Archive for social media strategy

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.


facebook marketing : the new network dilemma

Posted in Bill James, facebook, facebook marketing, social media, Uncategorized, we engage with tags , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2011 by monozygote43

How do you build a new network in facebook (FB), when without fans (‘likes’), the customer doesn’t receive your message or content?  How do you break free from this circular causal dilemma?

Every day, excellent brands offer outstanding value through FB, yet many fail to extend their network in FB.  Some slug away, clueless as to the reasons for their failure, while they post, link, follow, upload and micro blog (yes, whether it’s 140 or 420 characters, it’s still a micro blog) for months and even years in FB without any significant growth of their fan base or their related sales.

When a business page is created in FB, the means to broadcast, consume and share content is created. Nothing more.

To exercise those means, other networks in FB have to consent to receive content from your network.

‘Liking’ a business page and becoming a fan is the equivalent of giving consent to a brand to publish content into your network.  When a business page is ‘liked’, consent is given to receive the brand’s message in a personal newsfeed (and from February 2011, the newsfeed of another business page).  Business pages have achieved equality with personal profiles in network politics.

In order to obtain this consent, the brand must demonstrate relevance to the customer.  In order to demonstrate relevance, contact between the brand and the customer has to occur.

How can this contact occur when the customer has yet to give consent to the brand and the new network has no fans in FB?

Provided the brand promise offers value, in social media marketing, 80% of success is overcoming this causal dilemma.  The other 20% is a lot of things including content, consistency, sanity and karma.

So, the brand doesn’t have a social network in the beginning.  It doesn’t have much of anything.  It certainly doesn’t have a significant audience or any form of consensual engagement with potential customers. Following others and consuming their content isn’t the answer.

The noise made by a brand posting to its own FB page is like the noise of a bee buzzing inside a glass jar with the lid firmly affixed.  That’s no noise at all if you are standing outside of the jar.

There are literally millions of small brand curators buzzing away inside their little glass jars inside FB.  FB is not one social media network.  It is millions of interlinked network private networks coexisting within one software application and URL.  Some much smaller and much less interlinked than others.

If a bee buzzes inside a sealed glass jar and there is no one inside the jar to hear it, does it make a sound?  A web 2.0 application for an old existentialist riddle.

As far as social media networks are concerned, the answer is “no”.

So the new network dilemma in FB is:

“In order to build a new network in FB, a brand has to demonstrate its relevance and gain consent to publish to other networks in FB.  However, the new network can’t demonstrate its relevance because it has no connections and is unable to publish to other networks. So, how does the brand build its new network in FB?

To wit, when you first realized you needed 25 ‘likes’ to get a unique URL in FB, what did you do?  Did you post to your page wall where no one was listening in pious hope that if you posted, the network would come?  Did you pick up the phone and start sending emails to ask people you already knew through your existing networks and channels to clock up those first 25 ‘likes’?  Maybe you joined LinkedIn and the Social Media Marketing Group where you could find a list of 7,000 people who will ‘follow back’ your page in FB.  Maybe you ‘arm twisted’ all your personal ‘friends’ in FB?

Whether you have zero ‘likes’ or 5,000 ‘likes’, new ‘fans’ are  best reached outside of your fledgling network in FB and very likely outside of FB itself.  The only edge offered to you by your initial tiny following in FB is the marginal possibility that your few fans will ‘share’ your posts and content within their networks.  Don’t hold your breath waiting for this viral miracle.  There is a powerful FB etiquette that rails against spamming friends with shared posts from business pages and creating viral content is a hit and miss affair at best.  Buy a lottery ticket instead.

Suffice to say, hoping the ‘share’ button gets used is not a viable FB network growth strategy.  Larger brands will grow organically as they are searched for and found by existing customers in FB.  This type of organic growth doesn’t amount to a proactive marketing strategy either.

Sure, you can try FB or LinkedIn advertising too.  Use ‘pay per click’ and target your customer using your page ‘Insights’ data or target using LinkedIn profile data.  When you are done, calculate the cost of acquiring a new ‘like’ and ask yourself what it would have cost if you had reached out through your existing channels first. Email, direct mail, direct marketing via telephony and point of sale (POS) to name a few.

This causal dilemma has numerous implication for the intending FB network builder.  Chief among them is that if you are building a network in a particular channel for a brand, you had better get the message out using a dynamic combination of alternative social media applications and traditional, web 1.0 and web 2.0 based communication channels. Relatively few are listening to you inside your new FB glass jar (even if you are the greatest orator since Pericles).

When TV appeared in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the owners of fledgling TV networks had little content, few channels and small audiences.  Where did they go to market their TV content offerings?  Radio, newspapers and cinema. Competing and preceding content distribution channels.  You’ve seen advertisements by Living Social on TV.  So it has been through numerous revolutions from one communication medium to its successors or usurpers.

This unsophisticated dilemma is a condition belonging to the transition phase from traditional media and web 1.0 to web 2.0 applications like FB.

As social media applications mature and develop, more brands will move into a competitive phase where large scale inflows of customers into social media have subsided and the task of growing a network becomes a matter of fighting with competitor brands for relevance and engagement in the eyes of their customers.

So, give some thought to shouting through loud halers, using email, surface mail, leaflets, radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, conferences, trade shows, FB & LI advertising, networking events, web sites, blogs, groups, point of sale, marketing alliances and other social media applications to bring attention to your new FB network.

Definitely employ giveaways, coupons and sweepstakes to drive traffic from other networks and channels into FB.  Just remember, if you just post, they won’t come.

social media: what should you outsource?

Posted in outsource social media with tags , , , , on August 19, 2010 by monozygote43

To answer the question, let’s lay out an imaginary continuum from brand ‘goals’ to brand ‘tasks’.  The path from defining a goal to delivering the goal must pass through these stages :

Brand Goal

Move the restaurant brand share from 30% of overall market to 70% of market in 12 months.

Brand Strategy

While the above goal is a total business goal, the strategy for social media might be “to contribute 20% of the overall growth goal from marketing, promotional and customer service initiatives within social media”.

Brand Tactics

The Brand tactics for the social media strategy might be to lift the utilization of individual restaurants in the chain by raising the average occupancy of seating (‘covers’ for those in the trade) to 89% from its current low of 52% by offering a combination of promotions and discounts.  This could break into three elements:

  1. A campaign to target competitor customers (especially disaffected ones), in specific social applications including Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Friendfeed with promotional offers and discounts (33% conversion goal);
  2. A campaign to create brand advocates by offering a combination of exemplary customer service and promotional offers to fans and followers (33% conversion goal);
  3. A game based loyalty campaign where frequent check ins through Foursquare , Gowalla and Facebook (yes, Facebook is location capable now too) are rewarded with promotional offers and discount (33% conversion goal).

These tactics would rely on a pre-calculated pricing for lowly utilized capacity in specific restaurants which takes into account improving the overhead absorption.  In other words, the tactics would rely on a type of variable pricing model that would change the value of promotional and discount offers as capacity was filled (much like the airline model of pricing seats).  Promotions and discounts would be very attractive at the outset of the campaign and would tail off toward the end.

Brand Tasks

Clearly, the work needs to be planned and laid out in a critical path with allocated resources and clear accountability and responsibility.  Hence the need to break down the tactics into tasks.  Tasks for just one of these tactics could be numerous:

Let’s imagine just some of the tasks required to apply tactic number one (1):

  • Monitor in real time all competitor accounts in specified applications and all generally accessible customer comments where there is dissatisfaction with service or quality;
  • Develop pricing/promotional model indexed to available capacity and existing bookings system;
  • Develop Standard Response Procedures defining the manner and etiquette of approach to customers;
  • Respond to competitor customers with a promotional offer within 15 minutes of them expressing dissatisfaction on-line.

So, what should you outsource?

If you are thinking “Oh God, I haven’t defined this strategic continuum, or distilled the tasks supporting the goal” and “what exactly are my people doing out there…and how does it support the goal?”, you may need first to outsource the process of distilling tasks from goals in order to arrive at a project plan for social media.

You don’t need to give up ownership of Brand Goals and Strategy to seek assistance with the process of distilling action plans, metrics. structure and accountability for engagement.  It makes sense to drive through this with external help and a sounding board.  Additionally, provided you are enabled to manage your external providers effectively, social media engagment can be more effective and less costly than internal engagment.

Distilling the goal to task continuum will help you to see the big picture of what has to be done and over what timeframe.

If you don’t have brand goals and strategies, don’t outsource anything.  You need to have the goals and strategies worked out before you engage…whether under your own steam or by means of an outsourced provider.

You will notice that at each level of the continuum, there is a measurable goal.  This is essential for getting at the plan and actual ROI of the strategy.  The reason most campaigns fail is that goals don’t connect to tasks and the metrics required to plan and measure ROI aren’t incorporated into the various levels of the Goal to Task continuum.  If you don’t understand ROI or the application of Conversion rates in comparing action and reaction, you may also want to outsource the entire metrics and reporting aspect.

If you are satisfied pouring water into sand by having no particular measurable goals in mind, don’t outsource. It will simply result in the blind leading the blind.

If you are thinking “the reason I haven’t done this preparation is that I am too busy trying to remain in control of the actual minute to minute engagement in Social Media, you may need to outsource the implementation.  Don’t forget, you are committing to responding and approaching people in real time all day long.  Sure you can hire and train people, bring in the necessary technical platforms for monitoring and response, make space available in the office and define all those procedures protocols and pricing models and guidelines.  But how long will that take?  Do you have that time to spare?  Shouldn’t you be focused on the big picture? What utilization will all those assets achieve if applied only in your organization? How productive will internal implementation be?

Could an outsourced specialist working with higher utilization of those same assets, deliver the same outcome more effectively, and with less expense than you could internally?  Could a tight analysis of essential tasks result in identifying activities which are adding no value to the goal?

In conclusion, assessing the outsourcing option requires you to evaluate the comparative cost and effectiveness of internal versus third party provision.  That assessment often requires consideration of the timelines involved in putting rubber on the road.  It also requires you to assess some of the risks associated with outsourcing.  One thing is for certain.  You need to know the goals, strategy, tactics and tasks of social media engagement before you decide what to do and who should do it.