Welcome to Marketing GPS, a bi-monthly online newsletter being launched in celebration of NSI Partners’ 10th Anniversary. In each issue we will explore topics that impact your organization’s online presence, beginning this issue with a discussion of social media and the importance of monitoring the blogosphere for discussions about your organization or products.
As our clients have continued to trust in the value of the services NSI Partners provides, we have almost doubled in size over the last three years, and our typical client engagement is now 80% larger than it was just two years ago. This growth has allowed us to extend both our staff and our range of services.
Our larger staff can now provide even more hands-on customer service.
Our reputation management tool ReputationConnect and other NSI Connect products provide even greater opportunities for your organization to enhance its online presence.
Our clients have wanted the latest tips on how to supercharge their blogs, and we respond this month with our feature article.
Engage with Customers via Social Media Tools
By Lisa Santora, March 2009
Whether you have been blogging for one day or five years, you can always improve your blog and use it to offer new engagement opportunities to your target audience.
Sally Falkow, a noted Internet strategist, discusses blog ROI in her InternetFinancialNews article: “Unless you know where you are going, you probably won’t get there. Every other marketing or PR action has a strategy and a goal. So should a corporate blog.” Commenting, sharing and engagement are today’s buzzwords, but how can you get beyond the buzzwords and supercharge your blog?
Enhancing Your Corporate Blog
Is your blog interactive? If not, your consumers probably think it should be. The 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study found that “…an overwhelming 85 percent of social media users believe a company should not only be present but also interact with its consumers via social media.”
Consider introducing social media tools into your blog. Link your blog posts to your Twitter feed, provide RSS and email update opportunities and a variety of multimedia components – images, audio and video to stimulate interest. Whitehouse.gov’s blog is an excellent example of these principles as is the Get Elastic ecommerce blog. You can also use automated tools to broadcast your blog posts via RSS through Twitterfeed.com. Twitterfeed will feed your blog to Twitter, identi.ca or Ping.fm; allowing you to place your message within the social networks that your customers use every day. You can learn how to tell human stories on your blog by checking out Mayo Clinic’s social media efforts and reading more about their vision on Jim McGee’s McGee’s Musings Blog. Note Mayo Clinic’s Lee Aase’s new spin on ROI: “As I approaches 0, ROI approaches infinity.”
Innovate and Build Customer Relationships
By actively engaging with consumers you can capitalize on goodwill and be poised to take action if customers need your help. While not every company will want to place a profile on MySpace, companies representing a wide range of industries including Motorola, The Learning Channel, Toyota, and Nike have embraced MySpace to engage with consumers, according to Mark Kingdon, CEO of digital marketing agency Organic, Inc. Edmunds.com has enjoyed success engaging with customers on its CarSpace.com branded corporate social networking site. Conversations about your organization and your brand are already happening online. Use your blog and other social networking tools to focus on your audience, and watch your “ROI approach infinity.”
The sound can be deafening, but only if you listen. And now, you have to do more than just listen: you need to analyze, adjust your marketing and react. This trend has been emerging for some time, but has culminated only recently as three factors have finally converged: consumers increasingly shape brand reputations, advertising distrust has ballooned and sentiment-measurement technology has arrived.
We all know social media has completely reshaped branding. Many of us can easily name national brands that have been hijacked, at least for brief—but frightfully influential—periods by consumers. “Dell Hell,” e.g., the catch-all label for customer-service frustration, is now a household expression. In fact, the lines have blurred so much that many now say besieged marketers can’t gripe about consumers controlling their brands any more than an unproven athlete can bemoan a judge controlling his score.
It is the judges’ score, and it is the consumers’ brand, at least when ceded to them, because strength comes in numbers and legitimacy comes in high Diggs. (Of course, we don’t have to cede complete control; we just have to share a little power, but more on that later.)
Regarding the second factor, as consumer-generated media expands, it casts doubt on mainstream media, especially the advertising it transmits. It does this not because of its overshadowing veracity—mainstream media is far more accurate—but because its flip, seat-of-your-pants, spontaneous, no-hold-barred nature is at odds with fact-checking, fielding opposing viewpoints and all other journalistic standards. As suspicion grows and rumors multiply within this free-for-all, the resulting ebb tide muddies all boats.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. The 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer declares “Sixty percent of our respondents said they need to hear information about a company three to five times before they believe it….Companies will be well served by moving from a mind-set of control to one of contribution.”(1) Or, to put it another way, the number of complaints about deceptive advertising doubled between 1997 and 2001,(2) and that was before social media!
Yet, that trend has been seen from a long way off as well. What’s snuck up on us, though, is the third factor: sentiment-measurement technology. According to Forrester Research, Inc.’s latest report on the topic from January 23, 2009, “If marketers cannot trust [listening] platforms to correctly identify sentiment and influence, they will ignore or discount insights derived from listening. This means platforms must cut through the spam, improve their ability to extract nuances in conversations, and assign both incident- and topic-level sentiment values.(3)
That’s really where the hiking boot hits the ground. Listening platforms, like ReputationConnect, Visible Technologies and Neilsen BuzzMetrics that can sort by reliable sentiment scores give brand managers a powerful compass to explore the social media forest in search of falling trees.
Most recently a negative-sentiment sort for an NSI association client identified complaints over lost applications that sounded a chainsaw-like buzz in cyberspace. Direct response in cases like that not only clarifies the needed workflow fix but can turn a hidden but important customer service problem into a small branding victory for follow-through.
Just before that, another client who manufactures CPGs learned of negative sentiment regarding a new flavor. While flavor is highly subjective, this blogger’s influence and reach was quantifiable. In that case, a micro-outreach effort can have macro results.
So back to power-sharing brand management with your customers: yes, it’s risky, but even more risky is ignoring these trends and failing to listen, analyze, adjust and react and, by default, ceding your brand. And that’s true regardless of your marketing budget. Just ask Dell and dozens of others. By comparison, the safer approach—jumping into social media from a listening platform—is really just a walk in the park.
2009 Edelman Trust Barometer, Edelman, p 6.
“Distrust About Advertising is Endemic,” Mills on Marketing, August 1, 2008,
You’ve probably noticed that Twitter – the microblogging service – is all the rage. Though it’s been around for a couple of years, Twitter just began its breakout into public consciousness in the last few months. Now hardly a day goes by without The Wall Street Journal reporting on the latest Twitter-based happening.
I suspect mainstream media have focused on Twitter because they’re suddenly, painfully, aware of how much their own reporting depends on online discussions, rather than traditional journalistic legwork (or even rewriting press releases). Nevertheless, Twitter really is big news right now.
Why might that be? One reason is that Twitter combines the informality of instant- and text-messaging, with cross-platform and wireless availability. Joining Twitter is free, it’s easy to understand and use, and just about anyone can be a “writer” when they’re restricted to 140 characters per tweet (message).
Not only is Twitter completely free to use, software developers have exploited its API to create Twitter interfaces for cell phones and PDAs. They’ve also built a number of tools – TweetDeck and Twhirl are two popular examples – that allow Twitter users to control how they tweet, and allow them to monitor portions of the ongoing twitstream by keywords or topic groups designated by “hashtags” (#keyword) included in a tweet.
Though many Twitter messages are relatively banal, substantial percentages include links to news items or product reviews. Twitter users love to share such discoveries with their followers, and these recommended links usually enjoy high clickthrough rates.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR MARKETERS?
It makes sense for marketers to exploit the Twitter phenomenon for viral-marketing and site traffic-building purposes. The benefits are compelling. Not only is it possible to join your colleagues’ discussions through Twitter’s “follow” mechanism, it’s also possible to track company and product mentions in real time, as real people carry on their discussions. Though less organized than product-review websites and blogs, Twitter allows anyone – especially when using specific Twitter-based tools – to track discussions and even reply in real time. It’s also possible to track linkthroughs with URL-shortening tools like zi.ma.
Many companies are now tracking tweets about their brand and products as a customer-service function. Dell – which learned the power of online media several years ago when blogger Jeff Jarvis shared his disappointment with a malfunctioning Dell laptop – is participating fully in the Twitter phenomenon. Not only is it monitoring the twitstream for product discussions, it has established several Twitter accounts for disseminating company and tech information, and informing its more than 15,000 @DellOutlet followers of special discounts. Dell reportedly gained $1 million in revenue over the past year and a half through Twitter-based sale alerts.
One company recently used Twitter to monitor a competitor while also grabbing some of its clients. Network Solutions’ Shashi Bellamkonda (twitter username @shashib) was monitoring Twitter reactions to GoDaddy’s suggestive Super Bowl commercials. When he noticed a strong negative reaction developing among Twitter users – particularly among Twitterers whose websites were hosted by GoDaddy – Bellamkonda responded by offering disgruntled GoDaddy customers the opportunity to transfer their hosting to Network Solutions via a discounted “Twitter special.”
PUSH-BACK AND REPUTATION MONITORING
The GoDaddy incident shows that for marketers, Twitter is a two-edged sword. It’s another medium that customers can use to push back at advertising and products that prove disappointing.
The breakthrough case-study happened last November, when moms shared through Twitter their disgust with a Motrin video ad implying that the use of baby slings gave moms aches and pains. Coordinating their discussion with the “#motrinmoms” hashtags, outraged sling-users discussed boycotting Motrin. The Twitter firestorm (captured in its own YouTube video) spread quickly to the mommy blogosphere. To its credit, Motrin reacted quickly, pulling the baby-sling ad within a couple of days.
More recently, Ketchum communications strategist David Henderson sent what’s been called “The Worst Twitter Post Ever” – a tweet expressing his disdain for Memphis, Tennessee, home of FedEx, a Ketchum client. What made Henderson’s tweet so repugnant? He sent the message while flying into Memphis to deliver a presentation at FedEx. Henderson apparently didn’t know that at least one FedEx employee was among his Twitter followers – and that FedEx doesn’t take kindly to Memphis-bashing.
These stories highlight the power of Twitter to open windows into public discussions, as well as the power Twitter gives users to band together, discuss issues, share information, and provoke rapid responses from corporations. They underscore the importance of both tracking and joining the 24/7 twitstream.