By now, everyone has seen this Infographic. Yes, it is complex and confusing and it should give you a headache.
The tools to manage and measure activity on a socially enabled web today are growing at substantial rate. Today, you can track and measure virtually any activity you would want to or deploy a tool to help you manage social campaigns of virtually any type. A tool or an app has been built to address almost anything you might want to do.
This explosion of social tool development, while innovative and necessary, does little to solve the bigger problems of social engagement, which essentially boil down to understanding why people act the way they act in a social brand encounter and then helping to facilitate the right engagement and then understanding in simple clear terms the value and outcome of that encounter. That’s the bad news. The good news is this will change.
If you follow any innovation curve in virtually any industry, things tend to get harder and more complex before they get simpler and easier. Why? Because, during the early phases of innovation, the processes and rules and infrastructure that will later support new inventions are getting built right along with what’s being invented. Solving any one problem on its own is the goal. Later, problems get grouped together and a new smarter solution addresses them all.
Take the Model T automobile for example. Building the car on a mass scale was one thing. Tough enough to be sure, but what about manufacturing and distributing replacement parts as those cars began to break down? Sourcing, distributing and stocking virtually every part on the car separately was likely a daunting, painful and expensive exercise at the outset, for the supplier and the consumer.
In the end, things improved. They had to for the fledgling automotive industry to remain viable. All the confusion, competing systems and supply chain gaps needed to be streamlined and refined and new smarter and more innovative solutions and options were layered on based on understanding and meeting customer needs.
Innovators moved from activity metrics (which parts are needed) to value metrics (when to make and distribute them so that inventories matched demand) as the industry evolved.
Making sure that the customer could get the parts they needed when they needed it AFTER they purchased the vehicle helped to ensure that that customer would buy another auto from that manufacturer rather than a competitor’s product.
Social Marketing today is going through the same innovation phase as the early auto industry (and every other one for that matter). It will get better. For the industry to survive and remain relevant to users, it has to! The focus will begin to move away from the tools and the activity to the experience and the value of the relationship we deliver.
As this innovation occurs over the next few years, look for consolidation to speed up and for tools become more expansive, robust…and simpler. Tomorrow’s Infographic will look drastically different than the one at the beginning of this post. It will be less about the tools available and more about content, relationship triggers and the decision journey. That’s what tomorrow’s tools will help to manage-relationships and decision journeys, not just data.
Remember, keep your eye on the prize of understanding what is driving your value metrics; what is moving your constituents through the decision process and what compels them to remain involved with your brand. The tools which help you manage your social marketing initiatives will get better, be more intuitive and easier to use, I guarantee it.
Knowing this, social marketing practitioners and their business peers need to start focusing hard on what makes good relationships work. You must now begin the process of blurring the lines between all of your brand experience channels and optimizing those channels for relevance and value.
Get ready, as the next few years will bring marketing innovation and opportunities you have never imagined were possible.
A few years ago, engagement was the holy grail of marketing. Brands delivered interactive campaigns designed to stimulate action and interaction: Take a poll, share or upload a photo, join a “community,” create a video, and so on. Unfortunately, the outcome was a lack of true engagement; brands for the most part pushed “stuff” using a variety of social and digital channels. The latest shiny tools and apps were embedded in the campaigns and for a while people did react, but few actually engaged in a meaningful way.
Today, engagement has evolved to “brand advocacy,” the art of more continuous engagement through relationship building. Boston Consulting Group describes advocacy marketing as generating knowledge and positive opinion about your brand and products by engaging individuals and small groups in meaningful, direct, two-way communication. The intimate understanding of individual consumers or customers creates both affinity and advocacy; people recommend, share, provide feedback, defend and tell you when you need to do better. Marketers have known this for a while, but few have adopted a systematic or standardized approach.
In order to excel at advocacy, brands need to understand and define their target, and find the six to eight percent who are truly passionate and want to interact, share who they are, and ultimately endorse your brand and products. This is much harder than pushing “engagement” or seeding products and hoping for return on engagement. For years, brands have collected information and data about their customers, but for the most part have failed to truly use it to develop meaningful relationships.
Both the art and science of advocate identification and recruitment has evolved significantly over the past few years. Much work has been done in understanding their motivations, how to appropriately engage, what to ask of them and what to “give” them in return. Additionally, more brands than ever are interested in exploring a path to brand advocacy. Yet as we talk with brands, we’re befuddled by how many neglect this route. Some just don’t know how to get started, while others simply don’t think it’s worth the effort.
Research conducted by McKinsey should persuade those in both camps. It studied what motivates people along the decision journey, and word-of-mouth (WOM) was paramount. The study further found that having a robust “post-purchase” channel as part of the marketing cycle was key to finding and activating loyalists who will drive advocacy or WOM.
Our own work at ComBlu bears this out. We have helped many large, global brands identify, recruit and activate brand advocates, and then engage them over time. These brands got to know their advocates, and recognized the input they gave and the WOM that they spread. Productivity among this group is dependent upon segmenting advocates and understanding how to engage specific types for defined goals and purposes. For example, a very small percentage will actually create a video or write content for you. Yet, many engagement road maps focus almost exclusively on this type of activity. Not only does this waste resources, it restricts return motivation and can lead to stagnation. Yet, many people will curate content or share it, but few brands stimulate this “collector” behavior as part of the engagement strategy. Knowing what to ask, and who to ask to do very specific things is part of knowing them and respecting them.
ComBlu defines brand advocacy as the confluence of conversation, community and content. We sponsor a Content Council for brands and almost all of the members consider content to be a powerful engagement asset. Most brands though have not mapped content to the right point of the decision journey and continue to push vast amounts of content indiscriminately into the cloud. Few have stopped to think how to use advocates to amplify it. Fewer still know how to use their content as a stimulant for conversation. And, many still think of Facebook as their hub for brand advocacy.
Social measurement is starting to get more sophisticated and allows brands to better gauge the impact of their advocacy marketing or engagement campaigns, and use the insights they glean to calibrate programs. The really smart brands use social business intelligence to better know the needs, wants and quirks of their advocates. Without great, deep relationships with them, there is no brand advocacy.
Part One: Who are advocates and why they matter.
Brand advocates are hot and trending—again. Conversation about brand advocates and their business value is buzzing, because we have more collective experience under our belts. Advocate programs are beyond the proof of concept stage. There are real metrics available to us that quantify the business impact that advocates yield. Maker’s Mark (and their ambassador program) is a great example of an early adopter that has been running an advocate program for years. Whirlpool and Mom Central launched a pilot program in July and recently presented the results at WOMM-U earlier this month. The risk finally outweighs the reward.
So what have we learned about this small but powerful group of brand fans? Our infographic helps visualize who advocates are and why they matter.
|Click to Download Full Infographic|
|First, the “who.” Advocates make up just six to eight percent of your customer base. But, remember you can do a lot with a few. A relatively small group of engaged advocates can have enormous impact on the business.Advocates can play multiple roles. Most importantly they are the new voice of the brand. They love and defend you, because you market with them and not to them.|
Be prepared to have a genuine relationship with your advocates. It will pay dividends.
Not all advocates are created equal. Your business mission will determine the right type of advocates to identify and recruit for your program. It is important to understand which advocate segments will activate for what program, and how to engage with them in a meaningful way.
Brand advocates play a starring role in sales, product innovation, customer care and market research. They are our content creators and amplifiers, recommendation engines, campaign accelerants and support agents. And, they generate serious impact. This is the “why!”
Brand advocates are the go to person for purchase advice from peers. Unless you have been living under a rock, everyone knows that today’s consumer trusts the recommendation of someone they don’t even know.
It is all about the social graph. You are not engaging with an individual—you are engaging with a network.
So now that we get the who and the why, let’s focus on the “how.” There is a lot to get your arms around, so it is important to take a process approach from the beginning.
First, start with your key business objectives and define the mission of your advocate. You need to know what you want them to do first.
Next, you need to identify the right type of advocate for that mission. Start by leveraging social listening tools like Sysomos to drive your recruitment—this will help you find passionate fans already creating and sharing content outside of your own social ecosystem. Down the road, listening will also inform your engagement, messaging and content strategies.
You will also want to tap into your owned assets—best practice is to fish in your own pond. How will you use your existing infrastructure to reach loyal customers?
Now, in order to identify the right advocate for the job, you need to qualify them based on key criteria, such as:
Over the next few months, we will tackle the rest of the process—advocate activation, engagement and measurement:
In those upcoming blogs, we’ll share some brand examples we think epitomize best practices in advocate deployment. In the meantime, if you have any great case studies or innovative brand advocate programs to share, please do!
Why don’t fad diets work? Experts say that when dieting, people become fixated on what they eat, how often and the corresponding loss of weight. Once that weight goal has been achieved and the pants fit again, time to celebrate. No more hard-boiled eggs and plain boiled chicken breast. Whoo-hoo! Success! Let’s grab a burger and a beer, baby!
Five weeks later, the weight is back with a vengeance. Why is this? Simple. People place a short term focus on the tactics of the diet but totally ignore what is more important. That being a long term change in behavior. You see, it’s not just what you eat but how you approach the whole concept of health. It’s all tied together. You are tired. Don’t work out, you get stressed and you eat. That quick bag of Doritos as a lunch ain’t helpin’ things, neither is the diet soda for breakfast. Meals are things you get on the go. It is learned behavior that becomes engrained behavior.
Why is social marketing hard? Same reason as why dieting doesn’t work long term. It’s because, corporate teams have engrained behaviors which are focused on the short term. Campaigns and product launches. Beginning, middle and end; then onto whatever else is next.
Couple that mentality with a constant shuffle of teams and people through the endless re-orgs, attrition, upward and lateral movement of team members and focusing on anything long term becomes almost impossible…especially when we are measured and judged on the now.
Doesn’t losing five pounds by starving yourself this week sound better than losing 1 pound by taking the stairs instead of the elevator? More immediate gratification! Five pounds baby! One third of the way to my goal!
So how important is getting social marketing right? What impact will it have on the fundamental way we do business?
Social marketing is a disruptive model that will have far reaching ripple effects on corporate strategy that we cannot yet quantify. When Henry Ford refined and adopted the assembly line, when interstate highways were laid, when the light bulb became commercially available, the advent of the cellular telephone, the Internet, the growth in adoption of Twitter. These are all disruptive forces that no one fully understood or really appreciated at their outset. However, when taking the long view, you can begin to see how these things, well…changed everything.
Social marketing and ultimately, social business, which I define for purposes of this post as ‘collaborative engagement and dialogue which facilitate either common goals or common interests, done in ways that are transparent and communicated in languages, words and pictures we each understand and identify with’ are already beginning to change everything.
Remember the book Crossing the Chasm? The whole premise was around innovation and adoption of new ideas and process that allowed organizations, even big ones to become nimbler and allow their product and service evolutions to effectively go from early adopters to mainstream; which ultimately is the goal of every corporate entity, right? Organizations needed to adopt a process of change or fall into the chasm. IBM is a great example of one who made the crossing successfully. Zenith & Tower Records? Not so much. Ahhhhhhhhh, thud.
If your organization is still in command and control mode, if teams can’t or won’t be collaborative, if the silo walls of your organization are thick and without holes which allow for information, ideas and effort to pass through, you will never cross the chasm until a behavior change occurs-organizationally.
However, if you are attempting to evolve your business, over time, through new learned behaviors (which may be simply stringing a multitude of social initiatives or campaigns together to create the look and feel of what social marketing is really like) you are likely in either Step 2 or Step 3. See above chart.
Where ever you are, the important thing is getting through Step 2. Why is this? Well, social initiatives are based on relationships. Relationships are chaotic and ever changing. They are hard to plan around. They are not necessarily linear or fact driven. They are emotional and conversation driven. Try planning a traditional critical path around that. When you do, welcome to Step 2.
Everything you used to do doesn’t fit neatly into the new social model and that’s frustrating. The danger is giving up and going back to the old way of doing things (checking out).
However, when you learn to be truly collaborative with your peers, subject matter experts, customers and prospects that they aid in the planning and activities; outcomes and expectations magically align. The chaotic becomes more predictable. Welcome to Step 3, which is where you start thinking differently and acting differently and a new normal begins to grow.
Think about it. In any relationship, if you don’t approach the situation with mutual trust and respect, if you don’t listen and ask questions; if you don’t have a dialogue. Communication stops. Statements start. Trust evaporates. Usually, when that happens in any relationship, it ends badly. You are not being social. You are being obstinate.
Since social marketing is as new an idea as it is disruptive, we haven’t seen the full impact that these social ripple effects are having on organizations or industries. Therefore, few organizations, if any really, have moved into Step 4, but many are on their way! As more companies move across the chasm, this will force their competitors to follow suit. For everyone that makes the move, either by choice or by force, the new learned ‘social’ behaviors will eventually become engrained behaviors and that’s when social marketing becomes the norm and the power of social will be felt, understood and acknowledged.
Social is here to stay folks. That’s a fact. What the impact is, no one yet knows; only that it will be substantial. So where are you on crossing the social chasm? Is the cliff ahead of you or behind you?