wrote an excellent article in CRM magazine describes exactly that: “There’s a significant gap between the transaction as perceived by the employee and the outcome value as perceived by the customer. In short, what you sell is not what they buy.”

The truth is, even if you have the most market share in your industry it doesn’t translate to loyalty, and loyalty generates word-of-mouth.  This is the reason why customers today are able to demand more for less, a loyal customer is worth more than a passive one and brands are fighting to gain trust.  With the space getting crowded, consumers are already flooded with choices not to mention most don’t have the desire to spend in the first place.

In an effort to drive business success, companies must become more customer-centric by focusing on the needs of each individual customer to earn their trust and meet their needs.

More social means more conversations and when you add in the increasingly mobile factor, you have a whole new dynamic to reposition your brand to deliver a differentiated value proposition.

Here are 5 ways to help you address the increasingly social and mobile customer needs.

1. Start with local

Just because the internet can reach across the world doesn’t mean you need to do an all out global campaign.

Often you will find hyperlocal campaigns to be more cost-effective and can benefit from hybrid campaign where you combine online with offline promotions.

Find mobile advertising vendors that can help you target your local customers to drive traffic to your local stores or promote an event.

2. Provide free resources

With the emerging trend of the Freemium business model, free is the new standard.

In fact, it gives your prospects a reason to give you the time of the day so you have an opportunity to earn their trust.  Establish yourself as a resource by sharing your knowledge.

Add value to the conversation by offering your thoughts and commenting on blog posts that your audience read, tweet resourceful information from your Twitter account, or by answering a question on LinkedIn Answers.

Free resource such as buying guide, e-books, product recommendations from third parties or even free trials on your product are great ways to nurture leads with drip marketing campaigns.

According to the recently released ChoiceStream 2009 Personalization Survey, “65% of m-commerce shoppers indicate that they would buy more products from their mobile devices if it were easier to find products on them from trusted retailers.”

3. Mark it easy to pass along

A simple word-of-mouth tactics that’s often overlooked as companies look to pack in all the features and benefits of their products and solutions on their brochures and websites.

Go with something that’s easy to pass along without making it difficult for your customers to explain to their social network.

Just like Twitter with 140 character limitations, mobile devices have limited viewing real estate so make sure your messages are simple and to the point.

Provide a link to your content if you have more content to disclose, but make sure the link is short by using a URL shortener.

4. Use location based advertising (LBA)

Since people almost always have their mobile phone with them, LBA provides highly targeted reach.

And because customers are in control on how they receive ads on their mobile devices, customers receive more personalized, relevant information in real-time resulting in greater customer satisfaction to help you build brand awareness, create loyalty, and drive purchase decision.

Keep in mind that successful LBA is a permission based so establishing trust will be important and a privacy policy must be in place.

5. Tell a story, create passion

– Reporters loves a great story because they know readers love them too.  Often times a great story can get viral because well, it’s a great story!

The increasingly social web has vastly increased the fragmentation of media. Leverage sequential advertising to tell a story and lead your prospects down a path of related messages with continuity of the call-to-action.

Each engagement touch point should evoke a compelling response with fresh information and unique impression.

Don’t forget to keep any eye on the emerging trend of Augmented Reality on the social web and on mobile platforms:

Samsung

Home Depot

Esquire Magazine

The Take away: The real challenge for company embracing social media is finding the sweet spot that fits their business needs without draining their resources.

The key to success is to understand and measure the direct business impact of social media campaigns and identify the gaps between the customer experience and expectations as we continue to become more social and mobile.

Ask yourself, what do you want to achieve with social media?

Where do you see your brand go in the next 18 months?

What do you think?

Are you looking to do any mobile marketing in 2010?

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to engage social and mobile customers.

UPDATE 1 (2/24/2010)

Business Insider just published an new research from the Federal Communications Commission indicating that 86% of American adults now own cellphones.

Detail FCC Broadband Adoption Study 2010 below:


FCCSurvey

The Long Tail of Trust in New Media Marketing

by Eric Tsai

In today’s fragmented media world where we all have some attention deficit in our busy lives, there are simply too many sources of information thus finding a filter that we trust is extremely important.

Most people tend to prefer value, look for key opinion leaders and trust one-on-one communication sources.

Accordingly to a recent “Purchaser Influence Survey” by EXPO provided to eMarketer, over 92% of US mom internet users trust peer review more than manufacturer’s brand information.

This data should not be a surprise because if you want recommendations for a restaurant or suggestions on buying a new cell phone, you’re pretty much going to first ask your friends.

If you’re really serious about the purchase, you will do your “homework” first by reading bunch of online reviews from Yelp to Amazon before accessing your trusted sources.

Thanks to the increasingly social web, everyone can have a voice in their sphere of influence.

As a result word-of-mouth has become the ultimate marketing arsenal for marketers to tap into their loyal customers and advocates to help spread their marketing messages through what it’s called earned media.

Earned Media vs Paid Media

As opposed to paid media where publicity are gained through advertising, earned media usually are from real people, not marketers, which explains why consumers tend to trust them more.

It’s indicative from the survey conducted by Synovate for word-of-mouth ad network PostRelease, over 50% of the word-of-mouth activity was to help a friend or family member with a purchase decision, as well as sharing information they found on the web offline.

While these finding are insightful, it’s simply a confirmation that earned media is what’s working and will continue to lead the way as we crawl out of this recession.

Obviously, there are other factors that contributes to the buying decision that aligns with the “four Ps of marketing” (price, product, promotion and placement), but there is a definite shift in the perception of value that builds on trust.

So how what does trust mean to brands today?

According to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer from PR firm Edelman, transparent and honest practices and trustworthiness are extremely important while financial return have fallen below those factors.

One thing I must point out is that these data can be misleading because financial returns actually increased but have fallen behind other factors so there is merely a shift in value perception.

We’ve gone from push advertising to social influence marketing.  Online users have learned to focus on content and ignore online banners (banner blindness) simply because display focus too much on getting attention and have failed to deliver.

The concept of getting attention as a way to create brand awareness is being seen as noise which leads to resistance.

People have caught on to the fact that more marketers are increasingly behind influential bloggers, social media rock stars and even popular portals by endorsing their content diluting the credibility of peer-to-peer networks.

Long Tail of Trust

In the ear of new media, brands have quickly learned social marketing is build on the idea that people trust their friends more than they trust authorities, but on the other hand, consumers also start to question the intend and authenticity of their social networks.

As I’ve mentioned previous in “7 Keys to Creating Social Media Strategy for Your Brand”, social proof plays a key factor as a weapon of influence, the challenge for marketers is to earn trust as skepticism remains about how long trust will last.

When it comes to trust and brand loyalty there is no silver bullet, but knowing what value proposition to focus on and how to make adjustments can help marketers to acquire high level of trust over time.

If you truly want to earn the trust of your audience, don’t get sucked into the numbers game.

How many Twitter followers, Facebook fans or Linkedin connections you have on is far less important than how you interact with them.

Instead of concentrating on how many social network participants you have, try instead to gauge success on how engage they are with your brand.

The take away: When it comes to trust, it pays to earn it over time via high targeted more personalized channel that drives engagement and loyalty.

Mass media may reach a wider audience faster but the conversion rate is low and the experience becomes de-personalize.

There is still a place for mass media, but there is growing concerns over the value and ROI in the long run.

Moving forward companies should focus on shifting towards a customer centric strategy that retains long term customer loyalty as a sustainable competitive advantage.

Unless your brand connects with the customer, your chance of earning trust will be slim.

The role of marketing is only going to become even more important and integrated closely with customer interactions.

Get back to the basics in the context of customer feedback.

It should be more about starting the conversation to understand the customer’s point of view in an holistic effort to co-create value that defines your brand strategy.

3 Web Marketing Trends That Will Accelerate

by Eric Tsai

3 web marketing trends

It will be increasingly difficult for brands to ignore the web when making marketing decisions. The brands that get ahead will be the ones that harness the web to work in conjunction with their existing offline campaigns while adopting more social marketing strategies to generating new consumer insights.

Customers will continue to increase their time spent online and they need to be reach where they prefer to be reached.

Even for companies marketing entirely online or B2B businesses, the question will be how to benefit from blogs, social media and search engine to achieve the marketing goals?

How to take their brand message online and into web communities that will create new business opportunities?

Here are 3 web marketing trends to consider:

1) A Shift in Web Properties to Blend Online With Offline Campaigns

There are two parts to this trend.  First is the optimization of web properties, specifically efforts in blogs, social media, search engine optimization and email.

Second is the strategic usage of those web properties within an overall campaign that may or may not include offline media (e.g. direct mail, catalogs, print ads, TV, radio etc.).

Benefits to consider:

Both online and offline campaigns have similar concepts in reaching target audience with different processes so define your desire outcome first.

  • More touch points (frequency) to reach target audience throughout the buying process
  • Lowers marketing costs by shifting more campaigns online from offline (plus flexible payment models)
  • Faster time-to-benefit in tools and planning
  • Find out more about your customers via two way conversation online
  • More strategic options with online campaigns (e.g. brand awareness campaign, call-to-action campaign, lead-generation campaign)
  • Target new customer base across multiple demographic for wider reach

Ideas for action: For consumer brands – build and drive traffic to your own community, identify and communicate directly with your fans to help close the sales with promotions, coupons or rewards.

This is a popular approach to get opt-ins and many consumers actually look for these value-added deals.

Aggregate your social media profile on all outbound materials both online and offline to support the decision and buying process of prospects and customers.

Own the relationship and be platform agnostic with you network of customers, focus on supporting the needs of the community as a priority before promoting your offerings. As always, enlist someone that will take ownership in this role.

For B2B brands – Leverage content marketing strategy to drive sales leads from search engine ads, email campaigns, social media communities, affiliate blogs or offline media to a highly targeted micro-site for prospects to opt-in for webinars, podcasts or free resources (e.g. whitepaper, reports, presentations).

The goal is to pre-qualify leads that can filter through the sales cycle to improve the probability to convert the sales efficiently.

When you’re able to convert sales efficiently, it saves time and money allowing your operations to be more productivity.

2) New Measuring Matrix: Hybrid Measurement

Unlike traditional forms of gathering consumer insight, online tools are often cheaper, based on much larger sample sizes, and are quicker to deliver results.

For the past few years the value of search engine marketing (SEM) are measured largely by ad impressions, page views and click through rates.

However, as internet users are more willing to input additional data online, companies are now looking to measure key metrics of engagement on a person-level.

According to a recent comScore and Starcom USA’s study on how U.S. Internet users click on display ads, “Only 8% of internet users now account for 85% of all clicks… The results underscore the notion that, for most display ad campaigns, the click-through is not the most appropriate metric for evaluating campaign performance. Rather, advertisers should consider evaluating campaigns based on their view-through impact.

That’s just one of the examples that web analytics can be misleading.

It will continue to be challenging for marketers to abstract reliable data as social media adds another pile of data to the media measurement mix.

The future trend to measure more accurately will be to combine technical web analytics (server logs) with a sampling of user surveys (opt-in by visitors) that visits the site.  Although there will be sampling errors, it certainly beats making assumptions that doesn’t reflect real user behaviors.

Benefits to consider:

  • Provides more realistic feedback that extends the meaning of web analytics
  • Rich information aggregation from online surveys/feedback forms provide personal data and demographics to better understand your audience
  • Keep track of page(s) users frequent and the duration can help you benchmark it against server data to find the delta in errors
  • Can be utilized across multiple platforms including mobile, gaming, ad networks and offline campaigns

Ideas for action: Create a web survey on your site, put them on different pages then compare them with your web analytics.

Develop your own dashboard using hybrid measurement by choosing one that’s has the API integration with your Google Analytics account (most of them do now).

There are a number of online survey tools such SurveyMonkey, Checkbox, SurveyGizmo, Zoomerang, GetResponse, Vovici, QuestionPro, Kampyle, and you can even use Google docs as your survey tool.

Reward visitors that take the survey with coupons, discounts or gifts (sometimes it’s not even necessary, just a thank you will do).

Switch out the questions, put them on different pages and try different styles of asking from stealth at-the-corner feedback button to in-your-face pop ups.

3) Marketing Platform Extends to Mobile, Social, and Local in Real-Time

There is no question with 13 hours of YouTube videos uploaded every minute and over 900,000 blog posts every 24 hour, you can definitely count on the continuation of information overload over the social web.

This means content has to be tailored to fit the lifestyle of today’s digerati on smart phones that can accessible the web via faster and more available network.

Accordingly to The Niesen Company, “U.S. mobile subscriber base grew 7% to 277 million by the second quarter of 2009, which represented 221 million unique users…. Social networking drove the growth train for mobile Internet, with a 187% increase in audience for the year ending July 2009. The distribution of 18.3 million unique social network users by the top three sites is Facebook (26% reach), MySpace (13% reach) and Twitter (7% reach).

What does this mean?  It’s means that the growth in social networking will accelerate as mobile technology advances to embrace emerging trends in mobile social commerce, on-demand interaction from the real-time web, and fascinating concept of augmented reality.

Brands should leverage mobile marketing strategy to drive sales and cultivate customer engagement.

There are a number of ways to do this but ultimately consumer brands will have an easier time in adopting the usage of the mobile platform than B2B companies.

The opportunities for B2B companies remain the same – to generate leads and shorten the sales cycle.

Marketers will need to rethink content marketing strategy that aligns with the business objectives to deliver a dynamic mobile consumer experience.

Benefits to consider:

  • More opportunities to engage with customers (new or existing) means brand building and top-of-mind awareness
  • Smartphone owners tend to be affluent with expendable income, making it a prime target for product and service marketing (ready-to-buy candidates)
  • Aggregate rich user information (e.g. user profile, ratings, recommendations, tags etc.) from location based mobile apps
  • There are numerous mobile apps that can push out information across all social networks by authenticating with your Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube account, making it mobile and real-time viral
  • Deliver superior experience with augmented reality

Ideas for action: Leverage the mobile platform to provide unique location based experiences (e.g. services, games, ads, commerce) for your audience via instant customer support (e.g. assist in the buying process like check inventories or availabilities), real-time product information (e.g. price check, health labels), or event promotional notifications (e.g. cause marketing programs for non-profits, or buy-it-now via SMS or mobile web app/browser).

Another idea is to create downloadable coupons to promote offline activities to drive traffic to local events.  According to RetailMeNot, “coupons are now the deciding factor in purchases for nearly one-third of consumers.

In today’s economy, coupon is the call-to-action that can produce rapid, favorable results to drive sales.  Offer coupons based on location also helps your customer to discover new retail locations, making marketing as a service via alerts.

The take away: These Web marketing trends will reshape your marketing efforts as more conversations, engagements and experiences are delivered via the internet.

In order to stay relevant, brands must transition to become more social on the web and use mobile platforms to gain competitive advantage or risk of loosing opportunities.

Are you thinking about moving your marketing efforts online?

If you’re already doing the mix and match of online and offline marketing, how are you measuring your ROI?  Do you have a mobile marketing strategy?

3 Brand Marketing Trends That Will Continue

by Eric Tsai

3 brand marketing trends

When you hear something enough times, it may be a fad.  But when you start to see email spam about it, you know it’s a trend.

That’s the case with marketing trends such as email marketing and social media.

The problem with trends is that it’s usually a lagging indicator which means to seize the opportunity you may need to be an early adopters to reap the rewards.

If adopting new strategy and implementing fresh tactics sounds too risky, just take a look at the troubled newspaper and magazine companies and you’ll realize what I mean.

Similar to technology innovation, brand strategy is taking on an increasingly strategic role focusing not just on the bottom line but the ability to produce desirable financial outcomes.  It’s no surprise that the most innovative brands also fail more frequently, it’s the nature of the tried-and-true culture.

However, it takes discipline, research, analysis and creativity to find the right fit that works for your organization. Whether you’re promoting your personal brand or your corporate brand, here are the 3 brand marketing trends to look for in 2010:

1.Brands Must Become More Social Online

It’s no secret that B2B or B2C customers have been talking about your industry and your brand. Now with social media it’s simply going to be “on the record” somewhere over the internet, searchable and conversable.

If you can deal with customers in person, why couldn’t you deal with them online?

Engagement with your audience creates brand awareness, increase brand loyalty and the opportunity to get feedback that can help to improve your product and services.  Social engagement encourages crowdsourcing, use it wisely it can energize both you and your audience.

Provide transparency in what you do and demonstrate authenticity in what you say are the keys to building your online “street cred.” Organizations must look at the bigger picture and realize the emerging trend of social business branding and how it will impact all aspect of the company from internal collaboration to external engagement.

Becoming more social for brands means establishing a collaborative infrastructure within the organization to support the core brand strategy. There is no doubt that consumer wants to engage through social media so if brands don’t get into it, consumers will leave.

Ideas for action: Learn the tools of the trade in social media and (please!) put someone that cares about your brand to the task.

Research and identify where you customers are at talking about you, listen and monitor before you jump in.  Analyze the conversation around any product, topics, or category and identify any detractors and advocates to take actions.

More importantly learn to communicate well online, respond on time, be clear and to the point.  Provide value when interacting with your audience, focus on helping not selling and always deliver relevant and effective communications.

In addition, make sure you have a policy in place so you have a focused, consistent and cohesive approach in reacting to the situation regardless of which platform you’re using. The bottom line is that social media engagement without governance is a recipe for disaster.

It’s possible that your customers may not be on an open social network but on several discussion boards (forums/BBS), a private professional community, or even a popular blog where comments serve as dialogues.  speak to your customers directly to identify where they get their information, use a survey and provide rewards if needed.

Myths to consider: We can’t quantify the ROI (return on investment), so let’s just not measure them.  First of all, there are ways to measure all the marketing activities whether they’re meaningful to your organization is another story (yes you want the meaningful ones!).

The important thing is to cultivate accountability in your actions so you get results that can give you the insight to make real informed decisions.

My recommendation is to rank your marketing priorities that are most likely to pay off or generate the impact your want first.  If your strategy is to aim for awareness and exposure, then put reach and volume first instead of experience and frequency.

Keep in mind that you need to be able to quantity to a certain degree so you don’t drain your marketing resource and budget.

2.Shift in Value Perception Creates Opportunities for Brands

Generic brands are nothing new especially in the grocery store where the house brands are marketed and sold side by side with the leading brands.

The economy has shifted the perception of value fundamentally into a do-more-with-less and value-for-money mode.

According to the latest IRI Times & Trends Report: Game-Changing Economy Taking Private Label to New Heights, “private label unit share has grown 1.2 points to 22.8% and dollar share has grown 0.7 points to 17.6% across all outlets in the past 12 months.” Simply put, private label brands are gaining momentum across all tiers of product categories from premium tier to value tier because they have the advantage to compete on quality as well as price.

This represents a significant opportunity for less known brands (startups, SMBs, personal brands) to compete for new businesses while leading brands still has their eyes on cutting costs (overheads, infrastructure) and reorganizing operations.

In addition with the explosion of social media, unknown brand can go viral instantly followed by awareness because brands no longer control the buying space or the conversation, it only needs credibility to explode.

Ideas for action: This is the time to take your brand to another level especially with more cost effective tools and technologies, why not take a hard look at your current setup for operations, sales and marketing?

Reallocate your investments and prioritize your marketing, branding or product development strategies.

Many out-of-your-budget marketing avenues have dropped in price dramatically, check your local advertising channels you may be in for a surprise on how cheap it is now to run radio, print and even TV ads.

It’s a good time to build your email marketing campaign, run promotion events or even redo your old website so it’s more social media friendly.

You can even try partnering with someone locally to share the cost or co-brand some offerings together.  Another idea is to create a new brand allowing you to expand into other categories or verticals utilizing the resources you already have.

Brand extension can help secure new revenues and reinforce brand strength without compromising your current brand equities.

This is the time to drive appeal and awareness to build recognition.  Use today’s digital communication platforms to collect meaningful customer data, conduct surveys and optimize your digital presence via social networks.

Reevaluate your brand strategy, be innovative with your products and services, create a culture that reward your people and update your performance metrics.

Myths to consider: We don’t have the time, money or resources for marketing and nobody is buying!

If you don’t have a plan to convert data to actionable insight, a process to collectively review the effectiveness of your marketing strategy, how do you know what you’re doing works?

If you don’t invest in marketing or advertising, how are you going to differentiate the unique meaning of your brand?  Without differentiation you will loose pricing power and competitiveness.

If your brand isn’t even in the run for consideration, how will your customers know that you exist? And people are spending, just selectively in a timely matter.  According to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, “amid their (consumers) cautiousness we are seeing some areas where people are willing to increase spending.”

There is a shift in how businesses and consumers are expressing their priorities, but that doesn’t mean you should be reactive, in fact I would argue that being proactive now will benefit your ROI in the long haul.

3. Community Building is Now a Priority

Moving forward, brands will have to focus on fostering their own community to own the communication distribution network.

Building a community is about connecting and sharing experiences, I’ve outlined this previously specifically in social networks, which still applies to other platform as well.

The fact is that the adoption of new communication platform (ie. email, radio) has led to a new wave of user experience in which the context (ie. direct mail, website) and the message (ie. ads, PR) must stay relevant.

If the community is trusted by the members, they will extend the trust through word-of-mouth that could mean more opportunities for brands to increase buying frequency using content or conversation marketing tactics.

Keep in mind that you should get involved in the right channel and passively direct customers to your community.  Effective engagement can also lead to permission-based marketing. According to a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by ExactTarget, “One-half of consumers said unsolicited messages were unacceptable even from companies they did business with regularly. That was up from about one-quarter in 2008.”  When your audience allows you to contact them, you essentially have a direct line to access a targeted customer base.

Ideas for action: For low barrier to entry options, look into building a community using one of these: Facebook fan page, Twitter account, Google group, LinkedIn group, Yahoo groups; or create your own social network (with blog, discussion forums etc.), Ning, KickApps, ThePort, SharePoint, Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, Posterous, Moveable Type, SocialText, SixApart, and Pringo just to name a few.

If you’re tech or internet savvy, you can use a combination of them but I suggest to focus on becoming versed in 1-2 first then expand to others.  Personally, I’m using a combination of a WordPress blog (you’re reading it now) and Twitter (@designdamage).

You can also use video sharing sites like Youtube and Vimeo to help funnel traffic to your community. Another import tip is to leverage RSS feeds to push your message from one-to-many networks.

It’s easy for someone to discover if there’s any participation in your community or not so if you’re going to have a community, you need to be there for your audience.

Dedicate a set amount of time to regularly check the activities in your community, answer questions, drive conversations and connect with members. People have short attention span especially on the internet, so make sure you work on your message (goes to number 1 above) and keep your audience interested.

The goal is to mobilize brand advocates to drive word-of-mouth for greater engagement.

Myths to consider: We’ll just hire an expert and let them do the work like how we outsource web design and SEO.

Although we’re at the age of outsource-anything today and get it done tomorrow, it’s hardly a sustainable long-term strategy especially when it’s about your brand’s core value and mission.

Too often we forget that people are at the center of any holistic effort to improve business performance and accountability.

Outsource to gurus may get things done, but you need to take the time and effort to work with them not to mention they’re hard to find, afford and keep.  I’ve clean up some mess for clients before where the outsourced expert created more problems than what they were hired to solve.

This is why so many brands fail to update their websites regularly or refresh their SEO campaigns.  Take the time to educate yourself some of the trends will benefit you in the long run, or get your team involve and split the workload across multiple heads.

The takeaway: The evolving marketing and media ecosystem is putting pressure on brands to innovate and evolve, or risk becoming extinct.

These trends will be here to stay and is essential for brands to be successful moving forward.

Have you made the transition yet to accommodate these trends?  What are you doing to make the necessary changes to your brand strategy?

I will be reviewing the trends in digital marketing, specifically social business branding next, stay tuned.

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5 Keys to Incorporate Social Media in Your Business

by Eric Tsai

Last week BusinessWeek published its 100 Best Global Brands 2009 and to no surprise, financial brands were largely untrusted which dragged down all brands across the board with them.

Moving forward, brands are rethinking how they can win back the trust focusing on the psychological aspect of marketing and advertising in an attempt to rebuild its relationship with customers.

You can see from the gradual shift in magazine ads and TV commercials using regular everyday people to lead advertising campaigns instead of celebrities with messages such as the “we’re here for you in this economy” (Hyundai guarantee programs, Subway’s $5 foot long, Gieco’s money saving tips), or the “we stand by our product and services” (GM’s may the best car win, Carl’s Jr.’s value comparison with McDonald’s Big Mac) that centers around authenticity.

Serious Trust Issues

What’s interesting is that with more marketers embracing social media, the actual adoption bottleneck are brands themselves.

I’m not speaking about the Fortune 500s but mainly the small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs).

Why is this important?  Because small businesses represent 99% of all employer firms and employ nearly half of all private sector employees, small businesses span all aspects of our economy.

Digital marketing is no longer a fad and has a solid track record of proven success even in this economy but what brands must realize is that building trust takes time and innovation. 

It’s nice to see marketers are quickly to embrace social media such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, creating their own online community focusing on customer acquisition and retention.

I’m a big believer that social media is in the process of reinventing PR, marketing and advertising by integrating some of these processes into one multi-functional, all encompassing vehicle to engage consumers.

But this is not the answer to earn back the trust, in fact as I’ve mentioned before, these are simply tools and tactics that has evolved due to the shift in consumer behavior and technology innovation.

Companies should re-evaluate their brand strategy to focus on ROI and profits by doing something tangible that align with their core mission while demonstrating ethics and transparency.

Social media is like the hot new gadget that you just bought but haven’t quite figured out what all the buttons can do and the hidden features beneath it.

To some brands, they’re uncomfortable with having conversation with their customers, while others simply refuse to hear the negative comments from the community. 

To marketers, some are starting to figure out how to integrate it with their existing offering, while others are grasping the idea to demonstrate ROI to their clients.

One thing is for certain, social media can help brands in accelerating its reputation (good and bad) and the real question is how to best leverage it to improve an organization as a whole.

Social Media and Business Intelligence

It’s no longer difficult to collection data on customers, data such as conversion rate, click-through rate (CTR) and eyeballs (page views) are nothing new.  The real challenge is to identify useful data to help drive business success.

Analytical data are only as good as developing a strategy and execute against it not to mention taking into account broader factors such as advertising ROI, media weights, distribution, in-store activities, promotions and even closely examining competitors’ brands.

It takes an enormous amount of effort to aggregate meaningful data to build a case for cause and effect correlations between buying and not buying.

Web 2.0 and social media practices is actually a narrow focus in evaluating ROI unless your business operates primarily on the internet.

Social media marketing can certainly build influence and trust, but they should be part of a business intelligence initiative.

Businesses should consider integrating social media tactics with CRM (customer relationship management) tools in a collaborative effort to improve business processes visibility while helping customers in the process of buying.

This kind of business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, processes and social ROI, will invite the new generation of social customers (particularly Gen Y, 18-27) into the conversation (that they will own anyway).

Integrating social media into traditional channels of engagement requires risk and change management, but that’s exactly what innovation is all about – taking calculated risks, implement unconventional approach to create a trusted and transparent business environment to drive exceptional customer experience.

The goal is to streamline business processes to give the customer a voice, bounce ideas within the organization, leverage crowdsourcing to cultivate an authentic community.

Done right, this can ease the transition for organizations (new and old) into the growing social media-centric business environment that will continue to test the boundaries of trust.

And trust is what drives pricing power, profit margin and customer retention.

It is what your community thinks and shares with one another. Growing trust will be more important than growing the customer base.

transitioning

5 Keys to Incorporate Social Media

1. Transition into hybrid business model by integrating social media with existing marketing strategy that aligns to business initiatives both online and offline

Drive print/radio/TV traffic to your social network that can spark conversation with your team, or leverage hyperlocal blogs/media for regional advertising/promotional campaign to drive traffic to retail locations.

2. Identify an internal social media administrator candidate to spearhead social media strategy that can examine the processes for failures at the moments of truth

Preferably someone that truly cares about your brand that gives real feedback, not someone from an agency or an consultant that just get paid by the hour to care.

3. Provide analytical capabilities to capture customer insight and purchase processes with CRM tools to enhance visibility into key business processes performance

Cross reference social media statistics/dialogues/behaviors with CRM telesales or retail sales data to find correlation in campaign effectiveness, tie it back to ROI and resource allocation.

4. Leverage crowdsourcing to drive product and service innovation by providing a platform for ongoing engagement, evaluate customer retention

Combine email campaign, direct mail campaign and events to encourage call-to-action feedback with incentives to reward participants, identify the fans and new sources of expertise within the community for word-of-mouth marketing.

5. Pinpoint fact-based data related to more areas of the business decisions and take action to increase the success of change initiatives, create pilot programs, let the customer take control of the purchasing experience

Say one of your product sells really well during a specific time with a specific demographics, figure out why and where it’s coming from; conduct a survey to abstract relevant data on buying pattern and the source of sales reference to improve the purchase experience.

Organizations looking to transition into the social business model will need to think outside the box, get out of the comfort zone and adjust current models to find the right balance of people, process, and technology to fully realize the benefits of this emerging medium.

Are you transitioning your business into social media? 

Are you experiencing success or having issue?

When to Adopt Social Media for Your Business?

by Eric Tsai

What happens when hype is no longer hype but a real trend? Can you afford to miss benefiting from social technologies?

These are questions I get about using social media as part of the brand strategy conversations. This is when I introduce the theory of Technology Adoption Lifecycle (aka Rogers’ bell curve) to illustrate product adoption to better understand how new ideas and technologies spread especially in today’s digital culture.

roger's-bell

Fundamentally Innovators seek new ways of doing complex tasks and are willing to take the risk hoping to gain competitive advantage over time.

The Early Adopters want speed and cost savings to drive other innovations that’s mostly perceived advantage.

I see the rest of the adopter groups (early majority, late majority and laggards) as Mass Market. This group relies heavily on the concept of social proof and wants proven process from credible source that demonstrates significant cost savings over the existing way of doing things.

Now let’s apply this concept to social media.

Adopting at the Right Time

The idea of adopting new technology is to improve productivity and fuel growth, not to chase the hype or follow the trend for the sake of doing it.

You need to ask yourself this: How much risk are you willing to take investing (time, resources, money) in social media? Does your organization have the resources to execute the adoption of this new platform?

Regardless of how mature social media is, it has to fit within your brand strategy.

Don’t get me wrong, the timing of adoption is important and it could bring unexpected opportunities, but not if you’re unable to optimize the value from it.

You need to have the right adoption strategy at the precise time that gives you the longest lifetime value at an acceptable level of risk.

You can see some examples of mergers and acquisitions by companies attempting to harness innovation in the adoption lifecycle. Recently eBay sold Skype for $1.9 billion and acknowledged “that it had overpaid for Skype by about $1 billion — the purchase price was $2.6 billion but the Times has reported the total cost reached $3.1 billion after bonus payouts to founders.

Being a happy Skype user myself, I know the value of Skype today but eBay’s timing of the acquisition was simply off not to mention it didn’t fit with their business model.

A better approach would be to find something that aligns with their line of business in auction listings, classifies and ecommerce. EBay does own paypal, which is a great buy because it actually enhances their online auction business and helps to extend their brand to reach more customers. Looking from the hind side, a company like Craigslist (they do own 25% of it) would probably make more sense to go after.

One factor to keep in mind is sustainability of social technologies. This can be seen by the rapid adoption of the earliest social technology: email.

As a technology spreads widely, the economy of scale expands but its value will start to shrink.

Email is supposed to improve our communication and productivity but as we’re at the end of adoption lifecycle spam has exploded, “now accounts for 90.4% of all e-mail,” costing us more time, resource and money to manage email.

When a technology starts to get commoditized, it’s time to innovate.

This is why companies like Google is re-inventing the email landscape with Gmail going heads on against Microsoft’s Exchange email.

For social media one could argue that we’re still in the Early Majority section of the Mass Market and we’ve yet to see the explosion from the Late Majority section.

Regardless, the adoption of social media will continue to grow according to Forrester Research. I like their consumer social technology profiling tool that allows you to check the profile of your customers.

Take away: Adopt social media for your brand when you’re ready, even just to experiment, you still need time and resources. Focus on aligning your brand strategy to help you achieve your business goals. If you need social media strategy, you can start with this.

Are you an Innovator or an Early Adopter?