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  • Brendan Jackson
    01.22.2014

    Give Us Great Tools…and Data Too!

    With 2014 being the year of “big data,” hopefully 2015 will be the year where we start using that data as part of our decision making process when creating and executing plans to connect with our targets online. Whether it’s through display advertising, paid search, social media, mobile, or thought leadership, we now have the data AND the tools to measure how successful past efforts have been and to guide us on future efforts.

    It’s why things like todays acquisition of UberVU by Hootsuite are so important and will be a continuing trend in 2014. Businesses were happy for a while to just get the tools that make connecting to their audiences easier, and were less concerned with the results outside of the basic numbers (views, likes, retweets, etc.). But with the term “big data” being thrown around, they want more, and they deserve more. Now businesses want the tools to connect, more insightful data points and analysis that they can review against their own stated success metrics all in one tool.

    The question is where does this ultimately lead us? Will companies like Hootsuite be happy to just be the guys who can help you manage your social media campaigns and give you great data? Or do they want to continue to grow into a platform that tracks your other online data points too (web traffic, digital display, CPC, etc.)? Where does this leave tools like Tableau, the new breed of BI tools, that sit on top of all your big data and help analyze and visualize it? Will they need to add execution tools to keep up? Does this all lead to the creation of robust, real time marketing platforms?

    I don’t know the answer but I can say 2014 is shaping up to be an interesting year when it comes to the intersection of execution, big data, and analytics. As online marketers, we will get to be the beneficiaries.

     

  • Brendan Jackson
    11.18.2013

    The Convergence of Content Strategy and Technology

    As more and more brands come to the see the importance of a Content Marketing Strategy, and put money and resources into developing that strategy, the question becomes “Now what?” The development of a Content Strategy is not something you do overnight, and usually involves a cross-functional team making a concerted effort across an entire organization to align all their content into an overarching and cohesive strategy. For those of us who have done this, we know that is not something you would call “easy.”

    But let’s say you have done it, you have successfully completed a plan you can call a Content Marketing Strategy, now all you have to do is implement it, and this is where things get even more complicated. Often we spend so much time and money on the development of the strategy that we don’t think about how we can execute it. Aligning people on the idea of a cohesive Content Strategy is one thing, but now you have to manage their creation of content and the publication of that content, and you discover that an Excel spreadsheet might not be the best tool.

    What we have now is a time when technology is catching up with all the things that brands want to do specific to their Content Strategy: manage it’s creation, customize it, serve that customized content in real time, test it’s effectiveness, and track it’s success. We’ve been able to move beyond jerry-rigging a traditional Content Management System (CMS) to help us manage our Content Strategy, and start using dedicated tools and platforms built just for that purpose. They help us manage content creation across multiple teams, align it with our overall strategy, and ensure that is published in the right place at the right time. Most of these even plug-in to existing CMS platforms, allowing for a seamless overall experience. Then comes the data! We can capture reams of different data points with the various analytics tools available to us, see how our content is performing, and make quick changes based on that data.

    There are some great companies out there offering the tools that can help you make that execution a reality, and Jeremiah Owyang put together a comprehensive list that covers most of them with a little insight on what each offers. There are a lot out there, and that is a good thing, because there is a need, and it is growing. It’s becoming more and more obvious how important matching the right content to the right customer is to a brands success, so we need to make sure that the hard work we put into creating a Content Strategy materializes into actual content that helps our brands succeed, and that that the right people are seeing it in the right place. Luckily for us we  have the tools that can make it all a reality.

     

  • Brendan Jackson
    09.25.2013

    The Best Advice From Nate Silver: Get Your Hands Dirty

    Nate Silver has become synonymous with data, statistics, and generally predicating things with with scary accuracy, so when he starts to offer up some advice on the best way to gain those data analytics skills, I tend to perk up and listen. He took the time to do a Q&A with Walter Frick from The Harvard Business Review and of all the great advice and insights he offers, the best one is this:

    But my experience is all working with baseball data, or learning game theory because you want to be better at poker, right? Or [you] want to build better election models because you’re curious and you think the current products out there aren’t as strong as they could be.  So, getting your hands dirty with the data set is, I think, far and away better than spending too much time doing reading and so forth.

    So often we spend our time reading and talking in the abstract about how to do something instead of actually doing it, and I think Nate’s point is a great one, roll up your sleeves, and do. You will learn more by doing (and quite possibly failing) then reading about how to do it. It always seems hard to take that first step and plunge into something like a data set, but you may be surprised at your own ability to recognize patterns, understand the data, and pull out insights. But until you do it, you’ll never know.

    You can read the full Q&A with Nate Silver here.


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  • Cheryl Treleaven
    08.27.2013

    Digesting a Day’s Worth of Marketing Insights

     

    We all face it – the ongoing challenge to stay on top of “what’s new, what’s next.” Even with a host of tech-enabled tools to help aggregate relevant material, there always seems to be more content that I’d like to read than I could possibly consume on a daily basis. Scanning the onslaught of headlines, tweets, featured content, and newsfeeds, my current priorities serve as a steady guide, filtering the possibilities to a more manageable level. Beyond client news, my hot buttons these days include content strategy, customer journeys, buyer personas, social taken to the next level, and real world applications and best practices.

    For those with similar interests, I thought I’d share the top content that passed the screen this week along with a few key lessons I took from each:

    • When Sexy is Just Not Enough. Mercifully, not an editorial on Miley Cyrus. Rather, LinkedIn Today — my first stop most mornings — served up this post by McKinsey’s David Edelman in Marketing Strategies. His point: while it’s natural to focus on the sizzle, marketers need and want to look beyond sexy creative and delve into the ‘how.’ “There is a massive hunger among marketers, including those in the audience (at ANA’s Digital and Social Conference), for not just cool ideas they can learn from, but also for finding out the mechanics that make sexy happen.” Couldn’t agree more. We hear this regularly from clients. Lesson: Strive for balance; don’t ignore the operations side of the house.

    • Cisco Leads the Way in Social CRM. Lots of organizations grapple with how to tie social to real business value. Cisco is no exception. Lasandra Brill, Senior Manager of Global Social Media outlined Cisco’s four-pronged social media strategy in the latest installment of The Big Brand Theory on Social Media Today. Prominently featured was its ‘next-gen’ social CRM approach designed to put the collected information and social analytics to productive use by the right teams. Lesson: Pilot to understand how best to make social assets, interactions and analytics actionable and then scale to drive measurable impact.

    • Epic Content. On Slideshare, CMI’s Joe Pulizzi offers up 20 epic examples of brands’ content marketing that is targeted, compelling and consistently engaging for customers and prospects. Among my favorites are Adobe’s CMO.com and Coca Cola Journey – both innovative ways to connect with their targets. Lesson: Keep canvassing the landscape for relevant examples to inspire and inform your programs. Sometimes, it’s not just about the ‘new’ that distinguishes the effort – it’s how they’ve evolved to stay fresh and engaging over time.

    • Nordstrom’s Pinterest Interest. This real-world example describes how the high-end retailer, noted for its dedication to listening to its customers, is bringing the omni-channel experience to life. As reported in the Business Insider, the pilot extends engagement beyond giving online shoppers the ability to ‘pin’ any merchandise on the Nordstrom site. The brand is integrating the social feedback from 4.5 million Pinterest followers to the shopping experience by using that data to influence merchandising decisions in-store. Community-promoted merchandise carries a red Pinterest label and salespeople are armed with an app that matches popular Pinterest items with current inventory. Lesson: As Nordstrom’s social media manager Bryan Galipeau said, “What we’re doing here is taking the lead from the customer” and it could help us “translate digital insight into a real experience.”

     

    So that’s one marketing pro’s approach to finding a few hidden gems in a sea of information. What’s your strategy?

  • Kathy Baughman
    07.16.2013

    Customer Experience

    A state-of-art customer experience considers multiple touch points as a connected whole rather than islands of isolated experience. Many organizations today do a great job managing individual touch points as single moments of truth, but fail to understand their interdependencies. When an organization gets it right, the entire perception of the brand changes based upon that experience and the business excels in both growth and revenue.

     

    My family recently had many interactions with the healthcare system. My mom was in and out of the hospital twice in a six-week period and my sister had major surgery during the same time frame. They were both treated at different hospitals of the same health system, NorthShore University HealthSystem. Our situation was one of those Keystone Cops adventures where one person was admitted, and on the day of her discharge, the other was admitted. Then, when she was discharged, the other was re-admitted for a new medical challenge. So our experience with the institution was highly intensified over a short period of time.

     

    One of the best parts of any encounter with NorthShore is their early adoption of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and its integration system-wide. This offers all caregivers—including primary care docs, specialists, nursing staff, technicians, pharmacists and others—a centralized view of the full continuum of care and real-time access to test results, current meds and other vital information. This system operationalizes an important part of the patient experience and eliminates the need for multiple registrations, claims submissions and the redundant sharing of patient history. This is particularly great for those with chronic diseases who need multiple visits to a mix of physicians.

     

    The real “wow,” however, was the full immersion of the staff in delivering the best experience, often under highly emotional and challenging circumstances. Everyone from the orderlies and janitorial staff to the nurses, physicians and technicians were compassionate, kind and caring. Case in point: I asked a janitor if he knew where a certain department was located. He pushed his mop bucket into an alcove and escorted me to my destination. While en route, he explained it was difficult to find, so a guide was best. He also expressed concern for my family and said he hoped all went well and that he would pray for us. That sentiment was expressed over and over again from almost everyone we met. This experience was repeated at both hospitals across all touch points. It was obvious that this was an institution that operationalized the experience through recruitment attributes and great training.

     

    Contrast this to the experience at the rehab center where my mom was sent before she was able to go home. When she arrived, no one oriented her or the family to the facility. They simply told my sister her room number and instructed her to take my mom there. My mom had just been transported there by ambulance, so this was disconcerting at best. No one came to the room; we had to figure out the schedule and rhythms of the place ourselves, chase after them for prescribed treatments and meds, and so on. With a few exceptions, the floor staff was surly and indifferent. They were unwilling to answer questions or help find the person that could. The culture was one of, “It’s not my job and I’m not going to help you figure out anything outside of my responsibilities.”

     

    Unfortunately, this is an industry that has few review sites or ways to interact with former patients and staff. As the population ages, bringing social tools to the decision journey for these short-and long-term health facilities is vital. The caregivers and influencers of these decisions are highly social and accustomed to using review sites for a wide variety of purchases. This type of purchase requires peer-to-peer interaction to balance the marketing hype in branded content. The rehab facility described here boasted in its glossy brochure: prepare to be pampered! We would have been happy with basic care.

     

    The interesting thing to me is how we went from a wonderful hospital experience to a sub-par rehab stay. The social worker of the hospital recommended the facility to our family. This seems to be a missing part of the highly operationalized experience that the health system offered at its “owned” touch points. Why didn’t they visit these facilities or interview patients that they released there from the hospital? The hospital staff is a big influencer in this decision and the information was lacking to make sure that their brand was not denigrated by the experience in a facility that they highly recommended. While they cannot control the other organization’s experience, they can make sure those facilities that they recommend at the very least share a culture of caring and commitment to great outcomes.


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  • Kathy Baughman
    07.09.2013

    2013 Mid-year Review

    Mid-year Review

    Every January, pundits and prognosticators predict trends for the coming year. Earlier this year, we sifted through multiple sources to glean what prophecies were being foretold for 2013 in marketing strategy, content strategy, analytics and a few other topics. We decided to revisit these predictions and see what’s actually trending six months into the year.

    Two trends that were spot-on:
     

    Customer experience will become more integrated and more social.

    Companies will begin full integration of social media across the customer experience. What will really set this apart this year is that companies will use social media to conduct primary activities, including marketing to prospects, closing sales, supporting customers, gathering new product ideas and even improving their supply chain. That this will happen widely will be greatly assisted by the fact that many major enterprise line-of-business applications have recently added social media capabilities to the way they work. (Don Hinchcliffe, Chief Strategy Officer, Dachis Group)

    Brands will grow their investments in social customer service to better serve customers who engage with them through social media channels—a group who has been shown to spend 20% to 40% more than customers who are not socially-engaged. As social customer service matures, I expect to see more integration of technology platforms from traditional customer services with social monitoring and team collaboration. This will enable customers to receive the same level of support and information, regardless of their communication channel preference. (James Medd, social media marketing manager, Emailvision)

    In our work, ComBlu is seeing these related predictions come to fruition. Many brands have used online communities for many years to deflect the overall cost of customer care and support. The next logical step is to integrate these communities with social streams and invite customer advocates to expand mentoring beyond support forums. Some brands are activating customers as the voice of the customer on live social streams. This goes beyond simply displaying Tweets and posts in the support community and organizing a full digital and social support ecosystem to accommodate multiple but related gateways to the customer care experience.

    We are also seeing an uptick in social sales enablement. Some brands are creating private online rooms for both sales teams and prospects to interact, engage around a highly customized content experience and calibrate the conversation. This results in a collapsed sales cycle with the technology companies leading the way in this format.
     

    Brands will focus on matching content with the right point on the buyer’s journey.

    Organizations will begin to address the gap between the way our customers seek information during the buying process and the gaps in the information we marketers provide. This will create a greater need for new roles to be created in many more companies, such as Content Strategist, Chief Content Office, Data Scientists (in marketing) and Social Business Managers (marketers spreading into other departments like sales and customer support). These roles will help companies bridge the gaps and address the changing buyer journey. (Michael Brenner, author of B2B Marketing Insider, co-founder of Business 2 Community and Senior Director of Integrated Marketing and Content Strategy, SAP)

    2013 will also be the year that the majority of marketers will discover the power of highly-targeted consumer and shopper digital marketing opportunities. These strategically-focused opportunities will deliver more relevant messaging at key points along the path to purchase in order to drive shoppers to key retail channels, categories and products. (Jason Katz, SVP Digital, & Kevin Sidell, VP Digital, AMG)

    While a recent search of a large marketing database revealed only 13 people with the title Chief Content Officer, this hasn’t stopped the trend toward parsing the decision or buying journey. Understanding how to align the right content for each distinct point along the decision journey is increasingly important to both inbound marketers and social teams. More brands are going beyond digital user journeys and creating detailed composite views of multiple decision makers and how each interacts with content along the buyer’s journey. Brands are creating detailed content journeys that include a robust ecosystem that contains more than owned digital assets.

    One trend that fizzled:
     

    Metrics with Context

    One of the biggest industry challenges at the moment is effectively measuring engagement. That’s because there is no universal currency for social media engagement across social media channels. Channel fragmentation is a big part of the problem. Although many brands monitor the major social networks, some of the most important and useful engagement happens in the nooks and crannies of customer communities, blogs, niche social sites and even old-school discussion forums. How to listen to, evaluate and rank engagement to understand brand sentiment, have meaningful situational awareness and maintain reasonably useful objective measures will be a vital topic this year. (Don Hinchcliffe, Chief Strategy Officer, Dachis Group)

    2013 is the year social leaps beyond projection/syndication and becomes more about listening, understanding and driving better products and relationships that drive business. Vendors and agencies that provide useful big data analytics (ideally blending the inside and outside of the enterprise) will become big-dollar rock stars. Over 50% of C-level will finally realize social does not only equal Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. (Jeff Browning, Senior Director, Online Strategy, F5 Networks)

    While we wish this projection gained more traction, we believe that brands and agencies are still in the “talking about this” stage when it comes to whittling big marketing data down to size. Some strides have been made in the use of cross-channel audience data, but few have put it together in a meaningful way that provides a roadmap for future action.

    In addition, we are still seeing most brands focusing on social and big engagement platforms and not doing the hard work to engage in the crannies described above by Don Hinchcliffe. While we’re seeing some renewed interest in optimizing branded communities, we’re also seeing too much “pushing” content at people and no real creation of a true community.

    On balance, more predictions seem to be on-trend than not. However, some were softballs, such as:

    • Instagram and Google+ will both evolve as “must have” platforms.
    • “Shareworthy” will be the new marketing currency, aided by my favorite new term: “share bait.”
    • The future of marketing is visual content, which will be the most prevalent form of storytelling.
    • Multi-screen adaptability and screen convergence will drive content strategy and platform development.
    • Slideshare will be the fastest growing platform in 2013, helped by its acquisition by LinkedIn.

    We’ll continue to monitor the predictions of 2013 and share our point of view as they continue to evolve…or not!


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  • Cheryl Treleaven
    02.14.2013

    Take 5 – and Evaluate Your Content Strategy

     

    In the flurry of predictions for hot marketing trends in 2013 and beyond, you’d be hard pressed to find a story that didn’t include content at its core. Whatever the context – delivered via digital, social, or mobile; designed for demand gen or ongoing customer engagement; paid, earned or owned media – it’s in there. With content as king (and perhaps queen and court), Forbes suggests that brands’ attention has shifted from ‘why content marketing’ to ‘how to.’ We’ve seen that trend borne out with our clients as well.

    In evaluating your own content strategy and how to take it to the next level, be brutally honest in answering five key questions:

    1. Are you striking the right balance by offering content that provides value across the buyers’ journey or are you are more skewed in one phase at the expense of others? For many content marketers, resources are often focused heavily on filling the ‘top of the funnel’ (demand generation), but fall short on driving consideration, preference or even engaging customer ‘fans’ as a powerful post-purchase channel. Take stock of where your content gaps lie and recalibrate to ensure you’ve got the kind of content that holds the most sway at each phase of the path to purchase.

    2. In your zeal to continue to ‘feed the beast,’ are you cannibalizing your own content efforts? With the seemingly never-ending demand for more, more, more – 64% of B2B content marketers cite ‘producing enough content’ as their #1 challenge, according to Content Marketing Institute’s 2013 Content Marketing report. The question is – are you giving your content ‘time to breathe.’ Producing too many pieces too fast may not allow you to maximize the value of those assets. Finding the right cadence for your audience is key.

    3. Are the customers’ or prospects’ information needs at the heart of your content program? A corollary to Questions 1 and 2. Content marketing is driven by both your brand’s overarching business objectives – no apologies here — AND the need to create value for your target. Clearly, content strategy should be designed to effectively marry the two. This will also drive a flight to quality. Content consumers have too many options on too many screens to waste precious time on content that doesn’t engage them in a compelling and channel appropriate way. To borrow a phrase from CMI’s Joe Pulizzi, ‘quality is the new quantity.’

    4. Is there visibility across your organization of what content exists, is in development, or planned? The benefits of such a content ‘window’ (powered by CMS technology) are clear — message consistency, brand alignment, greater efficiency/less duplication of efforts, more throughput, increased opportunity for amplification, and cost savings, to name a few. The larger, more dispersed the content organization, the greater the potential value.

    5. Do you have a content plan upfront – or are you constantly in repurposing mode? In other words, are you regularly asking ‘what should we do with this great piece of content now that I have it’ – after the fact. A more efficient and effective starting point is to look at what you’re trying to accomplish, then laying out how to tell that story in a way that’s best suited to each key channel – before any content is developed. Think about content cornerstones that center on topics providing high value to your target and best represent your brand. Map it out – who’s creating what assets when, distributing/amplifying them where and when, driving content consumers to what action, and tracking how well that content performs. Learn and adjust as needed. Carefully crafting a content strategy in advance can provide powerful guidance for more effective development and deployment of content.

    How you answer these key questions – and more importantly, what you choose to do going forward — can spell the difference between being good enough and setting a new content marketing standard.


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  • Steve Hershberger
    01.30.2013

    And now a word from our members

    There are a lot of blogs on social marketing, social media and word of mouth today and like bellybuttons, everyone has an opinion.

    Here is the thing that has bugged me for nearly the last two years (yes, that is a long time to be perturbed by anything unless you are Lewis Black). 

    Are you ready?

    Many of the published approaches and opinions on social today are clinical or theoretical.  They don’t take into account the realities of everyday business.  In other words, what happens when the ever present ‘pivot’ is required or the budget for the more complete and elegant program strategy is clawed back by management or a re-org occurs and all your senior stakeholders have vanished.

    As I sit here writing this post, I am reminded of a statement I recently heard, “a plan is something you throw out when you are down by 14 at the end of the first quarter.”  Since we are in the midst of pre-Super Bowl hype,let’s go with the analogy. My point here is that plans, like social programs and strategies should be fluid.  They are full of audibles and broken plays.  Sometimes it is the simple shovel pass that wasn’t even a play option that gets the first down.

    With this in mind I introduce to you WOMMA TV.  As WOMMA TV’s host, I promise you a no-holds barred and in-depth peek (or as in-depth that 15 minutes will allow) peek into the real world of doing social well. We are going to leave the charts, process flows and social theory to others.  For those of you who know me, you know I love charts as much as the next geek but that isn’t the purpose of WOMMA TV.  Instead, WOMMA TV will be more ‘reality tv’ than produced sitcom.

    WOMMA TV’s pilot is in the can and the first episode is in less than two weeks.  You’ll find it the end of the first week of each month at WOMMA’s website, as well as, here.  It will also be promoted on Twitter.  You’ll find it on YouTube and a variety of other places.  Just search ‘WOMMA TV’.

    Each month, just prior to the show, I will publish a post with the upcoming topic and a peek behind the scenes of the upcoming episode. 

    It’s my hope that you’ll add WOMMA TV to your list of your ‘must consume’ monthly content on social.

  • Steve Hershberger
    10.30.2012

    The future of marketing: All roads lead to Rome

     

    On October 18th, I-COM, The International Conference for Online Measurement held its 2012 Global Summit.

    This is important because I-COM is probably the most important marketing conference occurring today and one that most marketers have never heard of

    For the last year, I have had the great pleasure to represent WOMMA on I-COM’s board of directors and had the opportunity to collaborate with quite literally some of the best and brightest digital marketers and big data thought leaders that exist anywhere on the globe. 

    This group worked tirelessly to create a worthwhile conference framework, identify the right topics, build a structural framework for the conference, speaker presentations and breakout sessions, as well as, identify industry thought leaders that people would in some cases travel half way around the world to listen to, learn from and in some cases have a rousing debate with. 

    I-COM GroupPhoto450

    Here are some insights from the conference, in case your travel budget didn’t allow for a junket to Italy.  There is a lot of content for you at this link, so surf through and pick out what you are most interested in. 

    Here are some high points and opinions that I’ve distilled from the preplanning work, the conference content and post conference discussions.

    1.  Don’t get overly enamored with Big Data.  Yes, it will change how the best businesses plan their strategies but it isn’t a magic ball that will close all the knowledge gaps you have.  Effective use of Big Data requires organizational alignment, special skills, tools and processes to utilize correctly.  The old phrase junk in-junk out still applies, so be thoughtful in what and how you measure.

    2.  Dashboards aren’t the next killer app.  Just like Big Data, dashboards are an efficiency tool that provide value when used effectively.  Like one observer put it, “Dashboards are a lot like your highlighter in college.  If you highlighted the wrong stuff in your text book, or everything in a chapter for that matter, you were sure to flunk your test.  Be thoughtful in what you highlight”  Just like Big Data, junk in, junk out.

    3.  Campaigns are transitory.  Content is not.  Marketers need to move their fixation from campaign optimization to content optimization.

    4. Traditional activity metrics (impressions, likes, etc.) have a waning importance.  With the growth and soon critical mass of ‘Do Not Track’ restrictions, marketers must move strategies and activities to ‘value metrics’, such as content and page value (and correlated KPI impact).

    5. ‘ROI’ of social and in many cases, digital engagement is still very amorphous.  Currently, the ‘R’ in ROI has no real, solid currency (as measured in business impact or Profit and Loss terms).  Marketers need to apply more discipline to get to that before ‘The ROI of social’ has any real meaning or value.

    6.  Global, category standards are critical to ensuring acceptance.  However, standards need not include a measure or a metric for the sake of applying one (there are a lot of measures out there that either make little sense or are impossible to track.  Let’s not add to this clutter).

    7. Continuing education is critical to adoption and value generation.  Create, use, teach and enforce consistent, relevant vocabularies and approaches to the important general or universal categories.

    8.  Accept that evolution in this space is occurring so quickly that the focus should be on the process and best practices, not an end result.

    Of course there was a lot more than this that occurred in Rome.  Lots of detail and smart opinions were shared and discussed on topics such as mobile, attribution, multi-screen analytics, attribution and advertising effectiveness in a digital age just to name a few of the many meaty topics.

    Spend some time with this information, you’ll be glad you did.  Share it (or at least the eight points I’ve outlined above) with your peers and use it to continue to evolve and improve your own initiatives.

  • Steve Hershberger
    07.24.2012

    Social Marketing’s innovation curve: What lies ahead.

    By now, everyone has seen this Infographic.  Yes, it is complex and confusing and it should give you a headache. 

    image

    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.

    Capture

    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. 

    Capture

    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.

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