How To Keep Customers Coming Back: 6 Trends You Should Know

by Eric Tsai


Living in southern California I love going to restaurants, cafes and retails stores to experience what companies are doing to attract customers.

From merchandising to customer service, I’m gradually seeing three popular marketing trends that everyone is doing to spread their brand voice.

First, almost every company is in on the social media bandwagon specifically leveraging Facebook and Twitter to engage with their fans and broadcast their offerings.

Second, companies are finding ways to collect your contact information to build their email list by offering discounts, coupons or customer loyalty programs.

And third, businesses are aware of their reputation online on places such as Yelp, Consumer Reports, OpenTable, BizRateAmazon and CNET.

Some of using these information as a way to improve products and identify service gaps.

All three marketing tactics are proven to be somewhat cost-effective in terms of managing their reputations online while funneling leads and converting sales.

There is enough free information out there that business owners and marketing managers can find to start immediately so I’m not surprise that everyone is doing it.

In fact, I always check out the Twitter or Facebook page of where I’ve visited to see what level of engagement and following they have as well as to identify how the platform was utilized.

The result I found is that companies fall into two categories of social media marketing buckets.

First are the highly engaged profiles with regular updates and a large following that creates instant social proof.  Second are the uninspiring profiles with the lack of updates and little to no interactions.

This is the same observations made by Jeremiah Owyang, who recently posted on his blog that, “many brands are jumping on the social media bandwagon, without giving proper thought about the impacts to their marketing effort.  In particular, many brands are putting ’social chicklets’ on their homepage to “Follow us on Twitter” or “Friend us on Facebook” without considering the ramifications.”

This is the problem with low barrier to entry tools such as Twitter and Facebook that many brands are using without a real deliberate strategy.

I encourage those of you that are serious about your digital marketing efforts to use Jeremiah’s matrix to help make your decisions.

Keep in mind, you must understand not just the rules of the game but also how it applies to your specific industry, your customers and your organization.

There is no doubt that the internet has made it easier to find what you’re looking for while connecting you with like-mined individuals from networking to referrals, relevant information is available in abundance.

The questions is where do people get those information and how will these content providers be perceived?

First you need to realize that all of the answers have changed.

Same Questions, Different Answer

Although the internet has forever changed our expectations in media consumption and in communication, one thing remains constant for businesses today: the question of how do we attract more customers to us?

How do we get customers to spread our brand? How do we get customers to buy more and buy often?

As a marketer today you must realize that we’ve been asking those same questions for decades and in order to answer them now you must first understand the following 6 fundamental social change in customer perception and behavior:

1. Choice overload: Customers are bombarded with choices; the market is saturated with selection.

And people get frustrated when they have to make a decision from tens and thousands of product categories, brands and price points.

Everything looks the same, everyone sounded alike and it doesn’t help when people have shorter attention span as we become more distracted everyday.

2. Conflicting information: We’re in a hyper-connected marketplace where people are using social media to discuss new products, do their own research, cross referencing information in the blogosphere and everything goes from frustration to confusion.

There is simply too much information and how can an average consumer know who’s right and who’s wrong?

3. Customers know marketing: Over time, customers understood the game of marketing regardless of B2C or B2B.

Described by Tom Asacker: We’re no longer passive consumers but active discerners participating in how products are marketed at us.

This is why there is an increasing trend in banner blindness and average web users will give you only 8 seconds to decide if they’re going to stay or not.

4. Lack of trust in the marketplace: There is a sense of distrust in the marketplace. People simply don’t trust individuals let alone corporations.

We’re conditioned to identify the tactics such as sense of urgency (buy now and save!), risk reversal (money back guaranteed!), or scarcity thinking (for a limited time!).

Watch any TV infomercials and you’ll find those tactics in most of them.

Simply put, these tactics are losing their effectiveness and even if they worked that led to engagement opportunities, you must meet the customer expectations otherwise it’s hard to fool them twice.

5. People define your brand: Brand messages only sets the initiate expectations of your target audience and ultimately people make meaning out of things themselves.

When push comes to shove, people go with what feels right not your product features or service benefits.

It’s how you make them feel, not what you tell them how they should feel. If they can relate to your message, it only means they’ll give you a few more seconds to keep going down your path to purchase.

Your brand is defined by how you make people feel about the decisions they’ve made not just your messages.

6. The shift towards frugality: This is the simplest concept to grasp as the recession has permanently changed the way consumers behave and perceive value.

It goes beyond pricing strategy and product promotions.

Whether you’re a retailer, a B2B service provider or a marketer, this means extracting deeper customer insights to build meaningful, differentiated messages that communicates relevancy.

This is best described by a recent article “The New Consumer Frugality” in Strategy+Business, by Booz & Company, in which the authors defined six frugal consumer segments.

After a thorough understanding of the above trends, you should also be aware of the fact that brands are becoming publishers creating opportunities that’s leveling the playing field.

And in order to be successful moving forward, you either have great content strategy or you have unique customer experience (in product or service innovation).

Content Marketing Creates Relevancy

Recently Joe Pulizzi of Junta42.com, a content strategy evangelist published a post after speaking at the Online Marketing Summit 2010 on how companies focus solely on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and social media that produce without a real content strategy.

Specifically he noted that “any online marketing, whether social media, email marketing, search engine optimization, landing page conversion, etc., does not work without first having content strategy.”

As a brand strategist that focuses on marketing integration, I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve heard business owners and marketing executives realize the need to change their strategy, but it’s often due to the need to “keep up” with the current trend.  “We must get into social media because everyone’s doing it,” or “We need to engage our customers on Facebook and Twitter.”

But what does engagement mean to your organization? How will that benefit your bottom line or increase sales?

It’s easy to setup a WordPress blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook fan page or a LinkedIn Group.

The key is what will you be pushing out to generate meaningful conversations?

How will you provide value that sparks engagement?

Why would people spread your idea or pass on your name?

What’s the call-to-action when people get to your website, your blog, or your social media pages?

Product Innovation Creates Loyalty

The other way to win in the marketplace is to deliver awesome products or services that build brand loyalty via innovation.

An easy example would be what Apple is doing with their continuous innovation in products from iPod to iPhone to last weekend’s release of iPad.

Amazon’s endless pursue to have everything available, fast and easy via their online store regardless what you’re looking for.

Zappo’s unmatched customer service in finding and delivering not just the shoes you ordered but what you may also like.

For restaurants, it’s the food you cater, the service you provide, the price tag you put on as the total experience that says “we’re different.”

Customers will automatically go on to Yelp and OpenTable to give you reviews and recommendations. Your customer will decide what quality is and what value means to them.

I love what James Surowiecki wrote in an excellent piece in The New Yorker: “the more information people have, the tighter the relationship between quality and price: if you can deliver a product or service that is qualitatively better, you can charge top dollar. But if you can’t deliver the quality you can’t get the price.”

You’re going to struggle if you don’t deliver brand experience that’s worth talking about.

Everyone have access to the same tools and resources, if you can deliver a mix bag of value using content marketing strategy on your innovative products, you win.

The take away: Brands must adapt to the new realities that everyone is a content producer and we are no longer competing on eyeballs and clicks only, but value that builds long-lasting relationships in a trust-driven era.

It is essential to establish clear, integrated marketing strategies for various media channels in order to deliver personalized messages that properly aligned with your business objectives.

If you don’t know your desired outcome, why are you implementing tactics where you can’t see what success means to you?

If you don’t have exceptional products perhaps its time you should rethink your product strategy.

Are you re ready to get actionable to integrate your marketing efforts?

The Secret to Social Media Communication

by Eric Tsai

Recently a report was released by US market research firm Pear Analytics with a statement on how 40% of Twitter messages are “pointless babble.” As you can see from the comments followed, the statement rubbed some people the wrong.

Although the analysis was based from a personal value judgment on individual’s communication, it somewhat puts Twitter usage in perspective. At the end of the day nobody can speak words of wisdom every time they open their mouth (not even Warrant Buffet), but the real value of Twitter is its openness as a real-time platform for engagement opportunities.

Perhaps the report is subjective but the truth is Twitter has allowed users to utilize the platform however they like propelling this incredible movement towards the personalization of media. Simultaneous to this growing personalization of media is a stronger notion of connectivity in social media. Not just Twitter but all social media technologies must be seen as revolutionary not simply in their design, but in their redesign by people because there is really no rules or limits on how you want to use it including pushing out pointless babble.

Let’s look at some of the ways people are using the social networks that’s been created.  According to a survey last month from Direct Marketing Association (DMA), “Nearly 60% of marketing and management professionals in a recent survey think social networking can have a significant influence on their company’s brand awareness… more than 45% of respondents believe social networking can be critical to capturing customer insights.”
dma-headmix-social-networking-biggest-impact-may-2009

Evidently marketers are all trying to capitalize on social media to capture customer insights.

Social media allows you to hear what’s been said enabling you to efficiently abstract more relevant information in developing a targeted marketing strategy.  The catch is to draw value to the audience in a meaningful and personal way because the potential for a conversion increases drastically when you target a new audience that is already interested in what you have to say.

Understand the Communication Process: Linear to Interactive to Transactional

Whenever I discuss with clients on how to develop a brand strategy I always ensure there is an understanding of the communication process. Traditional media provides mainly a linear model of communication that’s simply a one-way process where the sender broadcasts a message to a receiver and thus communication and understanding occurs.  Think of it as reading newspaper or watching TV, you’re only receiving information.

A more sophisticated interactive communication model was developed via mediums such as talk radio or online discussion forum that allows feedback to transpose over the linear communication model.  As a result it builds meaning through feedback but with noises that interferes with the communication.  Noise is anything that interferes with the communication of the message with the encoding and decoding process.

And finally there is the transactional communication model that requires the engagement to understand and incorporate individual’s field of experience and frame of reference into the conversation.  This is ultimately how to communicate efficiently and effectively.  Your audience continues to be engaged because you’ve taken encoding, decoding, receiving and sending feedback all into consideration when you communicate.

Social networks encourage a highly transactional model of communication in which people build shared meaning that assumes reciprocity. The real difference is that you’re not just telling others what you want them to understand, which is the content aspect of our messages, but you’re also conveying your understanding of the relationship you have with them.  The conversation becomes more attractive when you can relate to your audience.

Why Brands are Eager to Engage

Unfortunately many brands failed to understand the concept of real transactional communication because they’ve mainly utilize the linear communication channel to “push” their marketing and message.  The problem is that it doesn’t allow for efficient feedback.  Furthermore what’s been broadcast influence how each and every consumer responds back, and that in turns has bearing on the next marketing message from the brand.

Traditional channels discourage open communication that social media is built on which is why today brands are eager to engage with their audience more than ever with this new platform. It’s like a real-time focus group that can give you practical feedback to improve your product or services (One way to look at it).

It’s indicative that a shift from ambient media into conversational media is underway.  You must realize that people’s response has impact on your future communication with them, this is especially important in conversational media so a positive transactional exchange would be optimal.

As social media continues to gain momentum, it’s not simply about building a large following but to cultivate a community in the sphere of trust.  Your brand’s actions and perception will directly impact your reputation and brand image. Executed properly, social engagement can serves as a tangible incentive that’s more effective than other marketing tactics in earning trust.

In fact, this is especially crucial during a recession when trust is at all time low and consumers are extremely selective. Today more people are using the internet because the increasingly social web offers more freedom of choice, allows for sharing and collaboration, enables customization of content, delivers cost-effective entertainment, all with on-demand speed.

Transactional communication is the preferred communication method.

However, one key concept brands must recognize is that trust is simply permission to compete, not as a differentiator.  In order to become an esteemed brand, you must demonstrate that you understand and care about the consumer as well as having a valuable offering.

The take away:  Social media = conversation = transactional communication = meaningful engagement = trust = allow to compete = chance to win lifetime customer.

What do you think?  What’s your communication strategy?  Love to hear from you in the comments.

Why Social Network Engagement is About Conversations

by Eric Tsai

With the recent acquisition of Zappos by Amazon, many companies are now taking a serious look at social innovation especially after the latest Engagement report by Wetpain and the Fluent report by Razorfish on social influence marketing. Basically these reports prove that brands with high social media activity increased revenues while the less active ones aren’t as profitable.

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The statistics not only adds fuel to the social media hype but helps to convert the naysayers to believers.

Even Twitter is leveling the playing field by publishing its own Twitter 101” guide, which contains ideas, tips and case studies intended for businesses to make the best of the service.

The beginner’s guide to Twitter is intended to lower the learning curve but could evolve into the ultimate Twitter knowledge base.

This is actually a good thing because it allows users to focus more on the strategic usage of Twitter rather than the tactical side.

It also forces the “experts” to elevate their game to the next proof of concept level on those “how to use social media” content.

Recently I’ve notice that there has been a lot of coverage on social media from the mainstream authorities from Wall Street Journal to Reuters, another tell that the knowledge is becoming ubiquitous.

While the nature of using social media has low barriers to entry, some brands are still struggling in defining their social media strategy.

Having a presence doesn’t necessary mean a good thing, the fundamental of networking online is essentially the same as offline – engage in meaningful conversations with your audience.

In my opinion, that’s the core element of any networking beyond the high-level fundamentals that we all agree: be authentic, credible, and identifiable.  If not you can read the post “Why You Should Always Be True to Your Brand.”

Let’s look at the change in social media to better understand how it should be used in conversation marketing.

World-of-Mouth Consumption to Production

In the social marketing landscape, word-of-mouth (WOM) starts playing a factor immediately effecting restaurant reputations to box office numbers.

You no longer need to wait to meet someone in person to discuss a movie you watched, a product you’ve purchased, or an event you’ve attended to get feedback.

Simple use your internet enabled mobile device to start aggregating content into your social networks letting everyone know your views.

For live events, people are broadcasting themselves via Twitter or Ustream for real-time content production not to mention the interaction as others tweet, retweet, comment, like, or post reactions.

The traditional “push” communications techniques are becoming less effective while still costly.

We’re transitioning into a media environment meant to be about conversations where the media and its message, instead of articulating the endpoints of meaning, represent the staring point for the production of meaning in social media.

Digital media has relinquished the control to the increasingly social crowd as both the conductor and engineer.

Viewing a TV commercial, reading a blog article or listening to a radio ad are all forms of production as the viewer or listener interprets and makes sense of the message.  Following the consumption of the content is a reaction which could potentially spiral into further conversations and that conversation can get into another network and so on and so forth.

If you’re actively using social media, you have a higher chance of being heard, connected and engaged because you’re part of the viral WOM network.

This is why brands care more than ever about you, what you say, and how you say it.  They are actively listening and participating in order to humanize the relationship through interactions.  Or simply put, managing their reputations.

Influence the influencers

Whether you’re a blogger, a marketer, or an entrepreneur your opinion counts and can be contagious.

It’s now possible and easy to circulate your message via the new digital channels like Facebook (fan page), Linkedin (groups), Twitter (tweets) or Youtube (videos).

The key is to facilitate effective word-of-mouth campaign through these communities spreading horizontally rather than vertically described in Clay Shriky’s book “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.”

Each time you’re able to influence experts, opinion leaders, or people with authority you’ll instantaneously gain a little more credibility and access to their fan base.

Then the collective minds with shared visions will continue to spread your message forming the viral wave pushing all the way to the long-tail shores.

If you want to attract “relevant audience” to your branded social network, you must do more than just spam visitors with self-promoting ads.

In fact, you need to offer compelling value that keeps your audience engaged as well as perpetuating the interaction.

The more interactivity a social network platform allows their users to have, the more engaged users will tend to be which often leads to a greater chance of influencing the network effectively.

This is why blogs are still amongst the most influential social media because they encourage bloggers to interact with their audience in a simple and easy fashion.

A recent NY Times article points out how Procter & Gamble focuses on getting honest opinions from bloggers rather than paying for positive press is the perfect example of targeting the right influencer.

However, P&G knew they had to leverage bloggers strategically because bloggers are being viewed by their fans as one of the trusted source, thus the pay-for-favorable-endorsement doesn’t work as well as the pay-for-your-opinion.

In addition, according to a recent article from eMarkters, majority of the social media marketers “rated social media marketing effective at influencing brand reputation, increasing awareness and improving search rankings and site traffic.”

smbp

As you can see, social media is largely used as a mean to manage reputation and generating awareness.

Notice that the top 3 most effective tactics used are also the most interactive platform thus generating the most influence: user reviews or ratings, bloggers or online journalist relations, and forums or discussion groups.

Conversation and Behavioral Targeting

Great product and services can strike a stimulating discussion and ultimately leads to consumer buy-in.

The goal is to have a strategy that will allow you into the ongoing conversation or to create the opportunity to start one.

Social conversation is not about UVP (unique value proposition) or the USP (unique selling propositions), instead it’s an opportunity to discover and learn about the networking ecosystem (you, your audience, their audience etc.) in order to earn trust through caring and helping.

UVP and USP are important but should come later during the engagement cycle.

Think of the social media conversation as WOM on steroids.

Once you have an understanding of your ecosystem you can then create targeted advertising strategies within social networking.

The whole idea of collecting data is to learn and anticipate what your audience might be interested in based on their behaviors.

This enables advertisers to develop the proper call-to-action that could lead to conversions via conversation marketing rather than accumulation marketing (focus on quantity instead of quality of the traffic).

As someone who started a career as a designer (graphic/web design and product design) and now providing brand strategies, I see the core elements in social media similar to that of communication design and user experience.

The difference is that a brand must communicate like a person optimizing the experience to initiate interaction.

The intention should be to focus on adding value to the conversation, prolonging the dialogue and elevating its relevance to the participants.

Not only will people come to expect more of the same great value you’ve provided but they may become your brand evangelist spreading your messages, advocating your brand.

You can have the greatest product or the best selling book, if you don’t care about others the chance are, they won’t care about you to take actions.

Even if someone is influenced or bought the idea it doesn’t mean he or she will take action.

So position yourself as a prolific contributor will definitely help but don’t loose your personality that’s uniquely you, and if you don’t have anything to say, simply listen first.

Don’t become those annoying people who always talk about themselves and don’t listen to others. Another example what NOT to do in social networking is to just repeatedly blast out press releases or spam-like promotions ignoring the two-way communication dynamics.

socialgravity

Remember, anything that you put out there in the community can come back to you in a heartbeat.

Monitoring the conversation is the foundation of engagement.

If you’re going to play ball, be ready to follow through and make it fresh and keep it real.

Love to hear your tips, success stories, and pitfalls to avoid in the comments about  your social network engagement experience, how are you engaging your audience?

3 Keys to Improve Your Brand in Social Marketing

by Eric Tsai

Many businesses continue to operate under the assumption that a website, a basic product offering or great brochure will bring profits and revenue to their bottom line. Those days are over.  Brands are now crossing over into the hybrid marketing era that incorporates some form of social media.

You already know the importance of product, price, placement and promotion, but none of that matters without people. People is what build relationship and creates opportunities.  And that’s exactly what social media has added: the fifth “P” of marketing.

Whether your brand provides information products, consumer goods or services, one thing still remains the same: the most effective marketing is still word-of-mouth (WOM).

WOM generates buzz and it gets passed along over and over and over again in a highly influential way. It’s how friends tell friends about the things that excite them or what business owners tell other business owners on what works for their business.

According to the latest Nielsen Global Consumer Survey: 90% of consumers said they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70% trusted consumer opinions posted online.
trust_in_advertising

It’s indicative that all forms of advertising retains certain level of pervasiveness to them. In the case of WOM, it contributes to instant social proof and is particularly effective in social media.

Consider social media the new viral marketing tactic and will typically involve the following steps in launching a campaign:

An effective message: How you position your brand and the message you’re trying to get across.  Knowing your audience (the influencers, decision makers) is the key to build a winning message.  It’s all about getting the right message to the right people while being authentically efficient.  Communication is the heart of your customer acquisition and engagement strategies, the key is fostering a high quality relationship that aims to build long-term value: the foundation of a trusted connection.

A targeted channel: Although many brands are still utilizing traditional media outlets, ideally you want to target the most cost-effective channel that’s appropriate for your brand.  Social network advertising channel is rapidly becoming the favor platform for brands because online advertising is cheaper compared to other mediums such as TV and print and is far more targeted.  With that said, face-to-face interaction is still the top channel for people engagement.  Nothing will ever replace the old fashioned hand shake, a lunch or even that discovery phone call.

A viral network: Social media has created a new instantaneous viral network, Facebook has more than 250 million users and Twitter has 20 million growing more than 1000% year over year.  There are other social networks you can tap in such as LinkedIn or even the blogsphere.  The point is your customers are already on those networks connected and connecting with other like-minded individuals, sharing and commenting in groups with detail profiles and pictures.  Consider social network that’s a directory with the domino effect.

Now that you’ve got your killer message and a channel to distribute it, how do you get the viral network to be, well, viral?

The answer is simple: you need to be trusted.

Relationships And Conversations

In order to be trusted, you need to build influence on your audiences’ terms and be truly authentic in sharing and informing.  I’ve discussed being authentic before so I won’t get into the detail again, but recently I’ve found that there are some low level engagement that are both ineffective and deceiving.

In a recent article “Who cares about your news”, Valeria Maltoni clearly illustrated the problem with inadequate engagement and I encourage you to read her post.  In fact, I too received similar email from Gary Vaynerchuk’s publicist on July 9:

Hey, this is xxx from xxx. I’m working with Gary Vaynerchuk to help promote his new book: Crush It: Why Now Is the Time To Cash In on Your Passion.  Because the book deals heavily with social media strategy and branding, which is obviously something this blog talks about as well, we thought it might be something you’d be interested in checking out…

Ironically on the same day I received another email from a personal branding expert which I will not disclose here asking me to boost his rating on Amazon:

…my book, xxx, is being sabotaged on Amazon.com. Basically, 5 people are giving it bad ratings, just to be negative and then at the end of each review where it says “Was this review helpful to you?”, they (and their friends) are selecting “yes,” which pushes up those negative ratings to the top and hurts the brand of the book.

As a favor to me, could you please go to Amazon link here and press “no” under the bad reviews and “yes” under the good reviews…

Honestly, I wasn’t offended but rather disappointed with the meaningless connection attempts by both media “celebrities.” Not only do they have a large following, they’re also role models to many. It’s obvious that both emails wanted me to do something but why would I care about someone that doesn’t care about me?  Have they read my blog or know what their readers are about? Is it all about selling books?

You simply have to apply those questions to your audience to start thinking about the meaning in your engagement.  Often time it will lead to questioning the value of your product and the impact of your offering.

People can be impressed easily but that doesn’t mean they’ll act on it to buy your product or do what you’ve asked.  You’re audience can be your best word-of-mouth marketing campaign but that comes from within the quality of the engagement.

As a marketer myself I understand the “selling” tactics but it only works best if you bring value to the connection and develop a consistent long-term relationship with your audience.

Why waste the time to reach out if you aren’t ready to have a meaningful conversation?

Owning The Social Distribution Network

Social media is about having a presence then connecting and sharing meaningful information with your audience for the long haul.  I’ve covered the pillar strategies in “7 Keys to Creating Social Media Strategy for Your Brand” as a high-level overview, so now let’s look the desired outcome of branding in social media.

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Conceptually, you are the center of the network universe and social media is the tool that enables you to build a community around a product or service in forging your brand’s marketing distribution channel. Once you’ve earn the trust, it spreads like WOM marketing expanding to all directions reaching your potential prospects.

Whether you have a brilliant product or the perfect message, developing your channel takes time and precision while owning it takes relentless focus on your audience’s ongoing needs.

The downside to the network is that it can work against you destroying your reputation just as fast. This means knowing your brand strategy in social marketing will be extremely important to maintain the sphere of trust.

Here are 3 keys to improve your brand while marketing in social media:

1) Move the “free” line
If you want to be part of the decision making process, you need to be considered as a key opinion leader or resource. Supply your audience with free resources such as reports, statistics and guides that can help elevate your perceived expertise.  With the amount of information on the internet today, your audience can find almost anything but if you can quantify the information that leads to a path of knowledge enrichment, you will certainly earn a few brownie points to be considered as the prime candidate. Google does this very well with their how-to videos extending their brand with social learning.

Your customer will compare before they a purchase anyway so why not give them a reason to start liking you because you’ve willing to share the wealth. If the free information you provide is valuable, you’re already a step ahead of your competition not to mention that you’re turning them into your “A” customers by providing all the necessary training and education.

2) Crowdsource for improvements
While the success of your brand’s often comes down to the effectiveness of your message, it pays to ask questions.  Companies like Starbucks, Best Buy and Pizza Hut are all using customer feedback to improve product innovation and service experience. Starbucks even let’s their customers suggest on new product ideas. Social marketing shouldn’t just be about the outbound messages; it’s an ongoing dialogue to better serve your audience.

The customers that give you feedback are often your most loyal customers so why not reward them by fulfilling a few of their suggestions.  Keep in mind that providing what they want should not be the main source of innovation, rather it’s a good starting point.

3) Embrace brand transparency
People appreciate honesty and integrity so all you have to do is stay consistent and admit when you’re wrong.  If you try to twist the truth, you’ll not last long and people won’t forget manipulations and deceptions.

This can be seen by how Major League Baseball players are forgiven about steroid use if they admit their wrongdoing rather than lie about it. The players that got caught were all given a chance to show their remorse, the ones that lied never get to play the game again because they simply can not be trusted.

In addition, when you show progress or improvement as a brand, your customer will empathize with you for the openness and sincerity. Similar to the examples I gave above on the two media celebrities, if they actually took time to get to know me, I may very well assist them with their requests, but now it’s back to square one again.

How are you improving your brand in social media?  What kind of success did you have with your social marketing efforts?  I’d like to know your thoughts.

3 Ways to Capitalize on the Destruction of Traditional Media and Embrace Social Media

by Eric Tsai

If you’re part of the social media movement, you’re witnessing the annihilation of traditional media.

From newspapers to cable TV, everything is converging onto the internet resulting in a more accessible, cost-effective and integrated media.

Let’s look at some statistics courtesy of Sillicon Alley Insider:

Newspaper

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– “Print ad sales fell 30% year-over-year in Q1, led by a 42% year-over-year drop in classified ad sales.

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– “Newspaper classified revenues peaked above $16 billion in 2005, only to plummet to an estimated $5 billion or so in 2009.

Cable TV

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– “A Bernstein survey says 35% of Web video watchers might dump their cable TV provider in favor of online video within 5 years.

Internet

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– “Some 63% of adult Americans had broadband Internet at home in April, up from 55% last May, according to the Pew Internet & American Life project.

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– “By the end of 2008, 20% of U.S. households had unplugged their landline phones and gone exclusively wireless, say surveys by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. That’s a huge increase from early 2005, when only about 7% of U.S. households were wireless-only.

The Bigger Picture

Although the current recession has contributed to the decline of newspaper subscriptions and the increase in people viewing online videos; the truth of the matter is we’re no longer accessing or consuming information the same way.

This translates to a less effective advertising channel for brands and the bulk of the advertising dollars will be spent where consumers are spending their time – the web.

Furthermore, the convergence of technology has weakened the foundation of traditional media authorities especially those that didn’t have an immediate online strategy.

Even those with web1.0 strategy, the rapid expansion into web2.0 has left some without a social media strategy.

One thing is clear – internet will continue to grow as the cost of broadband continues to drop.

This means more people will have faster internet and faster internet takes us a step closer to the real-time web.

What does this mean to you?

It means instant access to data across the web with a massive coordination effort from social media.

Mass Amateurisation of Brands through Social Media

The rise of social media tools such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, and many other social networking sites has accelerated the spread of simplified media technologies, making it easy for anyone to access, participate, and share information.

Social media in particular is leading the way on what web commentator Clay Shirky called “the mass-amateurisation of everything.

It is now possible for individuals to choose from a wide variety of communication arsenals outside of the mainstream commercial system to reach the mass audience.

As a result of this ubiquity of social media, individually created media content that originated on the internet has started to infect mass media.

This not only challenges the traditional media authorities, but it also created dynamic conversations across the globe.

Take the latest Iran incident as an example, Twitter was the fastest medium to report what had happened as it was happening before any other traditional media could get to it.

It enabled people all over the world to rapidly react to this piece of news and participate in support and interact with the people in Iran.

Take social bookmark sites like Digg, and Delicious for example, users are encouraged to “vote” for the top content they want to appear for maximum exposure.

These services aggregates content across the web to determine what content is popular making it easy to filter for individuals.

It’s like real-time TV/radio rating and you can simply choose from a list of categories within your interest.

In addition, there is now an element of choice and coordination to establish a new content authority.

You no longer have limitations on what’s available from newspaper or what’s on TV; you have millions of content to choose from or you can create your own.

This applies to blogs as well because you only have so much time to consume information, reading from one source means not reading from another.

As a result, blogs are taking readers away from authority sites and turning them into loyal subscribers.

If you’re reading this post, either you’re a new reader or a regular subscriber to my RSS or newsletter.

3 Ways to Capitalize on Social Media

In many ways, social media is still at the “technology trigger” aspect of the hype cycle. If you can capitalize on it, you will benefit by capitalizing on the destruction of traditional media.

Here are 3 ways to capitalize on this opportunity:

1. Expose your personality – Social media is a one-to-many interaction medium, it’s the perfect platform to personify your brand and build a fan base.

Demonstrate your expertise is important but showing your personality can be the difference between choosing to engage with you versus others. This will ultimately convert visitors to fans, transform viewers to participants.

Give your audience a reason to engage by revealing your emotions and even political stance will help you to stand out, be a person not a company and have fun.

Remember, it’s impossible to be liked by everyone and you won’t be anyway, the key is to create synergy with those that like you in order to foster trust.

A great example is the CEO of Zappos who updates his every move via Twitter with what he does and how he interacts with his employees, creating a personable, likeable, transparent identity that everyone can relate to.

2. Drive engagement and visibility – One of the disadvantages of traditional media is the limitation of engagement opportunities.

This is different in social media. You can create your own opportunity to be “high touch” with your audience by sending update notifications, creating a poll, asking to join your group, conducting an offline event, or promoting a cause.

Combine engagement with marketing through conversation will reduce resistance to you brand’s message.

As a result, your fans will become your best evangelists. However, there is a fine line between a prolifically active brand and an annoy spammer.

The key is to become a good listener and allow conversations to come to you before reacting swiftly.

If you do it right, you will succeed in coordinating a massive word-of-mouth campaign, a sharing frenzy across all social media platform that increases your brand loyalty.

Get it wrong, you will need to put out the fire with reputation management strategies.

I recommend having different social media accounts to provide a focused-orientated engagement strategy.

Dell is the best example for this as the company has more than 30 Twitter accounts that they use to communicate to very specific audiences.

Ford also got more than 7 Twitter channels to handle customer service and reputation management.

3. Leverage multimedia and mobile platforms – As I’ve mentioned before, all media has converged onto the internet so why not use all of them to maximize the experience.

You can easily create your own podcast now, load it up to iTune or deliver it in mp3 format.

For images, you can use Yahoo’s Flickr, Google’s Picasa, or Twitpic to share it on Twitter.

By far the most powerful multimedia content is the use of videos through YouTube or Viemo.

Although still limited by network and bandwidth, there are a few “live” video streaming social media tool that’s making headways specifically UStream.tv, Blip.tv and Justin.tv.

Not only do people respond different via a variety of media formats enabling a broader reach, there is an increasing demand for location-based interaction as well.

Thanks for iPhone and BlackBerry, mobile web content delivery is now an important consideration of a brand’s social media marketing strategy.

The cost of mobile broadband will continue to drop enabling mobile rich-media content to be produced and distributed anywhere.

The exciting part about mobile content is the ability to target location based users then engages them with relevant content.

Are you capitalizing on the rapid growth of Social Media?

Or do you still believe in traditional media?