Last week I was talking with a client about a new community they will be rolling out and their need for a community manager. The conversation went like so many do: “Does this really need to be a full-time person? Can’t someone already on our team take this over?” And, as usual I answered “yes!” because saying “duh!” is really unprofessional.
It got me thinking that we talk a lot about the role of the community manager. It might be time to stop thinking about them as another FTE and start thinking about them as investments. The world of finance tells us that a good investment is one that results in a yield greater than the initial investment and continues to do so over time. Using this standard, community managers really are a good investment. Their “yield” can be seen when you take a strategic approach to community management.
Your community management strategy should take into consideration your strategic business goals and how the community can advance them. Two of the many areas where community managers make a measurable difference are service and sales.
Your community manager can focus on reducing the number of service or support calls by monitoring common questions and developing content to address these. Also, the community manager can develop and support members within the community to provide peer counsel and resolution of issues. No matter the size of your organization, the ability to reduce the time and personnel spent on support is a great yield. In addition, a fast response from the community is a great boost to customer/member satisfaction.
Your community manager can also monitor community dialogue and activity to generate sales leads via online touch points like blog posts, eBooks and webinars. This strategic approach involves asking questions, listening effectively to needs and concerns and helping to position products and services as a solution. They can also feed this intelligence to other parts of your organization and engage them in responsive action. While you want the sales support aspects of your community manager to be subtle, the ability to monitor community activity and dialogue from a sales perspective and act on the resulting insights is a great community management yield.
When you consider other areas where your community manager and community management strategy can deliver results, like product creation, brand advocacy and customer recruitment, then the ROI is clear. And, if you have a community manager but are not getting the ROI you need, perhaps they just need some training. Check out the great on-demand education that WOMMA offers on community management. I may be biased because our team helped create this with the great folks at The Community Roundtable, but these community management training sessions cover both contextual topics like market trends, strategy, metrics, measurement and culture, as well as specific business use cases like social customer support, internal community building, community in government and more.
I believe that a great community strategy and a well-trained community manager can deliver measurable and lasting results for an organization. But like any investment, you have to nurture your community manager and have a responsive and scalable strategy in order to get the “yield” you need.
If you were to sit down in any one of these seats in the below picture, could you decipher what was going on in a reasonable period of time while at 38,000 feet? What if your life depended on it? Without some serious help, probably not.
What would you do? Nothing? Start pushing any button that blinked red? You’d be taking action without a clear understanding of the implications of your decisions. You’d find out soon enough if you guessed right though.
This picture accurately depicts the amount of data that marketers have coming at them today. Like the above picture, the data sources are almost overwhelming and more often than not, it can put the untrained or uninitiated into data overload. Unlike the trained pilot who has a standards-based plan that goes along with anything the gauges tell him, most marketers are blind to the implications and root causes that are driving the information they receive. Instead, they look for red blinking lights.
Unfortunately, when any light starts to blink, most respond with the same urgency as another and miss many tell tale metrics because those metrics are buried in with a host of less important ones…if it isn’t blinking, it isn’t important. The the airplane’s cockpit jammed with all the gauges, dials, knobs, buttons and displays, finding what you need to optimize your social efforts either requires a team of highly trained professionals, or a more intelligent interface.
Having an intelligent dashboard that knows how to properly display what’s important to you rather than just showing everything can mean the difference between success and failure. With respect to this, here are a few things that I regularly hear:
1. Most activities look the same in terms of their level of importance. I don’t have any way to normalize this.
2. Information is grouped by originating source (i.e. Radian 6, Adobe, Google Analytics, Jive, etc.). It isn’t integrated by topic or area of importance (i.e. ‘Hydraulic Systems’ if you are a pilot).
3. I have no way of directly linking my information to key strategic imperatives (i.e. ‘Collision warning, pull up!)
4. I have very few ways to show the direct benefit to my stakeholders of our social initiatives to the overall business enterprise (i.e. ‘This morning’s flight from Chicago to Dallas has taken 1.4 hours and we will be arriving 18 minutes early. For those of you with tight connections, you will have plenty of time to get to your gates without sprinting’).
For several years now, we have been tracking these issues carefully, as well as, being able to effectively measure them. We have come to learn that knowing what you are measuring and its relative importance is as important to tracking it in the first place. We built SPI to solve these problems.
We know that being able to make the information easy to understand and actionable is critical. So we invented SPI (Social Performance Index). For the first time, brands can effectively track important interdependent value metrics such as:
We think that like the evolution to a digital, smart cockpit that makes pilots more effective and efficient, SPI will provide the same value to marketers and those throughout the enterprise who rely on them for critical insights and effective action.
If you are a marketer and rely on multiple data and information streams, SPI will most assuredly increase your effectiveness.
To learn more about SPI, take a test drive or hear what other brands using SPI are saying, drop us a note at email@example.com
In 2011, we published Content Supply Chain, an eBook that laid out a strategic framework for forecasting content needs, managing production and publication and measuring its impact on business goals. ComBlu has created a companion, Epic Content Strategy: A Formula for Overcoming 4 Major Content Pain Points, which deals with four key pain points of content marketing. Following is a preview of the new eBook, which will be published mid-May.
Pain Point One: Brands recognize their role as a content publisher, but still grapple with the best way to organize the content creation and distribution process. Most of the information about organizing the marketing function as a content publisher follows the media or newsroom model. While instructive, the larger point is missed. Most brands today publish a massive amount of content. The real pain point is not having a central view of who is producing content and how to create better points of collaboration. In the typical organization, many pieces of content are being created about the same topic by multiple areas in the company with little or no awareness that the other content objects already existed or were in process. The lack of a well-defined governance process leads to inefficiencies, wasted time and resources and a suboptimal content experience both internally and externally. Many brands try to build a content organization without first understanding their full, existing content ecosystem. Failure to do this will create new, more complex pain points. Ouch!
Pain Point Two: Brands still wonder if they can continue to effectively “feed the content beast.” In fact, according to a Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs study, 64 percent of marketers say their biggest challenge is creating sufficient content. Marketers fret that they will never have enough content to reach people and stay top-of-mind at every point of the buyer’s journey. In reality, the brand will never maintain the post position in the day-to-day lives of customers, prospects and other stakeholders. Content whizzes past people’s consciousness so quickly that they barely have time to bookmark, download or save it. And even if they do, they may not remember they did so when they need it.
Many brands overcompensate for these dynamics by generating a ton of content and indiscriminately amplifying it across as many channels as possible. The real goal is to worry less about content volume and instead create fewer pieces of “epic” content that kindle an “aha” moment when a person discovers it and realizes it is just what they need right now. That is how most people consume content. They go find it when they need it.
Finding the right mix will help eliminate the “feeding the beast” syndrome as less of the content creation burden falls on the internal content team. This requires an insights process that forecasts the right content and topics along the decision journey.
Once the roadmap is complete, creating the right content becomes a more focused effort. One outcome of the insights process is the creation of filters that can be incorporated into a checklist or scorecard to gauge the overall effectiveness of each content asset. These filters would include segment relevance, message attractiveness, appropriate voice for genre or format, contribution to KPI, ability to differentiate and pertinence to the marketplace. This tool will focus authors and give editors or strategists a process to optimize the value of content. And, if the content is both emergent and engaging, it will have a longer shelf life, which can result in the need for fewer pieces of content.
Pain Point Three: Content cadence is another big conundrum. Many brands still fall into the trap of thinking they need to produce content because they have a publishing cycle that dictates “x” pieces of content per week or month. They use traditional time-stamped publishing models to schedule content. An emerging best practice is to monitor the content amplification process to uncover the natural rhythms and life cycle of your content. This will probably vary for each distribution channel and can be impacted if you publish content that regularly goes viral. However, if the nature and quality of your content is optimized, you may be able to publish less frequently with better effect.
One of the key outcomes of the insights process, referred to in Pain Point Two, is data that informs both content cadence and publication timing. It requires the brand to view the output from the insights process through a different lens; one that is time-based and will uncover natural points when content topics will have better resonance and opportunity for content breakthroughs.
Pain Point Four: Brands want to know if their content is working hard enough for the investment made. Content ROI is subjective and driven by the business mission or objectives of the content marketing program. An integrated approach to measurement yields a value story as opposed to simply tracking activity metrics. The important thing is to know which content is performing and which distribution channels provide the best positioning and consumption. The resulting data becomes another source for the insights process so that efficiencies and effectiveness evolve exponentially. Brands run into difficulty when they believe that placing multiple activity metrics next to each other on a dashboard will actually tell them a value story. The trick here is to pull metrics from multiple sources into a single dashboard for each KPI. This allows analysis that gleans insights and creates a path for appropriate action.
ComBlu’s new eBook delves into these pain points and presents a method for attacking and taming each one. If you’re interested in reading about these topics in greater detail, you can pre-register for a copy of the eBook by filling in the form below. We’ll send you a copy immediately upon publication.
Thought Leadership Versus Content Marketing—One and the Same?
Everywhere you turn today in our industry, people are talking about content marketing. Content initiatives have taken on a life of their own—with good reason—as brands are working to improve their content system in order to deliver the right content at the right place and time for consumers and business audiences alike.
What is interesting to me is that I often hear people talk about thought leadership and content marketing as though they were the same thing. But, they are not.
Forrester Research defines content marketing as the tactical process of creating communications for prospects, customers and other key target audiences. Thought leadership is defined as the strategic process of creating and sharing big ideas, insights and new perspectives on the critical issues that buyers face.
So they are different, but inextricably linked. Having managed a number of very successful thought leadership campaigns, I consider thought leadership to be all about leveraging the point-of-view expressed within a company’s content. As such, content is really the driver for a strong thought leadership program.
Once you have a point of view, it is imperative that you slice and dice the information and deliver it in a variety of formats across multiple channels. The tactics and channels will depend upon your objectives, audiences and delivery preferences.
For example, a client of ComBlu’s recently shared information on a new loan vehicle they had developed to help serve the financing needs of small business owners in the insurance, medical and franchise industries. They had compiled some research on the market needs and developed a POV in the form of a product brief. Our mission was to leverage this content to let the decision makers in these three industries know about this new finance option and how it could help them today.
ComBlu worked with our client to come up with specific reasons and examples to clearly articulate how this loan product would help companies in each distinct industry, and applied that information in several ways. We then developed the materials to secure thought leadership pieces, including:
· Authored articles on the topic that ran in trade publications and online newsletters that reach medical professionals, insurance brokers and franchise owners
· Guest blogs on related industry association websites
· Expert commentary (quotes by our thought leader) that ran in finance trend pieces written by reporters that cover the three industries
· Company blogs that were then linked to in an email campaign that went out to current and existing customers, as well as lists purchased from the related industry trade associations
It is important to point out that thought leadership is not a “once in a row” activity. Once the content is in place and a point of view is developed, a company has to continually leverage its body of work to bubble up new ideas to sustain dialogue and foster ongoing conversation. The process begins with a clear definition of the thought leadership objectives and ends with a framework to deliver thought leadership positioning that will stimulate discussion, differentiate the organization and generate action.
Thought leadership will always be linked to a company’s content, and true thought leadership will never go out of style. People in all industries will always embrace fresh thinking, new ideas and leadership. But to be effective, it must be on-target, build credibility, attract followers and lead on the issues that matter most to the target audiences.
Do you have a thought leadership example you’d like to share? I’d love to hear.
A few weeks ago I attended WOMMA’s WOM Fest in Chicago. During the meeting, one of the speakers, Kristian Bush from the musical group Sugarland, talked about how they have used WOM to attract and build a fan base. As Kristian talked, he told a few fun stories about how the group had done things, like hidden tickets in Wal-Mart stores and then tweeted about it to create excitement for local shows – a really unique idea that builds local market excitement for their show. But it got me wondering: are free giveaways really WOM? Is that the end of the story – or just the beginning?
Traditionally, word-of-mouth marketing is defined as: an unpaid form of promotion—oral or written—in which satisfied customers tell other people how much they like a business, product, service, or event. According to Entrepreneur Media, word-of-mouth is one of the most credible forms of advertising because people who don’t stand to gain personally by promoting something put their reputations on the line every time they make a recommendation. For purists like me, word-of-mouth is about the personal experience with a product or brand. In the Sugarland example, is it WOM when someone gets free tickets to an event or it is just a great attention getting event? Or does the WOM come after the fact when the person who attends the concert shares their experience to friends and family? And, in the end, does it matter?
Brands want their customers to tell their friends about the product. But can you “buy” sustainable positive buzz about your brand? Why, when you don’t need to? In Sugarland’s case, I’m guessing the real WOM came from only offering the tickets via a channel already exclusive to their fans – their Twitter. It also came from all the activity that likely followed: the ticket winner sharing the experiences of their night with family and friends; people talking about the give-away; sharing their interest in the band and even people in the next city on the tour talking about the give-away, sharing their desire for tickets and even speculating where tickets might be hidden in their town. Giving away the tickets is not the WOM – it’s just the event that sparked it.
While the give-away is the fun part of the story – it’s not the whole story. And when you take the time to look at, consider and plan for the whole story, you understand the true power of WOM.
When watching from the couch, TV looks, well…easy. I have come to learn that hosting a web-based interview-format show is anything but easy. There is a lot that goes into doing it well. While I doubt that I will ever get called up the the majors and host a network show, I am working hard to create a short format show that is both interesting and insightful.
WOMMA TV is the offspring of the ‘Socializing Media’ podcast that I did with a number of other social luminaries such as the current Chairman of the Board for WOMMA, Virginia Miracle.
WOMMA chose to partner with Comblu to make this show happen because we both believe in sharing great ideas and thought leaders we know and respect with others who share our interest and passion for doing social well.
Each episode will be on a different topic and will include at least one guest that has deep experience in that specific area. The upcoming episode we are taping tomorrow will focus on Community Management. We won’t take a traditional approach to talking about why you need a community management resource on your team and what are the 12 best practices that govern community management. No, that would be too easy and not any fun. Instead, we are going to peel back the shiny veneer of community management and delve into the unexplored and overlooked areas that lurk beneath the happy surface.
We are going to find out what gets people into trouble, what are the warning signs when things are about to go wrong and what going wrong looks like-and-how to fix it.
We’ll also explore where the boundaries of community management are and if there is such a thing as a community strategy, and what, if any role the community management team should play in formulating that strategy.
We will cover a lot of ground in our fifteen minute show, so grab a coffee or a LaCroix and settle in for some fun.
You may not agree with everything we say, but that is the idea. We WANT to spark a debate with you! You can share your opinion either in this blog below in the comments or instead here. We want the audience to participate, just like we all did when we went to the midnight showing of Rocky Horror. If you are under 38, you may have to Google this to know what I am talking about.
This week’s guest is Cait Weingartner. And yes, she’s a community expert. She was a featured panelist at the 2012 Word of Mouth Marketing Association Summit leading a discussion on crisis management within social communities and the development of a comprehensive checklist for handling social crisis from planning, resolving and evaluating post-crisis. So this episode should be interesting.
Tune in and enjoy WOMMA TV!
By now, everyone knows all the mantras about content:
· Content is the new “social.”
· Content is the core asset of social marketing.
· Brands are publishers.
· Content is today’s marketing “rock star.”
· Brands need content at the right place at the right time along the decision journey.
To that end, CMOs are ratcheting up their content marketing budgets, and digital doyennes are rethinking their content roadmaps with the buyer’s journey in mind. As a result, many brands have commissioned “journey work” to understand how to optimize the experience for people landing on their digital assets looking for information and enlightenment. While the classic user journey may provide lots of valuable information for designing a website’s flow and content needs, it will only go so far in mapping the actual content experience of the intended persona or customer. For that, brands need to conduct a true content journey.
It’s important to distinguish a content journey from the actual user experience, which is where most journey work focuses. In the user journey, the brand concentrates on how a visitor interacts on their owned properties, particularly web sites and content hubs. Further, many journeys begin and end with a specific part of the buyer’s journey, and often do not differentiate between the experience for a person in the early stages of discovery vs. a valued customer who is looking for specific product-in-use information.
Because digital content is dynamic by nature, a content journey is broader in scope than the user journey. A content journey may start with the user’s experience on the brand’s owned websites or digital assets, but soon jumps to other destinations including influencer’s blogs, analyst’s content, social sites, third party review sites or wherever Google takes them. It’s important to remember that the brand’s content has the most authority in the discovery or awareness stage of the journey and then again at the point of purchase. In between, the user seeks third party influencer POV or peer ratification and insights, and goes to other places to find this type of content.
Another important distinction is the interplay between decision makers that happens along the buyer’s journey. A lot of journey work shows the path of a single decision maker and ignores the dynamics between multiple ones. Each person in this chain has different content needs, most likely in varying degrees of detail and formats. Some of the people involved in the decision cycle need one type of content for themselves and yet another when they communicate either up or down the chain. These intersections are just as important to understand as are the separate but linked journeys of each level of decision maker.
When first confronted with this expanded view of its users, many digital marketers respond, “I’m just focused on website content; I’m not concerned with third party sites or ‘PR’ content.” In reality, brands should know exactly where else their customers are going for content and figure out a way to deliver it to them in a credible way. Here are a few ways to bridge the gap:
· Stream reviews from third party sites on your website. You may not be able to “control” this content but it shows confidence and an understanding of what your visitors are actually looking for. In some organizations, cultural barriers may prevent this approach, but other ways to convey voice of the customer abound.
· Create a series of infographics that highlight voice of the customer content. Update it regularly. This becomes highly shareable as well as a great piece of content for the website.
· Provide links to third party influencer content. If you’re highly rated in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, for example, make sure these reports are front and center at the right point in the journey.
· Rev up your customer advocate program so they become your voice across the cloud. This doesn’t happen by accident and it takes more than an “influencer content platform.” While these tools are great for sharing specific pieces of brand-generated content, they do not replace genuine voice of the customer. For that, brands need to work to activate a community of advocates and engage with them continuously.
· Bubble-up your community content on your other digital destinations.
The starting point is understanding the interplay between your personas and then going on the content journey with each of them. This gives visibility into the full ecosystem that each uses to get answers and information. It results in a fully integrated content strategy that keeps the user as the central player in the entire content journey and lessens the focus on any single asset such as the website.
The Sunday CBS Evening News featured a new service being offered to guests at the posh Madison Hotel in Washington, DC– a social media butler. The social media butler is being offered as part of a $40,000 room and driver package for the upcoming Inauguration.
After calling the hotel this morning, I learned that the social media butler will follow the guest around to a series of Inaugural events and Tweet, Instagram and make Facebook posts on their behalf. The pitch for the service is: “make family and friends jealous in real-time and have Inaugural memories that last a lifetime.”
It is a good marketing ploy…but is it really social media? Most of us define social media as electronic communication through which users share information, ideas, personal messages and other content. Notice the inclusion of the word “personal.” If you are paying someone to be your social media butler is it still personal? And, if someone buying this package has never experienced or worked with social media before will they know what to have the butler do or say? And, if not, does the butler just wing it and post a series of pre-written comments appropriate for each event and occasion?
While I know that some high powered executives like Richard Edelman, Mark Cuban and Paul Levy are committed to and actually write their own blogs and tweets – I am not naive enough to think that they all do. But, even those who don’t personally author their social posts have them written by folks who know the product, know the brand and know the person and their view point on critical issues. Ghostwriters have been around since we were writing on cave walls – and when they have a solid foundation, it’s a solid and acceptable practice.
But does the social media butler cross into new turf? Is there something almost deceptive about posts that are represented as personal experiences but are not? Would you be as excited about seeing pictures of your cousin’s baby on Facebook if the pictures were not of her baby but rather a generic photo and message posted by her hospital for her convenience?
To me, the critical question is how much of social media is about the speed of the message vs. trust in the author? What’s more important: to be fast or to be genuine? At ComBlu we feel that your social voice has to align with your brand voice. That’s something you can’t fake or farm out to someone who is not part of your team. And, we feel that it is important to know who is doing the talking and sharing. For example, we have strict standards about how staff should be identified in communities and other settings so it is clear with whom you are interacting. In our minds, transparency breeds trust and engagement.
But the social media butler has made me question if practice and trends are starting to change. We’d love to hear from you. Please share a comment with us below or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you and keeping the discussion going. Oh – and if you do contact me you can be assured it will be me who responds – I can’t afford a social media butler! Can you?
On behalf of my fellow Lumenatti bloggers I would like to say thank you for reading our thoughts and musings on all things social. Looking back, we had a lot to say over the last twelve months! 2012 was the year of content, brand advocates, community, infographics, emerging industries and innovation. I was curious to see what your favorites were, so I peeked behind the analytics curtain to find out. Below is a compilation of the top ten most popular blogs on Lumenatti in 2012. Enjoy and Happy New Year from everyone at ComBlu!
10.) Peter Duckler: Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About
9.) Steve Hershberger: Social Marketing’s Innovation Curve What Lies Ahead
8.) Kathy Baughman: Brand Advocacy Redux
7.) Steve Hershberger: The Internet of Things Will Drive Social Marketing
6.) Cheryl Treleaven: Community Crowdsourcing Credit Card Goes Social
5.) Colleen Nolan: Infographic Fever
4.) Jennifer Voisard: Brand Advocates are Hot Again [infographic]
3.) Kathy Baughman: Return on Content
2.) Kathy Baughman: Content Marketing is the New Social
And number one of course…….
1.) Kathy Baughman: 2012 State of Online Branded Communities Study is here!
2012 is quickly coming to a close, and because of that, our office has been abuzz. But our conversations are not about resolutions to eat less and exercise more—after all, we’re a bunch of social strategists and amateur home cooks! Instead, we’ve been discussing the social trends of 2012 and making predictions about what’s to come in 2013.
While a lot happened in the world of social this year, a recurring theme is the shift to more visually-compelling content. There was the emergence—and impressive growth—of the image bookmarking platform, Pinterest. Facebook unveiled Timeline, which places more emphasis on user photos. And Instagram use increased exponentially, surpassing one billion photos.
The group consensus at ComBlu is that videos, images and photos will continue to be important in 2013. And we have some other predictions for content, influencers, mobile integration, and social media’s integration into everyday life. Here’s what our team had to say:
Content: How it’s delivered and where it’s sourced
Leveraging the power of influencers
The move to mobile
Come December 2013, we’ll review these predictions to see just how accurate they were. That is, assuming the Mayans weren’t right about their prediction…