I have a client…

I have a client who has been with me for quite some time now, and last week I got a really strange email.  It merely said.

Call me.

So you know what went down. I knew what was up. When I called him last week, he told me that maybe it’s time to end the relationship. But in a nice way. He told me that business has been way down and I knew that it had been, so it came as no surprise.

No amount of speaking to customers through various means of social media and optimizing websites was going to make their business pick up given the sorry state of the economy in portions of the rust belt. Though they are a national company, a good chunk of their business is in the Northeast. Plus they sell a frivolous type of product.

And yet, as soon as he told me that, the heart skipped a beat and the little sweat you get on your temples started to form and I immediately went into “save” mode. But there’s one problem with this.

He may be right, it might be time to cut the cord with one of my oldest clients.

I know it’s a sobering thought because no one wants to see their favorite client walk, but the reasons it might be time are many. For starters, what I set out to do for them has been 100% successful. I was brought on as an SEO and social media marketing consultant, and I’ve done everything and more for them. I’ve been their tech source for information and I really felt that I have indeed helped them.   Here’s a short list of “some” of things I’ve done for them:

  • Reworked/redesigned website for better customer engagement.
  • Created a major SEO campaign that optimized complete site for hundreds of  keywords all of which now rank organically on first 3 pages of Google.
  • Created a Flickr campaign to optimize their thousands of images and to contribute to Universal search results.
  • Created a blog that drives significant traffic and also ranks organically on first page of Google.
  • Created Facebook Fan Page-nominal success but contributed to overall brand awareness.
  • Created Twitter account that results in10% CTR and 2-3% sales on all links.
  • Responsible for online sales growth and higher average sales ever year except one. 2009…

So though he’s telling me the gig might be up, and he’s probably right, I’m sitting over here wondering what more can I do? Are there things that I have not yet tried that might get me a double, or a triple even, instead of  a weak ass bunt? Something big…Impactfull… I’m not so sure. Maybe…

The last thing I really want to do is take their money for not doing anything, but short of making the horse drink, I have led the horse to the proverbial ocean. Problem is, it’s an ocean, it’s salty and we’re gonna have to look around for an oasis and it might take some time, and might cost some money. Both of which are in short supply right now.

Will my client be better served by someone else with like minded skills? Selfishly I say no, but that might not be the case. I do know this though, they will not find someone with more value than me as it relates to what they deliver and what they charge.

So at the end of the day, as I peel through Peter Kim’s wiki, looking for that “thing” I haven’t done yet, thinking there might be some “other” things I could try, the reality is, as you know, that not every social media solution is the right solution for every client.

I don’t know what else I can do but maybe just shake their hand, maybe give them a hug, thank them for being such a great client, and end it.

Rethinking the whole influencer thing

Rather than try and throw together a post with lots of juicy links about a sexy topic that might get lots of love and some retweets, I wanted to just throw this thought out there. It has to do with bubbles. in this case, social media.

For the majority of us, we operate in bubbles. Our lives consist of numerous bubbles. work bubbles, play bubbles, family bubbles… In some cases, our self importance is derived from our bubbles. What do we mean to the people that are in our bubbles? I’d like to think that I influence those in my work bubble. My work bubble is pretty much the social media space. Even more importantly, and a larger question is, What impact do you have on people that are not in your bubble? What does your name and your credentials mean to them? Damien Basile was right when he said:

Online influencers with large followings are not the offline influencers.

But there’s the rub. In order to have true impact we need to be able to influence those with our knowledge and understanding who are “outside” the bubble, those that are offline.  That’s hard to do. Does what I do really matter to those outside the bubble? Not really, what they might want to know is how what I know can make them better at what they do. It’s less about influence and more about performance for them.

This week’s #Socialmedia Tweetchat Topic: Social and the New Model For Market Segmentation #sm48

So you know by now that we attempt to shake things up a bit and challenge people to think differently about topics and their impact on business.  Our topic this week is no exception and with the skills of our moderator, we are going to test those limits.  This week’s discussion is around market segmentation and how social can change how we approach it.

Market segmentation is more than what markers do with homogeneous products before deciding which actress to use in the commercial to best reach a desired consumer group.  Market segmentation is defined by Wikipedia as:

“A market segment is a sub-set of a market made up of people or organizations sharing one or more characteristics that cause them to demand similar product and/or services based on qualities of those products such as price or function.”

This is a good start as a definition, however this does not even begin to scratch the surface.  How do we take this to the next level?  To explore ways by which to re-imagine consumer grouping, we must get past the traditional segmenting like demographics, geography, income, even behavioral.  For many marketers, they look at data models that break out behavioral with layers of demo and geographics mashed in.  This modeling then determines a budgeted ad spend for a period in time like 3 or 6 months where the messaging is developed, pricing assigned and commercial created.  The problem is that by the time the ads hit, the data models have shifted and the intended groups have moved on.  Now with peer reviews and endless product content the real-time web is heavily influencing consumer preferences  that continue to change with increased velocity.

Savvy marketers have been using insights for more than just marketing also.  Savvy marketers use segmentation for product development, pricing, marketing channel, and even customer retention.  Using the last example, customer retention, the segmenting considers factors like profitability, strategic fit, product version and longevity.  Can you service your customers differently with better targeting for profitability or would you be more proactive with customers who were ripe for renewal or upgrades?  Now consider going beyond your internal gates and imagine the results if you combined internal factors along with external or social listening capabilities.  Maybe that customer who is really loud socially is a drain on your profitability.

So what this means is that the social web is having a profound affect on preferences, therefore insights that are not derived in near-real time are simply missing the mark.  If we open our research and insights departments to the social web, how can they can they use these tools that have never been considered before?  Every company will find different value in different social instances, however there are some great new possibilities that are emerging:

  • What if you titled the buckets of your listening tools with Underserved, Disenfranchised and Contemplators?  Could you use that insight to build better products or price more according to near real-time inputs?
  • What if you targeted people who played Mafia Wars on Facebook or joined relevant fan pages.  Could you use those applications for consumers to self segment themselves and find commonalities?
  • What if you targeted people who used certain hashtags (#) on Twitter or similar platforms.  Could you infer commonalities from everyone who tweeted #farm, #beer or #sweets?

Understanding and using social segmentation is challenging.  The pace at which social moves and the pace by which people flutter around digitally are simply exhausting.  Marketers like General Mills and Coke are early adopters of social segmentation and blazing a trail for others to follow.    This week’s moderator Ken Burbary is going to help us sort out this topic.  Ken manages the social media duties for Ernst & Young where he develops these types of solutions for their respective clients.  The topic this week is:

TOPIC: Social and the New Model For Market Segmentation

Q1) Is traditional market segmentation still relevant?

Q2) What should be more important for Brands: social segmentation or engagement?

Q3) How are you segmenting your customers with Social Media?

Please join us Tuesday 2/23 at noon EST by using #sm48 on Twitter or follow our LIVE page

Social Sales: Caveat Emptor

Further, they made him feel part of an inhuman process.  He felt rushed by the experience, felt like there was a lack of personalization and their representative didn’t really grasp the intricacies of SEO, social media or even their brand.

That paragraph comes from a post I read this morning from Adam Singer about digital marketing not scaling in which it struck a nerve that had deadened for me as of late. Which is, organizations have an incredible need for sales people that are the forward facing, people facing conduits of their organizations, to know the space first and the product second.

What’s my point here? Bottom line- Sales people need to know their shit. Especially in the social media space.

Not only that, you, the sales person, can’t be just talking it. You better be walking it as well. Why? If you want to me to use, test-drive or buy your social media solution regardless of what it is-I want to see that you are actively playing in the social media space. Why? because then and only then might you understand the people, the social business challenges facing companies, and the ever-changing landscape that is social computing.

Know this: If you try to pitch me, at the least, I’m going to do my homework on your company, but then I just may do my homework on you. If I can’t find out anything about you and your social presence, what does that tell me? It might mean that you may just be selling the solution. It’s a just another job to you, and you might not really understand the significance of relationships, people, interactions, engagement and conversations as they pertain to you, your company and your potential customers. Caveat Emptor.

10 social links, posts and sites you might have missed

Each week I try to put out a post that highlights some of the sites, posts, and resources in the social media space that have been shared by others and in which I think are worthy of sharing with you. Some are great posts, others are sites or links that just resonate with me, and still others will make you better at what you do.

The first resource or link comes from Louis Gray who is one of the few people who shot us down when we asked him to host our weekly #socialmedia tweetchat. Actually he didn’t shoot us down, he didn’t even respond.

1) Nevertheless, this post The New 2010 Social Media Data Flow, With Buzz is about content creation on multiple platforms and data flow, who see it, where do they see it and how to avoid duplication. He makes some very valid points on how to proceed.

2) Not all the good stuff is on the left coast or right coast, sometimes it’s in Minnesota, from Zeus Jones.  Check out this Fantastic Deck!

3) If I were you, I’d keep my eye on Google and their plays in the social space, they are looming larger and larger. What do you think Buzz is? Even more so, check this article about Google and Aardvark

4) We talk about the need for social media rules, guidelines and policies. Well, look no further than this resource of 117 social media policies

5) Another thing I talk about constantly is the fact that video is becoming more and more, a larger piece of the digital landscape. You need to understand the significance of that. With that being said, Companies and or sites like Fliqz, will become more valuable.

6) This is just a cool interactive site from Wrangler and you’ll see why as soon as you check it out

7) Suppose you were one of those folks who still doesn’t quite understand the whole Twitter Hashtag thing, well here’s a post that answers every question you may have ever had about them.

8. Wanna make a PDF out of a URL? Well now you can!

9) I absolutely love paging through this site from time to time, and you will too. Check out Overheard.it

10) and lastly, Crowdeye Twitter search has some potential, what do you think?

Do you have a site that I should look at and that I should share with everyone else? Let me know!

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As social media matures your ability to scale will diminish

As more and more client works begins to come through the door, a funny thing is starting to happen. I’m having less conversations with my peers. What’s more, I’m seeing less conversations. What’s worse, with Google Buzz launching, another network has been created to have more conversations…with ultimately the same people. Which begs the question:

How many networks is too many networks?

I’ve been maintaining for awhile now that as more social networks appear that have cool bells and whistles, that we feel we must join because of that cool “it” factor, the more our conversations will become diluted. And what ultimately happens is we make guest appearances on these social sites. We blow in for a drink and we’re back out the door.

What does this all mean? It means we can’t scale too well. It means as more and more networks are created and developed to be Facebook killers and Twitter killers, the more time that we’re going to need to at the least, kick the tires, create a profile, contribute to some conversations and give it a test drive which further diminishes the value of our time that we may devote to ourselves.

To me, to properly scale means that everything within your control grows at a controllable and manageable rate. Manageable being the operative word there.

Clients will always have our attention first but as we continue to grow that side of the equation, the other side will suffer. The side that helps us learn, grow, contribute and be a part of the ongoing conversation that is social media.

How do we scale? How are you doing it? How can you do it better?

This weeks #SocialMedia Tweetchat Topic: Sentiment Analysis-Opinions Matter, If Only You Knew Which Ones

active_listening

Listening is the first step in social media (everyone says so).  Not only do you have to listen, you have to listen for 6 months or more before you are allowed to do anything.  Just ask the experts!

Frankly, I think everyone says that just to buy a little time before they have to really figure out what to do with social.  At any rate, most of the people who are told to listen have no idea what to listen for or who to listen to.  I’m not going to get into the depths of all things social media monitoring because that would take all day.  So let’s focus a minute.  

  1. You want to listen for mentions of your company, brand and top executives
  2. You quickly determine there is no way to manually search every blog post, tweet or comment on the web so you turn to automation
  3. Yeah, now you’re tracking buzzzz, but what does it all mean?
  4. So you start running reports and determine they are inadequate at best.
  5. Now you’re back to listening again but still not sure what you’re listening for.

 There is a word in the industry called “Sentiment” that is used when trying to determine a person’s attitude.  Online it’s a digital attitude and you only have text to go by.  No voice inflection.  No hand gestures or facial signals.  Just a bunch of words (or “noise” as they call it in the bubble) with little signal.  The challenge, after aggregating all of the buzz or mentions of everything you are tracking, is to make sense of it all and to make it actionable back inside your company.  So the sticking point here is whether or not you can use automated analysis to provide sentiment or if it has to be all human interface.  For any local or small business, human processing of sentiment might be reasonable.  However with any size at all, you would need a small army to determine if people liked your new product or enjoy working with your company…or would you?

If you ask 10 people how to measure sentiment, you will most certainly get 12 answers (yes 12).  The popular themes of managing sentiment revolve around polarity and intensity.  Polarity meaning either good/bad, positive/negative, like/dislike, etc and intensity meaning the volume or amount of mentions.  These are not wrong by any means, but I use a little different formula and you might say it’s probably for different purpose.  I like to consider the following:

  • Mentions – which is broken into volume, intensity and opinion (polarity)
  • Influence – of the person it comes from. How many followers, how often they interact (like a TwitterGrader)
  • Severity – of the content itself. “X product just saved my life or killed my brother” would be Sev1, where “Boss caught me goofing off and fired me, X company sucks” would be low severity.  Further defined by a direct vs indirect mention and context of the content.

OK, try managing that formula through reports.  No way, Jose!  And, by the way, I usually change what I am monitoring (at least the focus) to match what I am working on.  There are companies who are working on ways to automate forms of sentiment through natural language processing and machine based or community based learning.  They have their claims on successes and what they have may work for a lot of people in a lot of situations.  It has to be an individual call.  So how do you know what’s right for you?  That’s where this week’s moderator Katie Paine comes in.  Katie, affectionately known as the “queen of measurement”, spends most of her day answering these questions for her customers.  She will host our next chat with the following topic and questions:

TOPIC: Sentiment Analysis: Opinions Matter, If Only You Knew Which Ones

Q1:  How do you define positive sentiment?
Q2:  How does that impact your organizational goals?
Q3:  How do you know that what you are measuring matters?

Please join us Tuesday 02/16 at noon est and become part of the conversation.  Learn insights and have an opportunity to capture Katie’s attention for a solid hour.  Follow along using #sm47 or simply go to our LIV

Social Media Marketing:Do you know enough to know where to begin?

Good question right? What’s the simple answer? Maybe not. If you are a marketer thinking about social media marketing then there is a good chance, if you have not done anything yet, that its because you just don’t have enough information yet.

On Monday in Tampa, I attended and spoke at a conference titled Social Fresh, at that conference, during Maggie Fox’s keynote, she nonchalantly asked the audience how many of them were marketers. Surprisingly, more than 80% raised their hands.

Clearly, 2 things became evident: One, there is a need for more social media conferences down in the belly of the  state of Florida(that in and of itself is worth another blog post) and two, marketers were indeed starved or looking for answers/solutions to the primary social media marketing puzzle/question. The How To. Implementation. Why haven’t they done it yet?

In this post I want to address those issues so that you can get started with social media marketing.

According to Equation research, one of the primary barriers for social media marketing adoption for brands or agencies is that they just don’t know enough about social media to know where to begin.

But why? Why is it taking this long for marketers, agencies, brands and businesses to learn about social media? For some of us, we have been talking about and writing about social media for almost 4 years.  Is it fear of social media? Do we have so much on our plates that we don’t have time to check social media out?

Maybe.

Is it because your falling back on the excuse that you can’t measure social media? Please tell me that’s not the reason. If so, then please have a look at Olivier Blanchard‘s deck on the basics of social media ROI. Once you have rolled through it, I think and hope your fears on the ROI issue can be put to rest.

Another valid reason that may be preventing you from adopting social media may be budgetary. That can certainly affect any and all social media marketing efforts, as well as marketing efforts in general. If you got no money, then you go no money.  However, I do want to point out that the barriers for entry into social media are relatively low. In fact your only costs when first starting out will be or could be design and labor.

So know this, getting into “it” is easy. In fact Chris Kieff suggests just listening for the first 6 months before you do anything else. It’s quick to set up and easy to do.  I’m not adverse to that strategy, but think that maybe 2-3 months might be just as effective. But the point is, by listening for a bit, that gives you a feel for how things work in social networks and how brands, conversations, posts, links and search results all evolve because of social media.

Managing it takes a little bit more skill. My friend Jason Falls who writes a great blog on all things social media  marketing related, has a post on managing social media marketing. Though it’s from 2008, it’s still relevant and valuable even today. There are some great tips contained in the post.

So you might say you don’t have enough time.  Hey just like everything else in life, it’s all about time management and being efficient with your usage of time. Social media marketing is no different.  I have often said that social media marketing can be an incredible time suck, but the way to work thru that, is to make sure you have a plan every day that applies to your social media marketing strategy and speaks to your social media tactics. Above all stick to it. This includes your personal social media interactions. You have to know how much you allow yourself each day to engage on your own social networks.

Another issue that prevents marketers from even starting and which might be completely out of their hands, is there could be legal constraints. I can tell you from first hand experience how difficult it can be sometimes when any copy or any site designs that you create have to then pass the litmus test of legal. It seemed that everything we did was always not with the customer in mind, but always under the auspices of, “I hope legal is cool with this…”

Beyond that, you may have corporate policies that may prevent your marketing department from engaging in social media, if so, it’s up to you to try and get corporate to look at the bigger picture of social media marketing and its effectiveness. Help them create a social media policy both internally and externally that allows you to use social media in your marketing efforts! Work with them, because there could be a very high likelihood that they have no clue of social media and thus they will err on the side of caution and completely lock down your efforts and attempts at social media marketing.

Lastly, I will say this. Given that search results can return articles and blog posts that rank high on the how to’s of social media and social media marketing, I think it’s important to trust one’s peers and their associated networks. What I’m saying is that if you have questions, go to Twitter and ask a trusted and valued resource. I rely on my network. Rely on yours and get started. it’s not too late.

This weeks #SocialMedia Tweetchat Topic: Destruction of the Media Industry: Will We Be Better Off In the Long Run?

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tough-times-newspaper

Laying out the fundamental issues and challenges in a post has become an integral part of the success of our weekly events.  Usually I produce the post and the moderator comes on Tuesdays and facilitates the discussion.  This week is an exception.  Our moderator, Paul Gillin, has delightfully taken the initiative to not only come up with his own topic, but to construct a post as well.  The following is the guest post by Paul Gillin:

As we head into the second decade of the new millennium, it’s amazing to think how much has changed in such a short time. In January, 2000, few people had heard of Google.  Online advertising was banners and e-mails.  Big media brands dominated the Web. US newspaper ad revenue would hit record levels that year.  Newsroom employment would peak in 2001 as newsstand sales of the top 100 magazines approached 30 million.  No one had heard of blogs.  People used mobile phones to talk.

Fast forward to 2009.  Last year, people spent six billion minutes on Facebook, downloaded one billion YouTube videos and logged over 1.4 million blog entries every day.  The iPhone became the first mobile phone to be used more for data than for voice.  The Internet became the second most popular news medium behind television.  Wikipedia posted its three millionth article.

Meanwhile, US newsroom employment fell to a 25-year low and magazine newsstand sales dropped 63% from of their 2001 peaks.  Reader’s Digest declared bankruptcy.  Comcast said it would buy NBC.

The statistics go on and on. In just 10 years, our century-old mass-market media model has given way to a new structure dominated by the economics of one.  Customers now take their opinions directly to the market.  Woe to organizations that don’t listen.

The contraction of mass-market media has brought plenty of pain.  Tens of thousands of media professionals have lost their jobs in the past two years, crowdsourcing has sent some professional fees into a tailspin and veteran marketers are under threat if they don’t “get” social media.  But is this pain necessary, even beneficial in the long run?

Media has historically been one of the least efficient disciplines on the planet. It’s a profession that declares success if only 97% of its audience ignores an ad or tosses the mailer into the trash. It gains one customer at the expense of annoying 50 bystanders. When department store magnate John Wanamaker said half his ad dollars were wasted, but “I don’t know which half,” he was being generous.

The new Internet has flipped the economics. As media control has passed from institutions to individuals, waste has begun to be worked out of the system. The cost of reaching a targeted customer will only decline in the years to come.  Sadly, efficiency will also devastate those industries and professions that thrived on media’s historical inefficiency.

There’s no question we’re in a period of media destruction, but is this a necessary precursor to a better world?  Today, everyone can be the media.  That means we have unprecedented access to information from all points of view, but we’ve also lost our sense of whom to trust.  Is ubiquitous access to unlimited information a blessing or a curse?  What will we be saying about his period a decade from now?

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That’s a great foundation for this week’s topic.  I’ll add a couple of thoughts directed squarely at the corporate side of this discussion that relate to content, trust and brands.

Today anyone can produce content and distribute to a potentially sizeable market.  The capabilities are ubiquitous and the cost is next to nothing.  With so much content now available, many forms of content quickly become commoditized and thereby become almost irrelevant.  With that, think about your company for a minute and the brand/s you represent.  These brands are usually strongest when consumers view them as a resource for their specified purpose whether it’s household cleaning, motor oil lubrication, exercise equipment or anything else. 

Since commoditized content is counter-intuitive to your brand strategies, aggregating stuff (content) just so you have more stuff does not fit with most corporate objectives.  Whether it’s for your customers, employees or partners, you want them to come to you as a resource for trusted content rather than as an aggregator of everything. 

Harnessing appropriate and relevant content as a resource for your customers / audience is becoming a significant differentiator in the market. 

Topic:  Destruction of the Media Industry: Will We Be Better Off In the Long Run?

Q1:  Does the proliferation of new media make us more informed or just more confused?

Q2:  Can businesses and institutions legitimately fill some of the trust gap that’s been created by the collapse of media institutions?

Q3:  Can armies of bloggers and citizen journalists fill the void left by the loss of media institutions?

So the chat will take place Tuesday 2/9/10 at noon EST.  Participate by following #sm46.