Archive for the ‘Online Communities’ Tag

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.

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…

Note to Social Media Platform Vendors: Consodidation is Coming

As we have been ramping up the platform selection process for several clients, it has become obvious that some of the vendors are struggling. I can’t speak to their financial situation, but I can speak to the frustration that we have with many of them who still think the platform war is about features and functionality. As a consultant, you have to know that I see a lot of platforms. I think the last count was that there were over 100 platforms. If I can’t see anything special about your particular platform, how will the market?

That doesn’t mean that there are not good platforms out there. There is a group of the top platforms that do “get it” and are building the functionality to support the customers in the right way. See, web 2.0 is about empowering the customer, goving them that unique experience that gets them to come back over and over. Adoption trumps functionality. Customers don’t care about widgets, all they care about is the experience. By the way, I am talking about the platform customers’ customers…

Vendors who are building platforms to provide the flexibility to provide that “mass customized” experience are going to be the winners.  The ability to provide unique functionality to the users in a seamless, non-intrusive way will win. That means, as I heard lately, that the “platform” will have to disapear. Both in terms of becoming components AND in the unique quirks of design that enables you to figure out a particular community is actually run on XYZ platform.

My customers, who buy platforms, do not want their customers to think about the community platform, rather they want the experience to fade into the background and the focus to be on the content and the interactions with their company. The platform vendors who can do that effectively the fastest will grow the fastest. Believe it or not, it isn’t really about software development and how you can connect to ~500 enterprise applications. That is now becoming table stakes for the social media platform market.

The next bar will then be how do I fuse the public social network experience with my corporate community to enable potential buyers to easily transition to my platform without a cumbersome registration process (that still gives me their information) and a seamless ability for my current customers to share their customer experience with the world (better ways of optimizing the syndicaton process for search optimization and supporting the influencer marketing process).

Platform vendors who are marketing how easy they are to do business (easy to assemble widgets, flexible architecture, designable workflow, flexible data modellng, just in time report development) with AND have a standardized model for mass producing custom experiences will win (the experience based upon who I am, what I want to do, and when I want to do it can be built iu real-time).

If you are still trying to sell a standardized SaaS software package to  the world, you may want to rethink what the market leaders are doing. They are not selling features and functionality, they are selling solutions. And by the way, the solutions are focused on satisfying their customers’ customers…

Social Marketing Needs Collaboration

The title sounds a bit redundant, but if you are like me, trying to maintain the volume of content for my blog, twitter feeds, linkedin groups, and facebook chats is difficult at best. Social marketing activities need to be collaborative to produce the quality and volume sufficient to “move the dial”. I will share some anecdotes:

  1. I made a recommendation to a handful of personal contacts that they needed to create a blog to give their marketing efforts a boost ( a mix of marketing and management professionals who were either doing it for their company or doing it for a job search). They needed to demonstrate their thought leadership in their particular domains. Out of the 5, they produced a grand total of 2 posts….. I couldn’t reasonably expect all of them to produce content, but I was curious to see how difficult it was for them to get started. I will share my alternative recommendation to them below.
  2. I read one of Guy Kawasaki’s posts about leveraging 4 assistants to research news to produce his twitter tweets. First, I have twitter assistant envy. Second, his name is really is a brand at this point. Third, he is leveraging a small community to produce sufficient content because there is no way a single person could produce that volume of content, let along original content.
  3. I have had coffee as of late with a number of people who are active participants in in social media, but choose not to produce original content, but rather are comfortable with the relationship building and redistribution of content. I think this is the right way to get started in social marketing. You can always introduce your own commentary and content once you have established a relationship network.

Having done a significant amount of consulting around building corporate online communities as an extension of the corporate website, I have had lengthy discussions around content creation. Most of the issues were of the “how do we actually create enough content?” with a close second in “How do we encourage participation?” The short answer is participation begets more participation….

I call it the empty restaurant syndrome. You go into a large, cavernous restaurant with multiple rooms with a  capacity for hundreds and you see a small cluster of tables in the middle of the restaurant with more staff than patrons. Your impression is that the caliber of the food isn’t good. Take the same number of patrons and line them up outside of the hole-in-the wall pizza joint AND you are congratulating yourself for this amazing find.

It is the same with online participation. If you go into a group and there hasn’t been any post updates in months, you assume that the content isn’t worth your time because no one else is participating. The alternative is you see a long list of posts, but no real threads or connectivity. Volume does not equal collaboration either.

Very few people on the web can sustain the volume of unique content production to build a momentum and readership. Even fewer can do it part-time while maintaining a full-time position or run a business and personal life.

Beyond the basics of needing other people’s input to spark the creative juices, we also need the real time feedback to give us that tactile response and immediate gratification from someone commenting positively about ideas that you express. Whether you do it in 140 characters, in groups on the social networking sites, in your own corporate community, or as collaborative post swaps with other bloggers. The reality is that it is easier to respond to someone’s commentary than sit at a computer and toil away on your own.

I will also add that in my experience with building online communities, it does not take a large core group of participants to create a large volume of compelling content, but rather a leader who provides the evangelism, focus, and leads the topic discussions. Rather like a good MC on a panel discussion; seed the conversation, encourage participation, moderate discussion, and summarize the discussion to bring out the major points.

Now back to what the people above should do alternatively to starting a blog…. the short answer is that it depends. I would recommend that they participate in relevant topic groups in the various social networking sites (communities), provide commentary on the content they find online through twitter, and get comfortable with participating and writing versus trying to maintain the regular production schedule of a single publisher blog.

Or alternatively, if there is a sufficient number of internal people in their company, I would recommend that they create a group blog (mini-community) until they have sufficient content and discussion to warrant opening up to outside direct participation in a larger community. They should bring in articles, blog posts, tweets, videos, white papers, interview customers, etc all focused around the key messages and take-aways that you want to communicate to your target audience.

Bottom line is that we all need inspiration and collaboration for writing whatever form it comes in.

 

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If I Only Had $1 for Marketing, Where Should I Spend It?

A question that I have been working on for a number of weeks… Where would I focus my marketing budget at different budget levels? What activities provide the biggerst return on your marketing dollars? What would I recommend for a marketing budget?

These are common questions that I get when I build a marketing organization directly or I provide marketing consulting. It is especially relavent with so many companies slashing marketing budgets, at the same time looking for something to change the rules and build a foundation for growth.

My short list of critical marketing activities are below… budget is harder because you have to take a lot more factors into account; such as  industry, sale cycle, channels, pricing, packaging, type of product, type of services, size of company, growth expectations, etc…

1. Branding – the ability to tell your story, make it compelling, and differentiate yourself is critical.

2. Website – making sure that the website tells the right story, is search optimized, and credentials your organization. Some websites sell, but most are really sales support or customer support. The best sites manage the customer relationship. Depending on the industy, maturity, etc. I would recommend building an online community (social media components embedded into the website) to manage the pre-sales activities (community) and the one-to-one customer account activities (private groups).

3. Demo, Video, Sample, Picture, Flash, etc. – something that is a tangible representation of your offering that communicates the value of the offering which can be syndicated out through social media sites, Youtube, etc.

4. References, Case Studies, and Testimonials – Communicating value in a tangible way, credentialling your ability to deliver the solution

5. Collateral, PowerPoint, Flash, Webinars, Seminars, etc. – Depending upon your industry, there are accepted norms for delivering the pitch… some industries it can be done your website, via webinar, others require a PowerPoint, others still use PDFs. Irregardless of the medim, you have to tell the “visual story”; solution, pictures/imagery, value proposition, differentiation, package, pricing, functions, features….

6. Online Marketing – Search Engine Pay-Per-Click, Search Optimized Press Releases, Linkedin, Facebook, other industry specific social media sites/groups, maybe a banner ad on critical industry sites, etc.

7. Media, Blogger, & Analyst Outreach / Industry-specific Online CommunitySocial & Forum participation – The lines between traditional media, bloggers, analysts, and communities are blurring. You have to have  a strong presence and recognize the contribution those who follow the industry have on buyers.

8. Multi-channel Marketing – Email, direct mail, personal landing pages, drip marketing, campaigns, analytics, etc. You need a good outbound marketing engine as most companies cannot rely on networking & inbound referrals alone. You also should tie it into a good CRM system so that you can make the information actionable.

9.Events, Conferences, Tradeshows – With the economy tight, a lot of the travel dollars have been slashed, but participation is still a good way to get out of your own network. Selection of which to attend is more art than science, but a good rule of thumb is “go where the customers are”…

10. Partnerships – getting a partnership is really only the first step in actually getting business from partners. Nurturing relationships, training and supporting, building solution value, providing sales support, and providing channel marketing are the real challenge in getting sustainable business. “Build it & they will come” doesn’t usually work for partnerships, either.

Bottom line, is this is a generic list of activities, but the secret sauce is prioritizing where you spend your limited dollars. I write about social media a great deal as I believe that done correctly that it can be a game changer, but the real value is focusing on doing the marketing basics really well. You can always build upon a great foundation, but you have to crawl before you walk before you run.