Archive for engagement

Why brands should ignore ROI in online and social media for now.

Posted in Bill James, roi, social media, social media engagement, social media marketing, Social Media ROI, social media strategy, we engage with tags , , , , , , , on April 23, 2011 by monozygote43

Management seems confused about why they need to deal with social media.  Most of those with responsibility for profit performance are missing the point when it comes to new media and ignoring the history of past media revolutions.  Consumer markets are going through a transition phase regarding their media preferences.

Right now, ROI isn’t necessarily about new revenue and new sales.  It’s more likely to be measured as the market share a company doesn’t lose.

All other things held constant, the rise of online and social media hasn’t created new markets or consumers (with the exception of those buying and selling stuff needed to engage in social media).  Social media is a new communication preference for existing customers in existing markets to engage, assess and choose the brands with whom they will transact business in future.

Future being the key word.

One facebook account may take over 4 hours a week from the available time of a mother of 2 children.  That’s 4 hours a week less one mother has to spend in other communication channels in future.  Less time in stores, magazines, newspapers, TV and radio.  The same goes for the mobile platform and the sms/mms channel.  Time is a finite resource.

So, not only are we moving into new online and social media, we are moving out of pre-existing communication channels.

Spare us all the engagement and authenticity romanticism.  Spare us all the finger wagging and pious recrimination over brands being unable to demonstrate concrete ROI from social media.  It’s all either pseudo ethical or pseudo academic drivel.

The reason brands must market and engage in online and social media is that the customers they already serve are shifting their preferences as to how they will engage with all brands in future.  If a brand’s existing customers arrive in online and social media and find the brand they have been dealing with is absent, alternative brands with comparable offerings will take future market share.  End of story.  That’s why every media revolution is an opportunity for new brand start ups in mature consumer goods and services markets.

This always starts off sounding like a distant cry until marketing programs through traditional communication channels start showing reduced ROI.  By then, the damage is already being done.

It must have sounded like a distant cry in the early 1950’s when TV appeared on the horizon with few channels, limited broadcasting schedules, little content and small audiences.  I still remember watching the ‘test pattern’ as a kid while waiting for the screen to come to life in the early 1960’s. By 1979 there were 300 million TV set in operation.  By 2001 there were an estimated 1.75 billion TV sets worldwide.  The most notable observation we can make here is that the move into online and social media is much faster than was the revolution into TV.

TV broadcasting licenses and advertising must have seemed expensive and unsupportable investments for some time in comparison to radio, newsprint and cinema.  But look at how market share changed hands after the transition phase to TV got going, and look at the monumental consumer brands that were forged from advertising in the early years of television.  The curse is on the laggard.

That’s the catch with social media ROI.  During this transition phase between traditional, web 1.0 and web 2.0 communication channels, ROI in social media isn’t necessarily measured in new sales revenues.  It’s significantly measured in avoiding the loss of existing market share as existing customers shift their communication preferences to new media.

For new brands, it’s an opportunity to take share from established brands lagging behind in the transition.

If you decide to stay largely out of online and social media until clear evidence of ROI is on the table, you are making a mistake.  You’ll pay for it with lost market share.

The next phase of this revolution will be the competitive phase where the fight for market share will be between those who have entered social and online media.  Then we will see a more relevant and conventional assessment of ROI from within new media channels.

Until then, as the song says, “don’t count your money while you’re sitting at the table”…especially when other players are moving to new tables.


social media ‘skunkworks’: under resourcing engagement.

Posted in outsource social media with tags , , , , on September 15, 2010 by monozygote43

In an ideal world, no company should rush to outsource control over their activity in social media.  The social media revolution is just beginning and this new communication medium is arguably the most powerful public communication medium of all time.

There are simply too many questions with strategic implications not to want to keep accountability and responsibility for social media strategy and tactics within the company community.

Having said that, many companies will struggle to fund the cost (including overheads and the costs of employment) for a permanent internal social media or community manager.  Some will have no option but to buy in strategic facilitation or insight from external consultants, agencies or contractors.

After the strategic compass is set, companies will also need to set up a presence across multiple applications and generate content for the insatiable appetite of hungry followers and fans.  Again, many companies will need to buy in the expertise of designers and programmers who can customize and integrate social media applications and web sites.

But what about engagement itself?  The whole point of entering social media is to execute strategy…monitor, analyze and respond to customer needs and execute the marketing plan.  The end goal is to engage with consistent standards and create trust and brand advocacy in the online community…right?

Even if an internal full time professional is within financial reach, there is a difference between bringing a savvy social media or community manager on board to develop strategy, coordinate internal communities and oversee the standards of engagement…and having the time left over to conduct the ongoing work of engagement at an acceptable standard.

One person may not be able to carry that load effectively.

Many companies seem to be short changing the engagement process after having spent lavishly on planning and set up.  It’s like building a mansion and then cutting corners on maintenance and gardening.  It’s a bad look from the street.

Many companies are basically creating social media departments as a ‘one person band’ with some remote part time workers conducting the work of engagement.  The inevitable cost of that decision is the absence of acceptable engagement standards…the reduction of engagement scope, or the failure to reach acceptable standards in dealing with the online community.

Under resourcing online engagement is the ‘skunkworks’ decision.  Hire someone and make them responsible, but don’t ask with too much veracity whether they can pull off the engagement objectives with the resources they have available.  Put them somewhere where their pain won’t be too audible.  It’s the social media strategy you have when you don’t have a social media strategy.

Some current company practices for monitoring and response online would fall below standard in an Indian telephone call center, let alone in the new public spaces of the social media.  Consumers in social media are rewarding companies that respond in real time.  There are plenty of Fortune 500 companies with 24 hours or even days between postings or tweets.  Many will only respond to those community members posting on their branded social media accounts or at their web sites.  That’s the ‘castle’ engagement mentality which is a hangover from the days before web 2.0 where the digital ether contained only web sites and static ‘bill boards’ or ‘grave stones’.

Don’t believe me?  Pick a fortune 500 company and search negative comments mentioning that company’s brands and products (whether directed to the company’s accounts or not) in Twitter and Facebook.  Try Hewlett Packard or Western Digital Corporation.  Go to their brand accounts in Twitter and cross check to how many of those consumers with problems or issues were ever approached by the brand.  Some large companies aren’t even responding to negative comments in the comments sections and discussion forums of their own web sites and FB walls.  The reason…many don’t have the available time to monitor and respond at an acceptable standard and they have missed the point about engagement as the real focus of social media.

Outsourced providers like ‘We Engage’ are focused solely on performing the work of engagement to a defined standard.  An engagement specialist will achieve far better utilization of human resource and better overhead absorption for the cost of management and expensive technical platforms, than a company that has low or fluctuating levels of engagement work and high fixed costs and overheads.

This is true of smaller organizations with low or intermittent engagement requirements and larger organizations with large peaks and troughs in engagement work.  Outsourced providers like Bill James at  ‘We Engage’ have all the pieces in one line up including creative, marketing, public relations, set up and strategy focused engagement.  Outsourcing can lift engagement standards and increase the scope of engagement.  That’s a tangible ROI.  The ‘We Engage’ model is to reward who have long term engagement contracts with affordable set up and easy access to creative, marketing, technical and public relations advice and support at prices that are way below traditional agency or consultant costs.  That’s another major cost saving against the internal engagement model.

Social Media: Leave the Telephony Model at the Front Door Please.

Posted in social media with tags , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by monozygote43

Social media is becoming a jungle of automated response.  You follow someone on Twitter, you get an automated reply and a URL tacked on to the message.  You message them human to human and they don’t reply, because they aren’t there.  They follow you, but it’s just them following an automated follow list.  You watch some tweep’s output for ten minutes and see nothing but an automated news and blog feed while they try to dominate their ‘niche’ with hijacked content.  You post on a corporate Facebook wall and get an automated offer or welcome plus directions to their ‘billboard’ (web-site).

It’s hilarious watching one auto-tweep (peep=people, tweep =twitter people) follow, then ‘unfollow’ the other while they pound each other mercilessly with messages that neither ‘robot’ will read or acknowledge.  The geometric progression of insincerity, lost time and lost capacity is horrific.  It’s the definition of futility in a social medium.

“H-I   T-H-A-N-K-S   F-O-R   F-O-L-L-O-W-I-N-G:  N-O-W   G-O   S-T-A-R-E   A-T   M-Y   B-I-L-L-B-O-A-R-D”.

By automating your brand presence in social media, you join the robots.  It’s a bad look and a bad feel.  Robots are soulless. Robots are puppets. Robots don’t have original thoughts.  Why have robots represent you in a medium made unique only by its social element?

OK. I know why you do it.  You do it to lift the velocity of your engagement to real time and cut costs.  You think an immediate automated response is better than a delayed human response.  Is it a ‘toss up’ between being in a conversation with someone who takes two hours to express a thought in reply, and walking into a party where everyone else sends humanoid facsimiles to represent themselves and ‘socialize’. 

I’d rather get a human response 5 minutes later or even 2 hours later than find the brand or person I am engaging is a lifeless bucket of bolts. Human response will be THE differentiating service feature in years to come in social media.

The message for companies engaging ‘human to human’ is: lift your human monitoring and response velocities NOW.  That’s the smart battleground if you want to stay ahead of the game.

Old Spice Man will be a tired memory in the dustbin of historical marketing gimmickry, when the focus on monitoring and response velocity is still white hot.

If you sell some type of soap powder, then go ahead and automate marketing, sales, distribution and customer service.  Set your robots loose.  I’m not against billboards and vending machines in the street or at the bar.  Drop boxes for return of used bottles and cans are fine.  I just don’t like any of them walking around my party pretending to be human.  I invited your mind.  I am looking for you…not your crummy robot.

Decide whether you are selling soap powder and then make a commitment to be essentially automated or essentially human.  If you choose humanity, be selective about who you seek to engage.  Look at your market and figure out where they party.  Keep it human.  Less conversations that lead nowhere mean more human resource for better response times. Plan for high standards of velocity in response.  After I say “hi” to someone in a conversation, I’m not going to wait 30 minutes for their mouth to start moving…not if someone else’s mouth is moving faster.

Velocity like Relevance, is one of several critical (and eternal) standards in social and it is going to be very competitive to see who can respond fastest with a human touch.

Get ready to spend more on social media.  Much more.  While human response in social is scalable, the time and effort  required to set it up is expensive.  As a brand achieves an effective and reliable human presence in social, consumers develop a contingent trust.  Also, the brand develops a wonderful asset in its online brand advocates.  People tell other people the answer.  Consumers market to consumers.  Customers defend human brands.  It’s horizontal engagement and it requires trust.  Nobody trusts robots.  Every time a consumer interacts with another consumer to pass valuable information about the brand, it improves the productivity of engagement by the brand.  This is the open secret about social that will kill the brands that opt to automate engagement.  But it will cost money to get that human presence up and running.  Per Clayton Christensen and his books, social media is truly a disruptive technology, unless you treat it like telephony.

Telephony was doomed from the start as a commercial human to human medium.  Strangely, its privacy represents its weakness as a commercial medium.  It has zero scalability.  Extra calls mean extra conversations and extra salaries and wages.  Nobody hears the conversations in telephony, so nobody learns from them.  Nobody was there to witness the joy or despair.  No horizontal engagement.

We’ve been here and done that automation thing with telephony.  Telephony was automated with AVR and passed about from one agent and one country to another (all robots reading from scripts).  We didn’t like it.  Remember?  It persisted only because we had no options.  Social media is different.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to automate your brand presence in social media to lift the velocity of response and cut the cost of engagement.  Social media is scalable and will pay you back for keeping it human.  Automate, and humans will always choose humans if one is available.  Watch the people migrate from telephony to social media.  Watch them migrate from telephony models to human models inside social media.  Leave the telephony model at the front door please.