As I helped my daughters prepare to go back to school, I couldn’t stop thinking about how different school is for my kids than it was for me. Even the preparation has changed so much! Items I bought for my girls that were not on my back-to-school shopping list when I was a kid? A zip drive and calculator (yes, I am THAT old…when I was entering the fifth grade, my Dad still used a slide rule!). And, our parents didn’t have teacher websites to look up homework assignments, or online grade books to help parents keep tabs on how the kids’ grades look throughout the semester.
But the biggest difference in my kids’ experience with school is the Internet and the sophistication of the search engines available to them. And it’s not just kids. Even parents today can’t make it through a day without our favorite search engine—regardless of whether it is for work or helping the kids with homework.
My search engine of choice is Bing, Microsoft’s highly innovative “decision engine.” Full disclosure: ComBlu has been working with Bing for the better part of this year. If you haven’t checked it out, it is definitely worth a try. Bing was created to be more than just a search engine. It helps users make everyday decisions in a wide variety of categories, including shopping, news, maps, travel, entertainment and more.
Like most Bing users, I just love Bing and all it has to offer. Here are some of the features I like most about using Bing as my decision engine:
Bing Toolbar. The first thing you should do when getting started with Bing is download the Bing Toolbar. The Toolbar provides quick and easy access to a number of Bing tools, such as Facebook alerts, top stories, weather, email, etc. Better yet, the Bing Toolbar travels with you as you search the Internet, so it’s always at your fingertips. Here is what it looks like:
Bing Rewards. Another thing I just love about Bing is that I earn credits toward rewards simply by using Bing as my search engine and trying out some of the new features. I’m not sure what I will reward myself with first—I’m currently just letting my points accrue while I make up my mind. Below is a screenshot of Bing Rewards that shows the wide variety of rewards available:
Bing Travel. My favorite feature with Bing Travel is the price predictor and rate indicator. The price predictor tells you the best time to purchase airline tickets, showing you which airfares are likely to go up or down (it actually tells you whether to “buy now” or “wait”). The rate indicator helps you get the best deals on hotels, telling you whether it’s a deal, not a deal or an average deal. This is particularly helpful when you are shopping for a room at hotel chain you are unfamiliar with or in a new city. Here is what the price predictor and rate indicator looks like:
Bing Shopping. Bing Shopping is great because it allows you to shop multiple retailers at the same time to find the best deal. As you’re shopping, you can make a shopping list so you don’t lose any of the items you like as you browse for bargains. I loved using Bing Shopping for back-to-school; it was a real time-saver. Here’s a snapshot from the Back to School shopping page:
Clearly, Bing has been and will continue to be a part of my kids’ back-to-school plan. With all of those research reports coming up, I’ve made Bing my default search engine so the kids will help me accrue points toward Bing rewards while they are simply completing their school work.
Give Bing a try for yourself…it may just change the way you think about search engines. And please share your favorite features—I’m always looking for more to love on Bing!
Traditionally, engagement is measured with consumption being the primary activity: watching TV, listening to the radio and reading newspapers are all great examples of how classic engagement was easily transitioned to the social Web via YouTube, podcasts and blogs. However, while these traditional consumption models did translate, the consumption is not at all engaging and does little to connect customers to brands.
If you’re looking to get beyond content spread and really make a connection with your customers, here are a few tips that will make engaging your social audience much more meaningful.
Hit the honey hole
Face it; most of your customers are not flocking to your branded microsites. When the fish aren’t biting it’s time to head to the honey hole! Engage your customers on the social sites that they are already members of. Additionally, most social sites like Facebook and Twitter will provide you with rich demographic information about your fans that your branded microsites can’t.
In the social Web context, content curation is the act of sharing, rating and organizing content with your social networks. Rating, reviewing, digging, liking and +1’ing are all examples of curation.
Why should you care about curation? Two reasons:
1. It provides your content with value and context because it has been rated and organized by the consumer’s social network.
2. It’s an easy way to get people engaged. Clicking the like button takes less than 5 seconds and your content also gets thousands more impressions. In fact, it’s so easy that most of last year’s successful user-generated content campaigns leveraged curation as the primary engagement tool. Threadless has used curation for the past ten years to have their fans rate t-shirt ideas before they produce them.
There is a reason board games are still popular after thousands of years. People love to compete (and brag). Create a campaign that allows your fans to compete with each other, socialize their contributions and be rewarded for their participation.
There are several toolsets out there that will allow you to easily set up new Facebook contests (that include curation tools) and will also track your fan’s engagement levels. Badging and points are also standard for most of these tools. One vendor, Fangager, even has an app store that allows you to drag and drop some pretty slick interactive games onto your Facebook fan page.
So don’t be satisfied with the status quo when putting your next customer engagement program together. Challenge yourself to get out there and meaningfully engage your customers on existing social networking sites by making it easy for them to curate content and participate in contests. Remember what they say … “Consumption is good, but engagement is better”.
It’s Year 3 of our annual research on the State of Online Branded Communities – and we’re in the home stretch. So I thought this would be a good time to press pause and see where we are so far.
A little background first. What distinguishes our study is its focus on the member experience. We want to understand firsthand how effectively brands are creating meaningful experiences for their members and how best practice adoption affects that experience. To that end, we’ve joined and evaluated about 200 communities so far and are on track to do more than 250. Those cut across 15 industries and about 90 brands. That’s nearly double the number of communities we looked at for our inaugural study in 2009.
As we join each community, we’re looking for which of 30+ key best practices are being applied there. And finally, how are brands integrating these community assets with their mass social media assets? Is there ANY integration? Is there common branding? Is it easy to navigate back and forth between properties? The idea here is to see how cross property consistency enhances member experience.
With the disclaimer that it’s not fully baked yet, here are a couple of early observations from the 2011 study:
Ø More content-centric engagement. While there’s still a whole lot of ‘push’ going on, there are signs of more content-related best practice adoption. Things like content aggregation, social bookmarking, tagging, customization and sharing. Interesting indicators that some industries are taking a more sophisticated approach to content curation and that should make for a more meaningful experience for members.
Ø Can I get that (community) to-go? The answer is a resounding maybe. Brands are offering a variety of ways to extend the member experience to consumers on the go. Some strictly optimize for mobile devices; others offer cool apps that give mobile members unique ways to engage. And surprisingly, some miss the mobile boat completely – even some categories that live and breathe POP!
Ø Hands-on management. Last year, we saw that more than half the communities had no visible or active community manager. This year, brands appear to be more willing to humanize the experience and make a more personal connection with their members. The P&C Insurance industry is a great example, posting a major bump up from 33% to 71% having a community manager!
Ø Clean up on Aisle 2. Brands are making a concerted effort to sunset communities that have run their course. Not all communities are meant to stick for the long term. In those cases, it’s great to see brands managing that process and the relationship with members rather than let them lie fallow.
Those are just a few early snippets from this year’s body of work. The full report will be released in the fall. We’ll keep you posted here for dates of preview webinars. Or just click here and fill in the form. In the message box, write: Send report’ and /or ‘webinar dates” and we’ll get the information out to you when it’s available.
One of the chapters in our new eBook, Content Supply Chain, deals with building a diverse mix of content amplification channels. Paid, Owned, mass social and earned media all play a role in content channel strategy.
Today the definition of earned media has expanded to include the social assets of consumers and other stakeholders. The mass social outlets of consumers and customers are one of the most powerful media channels. These spread word-of-mouth among family, friends and followers and drive the network effect that is so important in growing content equity. Making it “easy to care” and “easy to share” is key to success when trying to tap the personal networks of your customers and brand advocates. There are tools such as SocialToaster, Gigya and JanRain that make the sharing easier, but the passion must be born out of positive experience or a wonderful and useful piece of content that just screams “share me.”
Winning real estate on the Facebook pages of customer advocates or scoring a tweet that includes a link to a brand’s content carries the implied endorsement of the sender. In addition to creating content that people want to share, it is important to include content amplification requests when engaging customer and employee advocates or ambassadors.
In order for this to succeed, brands need to have invested the time and resources to build and nurture an advocate base. Here’s a few factoids gleaned from a variety of sources that show why this matters.
· Seventy percent more likely to be seen as a reliable source of information.
· Increase conversions by 166 percent through content amplification and referrals.
· Reduce cost of overall product support by ≥ 60 percent.
· Fifty percent more likely to create content that influences a purchase.
· Eighty-three percent more likely to share information.
Advocates will, of course, do more for the brands they love than just being a content channel. Smart segmentation of this high value group is essential to maximize their roles and contributions. How are you using advocates to socialize your content?
Content is a topic of growing interest to many organizations. ComBlu recently analyzed hundreds of conversations about content (many from the Top 42 Content Marketing Blogs compiled by Junta42 this year) and noticed some interesting trends:
· Content is definitely a growing and “hot” topic within social marketing, with content strategy leading in SOV amongst topics. Measurement seems to be the least discussed topic in the space. Blogs are discussing the value of content and specific parts of the “content process,” (i.e., strategy, creation, curation, etc.), as well as other topics like brands as publishers; consumers’ changing content needs; maximizing content value; and challenges (i.e., bandwidth, original content, etc.).
This jives with conversation that occurred at one of the popular sessions at SXSW this year: Brands as Publishers. In addition to debating the suitability of brands to be publishers, the session also covered the difficulty in assuming the “publisher” mantle.
· Part of the debate centered on corporations following “pure” journalistic standards. Some contended that custom content is not real journalism; it is not well researched or vetted and therefore not up to journalistic standards. This was hotly contested by others in the session who pointed out that first, brands are not claiming to be journalists; simply publishers, and secondly the community will correct badly researched information. Many opined that the market will punish corporations who do not tell the truth and are too self-serving. The risk is too high for corporations to be less than transparent.
· Most at the session wanted to simply talk about the mechanics of being a publisher. They were concerned about content quality, curation, understanding how to best match owned channels to specific types of content (Address controversial topics on corporate blog vs. story-telling in an engagement hub)
This meshes with conversations that ComBlu has with brands all the time. Just this week, I was chatting with Rishi Dave at Dell about content strategy. He and his team are passionate about content and believe it is a powerful engagement strategy IF done right. Rishi contends most brands are not ready or equipped to truly be a publisher. They need to travel what he calls “the content pain journey”, which goes something like this: Most brands produce content episodically for a traditional marketing or thought leadership campaign. Then, they decide they need to amplify that content so they integrate mass social media into the channel mix. This leads to the realization that 1) they need a better process for scheduling content and 2) Holy cow! We need a lot more content. It is only then that they press pause and methodically examine their content creation and distribution approach.
It is shocking that more organizations are not deconstructing their content approach. One nugget from the SXSW session was this factoid: brands spend 25% of their marketing budgets on content creation and distribution. McKinsey estimates that embedded costs alone for content supply chain can range from $50million to $75million for a consumer products company to over $300million for a global technology company. That got your attention, right?
So what exactly is the content supply chain? ComBlu recently decided to take this topic on. We read white papers, researched and interviewed many content intellectuals and found no solid answer. So we took all the bits and pieces we learned and organized them into a cohesive approach. Our new eBook “Content Supply Chain” presents a systematic methodology for treating content as a business discipline. It introduces the concept of content equity and shows how to measure return on content assets.
It’s a good read and we hope it sparks more discussion and stimulates other ideas and approaches. How does your organization organize and manage this important function? Let us know. In the meantime, download the book and share it.