Getting Value from Social Media: It Takes a Mindshift

social_media_mindshiftA great point in this latest post on building community from Twist Image is that building value through social media requires more of a mind-shift than anything else.

Organizational culture is often the biggest roadblock to getting leverage out of any new media or technology. Fiefdoms exist, silos exist. Although many companies claim to be strongly “matrixed” organizations, there is still sorrowfully little sense of community in our own diverse workplace—how can we expect to build communities across the incredibly enormous and disparate world of blogging and social networking online?

A mind-shift is precisely what’s required. Twist Image rightly points out that old school marketing meant buying attention. New school, including social media marketing, means earning it. For many companies, that requires not only a mind-shift, but a meaningful shift in corporate culture.

Earning attention in the marketplace today means asking what it needs and serving it up. Blogs and social communities online are a constantly refreshed databank of customer needs, wants, feedback and sentiment. With a service-oriented mindset, progressive companies can make a very good business out of serving those stated needs, delivering real value that the market truly wants.

THE best practice in social media marketing is to add value. Approach engaging the market through social media from a thoroughly customer-centric mindset and you will never be disappointed with the return.

Social Media Marketing is About Quality, Not Quantity

social_media_qualityCame across this interesting take on the value of traffic brought in by a mention in a popular blog like TechCrunch. Apparently, social media consultants Simply Zesty don’t think the over 400 referrals, 70 new RSS subscribers or 30 new Facebook friends was terribly impressive after their TechCrunch mention the other day.

But for many web-properties—especially B2B companies—those numbers are very real and quite actionable. How long would it take your biz dev guy to run down all those 30 Facebook profiles and what do you bet he’ll uncover a few sales prospects?

The thing about those 70 RSS subscribers is that they aren’t just hits, they’re new additions to your marketing database. Every repeat visit is another touchpoint, another chance to build a customer relationship.

Sure, these aren’t the greatest numbers for behemoth marketers like Coca-cola or Amazon, but for many, many online marketers, forging a place for your company in social media isn’t just “me too” marketing anymore. If you’ve got the right business savvy to make use of what’s out there, social media can yield some real gems.

Social Media Marketing Best Practice: Add Value

add_valueWhat I like about marketing through social media is that it forces marketers to remember their marketing fundamentals. Find a gap and fill it. Add value.

In 75 years of broadcast media, the function of the marketer has moved away from adding value and toward 1.) making an impression with brand marketing, and/or 2.) moving inventory with direct marketing. Even product marketers, tasked with guiding product evolution are often wholly removed from the market, spending most of their time with development time lines instead of customers.

In all of the examples above, the mission of the marketer revolves around the product. In the social media marketplace, the mission of the marketer revolves around the market. Social media marketing forces us to ask ourselves, how can I add value to the marketplace? How can I connect my customer base so that it becomes its own customer support network? What complaints do my customers have, why do they have them and how can I fix their problems? What product features does the marketplace wish I offered? In pursuit of the answers to these questions, marketers add value to the marketplace.

Len Kendall says it nicely here in Marketing Profs Daily Fix. The bottom of the article gives a few dos and don’ts about social media marketing which first and foremost revolve around adding value.

Surfing Social Media

surfing_social_mediaBack when Zuckerberg was a but a tween and Twitter was yet a twinkle in anyone’s eye, the customer of a multivariate testing SaaS vendor ran an interesting promotional test: 20% off any purchase against buy one refrigerator and get another free. To everyone’s surprise, refrigerators flew out the door. Turns out, the Joneses found out about the deal and told the Smiths who came in on it with them. Each family went home with a half price fridge.

What a testament to the power of testing, we all said. Who knew you could move such a large item with such a promotion? What we all thought we learned was that you never know what you don’t know. And you’ll never know unless you test.

What we didn’t talk about was what this test revealed about our audience: that it is networked and collaborative. Fast forward a few years to the rise of Facebook and Twitter and the social web is the biggest shiny object to hit marketing since TV. Yet social media marketing ROI remains unproven for many.

What the testing anecdote above reveals and what’s important to note about social media is that it has a life of it’s own, whether marketers like it or not. Smart social marketing is the deft leveraging what is already there. Like surfing. Navigating social media works best when marketers start returning to the basics: Find an unmet need and fill it. Social media marketing is observant, responsive and adaptive more than it is engaging and impressive. The success of your social media strategy will be measured by how useful your audience declares it to be.

(Marketers? Useful?)

As marketers scramble to unravel the knot of social media, their frustration mounts each time they apply old marketing expectations to the new consumer organism. (Old: Build market share. New: Build relationships.) Many marketers hate the whole idea of social media, as noted by Matt Jones in his Why I Hate Social Media for AdAge.

Not only must marketing expectations adapt to the social marketplace, but the entire business model must also. The last 100 years have rewarded the quest for scale (Ford, Tide, Clorox). But like a wave folding over on itself, that scale has turned into commoditization, razor thin margins and enslavement to the retailer. Walgreen’s distributes 60% of all the Tide in the US. Retail owns the relationship with the Tide customer, not P&G. Not as great a business it was in say, 1962.

Letting go of old marketing expectations and embracing the social marketplace is not only smart marketing, it’s smart business. Most are convinced that the history writers will credit mostly lack of adaptability to the extinction of the great 20th century behemoth brands.

It’s not a stretch to see the potential folly in, “Who cares what it is? Just dive in and we’ll all figure it out later.” But this is the early adopter’s chief maxim. And if marketer’s return to their core purpose of finding unmet needs and filling them, they too will find themselves again at the forefront of adaptability.

Twitter Value Prop: Addiction?

addictionI’ve been wondering what the Twitter value proposition to me is for some time. I get what Twitter is, and yes, I Tweet, but I’ve never been entirely sure why Twitter should matter to me. Apparently, many share in my quandry, says Silicon Valley, The Harvard Business Review, Nielsen and others.

By a number of measures, Twitter’s metrics look pretty dismal. User engagement is low and customer retention even lower. Numbers like these beg the question, what is the real and compelling value to a business or consumer in using the Twitter application?

Even the CEO says what he’s shooting for in a relationship with his audience is addiction.

The Utility of Social Media

oprah_facebook

Facebook’s arrival as a lifestyle brand was cemented the moment Zuckerberg appeared on Oprah. Having been on Facebook for several years as an Internet marketing professional, one can’t help but notice the sudden barrage of old high school friends (stay at home moms) having suddenly found me on Facebook. A noticeable shift in the FB demographic has taken place in the last six months.

Which makes the brand now part of popular culture, properly cited by Steve Rubel as the key motivation for recent advertiser interest in Facebook. Advertisers from Palm to Sprint are plugging Facebook in TV spots, aligning themselves with the social media icon that touches 200 million everyday.

But even brands who cozy up to Facebook in TV spots don’t promote their own page in the spot. They give no compelling reason to visit them on Facebook, no call to action, in fact no instructions on how or what to do it even if the viewer wanted to connect with them on Facebook. Which infers that that the advertiser isn’t so interested in having folks visit them on Facebook. Which infers that they have yet to realize, quantify or otherwise evaluate the benefit of Facebook interactions.

Again, the social media ROI dilemma.

Social media is difficult to quantify and always will be because it’s a brand play. A positioning play. A PR play. Twitter, Facebook and media-sharing sites are places to listen (market research) make impressions, join and steer conversations, publish information, and drive brand image. Every day, social media looks more and more like broadcast media, facilitating one-to-many interactions.

Because “online marketing” including SEM, SEO, email and affiliate marketing, has grown up as a direct marketing discipline, it doesn’t know what to make of Facebook and Twitter. Neither are demonstrated lead gen or new traffic generating vehicles. Yet as emerging web-based, interactive channels, social media responsibility often falls to the “online marketer”, who ROI-driven by nature, is skeptical (ahem).

Online marketers who are responsible for the total online presence from AdWords to social media often leave the company Twitter profile to an afterthought. A wise friend said to me back in 2005 when the whole of the Internet was surging toward investments in direct, data-driven marketing, that in the total mix, “there will always be a place for brand, there will always be a place for direct and it’s a mistake to divest entirely in brand marketing online.”

The Irony of Social Media

twitter_sentiment

What a week it’s been for our little blue friend. Everywhere I look, all my favorite sites and blogs are bashing the poor creature. Admittedly, I’ve done a bit of Twitter bashing myself (although I prefer to think of it as critical thought).Like what Mitch Joel has to say about the inherent “volume contradiction” in all social media. Once the volume of any given network (your Facebook friends or Twitter followers) gets to significant levels, the network is no longer “social”. (Check out what I had to say about that a few months ago in ‘Twas the Night Before Twitter Got Monetized.) What may have once been a set of one-to-one interactions by necessity becomes a series of one-to-many broadcasts.

And as a communications channel for would-be marketers, how is that any different from, say, display advertising – also a one-to-many broadcast model?

While marketers clamor to get their social media strategies in place, the irony of social media is that in order for it matter as a channel, it has to start looking like all the others.

Web 3.0: Show Me the Money

piDespite a sincere enthusiasm for all things Internet, Site can’t help but to have noticed a lot of over-valuation going on.

Site applauds recent news from Silicon Valley that increasingly scrutinizing eyes are being put to Internet-based investments. Most notably, VCs now seem more interested in investing in companies projecting non-ad-based revenue models, citing that Accel’s early investment in Facebook might not be repeated today given the social platform’s challenges with monetization.

Making money online is attractive because it’s extremely efficient and cost-effective if done right—not because it magically happens with when traffic or even market share get large. Potty-mouth notwithstanding, Jeremy Schoemaker makes a nice case for caution when counting your Internet chickens before they are hatched in his 7 Deadly Sins of People Trying to Make Money Online.

Making money online is smart. Making smart money online is even smarter. Cheers to the portfolio managers who see past simple site popularity and look for clean, predictable and short paths to profitability when deciding how to spend investment dollars.