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

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?