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Why Social Media is Like a Donut

The Social Media Donut

Glazed Donut

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E-Consultancy recently published a report on business useage of Social Media.  While reviewing an excerpt of the report, it struck me that many firms are in the Early Adopter stage.

While I’m not questioning the research report, I am left wondering what this all really means.

When an organization says it is ‘experimenting’ with Social Media, is it merely allowing employees to be on Twitter and Facebook during the work day, perhaps to keep GenY employees happy?

Does ‘heavy involvement’ mean that someone has been hired full time to Tweet about a company’s offers? Is it having a few brand ‘friends’ on Facebook? Is it having an research analyst sift through monitoring dashboards for some pithy consumer comment?

Of those who ‘don’t do anything’, is it because Social Media  is not the right way to engage their customers? Is it because other channels are proven and deliver accountability for results?

It’s really about the hole in the donut – the organizational white space in which one must ask: “What is Social Media in the first place?”  To wit, “In my experience, the white space has always been where the action is.” – Dr. W. Edwards Demming.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

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Social Media Slap Chop

As corporate managers seek to make some sense out of new media, it’s been interesting how the noise from advocate continues. Here are a few soundbites:

1) ROI. A few power bloggers have been consuming a lot of oxygen these days ranting about how there is little need to financially justify investment in social media. Social Media, unlike say, billboard advertising, is sacred because it’s all about trust and transparency. Besides, you’ve lost control of your brand to the consumer, so what the heck, just do it.
 
2) See, it works! Some folks are all agog about Dell generating some $6M worth of sales that were ‘influenced’ by the Twitter channel. The percentage sold, against total 2009 sales, was so small my calculator registered blank.
 

"You're Going to Have an Exciting Life Now."

3) Rage against the Expert. Enough already.  There are no experts, just people who speak loudly and have their musings (and picture) all over various social networks. None of these folks actually work for a Fortune 500, 1000 or 2000 company but they likely have a nice blog and written a giga-seller book or two or three. Let’s move on.
 
4) Case studies. Go back to item (2) as this is a about as good as it really gets. Most companies are in beta stage figuring out what works best for them. For example, Coke recently ditched private media in favour of social networking, which is just fine. 
 
5) Predictions. Newspapers are dead.  Advertising is a relic. Television is passe. Mobile is king. Facebook is the new Superpower. So many folks feel it necessary to make pronoucements on the future (which is here already since we are now moving faster than real time, according to some) that they get themselves worked into a voodoo-like trance. While in this somnambulant state, they feel their musings are fact while looking to pick up another 10,000 Twitter followers by the end of the day.
 
 6) Gushing over gadgets: Early adopters love to be the first to own the latest piece of technology such as an iPhone, iPod or iTablet, which is fine my me. However, some folks are over the moon about these new products to the point that they leave you wondering if they’re shills or stock promoters as they wax so enthusiastically. Mind you they’re also the first to wail away if something goes wrong such as poor smart phone connectivity (which was really a carrier issue).
 
7) Social Media is a must have. If you don’t you’re either stupid, in denial or you just plain don’t get it and the world will leave you in the nanodust of the cloud – especially if you’re a CMO. Rather than consider a firm’s CRM maturity level, those who have a knack for prescription pay little attention to the complexities inherent in the marketing and media mix. Makes me wonder – do social media evangelists have actual clients
 
– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia
 
 
 

ESOMAR & Social Media: Brandmatters 2006 revisited

Then...

Although I did not have occasion to attend the recent 2009 ESOMAR conference in Chicago, I was struck by fact that the agenda was essential devoted entirely to social media. By contrast, Brandmatters 2006 had one session on social media, referred to as “Social Networks and Brand Communities”, a subset of the broader Internet ecosystem.

At that time, I was in the fortunate or perhaps unfortunate position of presenting “Listening to the Blogosphere: How Blogging can Impact Your Brand”. Fortunate in that I was probably regarded as part of a small group of pionners or forward thinkers (lunatic fringe?) on the subject of WOM: Word-of-Mouth media; unfortunate in that much of what I presented seemed to be something of an oddity to much of the audience. Here were some observations at the time:

> 10% of US adults created blogs; 32 mil. Americans read blogs;
> 12% of consumers posted content online
> many ‘bloggers’ has formed brand communities, notably in the automotive and entertainment industry verticals
> many bloggers were considered influencial in shaping a brand’s reputation

...and now.

Fast forward as we move into 2010: It’s most gratifying to see that Social Media is dominatingdiscussion within the marketing research industry.  Much of the thinking has expanded beyond mere curiosity toward shaping opportunity and providing increased business value to clients in a forward looking way. It was to the point that awards for building online communities have become the new hallmark for forward thinking marketing research.

It goes without saying that the numbers presented above would appear to be a mere speck of online activity given today’s dominance of applications such as Facebook, Twitter and You Tube, not to mention the hundreds of millions of blogs and forums that contain brand content.

Glad the world has changed so much. I was feeling a bit ahead of myself.
– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia
 
 

Online Brand Mentions: Choose the Best Places for B2C2C Engagement

 

I  was recently intrigued by a blog post from a notable social media monitoring company. The post was about the rationale for brand engagement and the issues related to responding to online brand mentions. As I understood it, one of the main assumptions was that consumers only wish to speak to other consumers online about their respective brand experiences.

I agree that monitoring online brand discussion is important, I’m not sure that consumers only care to discuss their brand expriences with other  like-minded consumers. Let’s remember that there is a variety of places that consumers congregate such as corporate sites like www.fordforums.com, enthusiast sites like www.truckforums.com or forums where the common ground is issue-based such as  www.cholesterolnetwork.com .

Forums in particular are consumer communities that are formed on an ‘opt in’ basis by people who share a particular interest in an issue (re. high cholesterol), how to manage a process such as product usage or looking for a product such as shopping for a new vehicle. Forums are typically moderated by an individual who acts as gatekeeper to the conversation in order to ensure flow, continuity and balanced participation from the forum members. You usually have to register to become a member of a forum, so as to ensure legitimacy and authentication of participants and to keep out undesirables such as those who like to engage in ‘brand bashing’.

Which takes us back to some of the rules of engagement: Forum participants, whether they are brand loyalists, detractors, lapsed customers or dissatisfied consumers, do welcome participation by outside agents. This is especially true when consumers are trying to resolve a complaint or source product. I remember one forum in which an automotive brand was being discussed and there was an interest in a specific exterior finish. My client, once having been permitted to participate in the forum, clarified which colors were indeed available. Forum members subsequently commented on how nice it was for a manufacturer to take the time to participate and inform – a nice change from the usual ‘corporate speak’ communications.

There are many opportunities on the Internet for brands and consumers to have discussions and to co-exist. Though a brand mention is an indication of awareness, it’s not a request for response. On the other hand, where there are clear stated interests in products and the problems they might solve, the door is wide open for a healthy B2C2C conversation.

– Ted Morris