Socialmedia Catalyst

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Web Influence

New tools of Marketing:

Social Networking sites are new tool of marketing that has gained its popularity in last couple of years. This new concept is considered as very effective tool for capturing marketing leads. It has emerged as one of the most significant tools that provide a platform where you can network and gain new customers. This newest form of advertising online has become a must for any business who wishes to market their product or service over the internet.

Today, many local and international companies are using this common tool to create their own customized profiles on social media sites, and then add potential customers and business contacts as friends. Making friends and connecting with a targeted demographic play an important role in social networking. In fact this simple practice of making friends has been the key factor to bring success in different social media sites. Unquestionably, the potential growth of advertising your product or service is unlimited when you utilize social networking sites.

A social network websites primarily focuses on creating online community of people who share common interests and activities. Since this tool is internet based, it provides different ways for users to interact, such as instant messaging and e-mail services. As a result, it has created new ways to communicate and share information. Indeed, social networking has become a favorite place to advertise your business for free. So, if you are one of those who is planning to advertise your product or service, these are simple ways that can help you utilize social networking sites more effectively-

Organizational integration is one of the key challenges faced by the social media industry:

Here are the important points in this issue:

1. An organization has to understand the importance of social media and transparency for the future of your company/organization
2. An organization needs tools to make it easy for customers and prospects to participate (product reviews, service reviews, ideas, enhancement requests, online catalogs and other tools need to embed social media)
3. An organization needs the ability take action by routing and assigning the feedback to be acted on by R&D, Marketing, and Product Management.

I see two issues with why social media isn’t being utilized to its full potential.

1. Agencies shy away because they were unsuccessful with their one off attempt

2. In an organization, there is an lack of ownership of the content. Does the media team take ownership? Does the PR team write the content? Should the creative be in charge of what is going out the door? Or is it the account managers?

The real answer is all of them. Instead of having a social media team that is in charge of content, you need a social media point person who is able to provide that structure and dole out who does what across an agency while giving support/guidance.

Organizations need to understand SM and develop a specific strategy to fit their organization exactly where it is in its understanding. Trying to move the earth by re-engineering will result in failure. A good strategy will understand that prove out a step-wise, scalable solution that will allow for progression.

Can you really energize your customers if you’re not listening to them first?

What I think is interesting is that:

1. There are companies that have deployed social media and gotten amazing results (ie. reduce operating costs and increases in revenue. But the media keeps saying that there isn’t that much success yet.

2. Perhaps the nay sayers keep focusing on where social media got its starts- Marketing and PR, both of which are harder to measure than say, Customer Service.

3. Most Chief Marketing Officer’s , CEO’s and other executives who have seen the results that can be produced in customer service social media initiatives feel that while social media is important to Marketing, PR and Advertising, the real transformation of business comes from deploying a customer service social media initiative. That’s because that’s where customers complain and where customer’s product and service issues get handled and when companies take that voice of the customer information back into the organization.

Social media channels:

Social Media channels are by no means totally different or even totally new. The term “social tools” was coined in 1999. It’s been a decade now. Yet the number of people in the world who still have no idea about blogging is staggering. Surprisingly or not, not every advertising/marketing professional has a blog. This makes me wonder how well the industry itself understands the benefits of Social Media.

If they don’t know or use even the oldest Social Media channels, how are they supposed to understand and use channels that were established recently but that draw on the same principles as other social tools?

Social media presents many new possibilities for conducting business. Sticking with your metaphor, the interim challenge is consistently proving that planes yield enough value for the Army in order for people to even realize the need (and then pay for) an Air Force. That’s happening as understanding of influencer value, social media Web metrics, etc. progresses but for many companies that’s still a leap.

What will be more apparent for companies soon if it’s not already is immediate value – even as measured by ‘traditional’ metrics – for functions like customer service, R&D and sales.

Marketers need to take the hint social media provides, and look at marketing holistically. Yes, this is an old concept, but if we look at marketing from a POV where customer interaction is as important as customer satisfaction, we may just start to make some progress. The best companies are doing this.

Social Media Isn’t Living Up to its Hype?

Innovation is the bulwark of growth. It increases the standard of living for all concerned. However initially when presented with a new technology, people tend to use that innovation to do existing jobs more effectively. Brand building is no different. As social media gains momentum, brand communicators are experimenting carte blanche with these new technologies and connections to get their jobs done, typically coming at it from an advertising, interactive or PR perspective.

If social media and its inherent benefits are indeed so revolutionary, so potentially game-changing why is it that it is taking time for people to figure out how to best use them? More fundamentally, organizational silos and constraints limit its potential to brand-building exercises.

A historical analogy brings this issue to life. When airplanes began flying 100 years ago, they came under the purview of the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps. As guns and artillery went airborne in World War I, the Army controlled the aircraft. The military brass saw this innovation as means to help move soldiers forward by attacking enemy lines. Thus, aircraft grew in stature as a tactical tool for Army purposes.

This is a perfect metaphor for the current state of innovation with marketing and PR team thinking. The pace of functional change isn’t keeping pace with the unprecedented social shifts disrupting media and consumer behaviors and the possibilities that come with it.

We regularly see brand teams struggling to incorporate social strategies into their specific function and worldview. They’re confused over whom to turn to for help with a glut of new-media experts, or how to value the merits of ideas. They aren’t necessarily structured to take advantage of programs in play and can’t, for example, route customer comments through social sites to customer service or R&D. And they’re struggling with how to design and execute campaigns inline with the media habits and behaviors of people they’re trying to reach.

The value of social-media acumen and inline thinking will skyrocket in stature as rapidly developing capabilities grow. But to realize the value, new practices shouldn’t necessarily follow the exclusive lead of advertising, interactive or PR in its mission. Teams should be organized to exploit possibilities for making new contributions in a way that lets people in and where possible, lets people do the marketing for them. This goes beyond one-off UGC campaigns and Twitter accounts. It’s about committing to a new design for social business and communications.

Strategy initiation for social network:

If we’re going to put a social media strategy into place, we need to align the path we are going to take, and develop it with an understanding of how to reach our goals. Where are we going? How are we going to get there? How do we know we’ve arrived? Let us start in on the “how.”

Listening: Implement at least an elementary listening platform. Understanding can be bettered by listening to the talk of the customer from where we can derive the actual need or the want. This is the most difficult part since people have to be coaxed into talking about the grievances.

Communications: build a starting place to hold your conversations i.e. a Blog or a forum. This gives free avenues for customers to talk about the product or service.

Methods: Determine the mix of content you intend to create, and build workflow around it. Whether it is a youngsters product or a middle aged persons product or a old mans product. The chances for a product sales increasing if it’s a young persons product is high since majority if youngsters use social networks. Also if it is a need or a want or a luxury.

Community: Most social media strategies have to address community and how you will embrace the people you seek to gather around your business. community building is essential since it increases the chances of product centric talk which can spread with each passing day.

Neighbours: Develop a plan to reach out to others in your community. Increasing your fan and loyalist base is critical for success.

Outposts: Develop social network outposts where you can communicate with other communities

Marketplace: If your strategy involves making money, build a marketplace external to your community. Keep these separate. Building awareness and selling through brick-and-mortar store is one thing and actually selling through internet is a different story altogether.

Attention: Learn how to build awareness and encourage relationships with the media you’re making.

Starting a Social Media Strategy:

Begin with the final output in Mind

Strategy isn’t the goal. The process is essential. The objective though has to be though of. Else it becomes like walking down an unknown path exploring options. This isn’t bad but then it is better with objectives. Then think about building a strategy to reach them. Following can be the objectives. They are just listed. They are not comprehensive.
1. Increase customer base.
2. Generate leads.
3. Drive sales.
4. Build awareness.
5. Make money from your content.
6. Establish thought leadership.
7. Educate customers.
8. Customer-source part of your product development.
9. Reach new channels of customers.
10. Improve internal communication.

Questions before the Strategy

1. Are your customers likely to be online? Note that lots of people are online these days, but it might be that you have a product or service that isn’t as frequently purchased via the web.
2. Are you ready to handle negativity? Platforms like blogs and videos allow for negative comments, and some company cultures aren’t ready to engage with those opinions.
3. How will you incorporate this into people’s daily jobs?
4. How will you measure results?
5. How long are you willing to give it a try?
6. What’s your willingness to experiment, take risks, and adjust your plans?

These answers might show you the direction for your future course of action of building a strategy using social media tools. It’s a lot easier to turn a deaf ear towards customers and just blast your messages out with no regard to how they are received.

Challenges of Social Network Sites:

Every aspect has two dies, the positive and the negative. Thus there are challenges to social network sites too. We are all getting carried away with the hype and hoopla but we need to have a balanced viewpoint. It’s easy for us to be exuberantly callow.

Difficult to Monetize:
Even Google, the mammoth and innovative organisation finds it difficult to monetize. Members aren’t hunting for information like they do on a search, instead they are communicating with each other, and self-expressing. “Marketers say as few as 4 in 10,000 people who see their ads on social networking sites click on them”

High number of players in the arena:
In the case of the many white label social networks (white label means you can rebrand and thus create your own social networking site), there are too many players in the space. Thus as happens in every industry where the players find it difficult to survive, Consolidation happens. Only the fittest will survive the blood bath in the market.

As Marketers Move In, Users Move Out:
Nothing is new, as communities form, marketers will move in, and in some cases make life difficult for the member and in the process, the customer will leave the network. Influencers too may leave ht e network.

Data security:
In many cases, for lack of security, members fake information and there is no way for the network or site to verify the address and the credentials. As a result, targeting marketing efforts at the right audiences becomes difficult.

Metrics not fool proof:
For many marketers who want to deploy a campaign on a social network, access to metrics isn’t always available and even if it is, the credibility and the process of rating is not good. As a result, they have to often visually monitor the interaction on the site, or measure click throughs to their site.

Privacy Concerns:
Social networks sharing too much information with third party widget developers puts members at risk, and visibly makes them uncomfortable.

Strings Attached to Membership: Difficult to Leave.
Leaving Facebook is difficult, there are hooks, saved accounts, and ways to continue to reconnect to the site, even after you’ve left.

Social Network Fatigue?
Some sources suggest that the usage of social networks are slowing down, if not reducing perhaps it’s from the endless tasks that occur, or the shininess has rubbed off.

Successful Networks have hard time scaling
Facebook and Twitter are suffering from scaling issues, as a result, their sites have a great deal of downtime. The complicated applications will only increase in intricacy as more users are added.

Loss in workplace productivity “Social not-working”
Companies, organizations, and individuals are concerned about the time wasted in managing social network profiles, in many cases; companies have banned Facebook from their employees, often using Firewalls. Thus your interaction with the prospective client is stemmed and you have access to them only at home

Social networking widgets:

For those of you who do not completely understand what a widget is, it is essentially independent objects or an object that can be embedded or downloaded onto another site and can be used as a tool, have automatic content updates, or are or can be interactive. Though they go by the name of “widget”, Facebook calls them “applications” and Google calls them “gadgets.”

Widgets represent a large percent of the total audience. MySpace widgets had the widest audience while Slide ranks. Google.com has the sixth widest widget-viewing audience with more than 19 million viewers.

Widget usage can be computed as eyeballs on the site, which also means that if the widget is cool, you can bet others will go to get the widget. The widget is essentially another form of advertising. If they have your widget, that means they came to your site or heard of your widget from someone else. Word of mouth is it!!

Myspace helps people express themselves and tell stories through personalized photos and videos created on Slide and viewed anywhere on the web or desktop.
Slide’s products — including Slideshows, FunWall and SuperPoke! — are popular on top social networking and blog platforms. Slide is also the leading developer on Facebook with more than 84 million applications installed and the most active users than any other developer.

RockYou is a leading provider of applications and widgets on the web. RockYou widgets include photo slideshows, glitter text, customized Facebook applications and voicemail accessories that are simple to use and enable people to frequently refresh their online style. RockYou servs over 180 million widget views per day in more than 200 countries. RockYou applications are customized for easy integration across all social networks including Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, Tagged and hi5. RockYou’s cost-effective, results-focused advertising platform is the largest Ad Network on Facebook and the most dynamic method for rapidly acquiring Facebook application users. New applications can reach over 100000 users in 24 hours, spanning a suite of applications across multiple publishing partners

Picassa is the most popular site on the Internet for uploading, sharing, linking and finding photos, videos, and graphics.

Look for music, video and image sharing widgets to continue to evolve to an extent that perhaps one day they become part of someone’s v-card or email signature, along with the location of their MySpace, FB or Linkedin pages.

Tools of social networks:

The past couple of years, largely with Facebook and Orkut growing the social networks and social computing tools having grown into the edges of mainstream, nearly every argument made against these tools and services was laid down against e-mail, rich UI desktops (people spent hours changing the colors and arranging the interfaces), and Instant Messaging years ago.

The only place that these tools are “seemingly” not working is mostly attributed to a severe lack of defining the value derived from using the tools. These news tools and services, even more so those of us working around them, need to communicate how to use the tools effectively and efficiently. The conceptual models & frameworks for those of us analyzing the tools have been really poor and missing giant perspectives and frameworks.

One of the biggest problems with many of these tools and services is they have yet to move out of early product mode especially in developing countries where the internet awareness and reach isn’t widespread as against developed countries. The tools and services are working on maturity getting features in the tools that people need and want, working on scaling, and developing based on early adopters which is not necessarily how those who follow will use the tools or need the tools to work.

Simplicity and limited options on top of tools work easily and provide good derived value for the worklife. As the tools that were disrupters to work culture in the past, the focus needs to be on what is getting done and let people do it. Befriending people, adding applications, tweaking the interface, etc. are not things that lead to easy monetization.

Tools that help people really be social, interact, and get more value in their life (fun, entertainment, connecting with people near in thought, filtering information from the massive flow, and using the information and social connections in context where people need it) from the tools is there things must head. We are in the process of building the platforms for this, but we need to also focus on how to improve use of these platforms and have strong vision of what this is and how to get there.

Defining and Setting Success Metrics:

We should know what to measure and when to measure. This is the area where businesses- without proper guidance, or internal knowledge – start seeing hazy returns. Metrics is the area where most organisations or marketing teams don’t see recognizable returns or returns that are hard to quantify for social media campaigns. Choosing the right success metrics is the first challenge of implementing a social media campaign you can measure.

Figuring out what success metrics translate easily into a business context for your organisation is what matters.

The number of followers on your twitter account is a pretty meaningless success metric to use, although it might be satisfying and flattering to try to increase. However, if for example you are a chocolate shop owner in South Mumbai and you implement a social media campaign to get 100 female followers on Twitter who live in South Mumbai – that’s a metric that translates into a business context. These 100 qualified leads you can offer Valentine’s day discounts to in the week before February 14th. 100 leads to remind that it’s Mother’s day soon. Aiming for 10,000 random followers from all over the world might be a nicer number to look at, but being stricter with your success metrics and choosing a more miniscule goal will make the relationship between the outcome of the campaign and your bottom line easier to understand. 100 qualified leads are undeniably good. 10,000 people who know the name of your shop but can’t ever buy anything from it.

The next question is then to know what should success metrics be? And there is no short answer to that. This is where your marketing team or social media consultant comes in to help you define what things you should be measuring. It depends on various factors such as what tools you have available to you, what are the goals of your campaign etc. One thing to remember is that by defining success metrics you can break down qualitative attributes into metrics that are easier to understand and measure. For example your campaign goal could be to increase “Influence” and you might measure this by the number of influential blogs linking to you and the number of influential twitters retweeting you, to give two simple ideas for metrics.