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Must Read, Social Media Strategy

Shortcuts Don’t Pay Off In Community Building

July 12, 2010

Today started out awesome – everything was on an even keel and productivity was high.  Around 1pm, I got this lovely message: “Welcome to the mailing list!” Wow, I didn’t realize I signed up for this, since I have no idea who this is or why I would want to know about their events.  This email came into my ‘good inbox’ – i.e. the one that usually just has ‘real’ emails.  I use my yahoo email account to sign up for mailing lists, webinars, etc. where it’s likely I’m going to be added to lists, so it’s rare that I get outright spam to the main account.  Being the good internet citizen I am, I promptly followed the instructions and clicked the link to unsubscribe.  No big deal.  So I thought.

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Social Media Strategy

Mobile Engagement

January 25, 2010

What questions are you asking regarding mobile engagement?

You are asking questions in this area, right?  If not, what are you waiting for?  Here are some thoughts to chew on that might help you steer your thinking toward mobile.  The recently released Morgan Stanley Mobile Internet Report suggests that web traffic will be greater on mobile browsers than desktop browsers within 5 years and that shipments of smartphones will outpace that of desktop PCs by 2012!  These are remarkable predictions that deserve some serious consideration.

Beyond the basics of having a presence on the mobile web, we must make sure that our presence there makes sense from the end user’s perspective.   The questions I believe we should ask when beginning to think about mobile strategy are ‘how can we provide value to the user’s experience while they are on the go’ and ‘can we provide this value with a unique proposition that our brand is best suited to deliver?’  These questions along with others that are customer-centric set the stage for a fruitful relationship between your brand and your customers.

Placing ourselves in the customers’ shoes

Placing ourselves in our customers’ shoes first allows us to be in a better position to meet their needs.  The needs will be different with each organization, but one thing is consistent across nearly all of them – the ability for users to access information that is readable, digestible, and actionable while on the go.  Don’t forget about that last point – if they can’t take action at the point of need, then the opportunity is missed.  The mobile web is critical territory, and if your customers are not able to get what they want from a mobile device, what does that say about the value you place on these interactions?

Have you developed a mobile site for your brand?  If so, is it just a repackaged version of your existing site or does it truly take into account the experience that a user has when consuming content on a mobile device?  What about mobile apps?  Have you developed a mobile app for Android, iPhone, Blackberry, etc.?  In either case, what needs are you satisfying for the customer?  Notice I didn’t say what needs are you satisfying for your internal marketing department.  This is the critical fork in the road.  Believe me, customers are not waiting around hoping for another way for you to market to them on their mobile phone.  However, many of them are no doubt longing for an easier way to access information, complete a task, discover new products and services that meet their needs, etc.  These are the desires that we need to pay attention to.

Focusing on the Point of Need

We should start with the customer’s point of need and work back into the tools to help from that perspective.  Peter Sells did a fantastic job of illustrating this in his recent speech at the Battle of Big Thinking.  Special thanks to Jonathan MacDonald for pointing out this video! In his talk, Peter mentions a positive experience that he had with British Airways that was facilitated by a mobile site accessed via iPhone.  Check it out if you have the time.  At the end of his presentation was a quote that I thought really nailed the idea of asking the right questions:

Instead of asking what we should be saying to the consumer, ask what we should be doing for the consumer.’  Exactly.

On the other hand, Steve Smith has recently documented countless missed opportunities from brands of all ilk that are simply not utilizing mobile to its potential or are ignoring it altogether.  Steve’s article left me scratching my head and wondering why so many brands have failed to realize the importance of providing a solid mobile experience with their brands.  There is no question where this is headed, but there is definitely a question of how well brands are going to be poised to capitalize on the opportunities to connect with millions of users who have the power of the web at their fingertips 24 hours a day, and virtually everywhere they go.

If you have physical locations that you need to drive traffic to, are you paying attention to mobile search placement?  If you sell products through mass distribution channels, is there an easy way for people to learn more about your products on a mobile device?  Better yet, does your packaging encourage this?  If a customer is browsing for more information about a specific product or service, do you provide a way for them to see who else has purchased or provided a review of that product or service on their social graph?  Could you?

Integrating Mobile and Social

It’s been said that mobile and social are close cousins, and I totally agree.  After all, being social is about connecting with others, and mobile devices are the quintessential connection points that are by our sides day and night.  Social and mobile are joined at the hip, and we should endeavor to connect the user experience in social channels to the experience on mobile platforms.  Services such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, etc. are underscoring the desire for people to connect with each other and share experiences, tips, etc. with friends on the go.  Additionally, the adoption of mobile applications such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. reminds us that people are taking their social graph with them wherever they go and sharing more aspects of their lives than ever before.

How are you leveraging this for your benefit?  Do you encourage social sharing on your mobile site and/or apps?  Does your main website have functionality that allows customers to send reminders or product info to their mobile devices or create accounts they can access via your mobile site or mobile apps so that their shopping experience is easier when they are away from their computer?

Planting the Seeds

This post is all about planting the seeds for a renewed commitment to mobile engagement.  If you are exploring mobile, hopefully this has spurred some thought.  What do you think?  Does this resonate?  What questions do you think we should ask?

Social Media Strategy

Is Being Unreasonable A Good Strategy?

November 30, 2009

UnreasonableI was talking with a good friend last night about ‘the state of things.’  We tend to veer off into lofty conversations on issues that matter to us, and it’s often quite productive for me.  Last night was one of those nights.  While we talked, I remembered a program I ran across called the Unreasonable Institute – they are looking for 25 of the world’s most outrageous minds to encourage and enable to do great things.  The question that came to mind was – do we have to create things that are ‘unreasonable’ to get noticed or attract attention?  Has the status quo stifled our thinking to the point that we have to go far outside the norm to capture the imagination of our audience? I suspect this might indeed be the case.

It seems more and more non-traditional thinking is breaking through in all segments of society – in business, in government, in development, etc.  The fact that this is being celebrated is encouraging and reinforces that we’re actually in a very transformative period right now.

Last night as we talked about some of the opportunities on the horizon, I shared that I recently read a book my cousin Whitney gave me to check out called The City in 2050 published by the Urban Land Institute.  Pretty incredible stuff here – I highly recommend you read it if you are interested in urban planning, architecture, future development and related topics.  The book highlights some very thought provoking insights into a likely urban model for the future.

While we were talking, I Googled the initiative on my iPhone and jumped over to the ‘2050’ page to see how well they were connecting.  What I saw was an incredible opportunity to spread this message much further than it’s being spread right now.  The opportunity that jumped out at me was under the ‘Enter the Dialogue’ section.  If you click on the Creating Blueprints – Enter the dialogue link, it takes you to a page with a paragraph and an email address.  Most of us in the social media space would agree that an email link does not typically qualify for encouraging dialogue, thus the opportunity!  To be fair, ULI does have general links to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn from their home page.

Perhaps identifying initiatives like this one that are well established but lack a thorough engagement strategy and helping them connect with key audiences through social channels is a business model in and of itself.  Could working with ULI and other non-profits to help spread the word about initiatives that matter to the world without a pure profit motive be considered unreasonable?  I bet most people would say it is.  I wonder what the Unreasonable Institute would say?

What do you think?  Is being unreasonable a good strategy?  If so, what are some of the unreasonable ideas that you have for yourself or your business?  Do you find this kind of thinking is encouraged or discouraged in your organization?

By the way, if you are interested in applying to the Unreasonable Institute, you better hurry – the clock is ticking! 14 days and counting until applications are due.

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

Social Media Strategy

Where are you engaging your audience?

October 30, 2009

Earlier this week I ran across a post that smartly drew a metaphor between marketing to consumers and ‘finding the kitchen’ at a party. You probably know the drill – people gravitate to the kitchen during parties, no matter how much you try to migrate the group to other areas. This is an outstanding metaphor for brands who want to connect with people on the web (or anywhere for that matter).Listen

I recall sitting down at an impromptu meeting last year where I was the lone ‘social media guy’ presenting on the fly to a room full of entertainment biz execs and marketers. The conversation drifted to ‘we need to drive traffic to our website,’ to which I paused and asked the question ‘what is the ultimate goal of interacting with this audience?’ See, web traffic should not be the goal – sales should! In other words, who cares how many people come to your website if they don’t buy anything (or do something else you’re hoping they will do for you)? When I posed the question, I got a lot of blank looks and a couple of people talking about how they ‘needed’ web traffic for this or that, but there was no compelling rationale for not providing content and engaging with the audience via social media vs. the websites they had created for their artists. Basically they were lukewarm to the idea of engaging with their audience too much on social platforms unless we were specifically driving them back to their sites (to consume essentially the same content). By holding back, they forgot where the kitchen was.

The above example is no doubt played out again and again on the social web day after day. We’ve all seen it – Facebook posts or tweets that are essentially only recycled sound bytes from ads, promotional offers, etc. Come to our website, buy our stuff, talk about us, etc., etc. To return to the kitchen metaphor, why not just hang out in the kitchen, wherever that might be? In other words, if the target audience is on Facebook, engage with them there! If they are communicating on targeted blogs or forums, find a way to add value to those conversations. Our job as marketers is to make the cash register ring, regardless of whether or not we run up web visits to any specific site.

Of course not everyone will end up hanging out in the kitchen – they might like the basement game room more, or perhaps the back yard, or the deck. The point is, let them decide where they are most comfortable hanging out, and join them there. Maybe the kitchen is Facebook, the game room is Twitter, the back yard is the mobile web. If you have a broad audience, you’ll have different places to pay attention to. Just like a party is more fun when you let people hang out where they want, you’ll encounter less resistance if you engage your audience on their terms, in their space. Just make sure you’re a good host. Nobody likes a lame party.

Definitely check out the post by Kaila Colbin that inspired this post and reminded me of that meeting last year. You can also connect with Kaila on Twitter here.

Social Media Strategy

Is There a Secret to Mobile Engagement?

October 15, 2009

CellphoneThis morning I was reading an AdAge article that highlighted an agency’s findings on female engagement with mobile web advertising on iPhone compared to other devices.  The overall finding was that women with iPhones were much less engaged after clicking through from a mobile ad.  The question that popped into my head was – why?  Why was the engagement so much lower?  Are these consumers really that disinterested, or is there something else going on? Conspicuously absent was any mention of conversions, sales, or other form of ROI.  In other words, what were the non-iPhone users doing while they were so much more engaged?  Did that engagement translate into measurable ROI for the brands?

The article went on to describe the rationale for how some big brands opt for a one-size-fits-all mobile site for their mobile initiatives in an effort to maximize reach (and presumably minimize cost).  I can’t help but wonder if this approach is always the most effective in the long run.  Of course, to get to the bottom of what is really going on with this group, you’d have to dig a lot deeper, but let’s consider a couple of topics that should be addressed before brands jump into a mobile initiative:

Knowing the audience first
Who are you targeting?  If the answer is ‘everyone’ or ‘women 19-49’, that’s the first problem.  In traditional media, brands probably wouldn’t run the same ad when targeting a 20 year urban college student as they would a 45 year old mom from rural Indiana.  Why should mobile be any different?  And I’m not just talking about the ad creative – I’m talking about the way mobile campaign is designed.  More on that below.  Slice and dice your audience into manageable segments and determine what platforms/devices are common in each segment so that your mobile campaigns can be more effectively targeted.

What tactics should you employ?
Keeping the above in mind, does it make sense to focus your resources on building out a single mobile site that can be accessed from most mobile devices, or is it potentially more effective to develop custom applications for multiple mobile platforms?  Should you run an SMS campaign or purchase mobile banner ads?  What about sponsoring existing mobile apps?

These are not black and white questions, and in my opinion cannot be answered easily.  These questions brings up many others: What do your targets need and how can you help them? How many of them are there on a given platform (iPhone, Blackberry, traditional web-enabled mobile phone, etc.). Can you provide a solution to them on-the-go that benefits them and increases sales, conversions, viral spread, etc.?  Perhaps a targeted app that provides a mix of utility and entertainment will have a higher conversion rate than a banner ad that clicks through to a mobile site for a portion of your audience. Maybe an SMS campaign that allows you to send product info or discounts to consumers at the point of purchase will be most effective with a specific segment. The point is that one size does not fit all, and a thorough understanding of the audiences and opportunities to engage each segment is necessary before embarking on a mobile initiative.

Reach vs. Value
Historically, advertising has been measured by how many people saw the ad, or the Reach.  Now, there are other metrics to consider and the Value of the resulting engagement is much more important to measure.  Does it really matter how many people click on your ads or visit your mobile site if they don’t make a purchase or otherwise move the needle that your company is trying to move?  Isn’t is just as effective to reach less people but have a higher rate of conversion?  The Value of the interactions is vital.  The rest is just window dressing for corporate reports.  Value can be measured in a myriad of ways – requests for additional info, forwarding, tweeting, posting to Facebook, click through to purchase, up-selling, etc.  Depending on the goals, the way Value is measured will vary.

If you are planning a mobile initiative, the topics above are a starting point.  What are some others that come to mind for you?  Do you think there is a secret to mobile engagement?  I look forward to the comments.