Category Archives: Online Forums

Social Media Bubble: Roundup in the Cloud

Social Media Hype Cycle: Cloudy chance of showers

 There’s been a fair bit of discussion in the past couple of weeks about the topic “Social Media Bubble”. Like most bubbles, it rages as a fad, peaks, then crashes. In the Gartner vernacular, social media goes through a hype cycle – early adoption followed by high expectations of value delivery, then a crash into a trough of disillusionment. The idea or technology either dies or survives and moves on to being a real, viable business. Based on recent questioning, social media, as a tool for business, is losing some altitude. Here’s a roundup of some recent opinion from Umair Haque – Harvard Business Review, Rachel Happe – The Community Roundtable, Peter Autidore – The Social Customer and yours truly (previous 2 posts).      

This dialogue started with Haque’s piece in HBR. His main hypothesis is that social media produces a lot of thin relationships. He draws a metafor to ‘low quality’ as in those in the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. This context implies that bankers didn’t take the time to get to know their borrowers. They relied on short cycle time approvals using only quantitative data. Ironic, given that real relationships are about getting to know people, not just seeing them on a data sheet or as a ‘follower/fan’ on a social media network. Haque goes on to outline the keys to real relationships – mainly trust, disintermediation, community and value. It’s not a beauty contest or about shouting out to be heard about the rest of the crowd. It’s about real relationships that have the equity required to build brands and extend a company’s customer franchise.     

Rachel Happe offers a perspective that builds on Haque’s by focusing on the value element of relationships. Rachel digs a bit deeper into the weeds by hightlighting the role that online communities play in the formation of relationships – people come together because of a mutual interest and build from there. There is an important point here in that online communities are something much different from Social Networks such as Facebook and Twitter: “Social media is not going to be sufficient to build that kind of relationship.” Face time – that qualitative dimension, it key to building deep relationships, something that technology alone cannot accomplish and at most, falls short. This was a hard-learned lesson in pionner days of CRM of the early 2000’s.

Peter Auditore takes an opposing stance. He thinks Haque’s view is “myopic” though we’re not sure why. Auditore is also adamant that the sub prime metaphor is “bizarre”. Seems to me that in the old days, before loan approval processes were automated, your local bank manger got to know you and was an integral member of the lcoal community. People met face-to-face. Familiary and trust were built as a result. In the subprime case, bankers and borrowers alike had very thin relationships indeed that resulted in unbridled risk in the marketplace. Auditor also mixes Word-of-Mouth marketing with social media. To quote Andy Sernovitz, the founder of WOMMA, “WOM marketing is not about social media at all. Social media is just one WOM tool.” Andy goes on to say that WOM only works for good companies that make good products. This last point is core to Haque hypothesis and one that I fully support (see “My New Levis Jeans: Outside the Social Bubble”). Competitive advantage is gained by a specific core competency, not just by the use of social media tools – Kodak and Procter & Gamble had strong franchises pre-Internet.  

I think there needs to be a better balance overall between leading with technology and considering the importance of the brand’s overall value proposition. Many brands that are market leaders established solid consumer franchises well before the Internet and may or may not benefit to varying degrees from social media. Many enterprises are experimenting with various social media technologies and tools to channel content, engage consumers and build their brands at the tactical level. They also admit that while there’s a lot of beta testing going they’re not ready to declare mainstream adoption of social media tools. One proof point: most adspend goes to television; consumers are watching more TV than ever whether on a TV screen via computer (see Nielsen for the data). Large enterprises especially are approaching social media with a curiosity and critical eye. 

Let’s remember that Haque makes it clear that his view is a hypothesis and not the final word on social media. There’s plenty of room for constructive dialogue (one way of sharing and buidling mutual trust amongst people). What’s most important is to take a critical eye, be dispassionate about the issues and ask key business questions.    

Until such time as the business merits of social media are proven, we’re all still somewhere in the cloudy part of the Hype Cycle.   

(cross-posted at CloudAve)

-Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM   

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Marketing Research Mindset: Stop Debating ‘Social’

Yes, look here for answers

Is it research or something else? Social media, Business Intelligence, Customer Relationship Management, Online Communities and Marketing Research (MR) – all are ways to listen and understand customers.

My guess is that MR is filled with the most angst amidst some sort of identity crisis in relation to social media.  Witness this recent piece in Research Magazine:

The survey of marketers, conducted for the IAB by research agency Opinion Matters, found that the most common use of social media was to drive awareness and consideration of a brand, as well as engagement and advocacy. 60% of the firms surveyed said they were using social media for research purposes, but when asked where social media fits in their organisation (selecting all answers that applied from a total of six), only 12% chose research, compared to 73% who chose marketing, 33% who chose PR/communications and 20% who chose ‘other’.

No wonder there is angst. MR isn’t really seen as delivering value when in comes to social media. If you get a migrane just thinking about social media, consider the following possible remedies:

1. Social Media won’t go away but respondents have: While people are giving up land lines and don’t like getting unsolicited mail, they’re opting to express opinion on the Internet in a pure, organic way. Partner with an online monitoring firm and create a new social science.

2. Stop hiring more MR professionals: Instead, hire people who understand the digital space. Marketing Technologists speak to ways in which applications enable the marketing process and the customer experience. Innovate.

3. Clients are buying-in to marketing research online (MROCs) and owned media platforms: In order to deliver incremental perceived value – business insights or new ideas – you must play in the right sandbox when it comes to customer listening.

4. Stop acting like an accounting function : It’s the job of the MR professional to guide the CMO and others, in a brand or customer management role, to see the way forward. Focus on what’s in the cloud and drive the next big idea. Act in real-time.

5. If you try to prove ROI you will die: Ask yourself, how many things does an enterprise do without having to justify with ROI? Do marketing, strategy, HR and finance have to deliver ROI to justify their existence? MR needs to focus on business benefits as the way of knitting together social media across the enterprise. Be the Voice of the Customer.

Leadership is the best way to overcome angst and clears the way for taking ownership. No one will fault you for that.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Becoming Customer-Centric: The Social Enterprise

“Time discovers truth”, said the Roman philosopher Seneca 2000 years ago.

With this in mind, it’s been some time since I taught the course “Becoming Customer-Centric” at IBM‘s Advanced Business Institute in Palisades, NY. This was when the Internet was an enabler of e-business and  CRM was in its early days. Social networks did not exist.

So I recently thought of the “Social Enterprise”. Back in Y2K,  CRM was seen as the panacea for companies with a vision to become customer-centric. This is to say, enterprises lead with technology to drive CRM implementation. Other companies adopted the “Outside-In” view, with the customer as focal point, as their approach to delivering optimal business value across every customer touchpoint.

Things are much different now and for the better. Here’s why:

1. The Portable Brand: The web and the world of the customer has given rise to the Open Brand – On-demand, Personal, Engagement and Networking. This does not mean loss of brand control, but instead, new opportunity to deliver flawless customer experiences, across all touchpoints, according to the brand promise. Mobile applications now afford customers to interact with their favourite brands as they are on the move around the physical and virtual worlds, hence the “Portable Brand”.

2. Customer Outsourcing: New opportunties abound, especially in customer service at pennies per transaction. This is especially true for mobile apps at under $0.10 per contact but also of web-based transactions where customers provide instant feedback on the experience. Customers are saying “come into my process” as they exert their new found powers to influence the relationship agenda.

3. The Web as Data Warehouse: The Internet is a vast but unorganized data warehouse of customer experience stories waiting to be mined –  it’s like harvesting bottled water from a huge stream virtually for free; a new era of customer behavioural analytics will re-define the traditional purchase funnel;

4. “Outside-In” rediscovered: Companies can extend their boundaries deep into the customer’s world in a most personal way to the point where the company/customer boundary disappears. This effectively renders the product-led “Inside-out” approach to process design and technology selection obsolete especially for brands that evoke high emotional involvement on the part of the customer;

5.Sense & Respond” is redefined: The Social Web transcends geography therefore providing global brands with a unique opportunity to leverage their footprint in all markets, in real time, always on. Companies are taking on new ways of listening to customers via online monitoring of consumer-generated content, running viral advertising campaigns and engaging cusumers in on-line forums and communities.

Upon further reflection, those days at the Palisades might as well been in Seneca’s time.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Social Media Practitioners – Seeing Your Way Through ‘The Cloud’

It’s clearly with respect to Steven Covey’s framework for managing one’s career – The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People that is the focus of this post. You might recall the four quadrants, notably, Covey’s observation that many of us spend too much time with “busy work” and not enough time practicing principle #2 – “beginning with the end in mind”. So here goes:

1. Let’s start with what really matters the most: get out of the Social Media cloud. Online customer conversations about your brand, viral marketing campaigns, and digital media are simply technologies and processes that enable customer to company relationships. This new medium of the Internet adds tremendous complexity to the existing brand ecosystem and requires an informed approach, not rose colored glasses.

2. Understand whether or not your brand or your company should undertake a business strategy that includes the digital medium as a key element of its operations. Bear in mind, for instance, that digital ad spend is a very small slice of a very large pie dominated by broadcast television and other conventional media platforms that work very effectively in building brand awareness and influencing customer behaviour.

3. Take stock of what the company is currently doing about the way in which customer relationships are managed. Begin by understanding whether or not you operate in a B2B, B2C environment and the extent to which your brand and customers are right for a new initiative. For example, if your company sells industrial transformers vs. shampoo how ‘close to the customer’ do you get now?

4. Consider the culture – is your company already ‘customer-centric’? Does the company’s leadership openly discuss the importance of customer relationships? Does the company capture, use and share customer information across the enterprise to make improvements? If not, you’re going to be starting from ground zero, with a low likelihood of any measureable success.

5. Benchmark with other companies that have decided to leverage online customer conversations – what worked, what did not and why? Stay away from self-styled consultants and “social media” experts. The online environment is too nascent for anyone to be a legitimate expert – technologies and applications are in such a state of flux, major changes can take place, in a very short period of time relegating new tools to the trash bin of technological rust buckets.

6.  Understand how much, if anything, is being said about your company or brand. Set up some online conversation monitoring and test out the extent of and quality of online conversation at a basic level, over 3 months. Try a 3-4 monitoring vendors and see if they come up with comparable results based on the same research objectives. Moreover, make sure they have the right capabilities such as separating real conversations from spam, shills, hate groups and imposters (14 year old posting about $60,000 BMWs).

7. Timing is everything. Is your company, winning or losing market share? Does your company have a winning value proposition? Are current product offerings outdated, service delivery faltering and value delivery weak? If so, the ‘wisdom of mobs’ might take your company down an accelerated slippery slope and discourage the organization from re-inventing and undertaking transformational change.

As you can see, these 7 habits are not really about diving into the deep end of the “Social Media” pool. On the contrary, this is really about not getting caught up in the current “cycle of hype” and taking a clear, rational and informed approach to customer relationship management in a digital world. The notion of engaging in customer conversations is as old as the days when commerce was conducted in the village square, so listen and learn, then get into action. – Ted Morris ©4ScreensMedia  www.twitter.com/morristed