Can you cut the social mustard?

Grey Poupon is vying to become the most exclusive page on facebook. It requires visitors to actually apply to become a fan – and if it doesn’t like the look of them it rejects them…straight.

https://www.facebook.com/greypoupon

The mustard brand describes itself as ‘synonymous with all that is refined, exquisite and delicious.’ We can assume this elitist attitude is the inspiration behind creating an exclusive facebook club around the brand.

Despite failing to meet the entry criteria, I like this. It’s a bold move, potentially alienating fans that the brand deems too gauche to belong to the club. But the best marketing is always bold – and bold is rarely without risk. There is also a quality over quantity approach here, which is a refreshing nod to the importance of effective targeting so rarely seen in the online social world.  It’s not about more fans – it’s about the right fans.

The application process on Grey Poupon’s facebook page is beautifully executed. You are taken to a darkened virtual viewing room where a panel of judges (in period dress) reviews on screen various assessment criteria about your facebook profile such as what you like, how many friends you have and what your influence is, before deciding whether you cut the mustard…so to speak.

Will Grey Poupon alienate potential customers? I doubt it. Having failed to measure up to the brand’s lofty social standing, I’m more motivated than ever to refine my act and gain access to the club.   More importantly, I’m now tempted to try a mustard brand that’s barely been on my radar until today.

How great it is to see some social media marketing that’s actually compelling and original.

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Unlock the Social Media value inside your organisation as well as outside

The benefits for companies using social media to reach customers are much discussed. But there has been woefully little mention in the conversation of the benefits of using social media to increase the efficiency of communications inside the organization – and as a result, productivity and revenue.

A recently released McKinsey report finds that, while nearly three-quarters of organisations use social media to engage with external audiences, twice as much potential exists in using social tools internally. The report suggests that social platforms for internal comms could increase productivity by up to 25% and unlock up to (get this!) $1.3trillion in ‘annual value’, just across the 4 sectors its research covered.

In June, I reasoned in my blog post, Social At Work, that social media was a powerful conduit for information-flow and knowledge-sharing inside any organization (much like it is outside), enabling workers to more easily keep informed about, and engaged in, developments and events across the entire operation. How many times have you heard disgruntled employees lamenting that they ‘don’t know what’s going on?’ Enhanced product knowledge, increased morale, more relevance, and fewer hours wasted in meetings, being just some of the obvious benefits of adopting a ‘social-culture’ for internal communications.

If only half of the reported 3 billion meetings that occur in the US ever year are a waste of time, then I estimate the direct cost to US industry to be well in excess of $100bn (being ultra conservative) in employees’ time alone. Is this not reason enough to consider the social media alternatives?

McKinsey also reaffirms my point that the real challenge for companies hoping to adopt social media as a platform for internal communications is in affecting the requisite changes in culture – installing the technology is the easy bit.

Too old or too young to run your brand’s social media?

Well, I guess someone had to say it. Check out this post:

11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media. 

I’m not sure what’s more amusing – the audacity of the post itself or the tirade of self-righteous protests it elicited from its intended targets – which ironically serves to prove the author’s point.

Let’s remind ourselves that this is not an unprovoked assault. This is the inevitable response to the gauntlet that had already been thrown down by the NextGen-ers here:

Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25

Let’s remind ourselves that the context for this debate is that the employment market is on its arse. Youngsters and oldies alike are vying for a piece of the same woefully inadequate supply of positions out there, each as frustrated as the other that employers are either valuing brand strategists over facebook enthusiasts or vice versa, depending on which side of the fence you are on. So now apparently, the gloves are off.

Does it really matter how old the person doing the job is as long as they have the required skills? Surely the onus is on the employer to determine what skill-set the role requires, then make sure they hire the most suitable available candidate to wear that hat, be they 24, 44 or 64 years old – and while we’re at it, male, female, black, white or green.

It seems reasonable also that the brand’s target audience has everything to do with who the best person for the job is. You probably don’t want a 55-year-old trying to disco-dance with your teeny-bopper fan-base any more than you want a 23 -year-old college grad selling stair-lifts to geriatrics who don’t know their shift-key from their car-key…OMG LMAO 😉

Arguably it is safe to remove technical ability from the equation as a meaningful qualifying criterion for selection on the basis that:

1) let’s face it, it’s all piss easy to learn and use (unless you have been living in a cave – which presumably could be the case whether you are 22 or 72), and;

2) it changes so fast that whatever your technical knowledge is today it’s redundant tomorrow – so all that really matters in terms of technical ability is your aptitude to stay current (see point number 1).

A pertinent point that is overlooked in this debate is that your brand’s social media strategy is (or probably should be) merely a single component of your broader marketing communications strategy. This point relates to the degree of judgement that is required by the social media manager. For example, if your brand’s messaging, tone of voice and content plan are developed by senior marketing professionals at a higher level of your organisation as part of your overall communications planning strategy, then it is left to your social media manager simply to follow guidelines. This doesn’t seem beyond the capacity of a responsible and mature twenty-something. However, if you are asking someone with two year’s professional experience to manage your entire brand’s voice without a set of guidelines and grown-up supervision, then it is probable that you need a head examination. Nor is that very fair to the person in the role if they are hoping to learn and develop on the job.

The young Gen Y-ers claim that ‘old’ people just don’t get social media, is worthy of exploration. They believe that too often the crusties view it as a platform to blast out crude sales messages instead of engaging in meaningful and credible dialogue with brand followers. This can be true sometimes, particularly of non-marketing oriented senior managers (to whom the social media folk often report) whose expectations are out-of whack with conventional wisdom. However, you are about as likely to encounter a seasoned marketing pro (let’s say 35+) these days who doesn’t understand this concept as you are to get hit by a chocolate lightning bolt. Not a very compelling case really.

I lamented just last week that too often ‘Internet Marketers’ fail to appreciate that the second word in that title is the one that really matters. We’re all handy with the Internet Mush – even my Gran writes a blog and tweets about extreme-knitting. But can you sell stuff to profitable ends? Social, digital, traditional – all parts of the same tapestry, underpinned by common principles about brand building and woven together for one holy purpose – improving the bottom line. If you don’t have a grasp of the importance of brand attributes and the interconnectedness of your various media platforms in a business context, then how can you manage any one of them, social or otherwise? It is unfortunate to observe that nowhere in the rants and cries of the NextGen-ers is this depth of understanding evident. Yet by stark contrast, this principle underpins 8 of the 11 points made in Thomases’ article, who reinforces the truth that there is a world of difference between engaging in lightweight puffs of dialogue and ‘running a brand’. I know who I’d employ.

To underscore this point, nextGen-er, Ms Sloane, while reasoning that all social media managers should be under 25, explains:

“After all, it is called social media; the seemingly obvious importance of incorporating comforting social aspects into professional usage seems to go over several companies’ heads.”

I’ve got a fair command of the English language. Hell, I’ve written speeches for Heads of State. But I’m not sure if this sentence even makes sense. ‘Incorporating comforting social aspects’? Does this refer to using a friendly tone of voice? ‘Professional usage’? Does she mean business communications? Nay matter. The point is that pish like this is not the kind of communication you want your brand to be associated with, on social media or anywhere else in public view. That’s why you hire a grown up (let’s say, 25+). Ur social media ain’t gonna work if the ppl doing the tlking can’t communic8 professionally.

Whilst it is a cliche that youth is no substitute for experience, unfortunately there is little evidence in these two articles to suggest that things are any different in the social media world than they are everywhere else. The following conclusions are my take-aways:

1) neither the Internet or social media are the exclusive preserve of under-25’s (76% of social network users are over 25-years-old with the largest category (25%) being in 35-44 years-old (the ones with all the spending money) age range – source)

2) social media management is more about communications than technology – hire the communications expert, not the technology expert. The technology bit is easy. The communications bit not so much.

3) hire the right person for the job, regardless of age

How to ‘socialise’ your workforce.

If you think about it, your employees should be the most devout ambassadors of your brand. They know your products and services better then most and it’s in their interests to promote the company that pays their wages. The credibility associated with this kind of word-of-mouth advertising makes it potentially one of the most effective promotional vehicles at your brand’s disposal.

As the proliferation of social media platforms continues to change and meld our personal and business lives, so it becomes an ever more powerful (and relatively inexpensive) tool for your ambassadors to influence the buying habits of those in their social spheres by spreading the good word about your brand far and wide.

So how do you make effective brand ambassadors of your employees and ‘socialise’ your workforce? Here are some suggestions:

1) Get your employees onside – unhappy employees are not likely to make your best brand ambassadors. It goes without saying, look after them and they will look after you. That is more important now than ever if you want to keep your brand’s reputation intact.

2) ‘Socialise’ your culture – ensure that social media is a part of the cultural fabric of your organisation. If you haven’t already heard, it’s how we communicate these days – and it’s going to become more prolific for building relationships with clients, suppliers, colleagues, etc. If you don’t vilify phone and email users, or meeting attendees for that matter, then why do it to staff members who are more comfortable using social media – most likely your younger and more forward-thinking employees. Don’t ration or outlaw the use of social media at work – embrace it as a part of your communications strategy and enable your workforce to be comfortable with it. See a word from me about this in an earlier blog post.

3) Identify your ‘social employees –  these are the ones that will carry your social strategy forward and become your greatest brand ambassadors. Survey your staff – ask around. Have a quick shufty on social networks and see who’s active. Then engage them.

4) Plan your strategy – identify some objectives for your social efforts (eg. drive website traffic and conversions, build brand awareness). Define key messages you want to get across to your audience and then educate your social ambassadors about them.  Schedule these messages to coincide with particular events (eg. product launch) to make them relevant. Set some parameters for the socialisation of your social marketing efforts.

5) Tool up – give your social employees the tools they need to weave their magic. Give them access to social networks on their desktops and laptops. Explore the use of social media as an internal communications tool. Give your social army (paid-for) mobile devices, dedicated solely to the business of promoting your business – and make sure they have permissions and budgets to download the social apps they need for the task. Offer any training required.

6) Incentivise – give your social employees an incentive to broadcast their loyalty to your brand. Give them the option to try or even own new products before official release, so they can blog, tweet, pin and share their opinions (within agreed parameters of course). Offer other incentives for employees who generate results. How about giving away an iPad once a quarter, to encourage your social employees to be even more sociable?

7) Monitor – measure the results of your social efforts against your objectives. Make sure someone is in charge and on top of what your social employees are doing online. You don’t want your brand name dragged through the mud by one of your own because they had a disagreement with a colleague.

The age of the ‘social employee’ dawns.

Check out more on the subject here:

http://blog.clomedia.com/2012/06/redefining-the-social-employee/

Can you believe the social hype?

According to a 2011 Forrester report regarding the purchase path of online buyers, social media accounts for a miserable 2% of conversion sources.

The data was taken from 15 retailers of hard and soft goods who collectively represented approximately $1 billion in gross merchandise sales.

The report concluded that most online shoppers were exposed to one or two touchpoints prior to making a purchase on the internet. Significantly, email and search between them pretty consistently accounted for around three quarters of these touchpoints, depending on how you slice the numbers.

In view of all the often unsubstantiated ‘noise’ in the marketing industry about how effective social media is at driving profit, it’s worth stopping for a moment to put it in perspective. These numbers do that nicely.

Is social media effective? Undoubtedly. But ‘what is it effective at’ would be a more pertinent question. It seems hard to deny that it’s a great tool for engaging audiences and building brand loyalty, but it is yet to prove itself as a credible sales promotion tool that can stand up there with more traditional methods of driving business.

That said, social media rated highly in Forrester’s report as a source of holiday sale conversions, reportedly resulting in a 45% uplift around these busy shopping times. Consider also the low cost of entry in to the world of social media marketing and it’s still a difficult tool to ignore, despite its limitations.

Is Traditional Marketing Still Effective?

Is Traditional Marketing Still Effective? |.

This is an interesting article that asks whether traditional marketing still has a place in your marketing plan alongside digital and internet marketing.

With the current trend to rush blindly towards social, inbound and content-based marketing, this is a good time to pause for a moment and take stock. Many so-called Internet Marketers are quick to dismiss tried and tested traditional techniques. Proceed with trepidation before subscribing to this doctrine.

Consider that your marketing should serve to solve business problems and maximise opportunities to grow your brand. Diversity across industries and companies means that these opportunities and problems will vary, requiring marketing plans to do the same depending on the business environment. One size does surely not fit all. Therefore you must approach your marketing planning with an open mind about what strategies will best meet your objectives – not a preconception that you must use one set of media or another.

Digital has provided marketers with more channels, and the growing tendency among consumers to spend time immersed in these media make them attractive – not to mention the comparatively low costs of entry. Traditional channels such as broadcast and print advertising, direct marketing and events have suffered as a result, and will have to learn to deliver more measurable results to advertisers at a lower price. But write them off at your peril. You will still struggle to get in to the nation’s front rooms quicker than on the TV, you won’t catch more people on their drive home from work any other way than by radio, and if you are not networking at your industry’s annual trade event then you won’t have as many quality leads to nurture in your snazzy new CRM hub software as your competitor.

This article reminds us that online and offline marketing are two components of the same effort. They should not operate in two separate silos but rather in harmony with each other – in an ‘integrated’ way as we used to say. If your marketing provider offers one without the other then it’s time to sound the alarm.

Many internet marketers have forgotten that the most important word in their title is the second one. A facebook enthusiast maketh not a marketer. If you are seeking specialist marketing advice then you will be well served to distinguish between the two. Internet Marketing can be extremely effective and may very well be a good fit for your business, but the chances are it will play a role in a much larger production. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

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