What Should You Consider When Integrating Social Media

by Eric Tsai

As we progress into 2010, the rapid growth of social media has allowed more access to information, consumers, communities, and experiences.  This new medium has enabled a new way to communicate and share, from B2C to B2B marketers are all trying to figure out an edge.  Many brands start to focus on the hybrid approach which I believe will be the next phase of digital and web marketing.  The question is what role will it play in the marketing arsenal?

Here are 3 steps to consider when integrating social media to your marketing practices:

Brand Strategy Reassessment

Understand the changing habits of your customers should be the focus of your brand.  Use the 80/20 rule to segment your customers and identify the difference between your old customers and new customers.  The recession has permanently altered the way people think of value and the concept of trust.

According to Decitica’s new study, Marketing to the Post-Recession Consumers,”

  1. The effects of the Great Recession on consumer behavior are so profound that many of the assumptions underpinning consumer segmentation are no longer valid; and
  2. Marketing strategies that do not fully recognize the diversity of consumers’ recession experiences won’t have the desired potency in the post-recession world.

Business owners should reassess existing brand strategy to gauge the shift in their industry ecosystem.  Although the above report focuses on B2C, for B2B marketers, you can expect similar shift in behavior from a high level perspective.

The key is identifying the new trends in how your customers think, feel and act.  Your customers may be part of the fastest growing mobile user groups or have adopted new ways to find and share information before they buy.  Every person and their sphere of influence were affected by this recession, reevaluate your existing customer segmentation should be a priority.  It’s time to make adjustments as to how you view your customers.

Smart companies will always shift their brand strategy to focus on customer retention by maintaining a high level of value perception.  Your customers expect you to keep your brand promise and that’s just the beginning, only those that are over delivering will earn the trust over time.

Integrated Marketing and ROI

Social media’s growth is undeniable, it seems like every company has a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account not to mention all the early adopter consumers.  For example, according to a report from BabyCenter, “The number of moms who use social media regularly (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, BabyCenter Community) has significantly increased from 11% to 63% since 2006; a change of 46%. 44% use social media for word-of-mouth recommendations on brands and products and 73% feel they find trustworthy information about products and services through online communities focused on their specific interests such as parenting.

So does this mean if you sell to moms, you must get into all the social networks?  Should social media marketing be your priority?  Not so fast.

According to a study from MomConnection, The Parenting Group’s nationally representative research panel of 5,000 moms, “the role of social networks in moms’ lives is still largely for entertainment and personal communication; it’s not a channel where most moms are receptive to gathering product information. Only 24% of respondents have used Facebook for product information and buying advice, while 5% have used Myspace for product info, and 3% have used Twitter.

Social networks is still growing and evolving because it’s mass media, it’s crowdsourcing and it’s here to stay. However, instead of being hype it’s moving towards ubiquity and part of the everyday mix that works alongside email and search marketing.  People will continue to search for answers online and offline regardless of B2B or B2C.  Every chance you get to optimize your brand’s search ranking is an opportunity to leave a bread crumb for your prospects.

Moving forward, the challenges will be to monitor, measure and manage a fully integrated campaign due to the amount of resources and time it takes to pull together the overall picture. This is precisely the reason why you don’t need to be on all the social networks or even be on it all the time.  Some companies use social media as a platform for effective one on one engagement while others utilize it as a PR tool.

Whatever the role social media plays in your organization, you have to really understand how social media is driving your business.  If you’re doing social media, do you know how many sales you got out of your social media app?  Are you measuring the actual incremental sales from your e-commerce store?  Or is social media primarily a driver for your brand value?

Both print and digital advertising costs have come down dramatically, this presents a new opportunity for a dynamic approach to hybrid marketing.  You can simultaneously capture your audience via print and web advertising but the key is to identify which channel they come from to rapidly and accurately aggregate customer and prospect data.  Perhaps most of your new customers reside on the internet while your existing customers still favors the traditional channel.  Regardless of how you integrate your marketing campaign, remember to benchmark them so you can gauge the ROI to improve your sale funnel and lead generation capabilities.

If you goal is to build a customer engagement program, consider incorporating it with existing and new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools that can be customized for each individual consumer.  This helps to improve the ROI with more measurable data against the deliverable.

Here is “2010 Digital Marketing Outlook,” an excellent report from the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA).

Two Thousand and Ten Digital Marketing Outlook

Business Alignment

Businesses will emerge from the recession looking to further strengthen engagement and interaction with their customers.  But what does “engagement” really mean?  How much does it cost? And what will it take to engage a customer? If you have already done the first two steps by reassessing your brand strategy and integrate social media into your marketing campaigns, your next focus should be to develop a social media policy to protect your company and make incremental changes to improve every aspect of your business.

I’m hardly surprise when I read the new consumer poll by CMO Council and InfoPrint, that “consumers today are deluged and overloaded with a plethora of unwanted direct marketing and promotional messages that are blasted out via email, or mass-produced and mailed in vast quantities, ending up choking mail boxes and filling recycling bins. In most cases, recipients ignore, or have become immune, to standardized commercial overtures. And with the advent of the Internet, consumers are seeking product information and affirmation from trusted sources and referral networks online.”

That’s the path social media is on right now.

Instead of email and mass-produced mailers, it’s spam tweets and uninvited LinkedIn notifications.  Marketers are forgetting that consumers and prospects are real people like you and me.  At the end of the day when we go to the grocery store or eat out at a restaurant we want to be treated like a person not a prey.  It’s shocking to me that “staying relevant, valued and connected to customers has become the number one challenge for marketers today” according to the report.

The biggest adjustment brands must realize is that in social media you’re no longer in control of the conversation instead you will turn over the brand experience to the community and let them define it.  If you want people’s opinion they’ll give it to you the way they want how they want it.  Social media will NOT fix a bad product or negative customer experience.  What it will do is to force you to reveal your brand’s true persona, allow additional means for your customer to reach you, and capture relevant analytical data for product and service improvements.

If you read my previous post “The 12 Principles of Brand Strategy,” you’ll know that principle number 2 states that your brand is your business model.  Well, if your customer’s behavior is changing, shouldn’t you adjust your business too?

Checkout these challenges to social marketing effectiveness, and you’ll understand why it’s not so simple to integrate social media into your existing marketing practice.  Is it worth to invest in obtaining a large number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers?  How do you convert them into sales?

There needs to be a transition and I believe hybrid marketing on a single integrated platform will be the next trend to emerge in an attempt to leveling the playing field across all social networks.

I hope you find the information helpful, share your thoughts what do you think? Have you integrated social media into your marketing strategy?

3 Social Media Marketing Tips for Business to Consumer Brands

by Eric Tsai

I’ve been busy with end of the year work and now I’m back on track.  For those of you that follow the designdamage blog since the beginning, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the support and hope I can continue to provide value for your time.

Although no new entries were posted for the past weeks, I continue to follow industry trends and send out useful content via my Twitter account.  You can follow me via @designdamage

Now back to work.

After reviewing some important data and content from 2009, I’ve come to these conclusions that in 2010 social media will follow the footsteps of SEO and other forms of digital advertising: on the path to commoditization. As I’ve mentioned in the post “When to Adopt Social Media for Your Business?” that social media is still in the early adopters stage, but it’s heading towards early majority phase as the concept of connecting and sharing information online are gradually accepted.

According to eMarketer’s report supported by research from Cone More than one-half of new media users (53%) believe brands should have a presence in new media, interacting with consumers as needed or by request only, while a further 36% demand a new media presence with regular interaction.” These type of users wants experience, dialogue and immediacy so if you want in on social media, you must provide a combination of those attributes.

So what can you do that’s different in 2010 that you haven’t try in 2009?  Here are some ideas to get you started:

Create New Brands & Co-Branding

The shift in consumer behavior will continue towards “value” even for luxury brands so private label brands and sub-brands will stand to benefit moving forward as we emerge out of the recession slowly.

For companies with strong core brand, creating a sub-brand or a new one that targets new customer base has been a popular strategy.

For businesses looking for cost-effective and fast-to-market ideas you can try partnering with other companies for a co-branding effort that creates exposure in other markets while extends your brand story.

Develop a Fascinating Story For Your Brand

The word-of-mouth marketing will continue to grow acting as trust agents providing top of mind reference for consumers.  Brands will shift advertising strategy to focus more on storytelling rather than push advertising.

This means developing a story that demonstrate the personality of the brand in campaigns such as supporting non-profit initiatives (social responsibility, cause marketing), co-branding to create unique content, or collect and promote stories about your customers.

The idea is to implement customer engagement strategies for the company to build a strong human connection that helps build brand loyalty.  Incorporating free resources to help educate your audience is another way to develop a story.

Another great way to build a rewards program around your social network fans by rewarding their participation. Another great way to ramp up your fans is to offer them something they can’t get elsewhere

Collect Valuable Customer Data

It’s time to review your customer data collection process especially if you’re going to use social media with traditional media.

Information such as where they are, what they spend money on, what are the key influences, and what content or applications they download can provide you some advantage for tailoring future product/service experiences to the individual.  Just knowing their demographic or what they buy will not be enough, leverage social media’s crowdsourcing feature and establish

The take away: It’s indicative from this past holiday shopping data that consumers simply wants more for less.  This is where smart companies find ways to cut costs so they can pass on the savings to the consumers.

It’s about keeping the customers coming back, allowing word-of-mouth to work in favor of value for money incentives, and maintaining a healthy relationship with your customers. Why would customers come back or past on your name to others when you didn’t provide value beyond what they paid for?

If you’re a small business, think of ways you can leverage technology instead of people and be creative with your marketing dollar.

Discounts, promotions, rewards programs are all vehicles to build a relationship with your customers.  You may see smaller profits and longer time to get the ROI (return on investment), but that’s all part of investing in your customer for the long haul.

If you want customers to be loyal to your brand, be prepare to deliver a consistent level of value and experience that they can come to expect in 2010.

The goal is to build and maintain customer trust, a key to gaining access to more profitable relationships with customers and competitive differentiation.

We’ll be looking at B2B ideas next to help with strategy planning in 2010.

The 12 Principles of Brand Strategy

by Eric Tsai

In a situation where you’re selling to multiple personalities, it’s best to first connect everyone on a common ground then articulate clearly what’s in it for each of them.

The goal is to stimulate an engaging conversation that allows us to change perception, diagnose expectations and bring clarity to the dialogue.

That’s the essence of developing a brand strategy – the foundation of your communication that builds authentic relationships between you and your audience.

It is by defining your brand strategy that allows you to utilize marketing, advertising, public relations and social media to consistently and accurately reinforce your character.

Without defining the core strategy, all channels of communication can often become a hit and miss expense.

Here’s 12 brand strategy principles I believe to be the key to achieve business success.

1. Define your brand

It starts with your authenticity, the core purpose, vision, mission, position, values and character.  Focus on what you do best and then communicated your inimitable strengths through consistency.

There are many examples of companies acquiring other brands but only to sell them off later because they don’t fit within the brand and its architecture.

Microsoft acquired Razorfish in 2007 when it bought aQuantive, a digital marketing services company, for about US $6 billion then sold it a few years later for $530 million.

Simply put, Razorfish isn’t a good fit with Microsoft’s brand strategy.

2.  Your brand is your business model

Supports and challenge your business model to maximize the potential within your brand. Think of personal brands like Oprah, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart and Richard Branson.

These individuals practically built their business right on top of their personal brand; everything they offer is an extension of their brand promise.

3. Consistency, consistency, consistency

Consistency in your message is the key to differentiate.

Own your position on every reference point for everything that you do. President Obama focuses on one message only during his campaign, CHANGE. BMW has always been known as the “ultimate driving machine.

4. Start from the Inside out

Everyone in your company can tell you what they see, think and feel about your brand.  That’s the story you should bring to the customers as well, drive impact beyond just the walls of marketing.

That’s example how Zappos empowers employees to strengthen consumer perception on its brand.

5. Connect on the emotional level.

A brand is not a name, logo, website, ad campaigns or PR; those are only the tools not the brand.  A brand is a desirable idea manifested in products, services, people, places and experiences.

Starbucks created a third space experience that’s desirable and exclusive so people would want to stay and pay for the overpriced coffee.

Sell people something that satisfies not only their physical needs but their emotional needs and their need to identify themselves to your brand.

6. Empower brand champions

Award those that love your brand to help drive the message, facility activities so they can be part of the process.

If your brand advocate doesn’t tell you what you should or should not be doing, it’s time to evaluate your brand promise.

Go and talk to someone that works at the Apple retail store or an iPhone owner and you’ll see just how passionate they are about Apple.  It’s a lifestyle and a culture.

7. Stay relevant and flexible

A well managed brand is always making adjustments.  Branding is a process, not a race, not an event so expect to constantly tweak your message and refresh your image.

Successful brands don’t cling to the old ways just because they worked in the past; instead, they try to re-invent themselves by being flexible which frees them to be more savvy and creative.

Here is an example: when the economy tanked this year automaker Hyundai came out with an assurance program that lets you return your car if you lose your job with no further financial obligation and no damage to your credit.

The results?

As of end of February, only two buyers have taken advantage of this program but it has boosted their sales by 14% year-over-year in Q1, only one of the two companies increased revenue while companies such as Honda experienced a drop of more than 30%.

Follow by that campaign in July, as gas prices expected to push higher during peak summer travel months, Hyundai came out with another program that guarantees a year’s worth of gas at $1.49 per gallon on most models.

8. Align tactics with strategy

Convey the brand message on the most appropriate media platform with specific campaign objectives.

Because consumers are bombarded by commercial messages everyday, they’re also actively blocking out the great majority of them.

Invest your branding efforts on the right platform that communicates to the right channels.

Television may be expensive but it has a broader reach, wider demographics and can produce instant impact.  On the other hand, social media may seem cheap but it takes time, resources and may not give you the desire outcome.

9. Measure the effectiveness

Focus on the ROI (return on investment) is the key to measure the effectiveness of your strategies.

Often times it is how well your organization can be inspired to execute the strategies. It could also be reflected in brand valuation or how your customers react to your product and price adjustments.

Ultimately it should resonate with sales and that means profitability.  But don’t just focus increasing sales when you could be getting a profit boost by reducing overheads and expenses as well.

Give yourself options to test different marketing tactics, make sure they fit your brand authenticity and aligns with your strategy.

10. Cultivate your community

Community is a powerful and effective platform on which to engage customers and create loyalty towards the brand.

In an active community, members feel a need to connect with each other in the context of the brand’s consumption.

We all want to be an insider of something, it excites us to tell people which community we’re part of and what knowledge we posses.

In many ways it’s our ego that prides us to be part of a sports team or a professional group.

Guess what car would members of the Porsche club consider first when it’s time to purchase their next vehicle?

Brand communities allow companies to collaborate with customers in all phases of value creation via crowdsourcing such as product design, pricing strategy, availability, and even how to sell.

11. Keep your enemies closer

Even if you have the most innovative, highly desirable product, you can expect new competitors with a superior value proposition to enter your market down the road.

The market is always big enough for new players to improve what you deliver better, faster, cheaper. Call it hypercompetition or innovation economics, competition could be good for you believe it or not.

It challenges you brand to elevate the strategy and deliver more value.

Just look at how the Big Three (automobile manufacturers General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) got crushed in the past decade by competitions from Germany and Japanese.

Not only do their competitors make a better product, they’re more efficient doing it and command a higher brand loyalty.

In 2008, Toyota overtook GM while Honda passed Chrysler in US sales.

12. Practice brand strategy thinking

IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown calls design thinking “a process for creating new choices.

Essentially it means to not just settle for the choices currently available but to think outside the box without being limited.

This concept actually applies to your brand strategy creation process that I called brand strategy thinking.

It’s always easier to execute tactics than coming up with a strategy because it implies the possibility of failure.

It’s much faster to emulate what worked for your competitor than to come up with something original and creative.

But the truth is, that’s not you and it violates the first principle of brand strategy.  Brand strategy thinking is about creating the right experience that involve all the stakeholders to foster a better strategy.

Leverage the ecosystem that includes your employees, partners and customers to help you articulate your brand strategy so they sync together.

The take away: Having a brand strategy will bring clarity and meaning to your brand so you can focus on making, creating, and selling things that people actually care about.

If you could do that, your brand would be unique and memorable on its way to become an esteemed brand.

Are there any you disagree with?

Let me know if I’m missing anything.

Harness That Social Media Bottom Line

by Eric Tsai

This week an interesting question came up during a discussion I had with business owners wanting to learn more about integrating social media into their existing marketing strategy. As expected, the second question hit on the topic of social media ROI (return on investment), specifically it was “Can social media help my bottom line?” I quickly went into a discussion about measuring the result which is sales, and how companies must understand customer profitability in order to make smarter decisions that produce higher profits.

Of course we can use the “old way” of analyzing impact such as clicks, eye balls or traffic, but those are limited not to mention unproven at this point.  We’re still at the “testing before the test gets developed” stage before a solid method of measuring social media ROI is meaningful.  However, it’s about time that we all try to find meaningful metrics that truly justifies the investment.

Accordingly to the research report “2009 Marketing Industry Trends” from Equation Research, the top 4 ways to track social media efforts has little to do with directly tracking sales.  The survey suggested that “measurement is understandably dispersed. Yet there is an acceptance that both hard and soft measures need to come to bear in order to assess success.”  Now these guys know something and it’s a start to drive and refine testing.

smmeasure

Social media takes knowledge, time, energy, training and it gets frustrating when results don’t reflect the effort put into it.  In a recent article “Social Fresh, good friends, and the definitive Social Media ROI presentation”, Olivier Blanchard generously laid out a tell-all truth about social media ROI proof of concept methodology.  If you speak business (not just marketing), I encourage you to checkout his blog and the slide presentation.

Looking Ahead

Organizations should remain focus on the most profitably customers and align their brand strategy around them while targeting potential customers with similar values.  By recognizing the different variables that influence customers to buy or not to buy, companies can make better informed decisions to nurture high-profit customers.

Whether you’re a start-up or a Fortune 500 company, there is a ceiling for your economy of scale so consider building your marketing strategy around the products and services to those life-time value customers.  Then abstracting soft and hard measures in analyzing social media ROI should become more effective and meaningful.

Getting started with social media is easy, engagement becomes accessible and shouldn’t you be authentic already anyway?

Social media is about having the “right” conversation but ultimately they have to mean something.  From buzz to leads, word-of-mouth to rewards program, everything translates to revenue.   Yes, it’s about money.  There is this perception that people are connected on social network because of alternative motives and sooner or later you’ll be spammed.  Well, what do you expect? Do you really think that Google wants to give you free email? Or that Facebook truly care about helping you to stay connected with your friends?

There is really only 3 ways to make money on the internet: sell subscriptions, sell software, or sell ads.  When it comes down to it, it’s simply friends with benefits.

Develop your own social media ROI starts with knowing your customers.  In an attempt to influence your audience through direct contact, repeated communication and word-of-mouth campaigns, don’t forget about business performance. Find a combination of variables to measure, but whatever you decided to do, it’s important to let the balance sheet do the talking at the end.