Archive for the ‘ social media ’ Category

Setting Benchmarks for Social Media

Recently, I’ve been tasked with defining benchmarks for a number of clients who are interested in utilizing social media, and others that already have a presence but would like guidance on how to find a common ground for their messaging. I’ve become fairly proficient at analyzing communications online, and below I’ll share some of the ideas that have helped me explain to clients the need for a clear message through social media. These are, essentially, step by step instructions on how to approach your brand’s online identity.

Research Effective Social Media Program Drivers

In order to understand how your brand’s social media channels should be used, a “landscape analysis” can determine how competitors engage with consumers online. Such analysis can identify a recurring driver such as loyalty, awareness or customer service, i.e., the metric that your competitors hope to increase using online channels. Perform a simple search for your competitors’ profiles, take a look at what content they post and how often and take a rough measurement of how engaged they are with consumers.

Determine Audience Relationship with Your Brand

As part of any social media rollout plan, it is important to determine congruencies, develop a plan of attack, and define a common message that will be promoted to your key consumers.

Will you provide information based on your industry? Will you offer promotions and giveaways? How involved will you be in consumer conversations of your brand?

You should examine these questions in order to classify who you will be engaging with online. Engagement groups are usually based on consumer brand loyalty and awareness, defined by a hierarchy of:

  • Those who know nothing about your brand
  • Those who are aware of your brand but have not purchased your product/service
  • Those who have purchased your product/service only a few times
  • Those who are repeat customers or enthusiasts
  • Those who are advocates for your brand

Determine Audience Involvement on Social Media

If your brand is already using social media, you may need to first analyze how your communications have developed thus far. For example: if you find that you have been interacting with an older segment of consumers, the cohesive message developed should adopt a more professional, informational tone. If the audience is a younger group, you can design messaging and content that takes advantage of trends and pop culture. Beyond demographics, you should determine how your consumers contribute to online conversation. This can be described in Forrester’s Social “Technographics” Ladder:

Determine a Suitable Tone for Your Brand in One-On-One Communications

For the general audience of social media users, engagement is divided into two silos: fun and information. Users approach social media as a means to converse with brands and seek promotions (fun) or to learn about a topic and seek others’ opinions (information). Research can determine which role your brand’s social media communications should pursue.

Brand “Anthropology”

Once you have your audience defined, the next step is to look within. What is your brand’s identity? What individualizes the brand? If you can answer these questions offline, expanding to social media will be relatively simple. Having the ability to answer these questions creates a presence of credibility and personality for your company, which some the world’s most successful brands utilize. To illustrate this point, here are a few examples from other brands:

  • Apple = Innovation
  • Wal-Mart = Savings
  • Volvo = Safety
  • Nordstrom’s = Personalized Customer Service

I hope this info helps you define you or your clients’ goals on social media! As you’ve probably heard before, social media is a conversation. Listen to your customers, and they’ll tell you what they want to hear.

U.S. Census: How will marketers respond to U.S. Hispanic growth?

The 2010 U.S. Census, a count of all people living in the United States, shows that the Hispanic population now comprises 16 percent of the country’s total. As reported in a story by the NY Times, Hispanics are now responsible for more than half of population growth in the nation over the last decade, increasing 43 percent from the 2000 census.

Surely, as marketing budgets and programs are planned, greater weight will be given to addressing the communication needs of the Hispanic population. Communications professionals specializing in this audience have an opportunity to seize the moment and educate organizations on how to effectively reach Hispanics and dispel misconceptions.

One common misconception is that once bilingual Hispanics master the English language, they become “acculturated” and use English as their primary language. While the majority of U.S. Hispanics do speak English well, Nielsen reports that 61 percent of Hispanics aged 18 and older prefer to speak Spanish in their homes versus only 17 percent who say they speak only English. In family conversation and media consumption in the home, Spanish language remains important even after English proficiency is achieved.

Beyond language preferences, Hispanics are more receptive to targeted advertising, mobile advertising and new technology adoption than the general U.S. population, as a Scarborough Research report in 2010 has shown. Hispanics are also more likely to own a smartphone and use it to access mobile Internet, text messaging and e-mail.

Above is one of my personal favorite examples of marketing effectively to the U.S. Hispanic consumer, the “Somos Muchos” campaign from Toyota and Hispanic ad agency Conill. I think it’s a great example of a top-to-bottom campaign designed for Hispanics and Latinos, which clearly paid off for Toyota.

Thanks for reading!

References:
“A Growing Population, and Target, for Marketers”, NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/05/business/media…

2010 U.S. Census
http://2010.census.gov/2010census

“What You Think You Know vs. What You Need to Know About U.S. Hispanics And Media”, Nielsen
http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/media_entertainment/what-you-think-you-know-vs-what-you-need-to-know…

“Hispanics Are Important Mobile Marketing Targets”, Scarborough
http://www.scarborough.com/press_releases/Hispanic… (PDF)

Video: “Toyota Wins Back Hispanic Drivers With 259,000 Decals”, AdAge
http://adage.com/article/hispanic-marketing/toyota-wins-back-hispanic-drivers…

Internet Killed the Salesperson?

In a day and age where an increasing amount of business is being conducted online, many industries are finding themselves unable to cope with the costs associated with implementing internet business strategies. The troubles have been clear for many industries including newspapers, textbook publishers, record companies, etc.

In a recent blog post mentioned by one of my professors, automakers have noted a decrease in the auto sales among Generation Y consumers. Some believe this drop has been caused by the popularity of social media, apparently creating an ease in friends’ connecting and carpooling to various locations together. They also note teens’ and twenty-somethings’ increased desire for electronics and other goods, which often tie up their income. Just as the rest of the nation, however, Generation Y is being hit hard by this “Great Recession.” With jobs being lost, hours being cut and tuition costs on the rise, many of us are being forced to cut back and simply cannot afford the costs associated with acquiring a car.

The internet does, however, create a new medium that sales personnel must utilize in order to maximize sales. Generation Y consumers are a unique segment. In order to create a lasting marketing campaign among this target it is essential to use cutting edge tools, such as those available through online and mobile APIs (Application Program Interface) that can be tied into brand value.

One of my personal favorites is Foursquare, a popular new app that combines GPS, reviews and ratings to provide you with a snapshot of what your friends are up to tonight. Upon arriving at a new destination, users can “check-in” to that location — be it a gas station, a restaurant, a theater, a nightclub and so on. Users can leave tips on this location’s home page, invite friends to attend, and post their check-ins to Facebook and Twitter. Upon checking into Sergio’s, for example, Luis E. would recommend you try the pollo empanizado! It’s free brand support such as this that is truly exciting in terms of marketing potential.

So while some industries might complain that the internet is driving away business, in reality I believe consumers are simply looking for more interactivity. For example, as newspapers are struggling to stay alive it’s not as if people simply don’t pay attention to the news anymore; they’re just going online to view it for free and at their own leisure from any computer, smart phone or laptop. The internet isn’t killing sales — it’s simply changing the way companies must approach it.

References:
“Carmakers’ next problem: Generation Y”
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39970363/ns/business-autos

“E-Marketing for Sensible Folk”
http://e-marketingforsensiblefolk.blogspot.com

“Application Programming Interface”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Api

Foursquare
http://foursquare.com/about
http://foursquare.com/venue/11751

Image:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Texting.jpg

Mapping Out Business Success

In a marketplace that is constantly evolving, how do you ensure success? How do you keep up with demand? How do you keep track of industry trends?

Business planning is a simple prospect – establish a set of criteria that will allow your organization to create a road map of where you’d like your business to grow and dominate the competition. However, many organizations fail to plan their decisions in this manner and soon find themselves stuck in a hole, with mediocrity crushing down on them. In order to excel in any industry, here are some focal points  believe any company should pay close attention to.

Customer Service: When it comes right down to it, a core function of business is to provide a product or service. Without proper utilization of customer service skills with consumers as well as suppliers and partners, it is difficult to maintain steady financial development. The latest trend, of course, is social media. Companies use social media to interact with their customers on a personal level, and find out what trends they’re looking for or shying away from. Research is now showing that use of social media drives face-to-face interactions. When customers interact with your brand outside of a sales atmosphere, it can humanize your marketing efforts in a way that allows for much more effective campaigns.

Quantify!: Another simple concept that is often overlooked, quantifying goals and progress can allow an organization the ability to understand exactly where they stand, and more importantly, present that data to others. Shareholders, donors, investors and often time customers themselves all need to know precisely where their funds are being used. If you can’t definitively disprove the image that any money invested in your company or project goes under your grandmother’s mattress, then it’s time to rethink your business plan! Get out there, conduct marketing research, create new findings and see what your customers are saying. If you back up all decisions with quantifiable objectives, it will be much easier to complete them on time.

What are some other points you believe are key to maintaining success?

References:
“New Research Dispels Interactive Marketing Myths…”
http://www.exacttarget.com/company/news/Article-View/ArticleId/432/New-Research-Dispels…

“Social Media Humanization”
http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/2010/10/06/social-media-humanization

Image:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nederlands_verkeersbord_L6.svg

Internet Privacy: How Cookies Have Changed Everything

As you may have seen me mention before, the internet has changed the way consumers seek information. Today, advances in information technology are allowing businesses to track and monitor online traffic through cookies. Not the chocolate chip kind, but the bits of information stored by your web browser that allow different websites you visit to link to one another. For example, a cookie could let an online retailer know that you viewed a video game trailer on YouTube, and suggest similar games for you to purchase based on that. While many are aware of this, and clear the cookies on their web browser accordingly, there are new developments such as Flash cookies that accomplish the same task but can be more difficult to find and erase.

With the current boom in social media usage, riding the overall improvement of accessibility to the internet, it can be easy for many to speculate that today’s generation is less sensitive about what personal information is visible online. Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people.” Research, however, says otherwise; 92% of teens surveyed in a Zogby poll believe they should be able to request the deletion of all their personal information held by a search engine, social network, or marketing company. 85% would like to see these sources request permission before they collect data at all. And while Zuckerberg mentions these shifts in public thinking, Facebook is still constantly changing its privacy structure to meet consumer’s needs. Most recently, they changed the format of Facebook Groups and other applications in order to offer increased privacy, creating smaller social groups that will allow friends to keep in contact with one another.

As individuals, internet privacy can have a profound impact on our image. As a college student, and a marketing student in particular, I am constantly monitoring the information I post on my Facebook, tweet on Twitter, send through emails and so on. Now, more than ever, it is becoming easier for job recruiters to pull up information about you that is posted online. There are facts to support this, as in many cases businesses have refused to hire students because their online information presents the exact opposite of a professional image.

While the internet has created great ease in information search and retrieval, it has proven to be a double-edged sword. All information, including personal details about your spending habits, your demographics, your interests, etc., is readily available online. Are you taking the steps to make sure the information you put out there represents you in a positive manner?

References:
“Code That Tracks Users’ Browsing Prompts Lawsuits”
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/technology/21cookie.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=internet%20privacy&st=cse

“Teens Want More Privacy Online Too”
http://www.fastcompany.com/1693718/teens-want-more-privacy-controls-poll

“Facebook adds new privacy…”
http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/facebook-adds-new-privacy-dashboard-downloadable-data-group-sharing/?news=123

“Is Your Online Identity Spoiling Your Chances?”
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/jobs/10search.html?scp=3&sq=internet%20privacy&st=cse

Image:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate_chip_cookies.jpg

The "Digital Revolution" and Beyond

For many of us, the term “Digital Revolution” and its many iterations has become one of the most clichéd concepts we know. However, there is a great deal of truth behind the dilution of this term, as electronic media have forever changed the way individuals access information.

What we are experiencing — as students, teachers, consumers, business owners, and overall as information seekers — is a shift in how we perceive the world around us and the means through which we interact with it. In the last ten years alone, there has been a swift repositioning away from traditional media such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, magazines, direct mail and catalogs. In today’s marketplace, those channels simply do not get the job done in our fast pace, immediate gratification, “what have you done for me lately” society. Instead, information is sought through internet-based platforms such as Yahoo! and Wiki Answers, search engines, Wikipedia, blogs (just like this one!), smart-phone applications and social media to name a few.

In nearly all of these new communication platforms, people seek pertinent, focused and individualized answers that once took hours or even days to find. Many websites allow users to share answers to questions on topics they have expertise in; even the most humble folks can seek answers directly from an intelligent, dedicated individual who browses these site specifically to answer those questions he or she is able to address. This system is not without its flaws, as the open-source mentality leaves room for vandals to wreak havoc. However, the developers of these communities are getting smarter, and learning to combat the vandalism through community involvement. Those who post information and answers on these sites take pride in their work, as do those who gain from taking in the information. This motivates them to constantly check-in on their articles in the case that it’s necessary to “reboot” to the last update, before the vandalism was placed on the page.

So what does this mean for marketing and business in general? As companies adapt to social media, customers are able to discuss questions or concerns directly with company representatives, and join masses of other people who share the same viewpoints. Such a communication channel would not exist without this trend towards digital information. While “Digital Revolution” may be a term that has lost its clout, there is still no doubt that information search and retrieval is changing rapidly.

What does the future hold? That is a question we must begin understanding now that electronic media has taken the main stage as our primary information source. In my opinion, the future is “mobile”. As smart phones become a societal norm and data plans reach more affordable price points, such as AT&T’s recent $15 smart phone data plan, more and more consumers will have the power of the internet at the palm of their hand. Smart phones are so accessible now, in fact, that many experts predict they will overtake the World Wide Web as the primary source of Internet traffic.

References:
Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source

“AT&T’s New Smartphone Plans…”
http://www.businessinsider.com/atts-new-smartphone-plans-could-send-iphone-and-blackberry-sales…

“The Web Is A ‘Shrinking Minority’ Of Internet Traffic”
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129270704

Images:
Wikimedia Commons

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