Social Media Strategy Requires Brand Conversation Monitoring

Photo courtesy of LI Refugee

The digital landscape is rife with people talking about their brand experiences every moment of every day. Whether it’s expressing excitement over a new purchase or complaining about poor customer service, people are posting about brands and the products they love and hate.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that monitoring social networks is a great way for companies to capture customer feedback on products and services. With customer data being such an important piece of the social media strategy, I was curious to find out how many companies were actually monitoring their brands.

After a few Google searches, I found several studies attempting to quantify the percentage of companies that had social media monitoring programs in place. Many of the studies I found reported that over 60 percent of companies don’t use  tools to monitor brand conversations.  Are you as surprised as I am?

In 2010, Harvard Business Review Analytic Services issued its report, The New Conversation, which cited that 75% of the companies in the survey said they weren’t sure where their most valuable customers were talking about them. And more recently, a CapGemini study last July found that of the 302 executives surveyed, only 57% of them stated their companies were monitoring online conversations for brand and product mentions.

It’s shocking how low these figures are given that most companies have already implemented social media programs but don’t track customer conversations. At a time when many organizations are jumping into social media head first, getting an analytics program underway should be one of the first items on the agenda. The insights gleaned from a brand conversation monitoring program will provide hard data to help shape digital strategies.

Proactively monitoring the health of your corporate brand online works to identify discussions that could harm your reputation. On the plus side, it leverages positive online commentary to enhance your market offerings and positioning. Without understanding customer sentiment or market impact, social media strategy is missing a vital component.

I know from my own past experiences that collecting insights from online conversations can also be valuable to other functional departments within the organization. Funneling this rich data to your R&D unit, customer care center, or other internal teams can potentially inform additional business, product and customer strategies that aren’t even on your radar screen.

 

Discovery Tools for Better Living

Photo courtesy of JanneM

Now that we’ve comfortably slid into the New Year, many of us are thinking about making changes and implementing new practices to improve the quality of our lives. No matter who you are or what you do, it’s a perfect time to learn new skills, meet new people and set new goals. What better way to do that than to add some new tools to the online toolbox. It’s amazing how much inspiration can be found online if you know where to look. Skip the self-help websites and go for tools that you can use all year long.  Below are four of my favorites that I’ve found to be extremely effective, enlightening and even entertaining. So in the interest of better living, why not put these sites to work and make 2012 a year of increased knowledge, productivity and enjoyment.

Plancast – Want to increase your network and get active in your community? Just head on over to Plancast where you’ll find a list of events that are happening near you. The site is a fantastic resource for finding industry conferences, local gatherings and social activities that you may have missed otherwise.  The site has an integrated layer of community as well so users can find events that their friends and colleagues are attending, which makes going to them much more enjoyable.

Quora – Billed as a Q&A website, Quora, has amassed a huge network of subject matter experts in a relatively short time.  The site provides a simple platform for finding answers to complex business questions, technical issues and random inquiries where members rank the best entries. There’s also an option to follow questions so that you can receive notifications when new answers are added. The site recently increased the value quotient of the site with its new “boards” feature allowing users to compile content from elsewhere on the web.

Scribd – Whether you enjoy reading poetry, scientific findings or baking techniques, you’re bound to find what interests you at Scribd. Called the YouTube of printed materials, Scribd offers a vast array of online literature that never disappoints. Personally, I’m always finding content that either inspires me, educates me or both. If you’re a writer then you’ll definitely want to consider setting up an account to promote your work and share it with the community.

Udemy – Education is a lifelong process and with online learning tools like Udemy, it’s now just a click away. The site offers an assortment of courses ranging from the academic to the artistic; many are taught by leaders in their field.  The majority of classes are free of charge while some are nominal in price. Experts can teach others by becoming instructors and creating their own courses. Udemy’s mission is to disrupt and democratize education, and frankly, I believe they’re off to a great start.

 

Three Basic Principles of Content Marketing

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One of the biggest challenges facing organizations today is developing valuable content for online consumption. Tom Foremski said it best when he proclaimed “every company is a media company.” Witnessing a sea change taking place in Silicon Valley a few years back, Tom realized that all companies needed to transform themselves in response to shifts in technology and communication. Understanding this new model of business communications may make it easier for marketers to adapt. While almost every company has added social media to the marketing mix, many still don’t understand how to approach content production.

To be successful, a solid content marketing strategy should include three principles:

  1. content must be focused on the needs of your audience(s)
  2. content needs to be formatted to match the channel it’s being delivered on
  3. content should be optimized in order to attract a broad base

Create Content That Focuses on Your Customers and Market

One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make is talking about itself too much. Customers see through self-serving content and it usually has a negative effect.  While it’s critical to promote what your organization is selling, the spotlight should be on your customers and market. Make sure you talk about how your organization and its products or services are adding value, solving problems or evolving the industry.

I’ve always recommended a two-pronged approach to creating content that pulls from both internal assets and external information. Internal assets include press releases, case studies, executive speeches and so on and can take on many forms such as blog posts, videos, infographs, etc. That’s the easy part as long you use some creativity and imagination in your repackaging of assets.  External information is a little more challenging because it involves staying on top of what’s happening in your industry. The key is to show your audiences that you know where the market is headed and what your customers are demanding. This is where content curation or a monitoring program are critical in staying on top of real-time trends. Developing content based on information such as analyst forecasts, shifting demographics, or new technologies will position your organization as a knowledgeable leader that shares information freely.

Customize Content Based on the Digital Channel

I’m sure you’ve seen this before: companies that push out collateral to every possible digital touch point without customizing the information for those specific channels. Whether it’s a press release, case study, video, and other type of asset to leverage, it needs to be repackaged for added value, easy consumption and sharing. Think visually, too. Give thought to how you can convey your news or story in pictures and video.

IBM is a great example of customizing content in multiple formats with its recently released 2011 Global CMO Survey. The company developed several delivery methods that included webinars for executives to discuss the survey results, a dynamic video posted to YouTube that spotlighted some of the participants surveyed, and a dedicated web page with infographs, and so on. By packaging up the results in numerous ways for various channels, IBM generated an overwhelming response rate that yielded maximum impact.

Optimize Content for SEO and Social Sharing

Online content has no value if it can’t be found. Make sure to optimize your digital assets with keywords and phrases that your audience uses. This is where you should be integrating the keyword research from your search engine analysis into your content. Many companies have sophisticated paid search campaigns but aren’t leveraging the keyword research and applying it to their organic content. Kill two birds with one stone and increase your ROI.

In addition, provide your readers with links to additional content you’ve developed so that they can easily navigate and find what they need. This will help to build interaction with them and increase your SEO success at the same time (aka link building). Also, don’t forget “call to action” links that move your reader in one way or another to share the content. If you don’t have social sharing capabilities baked into your content platform, you’re losing out on potential buyers and prospective evangelists for your business. As a last step, you should be promoting content though your social media channels to entice and attract a broader audience.

By applying these three basic principles to your content marketing strategy, you’ll be firing on all cylinders and finding much more success overall.

Insights from IBM’s Global Marketing Study

Image taken from the IBM 2011 CMO Study

I recently had a chance to review IBM’s 2011 Global Chief Marketing Officer Study and was surprised by some of the findings. Based on interviews with over 1,700 chief marketing officers around the world, the study reveals that CMOs are struggling to overcome numerous challenges.  Titled, “From Stretched to Strengthened,” it identifies the top marketing trends impacting business from a global perspective.

What I found interesting was that both B2B and consumer brands are equally challenged. There’s wasn’t anything that separated the two business categories in terms of approach. There were also several references to ROI and how CMOs are in a similar position that CFOs were in 10 years ago. This really speaks to the growing analytical side of online monitoring and measurement. While being accountable though, CMOs are much more focused on building and strengthening relationships with customers than in previous years.

I have to give IBM a lot of credit for the way they delivered the survey results. The report was repackaged in so many digital formats that I don’t think they missed a social media channel. I’ve pasted links to various sites at the end of this post.

Here are the top marketing trends impacting businesses around the world:

  1. Explosion of data – Here’s a shocking statistic: 90 percent of the world’s data today has been created in the last two years alone. This presents a major problem in terms of analyzing all of the data and then determining how to use it in to develop better products and improve customer relations.
  2. Social media – The second area of worry is social media, which is primarily responsible for the exponential increase in data overload. CMOs are faced with the complexity of managing and participating in the social media landscape. They also understand that customers see this as a requirement for connecting and communicating with them.
  3. Mobile devices – The third largest issue is the proliferation of mobile devices.  With mobile commerce set to reach $31 billion by 2016, CMOs will need to uncover opportunities that contribute to the bottom line.
  4. Shifting demographics – Coming in fourth place is the shifting of consumer markets with new needs and consumption habits. Mass markets no longer exist and CMOs will need to adapt to those changes in order to succeed.

You can access the IBM 2011 Global CMO Study in multiple formats:

Simple Social Media Automation with ifttt

The idea of pressing a button to make life easier has always been the catalyst for modern day conveniences. From sci-fi movies to the latest gadgets, automation can be quite sexy and compelling.  For example, take Apple’s recent announcement of Siri, its voice-activated iPhone assistant that promises to do everything but make your bed. Unfortunately, Siri won’t be available for a while so I want to talk about another social media automation tool that’s amassed a base of loyal fans in less than nine months. It’s called ifttt and it’s making little things happen online in a big way.

Screenshot from itfff.com

ifttt offers a super simple solution for combining two web services or online channels together through the creation of tasks. The acronym stands for “if this then that” and the concept is based on triggers and actions.  For example, I recently created a task that states if I publish a blog post here as my trigger, then the action will be to send a tweet out. Or I could have all new photos taken via instagram sent to my dropbox account. ifttt has roughly 25 channels in the portfolio at the moment including popular sites like Last.fm, LinkedIn, Weather.com and YouTube to name a few. However, what gives ifttt its cool factor is the addition of communication devices such as email, SMS and phone capabilities to the mix. You could set up an email or text message that alerts you to rain forecasts or perhaps a price drop in a stock you’re following. Talk about having your own virtual assistant.

For businesses, ifttt will help lessen the burden of content syndication among various social networks. Granted, social media automation will never replace authentic community engagement but it does have its place in the sun. As I see it, there are three main value propositions of automating social media tasks.  First, you can manage digital assets for better organization and not have to manually transfer files in between services. Second, you can communicate to multiple networks about recent activities without having to draft multiple notes. For me, this translates to increased productivity meaning more time I can devote to creating valuable content.  Third, you can automatically capture knowledge that’s being shared online for increased insights, which is always a good thing. And to think that we don’t even have to press a button to make these things happen is even more amazing.

I have to give Kudos to itfff for allowing members the option of publicly sharing tasks, which are called recipes. This was a smart move by the company since it can be seen as the viral component of the site. Members can scan recipes and quickly add tasks to their own account. I also recommend checking out Tested.com and their piece on the 10 Clever Ways to Automate your Online Life with ifttt.

If you’re interested in test driving ifttt, drop me your email address and I’ll send you an invite.

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