Archive for the ‘Marketing Strategy’ Category

Not So Simple Definition of Social Market Leadership

As we have gone around the country speaking on Enterprise Social Strategy, we have struck upon a simple concept that seems to resonate with senior executives; social market leadership.

On the surface, it seems simple:

  • Thought Leadership – Stepping into the vacancy in the market
  • Market Offense – demonstrating market leadership via social media
  • Brand Defense – protecting brand reputation on social media
  • Associations – creating the forum for market best practices
  • Social Influence – building relationships with key market influencers
  • Social Marketing – influencing the market’s requirements for competitive products

However, ask we dig deeper, we realize that how you measure or even how you define what you measure is critical. We have been asking industry leaders “Who is the Social Market Leader in Your Industry?”. We get a lot of “We are…” then after we ask them “how do you know?”, we get “What do you mean?”. Then when we explain what social market leadership means to us, we get “We’re not sure…”

Our definition of Social Market Leadership… defining the thought leader in the social market with influence over public social networks like Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, etc, as well as, industry communities, groups, forums, blogs hosted by vendors, associations, publications, enthusiasts, etc. In some industries, we do an audit and find over 100 unique platforms excluding the blogs.

How do you define thought leadership? Are you sharing your information with others? It isn’t what you say, it is what other say about you. How frequently do they interact with your information? Do they react positively? Do they tell everyone about what you say?

How do you define influence? Do you have credibility and reach? it isn’t about reaching everyone n the market. It would be nice, but for most businesses, that isn’t realistic. The brand icons already have a well established brand reach and they are considered a market “brand name” that define a standard. For the rest of the companies, there is a trade off between reaching everyone and reaching the right market cost effectively. Influencers are really about prioritization. Do the influencers have the “mojo”? Do they have the reach AND credibility? Can we hit the top 10% of the market and get them to evangelize on our behalf.

Market Leadership is not just Branding – There are algorithmic formulas out there that try to measure brand strength over social media. But, I think true long term social market leadership is really about creating a better customer experience through better engagement and interaction. With the transparancy that social media provides, companies are more and more realizing that architecting a better, holistic experience is critical to leveraging and maintaining brand equity and market share. If your social market share doesn’t represent your market share, might that be an indication of a problem in the market. If they don’t feel the same way about your company as you advertise, does that negate your market investment? Does your cost of customer acquisition go up because you don’t have brand evangelists and satisfied customers?

How do you measure Social Market Leadership? I think that this is the reason most organizations are struggling. There are simple measures from: simple Facebook fans, twitter followers, retweets, etc. To a little more sophisticated; social mention frequency benchmarking, sentiment scoring, number of influencer relationships, online community membership. To more complicated; taxonomy ownership, multi-criteria customer satisfaction, reputation management dashboarding, social lead scoring, share of customer voice, sentiment analysis benchmarking.

For those really pushing the limits of unstructured data analytics – the tools are rapidly moving towards ability to build a comparable, multi-dimensional dashboard to measure market perception differences between public social networks, online community members, and customer satisfaction surveying. Social media give such a dimensionality into buyer behavior, we think that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of behavior analysis leveraging structured data analysis to build deeper analysis of unstructured social interactions.

No so simple an answer, but potentially worth a market.

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I Have More Twitter Followers Than You

We recently got that feedback from a company that we were introduced to provide social marketing services and consulting. Struck a chord worthy of a blog post. It is a consistent theme as of late on what is the value of social media participation. How do you keep score? How do you measure ROI?

First, I will respond to the more “twitter followers” statement. SO WHAT? For all of those folks who are building massive follower lists on twitter without a relationship, are you really getting value out it in your business? Do you have a strategy to convert these “eyeballs” into business relationships and revenue or are you just collecting names to spam? Do you have a plan?

I think there is a middle ground. Despite working nationally and internationally now, I have been building a list of Atlanta based marketers because I couldn’t find one. I have published it and I am adding to it all of the time. It is my “give to get” to the community. Yes, I get followers from it and I get name recognition, but the real value to my business is that I am integrating that list into my offline branding. I am also giving back to the community.

I am interested in participating in the larger Atlanta marketing community because I live here and I want to be a part of it. I don’t get to many events due to family constraints; young kids and most meetings scheduled in the evenings or early morning right in the heart of family time. I do a fair bit of speaking so I get to talk about my favorite topic “social marketing”, but the reality is that I want to be more connected.

On the twitter front, I don’t tend to write pithy 140 character pearls of wisdom. I write longer, more meaty blog posts. I also don’t tend to forward research reports, or other content to my contacts because I want to create a reputation as a thought leader; hence why I spend the time that I do researching and writing my own take on the market. I use twitter to send out the headlines to bring people back to my longer blog posts.

So, in summary, I blog, I participate on the social networks, I integrate my offline marketing with my online relationships. I practice what I preach. Now if I had a larger marketing engine, I would be spending more resource dollars in building a sustained presence that reinforced our expertise, gave back to the market more original content, shared case examples, and tried to help the market synthesize the large amount of noise around social marketing. I do what I can do.

But, I don’t see having more followers as a way of keeping score. I would rather see a company or individual have fewer, better quality relationships that large numbers of followers on twitter. At least on Linkedin, you can get email addresses to build into your social CRM efforts. I actually send out an occasional email digest of my latest blog topics to my social contacts via email. This serves as a reminder of what I do, makes it easier for them to get the information, and allows them to forward as they see fit. I run an opt out program on those emails and I track the clicks, forwards, etc. The point is that a good integrated social marketing program can be qualitative and integrated, but a badly designed program becomes about meaningless numbers….

Now, that being said, you are welcome to follow me on twitter directlyat www.twitter.com/mmrosenhaft if you want the occasional headlines of my blog, or just sign up for the RSS feed.  If you are Atlanta-based and in marketing, I am happy to add you to my list of Atlanta Marketers http://twitter.com/mmrosenhaft/atlanta-marketing

10 Recommendations for Socially Enabling the Customer Lifecycle

We have had a lot of discussions as of late around how to socially enable the customer lifecyle. Also, begs the question “What does that mean?”

First, we are talking about how you manage customers from awareness, through interest, purchase, delivery, support, repeat, and referral. Depending upon your market, how complicated your sales process, channels, etc. this will vary to a degree, but we are talking about managing a customer from cradle to grave ( hopefully “not” grave). Companies are paying a lot of money for business intelligence systems, CRM systems, contact center, marketing and sales technologies to try and address the challenges around the heightened customer expectations.

Customers do not want the disjointed, endless closed loop frustrations of trying to manage a relationship with a company who doesn’t understand that customers choose from whom they receive “service”. This customer experience is bleeding through into marketing and sales with the ability to mass distribute customer complaints. We have all seen the blogs, tweets, viral videos, etc.

The company that can enable a sustained and coherent engaged relationship with a customer from introduction through purchase and repeat purchases will see a decline in customer churn, increase in referrals, and a decrease in the cost of customer acquisition. Bottom line is that better engagement with your customers leads to a better bottom line. The “means to an end” in this is through social media, online communities, collaboration, web 2.0, etc. type technologies that enable individuals to engage and interact online. Huge wins in terms of brand equity, customer satisfaction, and understanding of buyer behavior, beyond streamlining the service and support processes.

To that end, we spend a lot of time working with companies to design this roadmap since many are still trying to figure out how to get started, let alone walk or run. As we do a good number of presentations on what a roadmap looks like, we thought that we would share the high-level framework in the spirit of “give to get”; which is the basis of social marketing. Here is our recommendations:

  1. Find out what your market is saying. If you aren’t, you have no idea literally.
  2. Have a plan to engage with them on social networks, blogs, video, etc
  3. Build a good “fishing program” for lead generation
  4. Identify the top places, people, and discussions that your market is engaging
  5. Build relationships online as you would a good PR or business development program
  6. Build engaging content that will educate, entertain, or influence your market
  7. Build an online community for your customers, prospects,  and partners
  8. Listen to what they have to say, measure it, and respond to it
  9. Build an online community for your organization to collaborate and to engage employees
  10. Integrate your applications, corporate content, processes, and data into the community

10 Top Questions for Contemplating Social Media Monitoring

For companies contemplating social media monitoring, this post analysis is meant as a starting point for integrating such an offer with Social Gastronomy’s Enterprise Social Management consulting services.

The Social media monitoring technologies are not sufficiently mature to be “install and go”; especially if the provider is looking to integrate multiple tools. This will require additional selling, implementing, customizing, and executing to manage the integration of the multiple data stream; which are exponentially more complex beyond single tool selection. Some large brands use up to 16 different tools in its social media monitoring program, we use 10+ for just our social market audit. Adding to the complexity in tool selection is the fact that a strategic snapshot that shows the relevance to the brand and business is different than the tactical dashboard and may require a completely different tools set.

 Additionally, the competitive tool landscape becomes more complicated as provider moves up the “food chain” to sell to new levels. The expectations as to how extensive the monitoring program will become will be dictated by the CMO’s desire to consolidate efforts; ie. Across monitoring for brand, reputation management, customer contact, etc. the provider could find itself competing for a broader base of business against PR, Marketing Communications, and Contact Center firms for the Social Media business. We suspect that this will naturally (already) occur as CMO’s will come to the conclusion that the monitoring and listening capabilities should be centralized and feed data for multi-purposes.

Recommended Planning Steps

Area of Planning Key Issues Impact
Business Planning
  • Expected return
  • Ownership within Organization
  • Measure success
  • What are you really buying
  • Investment required over time
  • Resources
  • Business case
  • Technology investment to support offering
Roadmap will dictate the business and investment requirements. If requirements are more extensive than expected, will cause perception issues as to quality and ability to execute.
Program Management 
  • Pricing
  • Packaging
  • Target customers within organization
  • Tool selection now and future
  • Duplication of data
  • Data cleansing process
  • Start with a core application and add other offerings
Expectations around the offering will dictate whether one tool or many will be required. We are seeing client have more mature requirements in terms of comprehensive information collection and synthesis.
Operation Execution
  • People Requirements
  • Process Requirements
  • Technology Requirements
How far along the business requirements have gone in preparing to scale the a program
Solution Customization
  • Add’l types of listening tools
  • Process
  • Training
  • Dashboard
  • Addl tools
  • Packages?
  • Pricing
If you trend as other enterprise social media clients that we have seen, then the customization requirements eventually will be extensive. Preparing for scenarios may allow for better initial package and accelerated scalability
Integration
  • Process
  • Requirements
  • Customer training
  • Project set-up
  • Policies and procedures setup
  • Roadmap for clients

 

The enterprise customers seem to be more mature in expectations around integrating offering into their environments and not as tolerant for siloed management. Has impact on operations and customization.

 

10 Top Takeaway Questions to Answer

  1. What is the expected hand-off when Social Gastronomy does strategy?
  2. What if organization wants other tools to include into the mix?
  3. What if monitors in other areas and wants to combine – call center, pr or marcom firm?
  4. Reputation monitoring, brand reach, complaints, categories, competitive intelligence, and qualitative analysis – what are you monitoring and why?
  5. Sentiment analysis – how leverage, how integrate with other data, how overcome shortcomings?
  6. Sentiment analysis challenges and manual review, omissions, volumes, discrepancies
  7. What does the integrated tool dashboard look like? Is there a different dashboard for the daily user, weekly manager, and monthly/quarterly executive?
  8. Integration into CRM – process, results, so what?
  9. How integrate into broader programs, how to use as door-opener for new expanded social media presence management?

10.  Where does this go? Roadmap?

What We Know About the Social Enterprise for 2010

As we wind down 2009, I have had a few moments to think about where we are going with this whole enterprise social media, online communities, social marketing, etc. So, here are my “true-isms” for 2010:

1. Marketing via Social Media is becoming mainstream. Most of it is ad hoc  and mediocre, but there are some notable exceptions and that list is growing. Finding less people saying “why” and more people saying “how”.

2. Innovators are starting to change the rules. When you see a market disruption, the early indicators are the ability to gain market share at low cost by disrupting the status quo. Doesn’t mean that twitter is your end all strategy, but you are finding companies that are leveraging multiple web 2.0, social, community applications to streamline the way they do business; either gaining new customers or efficiencies in servicing the ones that they have.

3. Customer Experience is becoming transparent – if your service sux or is barely mediocre, you need to be concerned. Social media is optimized better that static websites. This means the ANGRY blogger who writes a scathing review of their poor customer experience will get ranked higher than all of the money you just spent on broadcasting to the market.

4. Social Marketing is a “downhill” spend versus some alternative marketing channels that are “uphill” – Means that you get the snowball effect from a $1 spent in social marketing because you get the target audience, influencers, and search benefits. Alternatively, if you are having to spend dollars at trade shows, etc. you have to spend to counter the social marketing of your competitors, it is to a limited audience, and it is gone once you spend it.

5. Social Marketing doesn’t work if you apply a traditional marketing approach to the social networks. You cannot just message and broadcast your advertising or PR messaging on social networks and expect people to engage. The analogy is word-of-mouth marketing in the offline world. Do you hire a street team and then have them drive up and down the block with speakers blanketing the neighborhood with a speech? You laugh at the analogy, but that is exactly what many “interactive” major brands are doing online.

6. Social Media, Marketing, etc will extend from the public networks into the enterprise. We are having conversations with partners and CIOs around business intelligence, lead generation and tracking, customer experience management, enterprise application integration into internal communities, information architecture, employee engagement, organizational productivity gains, integration of external and internal communities, contact center integration, supply chain enabled applications, business process integration, corporate governance and compliance, MBOs, cross-functional alignment, ROI, etc.

7. Social Media is following the same path into the organization that the original “website” did… in the process became web applications, processes, ecommerce, etc. The original web solved a problem for people in aggregating and distributing information. Social Media solves the opposite problem in that it helps people with context and filtering.

8. The “Social Enterprise” is growing up. The last three years have seen pockets of cottage industry level “consultants”… but, everyone claimed to be a social media consultant. Saw the same thing in mid-90’s as everyone was a web consultant, but the difference by the end of the decade was that the real consultants figured out how to map back to business strategy and tie the web to business objectives, ROI, and core business issues. The real consultants figured out that they needed standardized, repeatable methodologies that were scalable across the enterprise (and enterprises) and transferable to their clients. The applications they developed focused on “big” problems and the size required sophistication and strategic understanding. 2010 will be the breakout year for many consulting organizations as they move from tactical point applications to enterprise solutions.

9. Organizations that have embraced the new collaborative economy and all of the challenges and opportunities in 2010 will face hurdles in converting to the social enterprise, but the smart ones will understand that the risks are too high. Smaller companies, non market leaders are looking for an edge or opening to exploit and grab market share or enter new markets. In a down economy, you have to leverage what you have better. The larger companies that cannot adjust can find that market share is a trailing indicator of performance (how we did) versus social media which is a leading indicator (what people think).

10. From 1989 to 1999, 62 of the top 100 companies on the Fortune 100 list changed. 62 came off and 62 new ones entered the list. If you think about it, 62 of the top, most respected market leaders got caught from behind and eclipsed in one decade with the selective use of a new technology and widespread business process reengineering. 62 of those CEOs and other executives probably said, “web?”, not going to affect our business. I wonder how many of them retired early…. I wonder how many of the top companies and executives will still be on the list in 2020…

A Tale of 2 Marketing Programs: Social Media Versus Search Engines

Social media is going to take budget dollars away from search engine marketing. Already is in many major brands. Simple economics are driving this transition.

If a major ecommerce player is spending 50% of their budget on search engine marketing, website optimization, and link optimization programs, but is losing the war to bloggers in organic search. Why would the ecommerce player continue to spend massive amounts of money on advertising when they can focus on blogger outreach (ethical, not paid) for far less money. Better yet, fix their customer experience and get customers to evangelize on their behalf.  this slide says it all….

Additionally, as we analyze the various social media monitoring and metrics tools, the challenge is pretty evident. Search engines work off of structured data. I can run an advanced search and build filters for my search results. The challenge with social search is that the taxonomy isn’t defined. How you talk about a problem can be completely different than I talk about it. Potential buyers may not even recognize that the problem they are discussing on social media is even in the market. How do you build an automated tracking of taxonomy around unstructured data?

Effective lead generation program within social marketing require human knowledge of your solutions and also the ability to follow discussion threads to identify contextual relavence. Over time, you should be able to fine tune the algorithms for your social monitoring programs to become 80% accurate, but the most successful programs are leveraging human knowledge to make social marketing engagement programs to become discoverable, impactful, and actionable.

Otherwise, you get the the large number of costly “unqualified” leads that flood into websites similar to the search engine marketing programs. These programs either make it up in volume or work the “long tail” of key words to reach better qualified buyers. Social marketing can get you to the “long tail” faster as most buyers start with questions in the long tail when they do not know what they are looking for and leverage the expertise of others to become more specific as they learn what they don’t know.

2010: The Perfect Social Marketing Storm

So, if you believe 2010 is the year of the return, forget the “u” shaped recovery, etc. We are talking the “V” shaped RETURN.” The tsunami of pent of demand, the rise of social marketing as a recognized marketing channel, and the competitive pressures to outperform the market to validate your company’s supreme dominance will be firece. No problem, finding budget for marketing will be the least of your problems. Having to justify social marketing doesn’t seem as daunting when you have budget and sales are coming in… “Cool, where do I sign-up?” If not sure about 2010 being the roaring recovery, read further….

We know that social marketing is becoming mainstream. I think in 2o1o it will become table stakes. If you don’t have a facebook page, twitter account, and linkedin profiles; you are so 2009…. In reality, we are seeing major brands begin to increase their budgets for social marketing by a factor of 20% – 30% of budgets. One major CPC brand is dictating that a percentage of product innovation come from ideas from their community. Increasingly, we are not having conversations about “Why should I do it?”, but “How do I use it for competitive advantage?”

We know that most companies have stabilized the bleeding even though they had a mediocre year. Sales are off from their height, profitability is down, budgets are constrained, probably a layoffs/backfill hires not made/new positions not budgeted. Entering into another year of a multi-year recession means most organizations now expect that you will figure out how to do more with less and will not accept “the economy” as justification for underperforming results. The expectation is that you will figure out how to outperform the market.

However,  the real question is not whether the economy will recover with pent up demand in 2010, but what if it doesn’t? What if the recovery is a real dud?  Will the corporate boards be simpathetic to another year of mediocre performance? Will CEOs be calm with back-to-back mediocre years? The average tenure of CEOs. CMOs, and other senior executives is what? Will anyone accept the excuse that it “the economy”? Will the pressure ratchet up even more?

What if the market fundamentally is shifting towards social media and away from advertising and even search engine marketing?,What if I don’t shift our sales, markmarketing and customer management to reflect the market? What if the market slightly improves but we don’t improve with it? What if our competitors find a way to add a lot of new customers and revenue and we don’t?

 The best estimate is that it takes 3 to 6 months to establish a baseline measurement program for social marketing. That means that I need to build a program and execute within the first half of  2010 to give me time to see if it will work. That means 2010 is ALREADY HALF OVER in terms of impact.

We are not talking about setting up a twitter account and adding followers. I am talking about getting legitimate lead generation, customer retention, brand reputation, product development feedback, and team productivity using these tools. Someone tells you that you need a branded twitter account, ask “Why?” If you don’t hear a crisp answer related to a strategic initiative, then you should realize your return is probably equated to the time and cost you invested to set it up… Free Twitter Account Does Not Equal  to a Gazillian Free Leads…

Here are the Major Questions that you need to ask to determine if you need to invest in a social Marketing Strategy…

We can’t hit the marketing performance numbers? Not Necessarily. Your competitors may be slower to adopt than you.

 Can we get predictable and measurable results out of just doing tactical social media participation like having a twitter account and a facebook page? I don’t know, can you? How is it working for you now? Getting the results that you want? Seeing the strategic impact on revenues or customers?

 Can we build a social marketing strategy on our own? Sure, always a factor of core competencies, time, resources, and money. Give anyone enough time and money and resources and they usually build a plan.

Can my team execute a social marketing program effectively? Are they doing it now? We find with a little coaching, a clear plan, and training that organizations are able to drive execution to meet their business objectives.

 Can you tell me if you can tell me the 2010 social media forecast for my market? No, we would have to do a Social Market Audit to get a better idea. We can tell you …

  • If the market is adopting social media
  • How big your company’s footprint
  • How effective is your marketing messaging
  • How well are you doing against your competitors
  • How you can compete over social marketing better
  • Provide you with strategic marketing plan for executing and integrating social marketing

We find that our best partners in this are the folks who are already toe-dipping into social media. They have seen what works and what doesn’t. They recognize a sophisticated program will lead to better, more predictable results.

Self-serving? You betcha…. but also true.

The Blatantly Obvious Three Gets of Social Media

As we meet and greet in the world as evangelists for a strategic management approach to incorporating social media into business, you readily identify other folks who “get it”. They describe themselves as “get it” people and they describe others as part of the club. The other two camps can be described as the “I think I get it” folks and the “I don’t get it” translated into the I don’t get it and really don’t care.

“Get it” – Already have prior experience in social media, probably understand digital marketing, it, software, etc. They have seen the power of social networking; may or may not play with twitter, but understand that social media must mature to satisfy the other camps. They are usually early adopters or visionaries, but definitely social media evangelists. They don’t need a business case to see how this applies to their jobs and their companies. Not a generational characteristic. We see more mature senior executives who are already there with their subordinates playing catch up. The younger generation gets the social media interaction thing much easier because they have entered the business world with these tools. Their challenge is that they do not have the business experience to craft corporate strategy so they tend to be focused on the tools and tactics. ROI gets mapped at the business functional and strategy level which is hard for them to develop the business case to sell the rest of their organizations.

“Think I Get It” – Generally more mature (not necessarily older) business executives who probably would “get it” if they had the time to research and play with it. We find this to be the case with mid to senior level executives who were laid off. They gravitate to it and are becoming proficient out of necessity and the luxury of free time. The employed people in this group are savvy business people, but are buried under with management and business responsibility. Probably have personal responsibilities so playing online if they are not naturally inclined to do so is pretty difficult with their schedules. Amazing how this group activates with a really tangible business case that applies to their company and market. They already have the business acumen and the web disruption experience so it becomes a translation exercise for them to “get it.” 

“Don’t Get It” – this group has probably thought briefly about it and then moved on as they haven’t seen the relavence of social media to them; either personally or professionally. We many times see the pride in this statement. We see the “my kids are on it” or “I played with it” or “I am on Linkedin, but don’t really use it.” In truth, it is generally due to indifference versus ability to get it. However, when we present the business case for a strategic approach to social media, they intuitively see the value. The skepticism turns to intuition as they map this back to their mid-90’s web experience. They then figure out that they need a proactive plan and delegate to someone in their organization or realize that they have no one and figure they will get to it when it reaches a level of criticality that forces them to react.

As you have surmised, I am describing any new technology adoption. Social media is not some exotic, weird “kid” thing. Social media will be a business disruption due to the simple fact that it is a reflection in the change of buyer behavior. Buyers are doing research by reaching out to other buyers and market influencers because they do not want to wade through the pages and pages of junk search engine results. Much easier to find an expert and see what they say. Simple, but extremely disruptive to traditional business; marketing, sales, customer support, service delivery, billing, employee relations. All of these functional areas are being impacted with this level of transparancy.

Whether you “get it”, “think you get it”, or “Don’t get it”; you had better believe that some portion of your market and customer base already does…

Why Social Media Really Matters to Business

Now that my email is finally working, I can continue a theme that started as my big “rant” about customer service and apply it more globally to why social media matters to business. Lost at the bottom of that long post was a case example of why my hosting company did not get the impact social media was having on it market. They are the market leader in domain registration, but they were losing the war on market perception. They are opening the door for competitors.

It doesn’t really matter how many people will join a “I hate XYZ brand” facebook group. Nor does it matter that one exists. It is almost a badge of honor to have a “I hate” group. The larger point was that they did not have a group of their own. They had more employees on linkedin than their facebook group. What does that say for a leading internet company?

Additionally, I put a major “rant” post out there that was pretty brutal in the describing the poor experience. I heard nothing back. You would expect that even a counter post, or a message back on Twitter, Facebook, or Linkedin, or something, but the silence was deafening. That is the major point. If you realize that for all of the money that your company spends on “branding” can be balanced by the broadcast messaging from your disgruntled customers, what does that mean for marketing? It is becoming more telling that customer testimonials, good or bad, are displacing and discrediting marketing. All of that advertising dollars now go to getting back to a nuetral position, forget about creating a positive. That I think is the underlying issues with social media for business.

Additionally, couple customer messages with the employee or ex-employee messages out there. The most damaging Anti-brand sites are run by disgruntled employees or ex-employees. Not only are they pissed off, they have insider knowledge about your organization’s warts. The ex-employees have an axe to grind and they are using it.

So, what does that look like. You spend a lot of money on advertising, your website, direct marketing, search engine marketing, etc. At the same time, your prospects do a search and see all of the negative opinion of your service. Doesn’t matter if it is actually true or not, perception is reality…. if you don’t counter it, enough of it will be taken as a sign of larger problems. If you are a public company, it is even harder to counter that because of the communication restrictions. You have seen instances of short sellers creating rumors to drive stock prices down, right?

Well, how do you counter the negative noise? First, assume transparancy in your customer experience. What happens will get out. I would be looking at ways to strengthen my processes, bring my employees closer to the customer experience, and making sure that we are using the web 2.0/social media collaboration tools internally.

Second, I would make sure that I am systematic in my social marketing participation. For those companies that ban social media sites from corporate networks, you are running a race with one leg tied behind your back and are even farther behind.

The point of social media is engagement. The good companies are empowering employees to become ambassadors for the brand out on the web. They are anyway… everytime you tell someone who you work for socially or professionally, it represents the company. If the guy is a schmuck or arrogant, it reflects on the company. It is hard for business leaders to realize that it isn’t about them… companies are made up of people, cultures, and relationships.

The best companies are trying to tap into that internally and externally. What if you could take your internal employee engagement and extend that to ex-employees. There are tons of corporate alumni networks. Many of them are proud of their experience and would love to advocate on your behalf. Probably for self-interest reasons in that if the company has a good brand, it translates into better marketability to be associated with a strong brand.

Also, the best way to prevent disgruntled employees and ex-employees is to improve engagement and communication. If you lay someone off via email and cut off their system access overnight before they know themselves, then you are probably going to get the same level of respect that you give out. If they don’t have a forum for communicating their emotions regarding a layoff, they will create their own.

Additionally, a layoff or a firing is a reflection of poor management. As business leaders, we have to realize that separating an employee from a company is on us. We made a poor decision that led to this situation. It may be the right decision to separate them now, but we made a bad one before. Same with business decisions. Giving a voice to that and receiving the feedback will actually difuse the situation. Hiding behind the corporate veil only compounds that situation.

As we do research into social marketing, we are seeing a pattern emerge. Companies that engage employees and treat them with respect are the ones who are winning the war in social perception. Companies that assumes that employees will behave badly or who ignore customer complaints as annoying distractions, are getting hammered online.

If you are a large player, you have a lot more to lose. Public companies get nailed for missing forecasts when they are growing market share, they get hammered when they lose it. The average tenure of a CMO is something like 2 years. Part of it is the pressure to perform, but a lot of it is the speed of market conditions are accelerating.

You see the same in College Football Coaching. You don’t get time to have a “rebuilding” year in either case. If you are doing the traditional market development and branding model, it takes a long time to turn negative brand perception around. You don’t have it. You have to figure out how to first address the fundamentals, then perceptions, and then focus on growth.

Not spend more money on flashy marketing campaigns and larger budgets to drive more customers. Not that you will get bigger budgets in this economy. You are fighting inertia in that the more you spend against negative perception, the more desperate that you look. People are intuitively discounting marketing messaging.

There is a great deal of cynacism in the market when it comes to corporate messaging. It is perceived as self serving. That is why buyers are craving social media; it is perceived as authentic. A complaint from a customer is perceived as a natural response to a poor customer experience. It isn’t seen as self-servicing, but rather a natural response to an impotent customer service interaction. Other customers can relate to that more than they can relate to a canned advertising message…

This isn’t going away.

Enterprise Social Media and Online Community Have a Long Way to Go

I get a lot of industry articles and reports emailed to me… a lot… I think it is a reflection of the interest that is being generated around the discussions that we have on how to apply social media to business. Some of this has been documented in this blog, but much has happened so fast and furious over the last few weeks that we haven’t been able to catch up. A couple of reports that are worthy of your review as stand-alone pieces of research, but taken together validate the conversations that we are having…

1. Deloitte’s Tribalization of Business Study on Online Communities – Really good metrics on community usage. Worth noting that many of their communities are smaller which also reflects their sampling business size. Additionally, very skewed to business-to-business which also is reflective of the state of the market. An analysis of the report finds that” 60% of communities are less than 1 year old & greater than 2/3’s of the communities have less than 1,000 members.”

2. 8 ways the American information worker remains a Luddite in ComputerWorld – October 10, Eric Lai – Quotes a Forrester Research Study around corporate technology usage. “Less than 20% of information workers said they visit social networking sites for work”

Take that into context around the amount of education that we have been doing with all size organizations on how to build effective social marketing programs, you can see that the market is just really beginning. We have been doing Social Marketing Assessments for companies to give a snapshot of how they are doing comparative to the market in terms of their social media presence. Really easy to play “gotcha” with most companies as they haven’t developed formalized blogger outreach and social media participation programs. As more companies realize that this will be a critical requirement for either maintaining market share and/or finding opportunities to reach potential buyers in a low cost way, you will see more companies do outreach on social media.

From there, the next logical step will be to build their own communities into their website to continue the conversation and begin the sales process within the confines of their websites. This gives more analytics, better influence over the conversation, and the ability to drive search engine optimization. Dynamic social media content is optimized better than static content pages.

Good news/bad news is that we have a long way to go & it may be a shorter process than many people expect….