Social Media Analytics: Interview With Author And Analyst Marshall Sponder

Posted on September 25, 2011. Filed under: Business Strategy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Do you want to know the business value all of the effort you put into social media? Is it important for you to figure out how facebooking, tweeting, youtubing, blogging and other social activities affect your bottom line?

To figure this out you must go deeper than just looking at what’s happening on your own social media turf. You need to analyze data from the larger social media ecosystem.

But try to sort out the various social media analytics offerings on the market today and you’ll find each platform is so distinct you can’t make an apples to apples comparison. Certain tools are fine for basic PR analysis but they may not do much in terms of in-depth market research.

One way to help decide which tool best suits your needs is to read Marshall Sponder’s Social Media Analytics. It goes under the hoods of major platforms as well as offers insights about challenges within the industry.

Marshall and I recently had a long conversation, and clearly, this man has a passion for his subject matter. We discussed a range of issues that affect social media analytics. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Interview with Marshall Sponder: Web Metrics Guru

There are numerous books and blog posts about social media analytics; how is your book different from what’s already out there?

Marshall: It’s not a how-to book. It’s more a book about the industry, and then it’s a book by someone inside the industry who’s talking about the problems the industry has.

Also it’s a book about making choices, which are difficult for people to make if they don’t have the information to make it. The other books out there don’t really do that.

Of course, the social media analytics industry is evolving.  Even if you decide on a tool today, you have to keep on top of what’s new, because things change pretty fast. Correct?

Marshall: The tools are changing. They are getting a lot better. But one thing I was thinking about today is there’s a big disconnect about what these tools provide, the nature of the data, and the willingness of people to pay for it. Because other types of business intelligence data are usually really expensive… With social data it’s a little harder for people to understand what the value of it is.

It’s difficult for people to rationalize large investments in IT infrastructure and training and dashboard development when they don’t understand number one, why they need it and number two, they haven’t figured out a version of social success that makes sense. So they wouldn’t want to invest money into something that is so dynamic and changing.

With social data it’s impossible to capture everything. It’s a moving target… and it does take a lot of money to take this river of data and turn it into something that is useful to people.

I think we’re sort of getting past the question, is it worth it and getting to what do I need to do now to know how to choose and who do I hire? Do I hire myself or do I look for someone else to do it for me?

To someone who’s not in this business it’s hard to determine authentic points of differentiation between the platforms. There’s no consistency in terminology and it’s hard to know if the data that they can give you is going to be meaningful.

Marshall: What my book does, it blows open the whole question of do you even know which one to choose? … The [systems] are misrepresented by the vendors, and the agencies are out there trying to cost it out, and the client doesn’t know how to make a decision because they didn’t have the right information. Your ability to use this data has a lot to do with your sophistication to value and pay for it. That is something people haven’t considered in the social space.

In many instances social media falls under the purview of marketing. There may be other departments that are also involved, but marketing and PR are often the primary owners. But you argue that they’re not the right people to handle social media analytics.  

Marshall: The right people, in this environment, today, tend to be pure analysts with the platform. They’re often familiar names, and they often have the higher price tag, because they’re also the ones who can eliminate a lot of uncertainty: Nielson, Buzzmetrics, Brandtology, Synthesio, and Integrasco in the European market.

The reason they can do a lot better is they control their own data culling. They also have customized platforms. I’m not saying that’s the total answer but for a discriminating sophisticated client they’re often cheaper in the long run. They’re cheaper because what you’re getting is clean data, a trained analyst and a customized dashboard… The communications people should really focus on communications and let the market research be done by somebody else. That’s my fundamental belief.

It can be tough to a parse it out, so much depends on your specific business use case.

Marshall: That’s why you need someone like me. If you think about, let’s say you have a legal case, well then you hire a lawyer. If you have a database implementation, you hire a data architect team.

Do you think you want to start making these kinds of decisions off the cuff, or do you want to have someone that really understands and can figure out and can work through what you really want to know and can tell you how to do it?

In the book you talk about ultraviolet data and ultraviolet activity. Can you explain what you mean by those terms?

Marshall: There’s a ton of information out there but we may not be able to gather it. There can be 500 people at a conference and a lot of them may have Twitter handles, but if you didn’t collect that information you might not know everybody there who’s tweeting.

A restaurant have a lot of people checking in [with a location-based app] but it would be hard to qualify the value of that, because unless you’re tracking all those people and their friends and how much they buy on a tab, and unless you incentivize people who work at the restaurant to reach out to people who check in and open up a tab; in other words you have a business process, which is linked to the measurement process; if you don’t have those two linked, you can’t really measure what’s happening.

The ultraviolet means that data was there. The people came in and they checked in and they spent $50 or $100 and some of their friends came in, but you don’t have any way of tracking it, because you have no business process or collection methodology to get the data into something you can perform discreet metrics on.

How is that different from me seeing an ad and my buying a car based on the ad. You can’t track that, either.

Marshall: But people were willing to accept that. You can have an ad in a magazine and the magazine will say I’ve got 3 million people reading my magazine, Here’s my rates. You’ve accepted that, there’s no way to know who saw your ad. But with digital media, one was always told everything is measureable.

I think the difference is because it’s digital, because it’s online, someone should be tracking that…The assumption always was the web created a closed feedback loop so that you could measure it. So the thing is, there are massive reams of data out there, but the devices to capture it and assemble it and then use it as a marketing formula haven’t really been assembled.

And the people who are doing it right probably aren’t talking about it. The people in Las Vegas know. From the minute you land, they’re tracking everything. There are businesses out there that have probably figured out the ROI riddle, but they’re the last people in the world who want to talk about it.

Another thing you talk about is the integration of social media analytics with other types of business analytics, including search engine optimization and web analytics. You feel that’s the next wave.

Marshall: That’s beginning to happen, but even beyond that you need to have a measurement strategy. When you figure out what your business goals are, you then need to go back into your business processes. You may have to change something on the business side in order to get the measurement right. A lot of people have lost sight of that. They think you can just graft measurement on top of business, but in a lot of ways, just making subtle changes in the way people do something, or how they store their data, or some middleware they use to communicate with each other when some event needs to be tracked… in other words there has to be business tactics to support the measurement strategy.  You may have data gaps, and you may have a lot of data, but you can’t do anything about it unless you do additional operations on it.

This is an emerging field that requires research and knowledge. A lot of companies don’t realize all that’s involved.

Marshall: That’s why I say the full service platforms, that do the crawling, analyzing, the specialized dashboards, usually give you a better result because they’re limiting the amount of uncertainty involved and they have more control over the process. There are so many things out there that can make this process noisy and distracting. At this stage that we are today, when you use a do it yourself tool it’s kind of like you’re going out into the ocean without having a compass or know where you are going.

More from Marshall

Many thanks for Marshall for sharing his time and thoughts. If you’d like to stay current with what he’s up to, visit his blog WebMetricsGuru, follow him on Twitter.

So what do you think of Marshall’s views on social media analytics? Do you have your own insights on this topic? Please share your comments.

– Deni Kasrel

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Is Social Media Overrated?

Posted on July 10, 2011. Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , |

Participants at Fast Company’s recent Innovation Uncensored conference were asked “What’s the most overrated trend in business today?” Guess what tops the list.

It’s social media.

These very same folks were also asked “What is the most underrated trend in business today?” Now take a stab at what tops that list.

It’s social media.

If you work in social media on a daily basis, as I do, it’s easy to see why there is such a wide discrepancy within the business community about the value of social media. There’s much confusion and hyperbole about social media.

It’s not a silver bullet. And it’s not a passing fad.

Beware of Shiny Object Syndrome

I frequently talk to people who want advice on how to leverage social media for their organization. I’ll ask basic questions, the answers to which are important to know prior to creating a social media strategy. These questions include: What do you want to use social media for and why? Who are you trying to reach using social media? How do your customers use social media?

Oftentimes, responses to these questions are pretty flimsy. For instance, when asked “Why do you want to use social media?” people will say things like:

a) Everyone else is doing it

b) Our competitors use social media so we need to use it, too

c) My boss told me we need to start doing social media

d) I keep reading and hearing about social media, so it must be something we need to get into

Not one of those reasons speaks to any substantive purpose. And yes, I really have heard all of the above. Many times.

Just being there is not enough

Like any business program, to see success through social media, you need a plan of action. You must establish goals and objectives, create strategies and tactics, and follow through on what you set out to do.

There is no auto-pilot mode in social media. Simply populating your Facebook page or Twitter stream with links to press releases or stories that appear about your company in the news isn’t social.

One of the key things you’ll want to do with social media is provide meaningful content that resonates and ultimately motivates people to respond and take action. You also want to engage with fans and followers on your own social media sites as well as on other sites that relate to your industry in general, and to your business, in particular.

Fail to actively engage on social media and you won’t get much back in return. This can cause you to think social media is overrated, but really it’s just that you’re doing it wrong.

Don’t let lack of knowledge hold you back

Now, perhaps you have put thought into what you want to accomplish through social media, but you don’t know how to reach those objectives. Fair enough. We’re still in the early stages of the social media continuum — you’ve got time to learn and try things out to see what works best for your purposes.

There are lots of books about social media. A few that I have found to be most valuable are: Content Rules, by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, Real-Time Marketing and PR, by David Meerman Scott and The Facebook Era, by Clara Shih.

The real test is in the follow-through

Once you have an idea of how to use social media, then it’s time to get out there and do it. You won’t always hit the bullseye. It takes time to discover what ultimately works for your needs. Even then, what works best will change over time. This is an evolving medium.

Still, when properly executed you’ll find social media is neither an overrated or underrated trend in business. It’s one more tool to help grow your business.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Is social media overrated? Please share your thoughts.

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Talkin’ About Hearsay: A New Social Media Management Platform

Posted on March 20, 2011. Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

While doing research for her bestselling book, The Facebook Era, Clara Shih talked to lots of companies about how they were using social networks. Somewhere along the line Clara realized all the insights and direct connections she was making presented the perfect opportunity to start a business.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Hearsay Co. LogoClara saw there was a big unmet need for corporate-local companies, which are enterprises with many local branches and representatives, such as franchisees and agents. These companies want to maintain a strong corporate brand while also giving reps freedom to do what’s best for their local customer base. But when your reps have their own Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts it’s tough to manage messaging, not to mention compliance with company guidelines and industry regulations.

So Clara left her job at Salesforce (where she was working while writing The Facebook Era) and teamed up with several savvy digital technology pros to start a company, Hearsay, which recently launched Hearsay Social, a tool that enables corporate-local companies to centrally oversee social media activity for all of its branches and reps.

Interview with Clara Shih, CEO of Hearsay Corp.

Clara gave me look at the Hearsay Social platform. It includes tools for social media compliance, content, workflow and analytics. I was truly impressed by the platform’s functionality and user-friendly dashboard — you don’t need technical know-how to figure it out.

While taking the tour of the platform Clara and I had nice long chat. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Your management team has got a lot of depth. How did you put it together?

Silicon Valley has so much incredible talent. Being here and having worked at companies like Google and Salesforce gave all of us a terrific network. My co-founder Steve [Garrity] and I were classmates at Stanford in undergrad and graduate school.

After leaving school we always knew we wanted to start a company together but when we graduated we weren’t ready quite yet. We didn’t have a good idea. So he worked at Fortify Software, which is an enterprise security company, and then at Microsoft, where he worked on mobile. I went to Google and Salesforce, and when it came time to start my company he was one of the first people I called, because he’s incredibly smart and has a very good vision for how technologies change.

You designed Hearsay for a specific market. Why did you choose it, and how did you cater your product to that market?

The whole point of Hearsay is to focus on corporate-local. We looked at the Fortune 1000 and there’s a huge number of companies that fit this model, which is everything from banking, insurance and real estate, to restaurant and retail franchises and direct-selling organizations like Avon or Mary Kay. Our focus has allowed us to go very deep and be very comprehensive in the solution that we provide.

We were very thoughtful about how we architected the solution. We realize, at the end of the day, the most important thing to our target audience is visibility. When you’re a corporate organization you might have franchisees and local stores feeding pages and profiles every day that you might not know about. So number one, how does corporate have visibility? And from there, how does corporate manage brand compliance?

The third thing is, as a counterbalance to the need for brand guidelines compliance, how do you empower your local reps to express a unique and authentic voice? Knowing that’s what makes social media powerful. We know cookie-cutter messages don’t work.

So we built a content workflow system where corporate marketing can come in and feed content or suggest content and campaigns into the field, and then these small business owners, these franchisees, can choose which messages and campaigns they think will resonate with the local audience, personalize it in their own words and be able to do a one-click post out to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Diagram showing how Hearsay Social platfrom enables one-click distribution to multiple social networksHow does it go all across the company system?

Basically, corporate will suggest a piece of content through our portal and then the local reps can receive those suggestions, either by email, and you can enable a one-click post from that email, or, they can log into their own portal which many people like to do because it’s a community of other franchisees in their network.

How does the company determine how well the suggested content is received?

You can see a content library of all that you’ve sent out to the field and can sort by categories, all of which are custom definable.

You can write a post and choose what region you want it to go too, and choose where it goes; to Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn. You can tag it as a corporate suggestion and it will go to a local user who will see that message, along with a link. The local user can personalize the message and then just click the link. Corporate can then see what gets a response.

Can you give me an example of real world usage?

State Farm has 18,000 agents across the country and last year they came to us [while we were in beta] and said, we realize a lot of our agents are getting on these social network sites, which is a good thing. The reason State Farm is so successful is our agents are good social networkers, and we know that these websites makes them effective. But there are challenges we need to solve. From a federal regulations standpoint there are compliance issues, so how do we protect these small business owners, these franchisees, from legal liabilities?

With insurance and banking, there’s an industry guideline called FINRA, which requires all messages to be archived in case of a subpoena down the road. That’s the motivation behind archiving. Facebook and Twitter don’t provide archiving. We do and in fact we’ve partnered with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to be able to provide the archiving. We’re the only company that has access to LinkedIn’s private message API. We’re the only company that can provide this.

And then another challenge State Farm had was small business owners find it very easy to create a Facebook page or Twitter profile but then it’s hard to maintain. As a business owner or a franchisee you’re busy enough running the day-to-day operations. You don’t have time to spend hours figuring out what to say on social media…That’s why we built this content workflow system, so the agents didn’t have to spend hours coming up with good content. Corporate marketing could do it, and it would only take an agent a couple of minutes to add it to their social networks.

A look at the Hearsay Social dashboard, compliance sectionWith the compliance part, say I’m a company that’s highly distributed. How do I manage monitoring all my rep’s posts? It would be overwhelming to keep track of every tweet and every Facebook post.

We only show when there’s a compliance infraction. We sat down with a lot of corporations that did feel overwhelmed and they didn’t feel like they needed to read every message.

Does the item show up because it’s been flagged through keywords?

Yes. They can specify what the keywords are. And we have ones that we recommend for our financial services customers, because you’re not allowed to talk about securities in a public forum. They can also choose from our standard set of filters, like for profanity.

Do you think companies that have been holding off on mounting social media campaigns due to concerns about compliance issues may now engage in social media with more confidence because of your platform?

There’s that. But there is the reality that needs to be acknowledged; which is, the corporate level may not be comfortable going out on social media, but their employees don’t feel the same way. It’s very easy to find agents and employees that are on Facebook and have LinkedIn profiles who are talking to clients and are out of compliance. That’s been a real wake-up call for these organizations.

How do your analytics help a business know what action to take once they view the metrics?

Our customers are very focused on two things. One is agent engagement and the other one is fan or follower engagement. So what they’ll typically look for is when there are spikes in agent activity. That’s usually when corporate makes a content suggestion. The agents post it and then there’s a slight lag on the fan and follower side as measured by likes, comments and retweets… The content that you put out there, you want it to be interactive and engaging. If people aren’t sharing or responding, that means it’s not resonating for some reason. Our customers use this real-time feedback to continually refine their content and campaigns.

So they can correlate response and make the connection.

Yeah… I wondered for a long time why there are so many corporate local organizations. Why are so many of these small businesses that are part of a larger corporate entity? Instead of being a McDonald’s franchisee or a Dunkin’ Doughnuts franchisee, why don’t they just start their own burger or donut place? We thought about this a lot at Hearsay and the reason is brands are extremely powerful. And not only that, a lot of small business owners, don’t know branding and packaging and operations and sales. Being part of a franchise, you get a lot of support in the offline world. So if you’re a McDonald’s franchises, every quarter you get new marketing collateral. But when it comes to the online world, there hasn’t been that same level of support. And social media in particular has been the Wild West for these small business owners. They’re left to their own devices. They’ve had no choice but to create their own Facebook page and figure out how it all works. So one way you can look at Hearsay Social is, we’re providing that level of infrastructure and local support that chains and franchisees have always had in the physical world — we’re providing the analog in social media.

Now hear about it direct from Hearsay (the company video)

Related Posts

Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

How Social Networks Are Changing How We Do Business

Clara Shih On Ambient Intimacy and Appvertising

What do you think of Hearsay Social?  How do you see it fitting into corporate social media programs? Comments welcome.

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Tips For Making Videos That Are Doggone Good

Posted on January 9, 2011. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

It’s cliché marketing advice to suggest that you “think out of the box” in order to “cut through the clutter.” Maybe so — still, it’s good advice.

Of course the trick is in the doing. How do you come up with a creative idea that sets you apart from the crowd?

I’ll answer by showing, rather than telling. Watch this video, Husky Dog Sings with iPad Better than Bieber!, which has more than 2 million views and serves to illustrate how you can break out of the pack.

Can you really learn marketing tricks from a dog?

How does this video cut through the clutter? Let’s count the ways…

1. The video falls into a favored category. Videos of pets doing a cool tricks are incredibly popular. Right from the get-go, this one plays to the crowd in the space in which it’s offered — in this case, YouTube.

2. It has a catchy keyword rich title. The video is named Husky Dog Sings with iPad Better than Bieber! This title is clever on its own, and if you parse it out, between “dog sings,” “iPad” and “Bieber” you’re picking up on a few popular keywords for web searches.

Including the words iPad and Bieber helps attract viewers who are ultimately searching for something quite different than what this video is about, yet plenty of people may click on the link in their search results just because the video sounds like it could be fun to watch. Random entertainment opportunities are one of the many aspects that make the web experience special.

3. There’s no obvious sales pitch. There’s an embedded hat-tip at the end of the video for LaDiDa, an iPhone app. The app is not by the person who made Husky Dog Sings, so this mention appears to be just a nod to the technology that helps make its concept work in the first place.

Meanwhile, there is a direct sales component here. Under the video screen (when viewed on the YouTube site) there’s a link to Mishka on iTunes. Turns out, this singing dog is named Mishka, and she has her own iTunes single.

Click on the link to video’s creator, Matt Gardea, identified on YouYube as gardea23, and you go to Mishka The Talking Husky’s YouTube channel. Here’s where you see that Mishka is a canine celebrity. Her channel has more than 84,000 subscribers. Mishka the singing husky on Twitter She’s been featured on news media throughout the world and she has a thriving Facebook page, Twitter account and line of clothing.

One channel feeds into the other and if you read the posts to Facebook or Twitter you’ll note there’s plenty of personality behind it all.

4. The tone is homegrown. Husky Dog Sings vibe is warm and welcoming. Mishka’s owners are clearly out to promote their pet, however, they go about it in a friendly down-to-earth way. Most any dog owner can relate to Matt’s friendly encouragement of Mishka as he repeatedly says “good girl” to coach the husky through her duet with the iPad.

5. This is the real deal. Social media presents a particular kind of environment where hard-sell flashy marketing falls out of favor. After all, being pushy isn’t social. You want to be real, and this video is genuine. When Mishka is doing her thing, a child and another dog briefly enter the picture. There’s no attempt to hide this extraneous action, which only adds to our amusement.

More tricks to come?

This is one cool trick. It’s warm and cozy yet also a pretty slick package.  In late December Mishka tweeted that there’s more in store:Tweet from Mishka the singing husky

Hmm, wonder what she’s got up her paws.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think? Your comments welcome.

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How Long Does It Take To Tell Your Story?

Posted on November 23, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hand holding stopwatchGood marketing is like good storytelling.

Truly effective marketing hits on emotional touchpoints that make us believe what you have to say, enough so that we’re persuaded to buy what you’ve got for sale. We need to see ourselves in your story.

It’s no accident we have the expression, “I don’t buy that story for one minute.”

How much story can you tell in 15-seconds?

How long should your brand story be?

This thought came to mind when I was chatting last week with Glenn Holsten. Glenn is an independent filmmaker who is well known for his documentaries, but he also does commercial work.  We were catching up prior to the world premier screening of his film Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists 1958-1968 and somehow got on the subject of social media. Glenn said he had a client who wanted a 15-second video to use for social media. “How can I tell in story in 15 seconds?” he asked.

I mentioned the tale, perhaps an urban legend but nonetheless oft-cited, about how Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a story that was only six words long.  I’ll now share this story, in it’s entirely:

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

Glenn agreed that’s one heck of a short story, and he assured me he’ll whip up that 15-second spot his client wants for social media. Meanwhile, I’m intrigued by the fact that his client perceives the need to create a 15-second video, simply because it’s for social media.

Is there an ideal story length? Does the media matter?

I’ve seen two and half-hour movies that seem to fly by and watched three-minute videos that feel like they take forever.

TV commercials are usually 30 or 60 seconds long. Much of that’s due to the cost of buying time on television. There is no equivalent cost with social media.

Regardless of your expense, whatever the length of a marketing message, there’s a cost to your audience in terms of time and mindshare. Even 15 seconds of wasted time can be annoying.

YouTube is a social media channel and YouTube has in excess of 100 million videos, pretty much all of which are longer than 15 seconds. The fact that a video may also be a form of advertising doesn’t matter. If the content is worth watching, you can exceed the 30-60 second convention.

Screen shot from Blendtec Will It Blend, iPhone videoPrime examples here are the Will It Blend? spots featuring Tom Dickson, who rose to online stardom thanks to a series of videos where he proved the power of his Blendtec blender by using it to pulverize all sorts of objects, including an an iPhone, a Bic lighter, golf balls, a bag of marbles and a crowbar. Nearly all of the Will It Blend videos are between one to two minutes long and they’re super popular — the iPhone video has in excess of 9 million views. Blendtec also promotes its videos through a Facebook page , which has a more than 56,000 fans, and through Twitter.

The evolution of storytelling… to be continued

You might say your story should be as long as is required to tell what needs to be told while also holding the viewer’s interest. That’s true, and also highly subjective.

There’s no hard and fast rule here. Still, it’s interesting to consider how much social media, and the way in which we consume it – via mobile phone, desktop computer, computer tablet or TV –  influences the art of brand storytelling.

Open question: Is there a difference in our attention span toward marketing messages when we receive these messages via social media, as opposed to a company’s website?

Could be. I wouldn’t be surprised to see research down the line on this very topic. Time will tell.

What do YOU think? Is there an ideal length for a branded video that’s distributed through social media? Please share your thoughts.

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The ROI of Real-Time Marketing and Public Relations

Posted on November 1, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Photo of dollar bills growing out of flower potsPsst, want a hot stock tip?

Invest in businesses that engage in real-time marketing and PR.

This list includes:

  • Companies that adopt emerging communications trends – these days this includes social media and web analytics
  • Companies that respond to media and customer concerns promptly and courteously
  • Companies that respond to inquiries from A-list bloggers ASAP

New research measures real-time response of Fortune 100 companies

FYI, I am not offering this advice simply because I work in the field of marketing communications. There’s genuine research to back this tip up, and it’s hot off the e-press.

You can read all about in Real Time: How Marketing and PR at Speed Drives Measurable Success.

It’s the latest e-book by David Meerman Scott, A-list blogger, popular speaker and best selling author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, 2nd Edition.

In his new e-book, David recounts the results of research he conducted to measure the real-time marketing response of the top 100 U.S. corporations as ranked by Fortune magazine.

Ties that bind real-time response and stock market performance

David’s research method was simple: He sent an email to the media relations departments of each Fortune 100 company asking the following question:

“In the last year or two, has the structure of your corporate communications team and/or communications processes changed to embrace the real-time digital era? If so, how?”

David wanted to find out:

  • How easy is it to contact each company’s media relations department?
  • How long does it take each company to respond to his request?
  • What is the quality of the response?

The e-book explains what happened next. It’s entertaining stuff. I’ll let you read it for yourself, however, the upshot is, David determined that in a comparison of 2010 stock prices, on average, the publicly traded Fortune 100 companies that were the most highly engaged in real-time communications beat the S&P 500 stock index, while those that were asleep at the real-time wheel, on average, underperformed the index.

Here’s a bar graph from the e-book showing details of the data:

Graph showing how real-time marketing & PR affects corporate stock performance

Likewise, an analysis of 2010 stock prices shows, the majority of the publicly traded Fortune 100 companies that responded to David’s inquiry (again, those engaged in real-time communications) were up on the year stock-price-wise, while those who did not were down. Here’s how that stat divvied up:

Stock performance of companies that engage in real time marketing beat those that do not (chart)

The data clearly indicates there’s a measurable return on investment for companies that engage in real-time marketing and public relations. Those who are out of the real-time loop are, overall, losing ground in the marketplace.

Now granted, David has a vested interest in touting these results. He wants to spark interest in his brand new book, Real-Time Marketing and PR: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business Now. Still, David does not have the power to manipulate a stock price to suit his own needs. The data is what it is.

It’s also further reinforcement of the public’s increasing use of the web, in particular the rising prominence of social media, as well as smartphones, which encourage a rapid response mindset for messaging.

And while surely lots of factors affect a company’s stock market success, real-time engagement looks to be a new item to add to the list.

Stay tuned for more on real-time marketing and public relations

There are, of course, a plenitude of benefits to be reaped from engaging in real-time. A company’s ability to act and react in a fast and flexible manner can have positive consequences for product development, customer service, branding, crises communications, sales and more.

Heads up, I’m currently reading the book Real-Time Marketing & PR, and will soon have more to say on this timely topic. Stay tuned.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of the relationship between real-time marketing and PR and corporate stock market performance? Do you have stories of your own to tell on this topic? Comments welcome?

Related posts

Interview with David Meerman Scott, Author of the New Rules of Marketing & PR

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Clara Shih On Ambient Intimacy and Appvertising

Posted on October 5, 2010. Filed under: Best practices, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Book Cover_The Facebook Era by Clara ShihIf you want to know how tapping into social networks can help your business, then touch base with Clara Shih. After all, she wrote The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell, and Innovate (2nd Edition), which is chock full of case studies and practical information for creating strategies and tactics to help you succeed in the new world of social business.

I recently enjoyed a conversation with Clara. My prior post, How Social Networks Are Changing How We Do Business, features Part 1 of our conversation, and here’s Part 2, where we get into things like ambient intimacy, appvertising and how Clara wisely decided not to go with the book title originally suggested by her publisher.

Interview with Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era, Part 2:

Much your book talks about how businesses can use social networks to gain more information about customers or prospects, and their connections. But it can also work in the other direction. Customers may use social networks to decide whether they want to do business with you. They may want you or your business to have a referral or a seal of approval from someone they know.

Clara: Yeah, I see it going in that direction. It happens to me all the time, with people that haven’t bought my book, they’ll go to my page and they’ll see two of their friends are already a fan of the page and it helps them make up their mind… It’s really interesting.

That’s the most important thing to keep in mind for understanding social media. Because once you get this then everything else is easy. All the tactics you can pick up, and they’re changing all the time because Facebook and Twitter are always changing. But this is a fundamental paradigm shift that’s changing and creating these new business practices.

If you were to encapsulate the paradigm shift how you describe it?

Clara: It’s the idea of ambient intimacy. People sharing more about themselves than they ever have before. There are implications for business development, marketing and targeted advertising.

One of big challenges many businesses have with social media is that it’s 24/7, but most businesses don’t operate 24/7. So they run up against issues with time resource allocation and providing an adequate response. Do you have suggestions to help a business manage its social media presence?

Clara: Well the first thing to consider is that people are talking about your company 24/7 whether or not you’re on social media or not. So better to be there and to be monitoring than be in blissful ignorance.

Beyond that I think in terms of setting the expectation of timeliness. And I’ve seen this — companies will have something on their Twitter or Facebook page that says, if we don’t get back to you in 72 hours or whatever the timeframe is — put out what to expect, so everyone is on the same page.

You hear a lot about how in social media you can’t do the hard sell, you have to do the soft sell. But people know why you’re on there — your purpose is ultimately to sell, if you’re a business.

Clara: It is ultimately to sell. And that’s OK if you acknowledge it. But it’s also to show that you care about people.

Right you can vicariously create tighter connections. Still, a customer can always write an email if they want to get in touch with a company  Yet there’s something different about expressing yourself through social media.

Clara: It’s very subtle psychological things — like seeing your profile picture next to a comment you made on a businesses page… it makes you feel important. Like you have a voice. And I think people really resonate with that and people are drawn to that. Because you feel heard. Your comment is public. People can link back to your profile and possibly interact with you and like or comment on your comment.

In your book you talk about appvertising. I don’t know how many companies are aware of it, or the benefits. Would you mind giving a brief overview how companies can be smart with it?

Clara: Sure. Appvertising came about when Facebook started opening their platform to other developers to create applications on Facebook. And the idea is that with traditional advertising you get only that split second to interact with the audience. People basically see your ad and they decide to click or they don’t.

With Facebook apps, instead of giving people a onetime offer, you’re engaging them with a game or some sort of other application that they would want to come back to again and again. You can brand those games. You can sponsor applications, or you can build your own applications that really touch upon your core business and be able to deepen your relationship with a customer and engage with a customer over a longer period of time than you would with traditional advertising.

How do you do it so you’re not just creating a commercial that just happens to be a game? Even though that is essentially what appvertising is.

Clara: The key part is the branding is more subtle. One of my favorite examples is, there’s a General Mills brand called Cacadian Farms, where they promote organic foods. If you play Farmville you can buy blueberry seeds from Cascadian Farms that are all organic, non-genetically modified blueberries. That’s a fun way to engage; people are getting exposed to the Cascadian brand, and it’s good for the players because it’s good for their farm.

Still, companies must be careful about what apps they’re in and how they choose to be in that space, right?

Clara: It’s very important to find out with the apps, are they really reaching the core audience that they want to reach? There was a big controversy about a year back where Offerpal partnered with Netflix. The idea was if you were playing Texas HoldEm inside of Facebook you could throw out an offer for a 30-day trial to Netflix in exchange for chips. They got a ton of response because that’s a really popular application and people wanted the virtual chips. The problem was the end-value to Netflix was ultimately very low, because these people all cancelled within a few days. They weren’t interested in Netflix; they just wanted the chips.

As an advertiser and as a business you really have to think about are you achieving the goal that you want to achieve? How much will this interest last? Is it a short-term win or is it really a long-term gain where you can acquire these users?

OK, last question: Why call your book The Facebook Era; even the first edition is about a lot more than just Facebook.

Clara: I’ll tell you something funny; my publisher wanted me to call it the MySpace Era, because at the time MySpace was significantly bigger. I just thought there was something about Facebook that was different.  It was really the first social network that encouraged us and supported us in reflecting and extending our real world networks, versus trying to replace those real-world relationships. There’s something that’s just much more lasting and more inherently valuable about basing it on true identity and true relationships.

And we continue to call it The Facebook Era because Facebook is still the largest and fastest growing social network, not only here in the U.S., but worldwide… I believe that no matter where you are in the world you want to be connected, and often times that includes people in your county and beyond, and that’s the deal with Facebook.

Thanks, Clara

Many thanks to Clara for being so generous with her time and thoughts. She gives us plenty to ponder.

Now, if you want to get social with Clara, visit the Facebook Era’s Facebook page, or  follow her on Twitter at @clarashih

– Deni Kasrel

Related post

Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

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How Social Networks Are Changing How We Do Business

Posted on September 28, 2010. Filed under: Business Strategy, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era

When Clara Shih set out to write a second edition of her bestselling book, The Facebook Era, she had her hands full trying to keep up with all the changes happening in the social media sphere, especially among the big three: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. So much so, Clara had to change the publish date of the new book just to keep current.

The Facebook Era: Tapping Online Social Networks to Market, Sell, and Innovate (2nd Edition) is finally here, and it’s well worth the wait.

Clara did more than just touch-up the first edition: She added case studies, new chapters and a bunch of guest-written expert opinion sidebars.

All About Using Social Networks for Business

It’s all geared to helping businesses and entrepreneurs learn how to tap into social networks to market, sell and innovate.

Clara has plenty of first-hand knowledge in this regard — she created the first business application on Facebook (Faceconnector), which integrates Facebook with Salesforce.com.  More recently, Clara started Hearsay Labs, a provider of social customer relationship management software.

I enjoyed both Facebook Era editions (yes, I read the second one cover to cover, too). And so it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with Clara, to talk about her new book as well as the social media landscape in general.

Interview with Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era: Part 1

We had a nice long conversation, enough that it makes for a nice two-parter on this blog.

Here in Part 1 we discuss how Facebook and other networks are altering fundamental social norms.

You used social media to help determine some of the content of the book. Can you elaborate on how that process worked out?

Clara: The innovation in social media is happening from the bottom up. It’s happening in the groundswell from these grassroots initiatives that people are taking for their organization and their companies and in their personal lives. I really wanted to source these ideas and these best practices directly from the innovators in the space. And so I used my Twitter handle and my Facebook page as well as my personal Facebook profile to ask people what their ideas were. What were the things they were living and experiencing themselves? And I had a phenomenal response. A lot of the best material in the book came from people that I interacted with on Facebook and Twitter.

Are these people you knew?

Clara: What does it mean to know someone these days? I mean, many of them I’ve never met — they’ve connected with me and they’re following me on Twitter and vice versa and now I feel like I do have a relationship.

The idea of what is a “friend” changes a lot in these contemporary times.

Clara: That’s really at the heart of everything that I write about. I mean, yes, there are a lot of business implications, but at the heart of it is human relationships and how we interact with each other and connect with each other. How we connect with our customers. And that drives all the business use cases and opportunities.

One of the reasons I was so enthusiastic about your first edition is that you really delved into a human part, the sociology, the social ethos — whatever you want to call it — and then applying that to social networks and the new social norms, as you refer to them in your second edition. You explain it so clearly. So how important is it understand these social norms when, as a business, you’re engaging in this context?

Clara: I think it’s the most important thing you can do.  Understanding human behavior and how your customers and clients think. What makes them happy? That’s really the key to success for any business. Regardless of what product or service you may have.

In the last 13 years the internet gave us tremendous efficiency between buyers and sellers and giving everyone access to information. But as Jim McCann [founder of 1-800-Flowers.com] writes about in the forward to this book, the efficiency came at a great price. Oftentimes what we sacrificed was human connection. The feeling that customers had that they were actually special and valued by your company.

The great thing about social networks is the idea that we can regain some of that connection, without losing any of the efficiency. We can still connect to large groups of people. We can still market to and prospect to large group of people. But because there’s more information about people and relationships and connections we can still have that bond and invest in that customer loyalty.

Right, and on the flip side, it humanizes a business, too. Companies can seem like monoliths, even if they’re small, if you don’t have any communication with what appears to be a real person.

Clara: Exactly. And there’s nothing like putting a human face around a big company. Especially if it’s one that people don’t traditionally find very sexy. That just changes the whole set of interactions. We’ve seen great examples like Frank [Eliason] at Comcast, to show someone who really cares and be the face of a large institutional brand.

So whether you’re working externally with your customers, or internally with your employees, it’s human nature to want to connect with people and facilitating that process makes way for better business.

In your book you talk about how seemingly non-important details —  for instance someone says they play soccer — can end up making a difference between how people interact with one another and possibly be a factor in how a business deal happens.

Clara: People are always looking for common ground. Especially when you meet someone new. You’re trying to figure out if this person is trustworthy and whether you want to do business with them. Whatever business you’re in, people always prefer to do business with people they know and like. And they refuse to do business with people they don’t trust. And so to the extent that Facebook can help you see similar interests, hobbies, and friends. That carries a lot of weight in being able to establish trust.

Right, but five years ago people didn’t have that ability and yet business still occurred. Do you think that it will change, such that it will be incumbent on someone to be participating in this way, even with business people, on this level? How do you see it evolving?

Clara: I think we’re seeing it already. Because before five years ago, it was 15 years ago where we didn’t have the internet. And certainly before there was online a lot of business got done for a long time… and we see these technology cycles: first the mainframe, then the personal computer, then the internet and now the social web, where it doesn’t happen all at once, but certainly for many industries, it can give you a huge leg up to understand this new communication and technology paradigm and use it as an additional way to get customer connection and loyalty.

Stay tuned for Part 2

There’s more, folks: My next post will be Part 2 of our conversation about The Facebook Era.

Meanwhile, if you want to social network with Clara, why not visit the Facebook Era’s Facebook page, or  follow her on Twitter at @clarashih

Related posts on this blog

Recommended Reading: The Facebook Era

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Business Podcasting Tips From Toby Bloomberg of Diva Marketing Talks

Posted on August 9, 2010. Filed under: Best practices, Marketing and Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

RSS symbol with podcast headphone and microphonePodcasting offers an easy way to be heard in the marketplace.

It’s on-demand subscription-based audio content that lets you grab someone’s ear.

Of course holding onto that ear takes finesse.

Just spouting marketing messages doesn’t cut it. Then it’s an infomercial, and who’s going to subscribe to that?

You must make it worth someone’s while to pay attention to what you have to say.

Interview with Toby Bloomberg, host of the podcast series Diva Marketing Talks

It takes skill to pull off a successful podcast, and one person does it well is marketing maven Toby Bloomberg, host of Diva Marketing Talks, a podcast series about social media marketing.

Toby recently shared some of her podcasting tips with me, about the art of being a good moderator and how to create podcasts that reach out and touch customers in a meaningful way. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

Can you describe your concept for Diva Marketing Talks?

Toby: My concept is that since social media is a conversation, I don’t want to have to interview people. And the one-on-one thing, to me, is an interview. So I always have a least two guests, sometimes three.

What do you think makes for a good podcast moderator?

Toby: There are a few things that make for a good moderator. One is making sure you have a guest on who will share information and talk. Because the worst thing is to have someone on who just doesn’t talk. And you want to have someone who understands, in social media, they’re giving value-added information, not pitching their own company.

The second thing is to create an environment and atmosphere where they feel comfortable to talk.

And the third thing is to prep your guests for the show… I put questions together. I put concepts together and I give them to the guests and say, “Here’s our content direction. Whether or not we follow it depends on where the conversation goes, but here are the issues we’ll talk about.”

When it’s time for the show I’ll start off with a question and see where it goes. Sometimes it does turn into a real conversation. I will encourage people to talk to the other guests and to ask questions of me, so it has the feel of a conversation, instead of me interviewing two people.

What are some reasons a company might consider doing a podcast series?

Toby: A podcast is no different than an audio file that’s on the web. What makes it unique is that it has an RSS feed that gives you the ability to dump it into an MP3 player. And that little technology changes everything. It gives you the ability to do what people call “time transfer.” You can put it into your video or MP3 player — into your iPod your iPhone and iTunes — and listen to it whenever you want.

So that’s what makes podcasting so different and valuable. It’s that people aren’t tied to their computers any longer. They can listen to it wherever they want.

You can use podcasts to create thought leadership to build greater understanding and awareness of an organization or a topic. But it can also be used in other ways. For instance it can be used to train a sales force. You can do a podcast on product development, new product features, whatever. Give MP3 players to your sales force and they can listen whenever they want.

Another thing is take a cheap MP3 player — we’re not talking about iPods — load it up and give it away at trade shows.

What would be on those trade show podcasts — product information?

Toby: It can be product information. But it always has to be value-add. Because who’s going to listen to something about your new features or your latest widget? You can position it however you want. You can do a little show.

Is there any type of business that either does or doesn’t lend itself to podcasting?

Toby: You’re disseminating information. So if your target audience is comfortable listening to information in a given format, it will work. It really goes back to who your customers are… I think today we’re not looking at technology as much as information.

How can a business know what kind of information is of interest to their target audiences?  How should they define their podcast strategy?

Toby: You just ask your customers what they want. Tell them you’re thinking of doing a podcast series and ask, “Is this something that you might want?” They’ll let you know. And they’ll tell you what they want to hear.

Especially in a B2B environment, where relationships are so critical, even more than B2C, it gives you a wonderful opportunity to touch base with customers that perhaps you haven’t talked to in a while.

So pick up the phone… Take a look at the customers that you’ve been wanting to develop stronger relationships with, or people you just missed closing a deal on. It would be great to go out to prospects and say, “We haven’t talked to you in a long time. This is what we’re thinking of doing. What would you like to hear?” It gives you an opportunity to open doors.

You can build a whole strategy behind that. Why not tag the podcast with “Thanks to Tom Jones at XYZ company for giving his input on this topic.” Thanking people in a public forum is always a nice thing to do. You don’t have to mention if they’re a client or not.

In your e-book Social Media Marketing GPS you note how podcasts can bring out your personality and create intimacy between the people behind a brand and its customers. How does that happen and why is that important?

Toby: Voice and tone add another dimension than text. Even if your company has a blog, or a Facebook page, or is tweeting, it brings you a little bit closer… And audio gives you the opportunity to add a different type of information.

When you write, and when you speak, your words come out differently. I think a good podcast forces you to talk in a conversational manner. So if you’re taking in a conversational manner people tend to relate to you as a person rather than as a company. The bottom line is people like to do business with people they like and this is one more way for somebody to get to know you.

Say a business makes a product that does not seem to present itself as being all that interesting. It’s some kind of widget. How do you make something that is not inherently fascinating into a podcast series?

Toby: You don’t, if it’s something that’s inherently boring. Like if it’s a widget that goes into another widget.

It’s like Intel Inside. Think of how brilliantly they positioned themselves. They knew that nobody wanted to talk about this little technology piece that went into computers, they positioned it as Intel Inside — this is what makes everything work. So perhaps isn’t going to be about the widget, because how much can you talk about the widget? Maybe it’s about trends in the industry.

What about allowing people to call into the show? Why might a company want to do that?

It gives people an opportunity to get information that they may not be able to have any other way. It gives you an opportunity to interact with potential customers. And if somebody has a really deep question, you can say, “Let’s take this offline and I’m happy to make sure you get the information.”

It’s one of those things that could go wild, depending on the company and the questions. If you’re doing it where you can tape the show you have the opportunity to edit. If you’re doing it live, obviously you don’t have that, so I think it takes a very skillful host. Because then you’re not only in the world of social media, really what it amounts to is you’re in the world of public radio.

OK, final question: If you were to give only one tip for businesses about podcasts, what would it be?

Toby: Make sure you understand the type of content your audience finds interesting and work around that. It’s Marketing 101.

But with any kind of social media we’re really diving outside of traditional marketing… It’s a sidestep. Sometimes it doesn’t necessarily relate to you product or service directly, but rather, tangentially.

That’s where I see a lot of companies miss the mark. When some people think being in social media means not being sales oriented, they think it means a softer sales pitch. But more than not, it means not even going in the sales direction, but making sure you have information that can support your customers in your particular industry… It is different than any other kind of marketing because it’s built on value-add.

Thanks, Toby

Many thanks to Toby Bloomberg for sharing her insights. If you want to keep up with Toby’s thoughts on a regular basis, subscribe to her Diva Marketing Blog, or follow her on Twitter at @tobydiva.

Meanwhile, other posts I’ve written that relate to Toby include:

Social Media Marketing GPS: A Creative Social Media Guide

Wonder Gals of Web 2.0

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of Toby’s ideas about podcasting? Do you have more thoughts on the topic? Please share. Comments welcome.

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Social Media Marketing GPS: A Creative Social Media Guide

Posted on June 8, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Toby Bloomberg's ebook, Social Media Marketing GPS, is specially formatted for e-readers

Twitter is a powerful publishing platform. But when messages are limited to 140 characters it has its limits, right?

Well, less than you might think — if you’re as resourceful as Toby Bloomberg. She recently published an ebook based on interviews conducted via Twitter.

A guide to social media, one tweet at a time

As Toby explains in the introduction to her free ebook, titled Social Media Marketing GPS:

“The goal was to create a comprehensive body of knowledge that could serve as a roadmap (GPS) for developing a strategic social media plan. My thoughts were if this could be accomplished in a series of 140 character tweets it might help ease the apprehension for people new to social media, while at the same time, providing a review and offering some interesting ideas for those more experienced.”

Toby admits the whole thing was conceived as an experiment.

Based on the result, I’d say it’s a success. Social Media Marketing GPS is a shining example of the power of communication conveyed through social media.

Featuring advice from 40 marketing pros

The book features tweets from 40 professional marketers, all of whom are avid practitioners of social media.

Some handle social media for corporations or agencies, while others are solopreneurs. Contributors include Paul Chaney, Mack Collier, Roxanne Darling, Ann Handley, Beth Harte, Neville Hobson, Tim Jackson, John Maley, Scott Monty, B.L. Ochman, Connie Reece, David Meerman Scott and Liz Strauss.

Certain of those names are well known; still, I like that Toby didn’t simply turn to the uber-darling “usual suspects” of social media to create her book.

Not that there’s anything wrong with superstar power. It’s just nice to hear from others who are in the trenches, blogging, vlogging, podcasting, Facebooking, Tweeting, branding, and otherwise successfully engaged in social media marketing.

That, of course, is part of the beauty of social media: It helps level the playing field for who has a voice (and impact) in the marketplace.

Big ideas presented in bite-size nuggets

Each chapter of Social Media Marketing GPS features useful ideas and opinions regarding social media strategies and tactics. Topics covers tools and platforms, ethics, metrics, branding, blogger relations and more — all presented in bite-size nuggets.

In a way its presentation strikes me as being akin to how you might use a yellow marker when reading, to highlight essential details. Only in this instance, the content is strictly the highlights.

Toby is the consummate conversationalist

Toby — who, in case you did not know, is a popular blogger and marketing maven in her own right —  serves as ringleader, instigating interviews with a leadoff question. She embellishes each chapter with concise introductions and summaries of key concepts, and then closes out with questions to consider when creating a social media marketing plan.

These questions also invite you to think about each topic — on your own — which enables Toby to create a kind of conversation between the ebook and its readers.

Of course, if anyone knows how to generate stimulating conversation — virtual or otherwise — it’s Toby. She does it all the time on Diva Marketing Talks, her podcast series featuring chats with experts about all things social media. Those familiar with the series may note a considerable overlap between her guests on Diva Marketing Talks and the individuals featured in Social Media Marketing GPS.

Useful to both new and experienced marketers

Meanwhile, Toby does succeed in her goal of creating a book of value to both newbies and those experienced in social media. Wherever you may fall on that spectrum, I recommend you give it a read.

And by the way, if you happen to have an e-reader, the book is specially formatted for this handy gadget.

– Deni Kasrel

Have you read Social Media Marketing GPS? What do you think of it? Comments welcome.

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