Info-Currents… May is the month of mobile

Emerging Trend #1: The latest Nielsen report on Hispanics’ use of mobile and social media shows that this population segment is significantly more likely than the rest of the population to use mobile devices and social media to connect and communicate. 

Implication: Digitally savvy Hispanic consumers serve as a proxy for proactive consumers who are open to brand communications and who will pay for content. eMarketer projects Hispanics to spend $500 million on mobile apps in 2012.

Action: To augment multi-cultural campaigns, invest in social media and hyper target through mobile. Hispanic users are 25% more likely to follow a brand than the rest of the population.  

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New FDA Draft of Social Media Guidance Helps….A Little

The FDA released a draft document on how companies can respond to off-label remarks in social media . Basically, medical staff from the company can acknowledge the off-label post only if the post is unsolicited and mentions the product name.

When communicating with the user, the public response can only include contact information with full disclosure about the medical staff’s relationship with the company.  The rest of the communication has to be directly with the user, through private channels; and it should include standard response information.

The best illustration of this maze of conditional communications came from Dose of Digital. Here’s a great decision-tree that you can use to navigate through the new draft guidelines.

Understandably, sales and marketing cannot be involved in these communications.But I hope that future guidance from FDA gives companies ways to share information publicly that can guide all social media readers towards verified information.

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2012 Will Be The Year of TV+Social

Social media channels are multiplying TV reach through viewers’ Tweets, posts and messages.  As NM Incite and Nielsen research shows, there is a significant correlation between online buzz and TV ratings.

 

What it means for marketers:  2012 is poised to become the year of television with the Olympics and the US elections drawing millions to TV screens. Advertisers will find added value from social media users who will create and reverberate news through their personal profile areas. As the word will spread from TV to social media, online audiences will tune into programming they hear from their online contacts.

 

Action: Expand your definition of reach to go beyond traditional GRPs. When estimating TV news’ lifetime, account for social media mentions.

 

Note the flux of new audience members from mobile and computer screens to TV sets, as they find out about news and shows through social media.

 

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Get The Most Out of Your Social Customer Care Channels

Standing with empty paper cups in hand, we looked for a recycling bin. Much to our dismay, the grand coffee chain did not separate its trash. “Unbelievable!” we thought and approached the counter. “Nope, we don’t recycle. Can you believe it?” said the employee, agreeing with our protest. My friend turned around and shoved the cups in mixed trash and said, “I’ll Tweet about it!”

 

That is one frustrated, social media savvy customer who knows she will get the attention of the brand and many others who’ve gone through similar experience, if she posts a mere 140 characters online. Her expectations are not only high because she wants the coffee chain to be green, but also because she wants a solution through immediate and open dialogue.

 

This is the changing face of customer care in the age of social media. Monitoring online conversations and responding in near real time has become an essential step in maintaining brand health. The complexity of setting up branded social media customer care lines may seem like added cost to an already robust system that handles queries through phone, email and mail. Companies need to have a perspective on the business impact of their social care channels, before determining their role in the customer service chain.

 

Social media customer service channels can reduce churn, increase satisfaction and bring in new customers:

 

·                           Reduced churn: Solving customer problems and preventing customers from discontinuing a service helps maintain a steady customer base.

 

·                           Repeat sales: High customer satisfaction yields loyalty as renewed purchases.

 

·                           Cross-sell, up-sell opportunities: The solution to a customer problem may be a product bundle or an alternative service. Social care specialists can serve additional products/services to customers depending on need and tone of conversation.

 

·                           New customers through positive word of mouth: Resolved cases and happy customer hash tags fortify brand reputation and convince readers that they would be equally well treated if they were to purchase from the company.

 

Besides expecting benefits, companies also need to ask some hard questions to build social care channels that make business sense for their target audience:

 

1-     Who are the social media savvy customers, seeking a dialogue online?

a.      What is their history with the brand?

b.      Do they tap into offline channels as well?

c.      Among online sources, which social media platforms do they prefer?

 

2-     What questions/issues typically make customers turn to social media channels?

a.      What are main topics?

b.      What is the volume for each key topic?

c.      In what problem stages are these questions? Will they need extensive follow up online and/or offline?

 

3-     What is the cost of assisting a customer through social media, considering staff and technology systems?

a.      What are key skills for social care specialists? What kind of training will they need?

b.      How many staff members are needed to assist in social media conversations?

c.      What is the process in which social care specialists will monitor online buzz and respond to customers?

 

The opportunity in social care is in addressing customer needs through efficient systems that deliver value fast, at reduced cost to the company.

 

This post has also been published on NM Incite’s blog. Click here to read more on social media trends and business implications.

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IBM Reveals Gaps In Corporate and Consumer Perceptions Of Social Media

A recent CRM Study (2011) by IBM Institute for Business Value reveals significant gaps between what brands prioritize in their social media communications and what consumers expect when communicating with companies through social media. Guess what? Consumers are not so focused on activities that are deeply engaging and entertaining. (They probably prefer Hollywood for that.) They are looking for discounts. They want to make purchases or they are looking for reviews that will help them solidify their buying decisions. Meanwhile, companies are spending dollars on providing general information and product updates. A significant percentage of companies believe consumers follow them to feel part of a community (64 percent) or to access customer service (63 percent). As the image below shows, these items are not as high on consumers’ list.

So, have we been wrong about polls and quizzes and 2 minute videos that bring color and interaction to Facebook fan pages? Not necessarily. However, we are missing an opportunity to close a sale if we do not bring product to these activities and give consumers the chance to try products, read reviews and purchase in one click. Consumers have their friends and other personal connections on social networks giving them a sense of community. When it comes to b-to-c relations in social media, commerce should be at the center of branded activities.

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Don’t Just Call It An App

Smart clients are pushing back on app ideas — they don’t want an app for app’s sake. Considering the sea of content competing for attention in social media, they are right. There are hundreds of thousands of apps being downloaded as we speak. What will make yours noticeable and compelling to use?

Think of an app like a web site or any other destination on the web your brand owns. You need to take care of it the same way: develop interesting content, make sure it fulfills a need, make sure it works without a glitch and promote it!

So, an app is not just a widget on your Facebook page’s corner to engage users. It is an extension of your brand and your service. Therefore it needs to be part of your marketing and communication plans. 

An app can collect data, keep users focused for minutes at a time and get them to return to your site and revisit your brand. Why not give it the push it deserves, so it can work hard for you? 

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What About Direct Selling?

Ever since I’ve met Mr. Hakki Ozmorali through his blog The World of Direct Selling, I’ve been interested in the similarities between word of mouth marketing and this form of network-based marketing. The Avon ladies, the Tupperware parties — can’t they teach us a thing or two about sampling, experience-driven word of mouth and sales? Hakki has lead teams at Oriflame, Herbalife and LR Health & Beauty Systems as their Country Manager in Turkey, and as North American Regional Manager for the Canadian network marketing company Lifestyles in Toronto, Canada. He currently runs his own firm, DS Consulting. Here are Hakki’s valuable thoughts on the opportunities in direct-selling businesses. 


What do you think is the connection between direct to consumer marketing and word of mouth? Is there an overlap?

Obviously, direct selling relies very much on word of mouth. In its network marketing form, this reliance is even stronger. Companies expect and promote network marketers to conduct their businesses in their close circles. That is, you take the word to your circle of friends and acquaintances and they take it from you to do the same in theirs. As a consequence, people enjoy the luxury of using the products they like, of referring them to the people they like, and make money from this. 

Word of mouth marketers are grappling with measurement issues. It is hard to ask for more projects without proving their worth and ROI. Any learnings you can share from direct selling?

One of the strongest aspects of direct selling is its measurability. One can keep track of all the transactions that take place between the direct sellers and the company. And those transactions expand through word of mouth. One might say here, “Hey, you talk about direct sellers. How about the end consumers?” First of all, it is very rare to see a direct seller not using the products the company he or she is affiliated with. So, a direct seller is in fact, always a consumer as well. Secondly, many direct selling companies have “preferred customer” programs where end consumers can directly buy from the company at discounted prices where you again, can measure everything. So, when a company can find the way to register the user, it can do all measurements one can think of.   

What are the best approaches and practices that work in direct selling? How does consumer experience play into these?

In time, we have learned many lessons. There are some generally accepted rules now. For instance, you need to have a meaningful product line, a solid compensation plan to reward the field, and an operation that satisfies well the needs of direct selllers and consumers. On top these, we have the Internet. A direct selling operation without serving on the Internet now, belongs to yesterday. And today, we are faced with another phenomenon called the “social media”. With that, we have the most powerful tools ever to reach out to younger generations. As a side note, younger generations have traditionally stayed not-so-close to the direct selling model. Oriflame’s “Dare to Be” that I had covered on my blog previously is a very innovative example to such efforts.

 With regards to consumer experience, I can say it is in the heart of direct selling. It is very unusaual that a direct seller who personally did not have a positive experience will go out and promote.

Where do you think the future of direct selling is going, with all the changes in social media landscape? Does powerful consumer mean powerful marketer, in your opinion?

Every single day, the industry is exploring new opportunites that the social media tools provide. If this is all about networking, now a lot of networking is going on the Internet. When you have a meaningful presence there, you can benefit a lot. So, I don’t think the advances on the Internet will challenge the future of direct selling in a negative way. Having said that, another challenge is there because those who utilize these tools better than the others will be winning. It is important to note here that Sequia Capital after investing $37 million in the direct selling company Stella & Dot said it had done so because “the direct selling industry is on the cusp of a new age, with e-commerce and social networking transforming the landscape of the traditional direct-sales approach”.

Coming to your second question,  yes, empowering consumer is actually the essence of network marketing. That is, if you have a powerful consumer, that person will be a powerful marketer for your product as long as you show him or her how to do it and compensate for doing so.

You have an interesting trail of international work. What would be your recommendation to global brands in today’s communication landscape?

While there is so much going on in the direction of globalizaton, local languages, cultures, tastes, attitudes are still there. I’ll give you an example from Facebook. The Turkish people make up the fourth largest audience among Facebook users. This is not because the Turks are one of the most Internet savvy or technologically advanced society in the world. This is simply because Turks love to socialize, to network, and to share. So, when launching a marketing activity, one may choose not to utilize Facebook in a specific country, but apparently, you don’t have that luxury in the Turkish market.  

Thank you very much for your time and insights!

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Technology with Emotion

My dance teacher’s email signature said ‘dance is motion with emotion.’ How true! If that’s the case, then social media is ‘technology with emotion.’ Think of the most common terms we use in this field: engagement, sharing, passing along, experience and communication, among others. Outside the marketing context, none of these suggest coupons, samples, downloads or payments. The experiences we are trying to create through social media are successful when people are inspired, entertained and touched.

Let’s say you are trying to create a Facebook page for a brand. There are many elements you need to pull together from design to development. The order of applets (e.g., polls, quizzes, games) you use is not as important as the journey through which you are taking your audience. If your campaign invokes emotion, then it will be successful. That’s when people will have stories to share. That’s when people will have the inertia to take action.

Consider food bloggers or those who write about travel. They talk about creating experiences that appeal to the senses. That’s why they’re intriguing. That’s why there are millions of people who write about these topics and millions more who follow them.

So, before launching another page or posting another announcement in social media, run it through the emotion test. Share it with some people and see how they react. If they talk about how it makes them feel, then you have a good story in hand. If they are worried about where to click and unsure of what they will get out of that click, then go back to choreograph your dance and to create.

 

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Speaking of Social Media at Turkish WIN

I am a proud member of Turkish WIN, a growing social network of professional women with social, cultural or professional ties to Turkey. The group holds meetings in NY, but there is an extended community online – expanding from China, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul to San Francisco. The goal is to learn from each other and to help support women in their endeavors, whatever they may choose to do. More about the group’s values here.

Last Thursday, I gave a talk about social media at one of their events. You can watch me wave my arms in front of the podium here. The video includes my slides as well. I am thankful to everyone who came. I presented for about 20 minutes. Then we went into Q&A, which merged with the wine & cheese part of the evening and lasted a solid two hours! Whether employed at large companies or taking charge at small businesses, the guests had series of questions about using social media to brand and to build a business. Interestingly, their questions applied to any size or type of institution across the board. Where do I start? Should I mix personal and professional in my blog? Do I lose or expand my audience if I write in two languages? Should I create an editorial calendar if I am trying to be authentic? How do I protect my creative assets? If you have an expert on staff, what are the perils of making him the face of your brand? The audience’s enthusiasm was proof that there is still plenty to discuss about the fundamentals of social media. It is easy to set up a Twitter or Facebook account, but building your presence in social media requires careful thought and plan. 

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