3 Ways to Keep the Real Score in Social Branding

Too many marketing, branding, and advertising pros are going into social campaigns with a lot of information, but are confused when asked the following fundamental questions:

  • Why are you conducting this social media campaign?
  • How will you know if it’s a success?

Yes, these may seem like rudimentary questions, but the answers must be extremely clear to every single member of your team…before the social campaign gets underway. As business leader Napoleon Hill said in the 1940s, it’s all about definition of purpose.

This takes us beyond just watching the number of followers or likes that have accumulated on Facebook or Pinterest. These tallies are good for our egos but they fail to bring the conversions that are at the heart of marketing campaigns, the conversions that drive revenue and business.

It’s time to look deeper into three aspects of the data that is available to us:

Know the value of a visitor. How long does a visitor stay on your website or blog? What was their point of entry and where did you lose them? A person who is on and off the page in 12 seconds cannot be quantified the same as a return visitor who spends 1.5 minutes on your site and registered for a free catalog or white paper.

Look at where your paths cross. By fully understanding consumer behavior, you will be able to pinpoint where your brand intersects with consumers. How did the consumer find you? Was it a search engine, link from another site, or a referral from a trusted friend? Marketing and branding professionals must have access to data (and understand it) as it relates to consumer habits across content, social, mobile, and search.

Disseminate information quickly. Real-time analytics will prove vital to your campaign as data enables you to listen, react, and respond in just moments. Certainly this is important in customer service as consumers take to social channels to air their delight or disgust with a brand, product, or service. But, companies that use free tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and BrightEdge, can monitor keywords and multiple social channels to engage with the public as conversations unfold. Consider it a softer side of customer service.

We are living in the age of the connected consumer.

We must be able to dissect the information that’s going on inside the data.

According to best-selling business author Seth Godin: “The essence of marketing today is to tell a story to people who want to hear it, in a way that resonates with them so they are likely to either respond or connect to you, or tell their friends.”

 

(Image via)

 

5 Tips for Media Sellers

(Editor’s Note: The original version of this article was published on MediaLifeMagazine.com on February 1, 2013)

I would wager most media buyers and sellers would agree that the ad buying process has become more diffucult in the past five years with the proliferation of media choices, the lack of reliable research, the decrease in media buyer training programs, the integration of social and mobile media buying into the media planning equation, and the simple lack of time needed to get all the necessary work done in a single day.

Here are five tips for media sellers:

1.Do Your Homework Before Calling on a Media Buyer: As a buyer, we work closely with our advertising clients to understand their business goals, their objectives in executing an ad campaign, their customer insights, and the competitive playing field. If a media sales professional hasn’t done any homework on the client, the competitive landscape or the challenges we face, then how can they possible help “solve the problem”?

2. Spend as much time listening as you do selling. Even if you’ve done your homework, it’s likely you will learn something valuable at a meeting with the buyer or even on a phone call. If you spend the entire time explaining your technology or media, you’ve missed the opportunity to understand how to offer up the solution. Solve, don’t just sell.

3. Try to determine who the decision makers are on a media buy: on the client side, the agency side, etc. I realize this can sometimes be difficult and with limited sales force, there is an instinct to go to just one person who is “making the buy”. In reality, media plans go up the chain in an agency and then up the chain at a client and many people weigh in on its merits, its efficiencies, its content, its value. If you are only calling on a media buyer, you may or may not be at risk up the chain. If you have not worked hard to understand the relationship dynamics throughout an organization, you will be at risk of losing a buy. This is especially true for large budget scenarios. On the other hand, if you are only calling on the CMO and not the media buyer, you will almost certainly risk inclusion in the plan. This is not a power struggle but a realization that the client has hired the media team to do the analysis and crafting of the plan.

4. Ask questions of the RFP and try to understand the top selection criteria for the media buy. We are always pushing our clients and our buyers to clearly state the selection criteria so everyone understands how the media proposals will be evaluated. With so many factors determining a “good” RFP, it’s critical to determine what variables are weighted the highest. CPMs and efficiencies are always a critical factor but as noise increases with media and engagement becomes more valuable, efficiencies alone are not the single highest value. Push the media planner/buyer to help you understand how your RFP will be evaluated.

5. Make it easy for mediaplanners/buyers to find you and your sales team. I cannot tell you how many times the past 5 years we tried to find a key sales rep at a digital company with extreme frustration. Find a way to make easier to get your phone number and contact information.

The marketplace demands are more robust than ever, for both media buyers and sellers. The pure number of available media impressions for purchase has increased at an alarming rate. The sophisticated measurement tools are not keeping pace with the marketplace. The good news is that brands are still spending record amounts of money on paid media. The bad news is that every digital company now has paid advertising as its cornerstone for revenue and that means more sales reps in the marketplace.

At the end of the day, most media buyers are looking for solutions to help solve a client’s marketing problem. The media sales professional who can offer that up in a compelling and clear way and understand what the issues are will be successful. It’s not just selling it’s solving.

Chasing Facebook: Google+ is Pacing Itself to Top Facebook in Social Media Growth

googleplus logoYou may have noticed that it’s difficult to get a good read on Google+. You either love it or hate it. There’s no middle ground. Is it fair to call Google+ a ghost town when there are 343 million users, making the network the second largest behind Facebook?

Launched to the public in September, 2011, Google+ has been touted as a fertile ground for in-depth conversations. It’s been lauded for its video chat service, Hangouts and photo services.

Patrick King, CEO of Imagine, a Virginia-based website design firm, writes that tech leaders and social media novices have criticized Google+ from its launch. But King is impressed with the network’s broadcast visibility and audience engagement:

“By now, a lot of people have taken a ride on Google’s Hangout tool, which is by far the best videoconferencing tool of any social site. And now that they’ve released Live Hangouts, you practically have your own live talk show, recorded, and open for anyone to watch. With audience engagement, multi-person conversations are much easier, communities are more accessible, integrated and easier to promote than LinkedIn groups, and Google+ allows the second largest image size of any of the social sites, the first being Pinterest.”

An infographic on Social Media Today highlights several interesting stats. One important fact about Google+ is that there is a significantly larger amount of people registered for the site (1.15 billion) compared with the number of actual users (359 million). These figures are based on the last quarter of 2013. During the same period in 2012, Google+ had 435 million registered users and a mere 223 million active users. (U.S. numbers only).

David and Goliath

So what’s the deal with Facebook? Can Google+ catch and surpass this social behemoth?

Marcus Tober, the founder of Searchmetrics, a global provider of digital marketing software and services, has researched the possibility. Based on Tober’s calculations, Google+ can—and will—top Facebook by 2016.

“The Google network is growing at the stage of small to small which therefore is fast. Facebook is growing from its extremely large base to something larger, and is therefore slower, explains Tober. “The remarkable thing is that Facebook is still growing. And that’s why the blue giant appears to be unquestionably ahead of the market.”

Searchmetrics chart google_facebook_prediction_usCritics say there are a few reasons why Google+ hasn’t caught on like other channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. First, Google+ is not a social networking destination as it is everywhere. This confuses people. Second, potential users are concerned about privacy issues and Gmail accounts, and finally, Circles requires too much effort and high maintenance.

Will these reasons hamper the exponential growth that Tober predicts?

 

Social Media Should Not Be A Stand Alone Brand Tactic

Everyone knows we trust our friends’ opinions more than we trust brand advertising.

So naturally brands are testing social media to learn how best to create brand advocates.  A CMO said to us recently, “If we can get our  FaceBook fans to tell their friends, that will be more powerful than paid ads and we can create more efficiencies.”

 Nobody doubts that statement.

Unfortunately, turns out to be not quite that simple. It’s a lot of work and takes a 24/7 always -on approach. And the biggest challenge remains creating scale anywhere close to paid media in order to generate desired sales lifts.

In our media brand practice, we’ve tested everything from influencer programs to blogger programs to multiple facebook brand initiatives. We’ve had  varying degrees of success.

We’re  bullish on social media but testing has proven that social strategy works best as part of a larger integrated marketing and business plan.

Social Media should NOT be a stand alone brand tactic.  Here are some reasons why:

1. Social Media is very hard to scale on its own.

2. Social Media should part of the overall communication of the brand and work in unison with all other brand touchpoints.

3. Social Media, when done well, is integrated into the total business goals of the brand, not just the marketing goals.

4. Social Media is a long tail strategy and takes a period of time to realize results. Social Media is not inherently a fast audience builder.

5. Social Media should constantly tell a brand’s story (through video, blogs, photography, scribing) with rewards and incentives ocassionally thrown in to keep fans motivated. It should not be solely a broadcast vehicle that is only about brand selling.

6. Social Media, supported by paid advertising, can scale quickly and social content can be amplified to a much larger audience.

7. Social Media, when integrated into customer service, can help reinforce the brand attributes with customers and create happy customers.

When brands integrate social media with other marketing and business strategies,  the results are greater response rates, greater reach, greater brand engagement, and deeper overall metrics.

Don’t isolate  social media marketing into a siloed marketing tactic.  This approach greatly limits the ability of social media to be a force in strengthening the brand story.

 

 

 

 

Why All Brands Need to Refresh and Integrate Social Media

I started BrandCottage seven years ago after I moved from Atlanta to New York. I had worked for large advertising agencies in Los Angeles and some amazing smaller creative agencies in Atlanta. The motivation for me at the time was my belief (and witness) that the media landscape was changing rapidly and I believed smaller/nimbler shops were better prepared to adjust and react than large agencies.

Admittedly, none of us had any idea media and marketing would change at the pace it has…and continues to evolve. All of it driven by technology.

I have been a media specialist for over twenty years. My experience has given me deep insights into how consumers use media and how brands can tap those insights to build brand loyalty.  I’ve always believed you have to use a medium extensively to understand how others use it. About two years ago, I embarked on social media as a practitioner and student. I could not possibly be a media expert and not add this to my skill set.

A groundswell was starting. Many marketing people were still critical and thought it would be a passing fad. I always believed it was more a trend than a fad. I remember the first time a client asked me about facebook: “Do you think we need a facebook page?” That is how it all started. I told my partners, if we don’t do this, we will have huge gaps in our integrated media plans. They weren’t so sure at the time. Neither were clients, to be honest.

Twitter changed all my thinking and turned me into a believer that something very transformational was going on with consumers. I believed social media would change the way brands and marketers engaged with consumers. Nobody could predict how fast and deep that change would be.

Twitter is about engagement with the world, in ways that are both mass and intimate. It is two way communication. It has the profound ability to make you feel as if you are chatting with a friend in a coffee shop while also being part of the world’s biggest newsfeed.

I have met amazing people on twitter and call many of them friends (even though my kids remind me I taught them not to talk to strangers online). To my kids’ credit, there are some snake-oil salesmen, opportunists and people posing as experts when they have little to no experience. You have to be alert and wise. And do your homework if you decide to engage beyond the internet.

But, for the most part, social media engagers are people who want to share, to learn, to network. I met two of these amazing people on twitter: Peg Fitzpatrick and Paul Biedermann. We tweeted with each other for over a year, participated in many twitter chats together, and eventually took it offline to IRL (in real life).

We hired Peg and Paul and their company re:DESIGN to refresh our BrandCottage look and feel, as well as to integrate more social sharing on our website. The goal was a website that seemlessly integrated with our digital footprint on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.  I wasn’t the easiest client to work with, as I’m sure is true for most entrepreneurs. Between my own strong opinions, those of my trusted advisors, and lack of sufficient time to devote to the project (clients’ work came first), it took a lot of patience from Peg and Paul. But they endured, they answered every challenge, and they did it with grace under pressure.

All businesses need to evolve into the social world. All businesses need to keep their look and feel refreshed. I’m happy I found two trustworthy people to help BrandCottage elevate our brand online.

 Featured image courtesy of Creative Commons.