Social May Artificially Validate Motivation and Intent But…

sweeti jar

 

Don’t let the title scare you. it’s really a simple notion actually. It goes something like this. You’re a marketer, you’re tasked to sell something online. You know about Google’s algorithm, you understand how to optimize for search, you know that you will be using WordPress because of it’s ability to add plugins and content on the fly. You have everything that is needed except actual people, buying customers and or web traffic if you will. You decide to make it social. Or become… wink wink, social.

You’re thinking that if  you meet, follow, friend and like enough people that you might be able to sell them on your product or they will find your site and buy. You figure that if you create social profiles everywhere and try and be everywhere at once, you have a better chance of selling stuff.  You and everyone else!

So…Are you trying to sell a product or make friends?

What’s your intent? To find buyers or to find friends?

What’s you motivation? To make money and to sell product or be social?

We call it social media but is social a means to an end that has nothing to do with being truly social? and what’s that “media” part of the term supposed to refer to? What is being “truly social” even mean? In order for there to be harmony, success and sales, do you as a marketer need to keep swimming in social circles in order to create genuine relationships in the hopes that one day after you have gotten past the whole trust thing that your prospect/customer will eventually buy something from you the company? That’s a helluva sales cycle. Most companies don’t have enough time to wait for that! Is there a workaround for that?

There’s an old saying and it goes like this. Quit trying to make out with the person who’s name you don’t even know yet.

Maybe we need to start calling a spade a spade. At the end of the day social and search may get you in the door and as a marketer you may have done your job of using what is at your disposal, but at some point it will still come down to trust, price, value and the user experience and not necessarily being everywhere and being “social.”  What if you made your intent perfectly clear in a social setting that you want to sell people something, how would that work out?  Sadly, it might not be pretty. Which means that you’re back to square one. Trust, value, price and user experience.

From a transactional standpoint social might get the conversation started for both parties and in some cases it might somewhat be artificial or even superficial for both parties-but in the end, it will always come down to you guessed it, trust, price, value and the user experience.  The problem is until marketers figure out a better way to convey trust, value, price and a great user experience-they’re going to have to bide their time getting to know who you are.

Are marketers okay with that?

 

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Should Everything be Free Online?

Chances are, you have given away more than you have charged for…

For a lot of people, what they expect and get from their digital experiences isn’t even close to being reality. Want a few easy examples? OK.

  • One of the most prevalent business models in the online world is to build a product or service and then give it away for free.
  • Another prevalent business model in the online world is to build a product or service, give it away for free while trying to make money on people buying “other” things while in your store.
  • Consumers look for alternatives when they realize that they have to pay to access content online.

Could you imagine someone setting up shop in your neighborhood and giving away a product or service in their store for free forever?

Somewhere along the way, someone got the notion that “value” should be given away for free.

I’m not sure how or why it began like this, actually I have an idea, but the truth is, social media has not helped temper the consumer expectation that the majority of all things on the web should be free.  It’s actually been gasoline on an open flame. Does Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, Tumblr, WordPress, Posterous, Typepad, Flickr and Evernote amongst others, charge to use their platforms at an entry level? No.

Look, I like free just as much as the next person but so much is being given away online that it’s diluting the need for and the value of products and services that consumers actually need and should have to pay for. Thus, consumers have been trained or conditioned to think that they can find an equivalent for free.

Which sadly, is usually the case.

This in turn means that web entities are constantly fighting an uphill battle for proving their legitimacy, their meaning and their value.  But where we as marketers, as media and as consumers come up short, is that we have professed so much about how open the web is and how anything is possible and how you can find anything, anywhere…to an extent that we keep wounding the golden goose and we keep bending and altering our digital expectations.

There’s a simple solution.

We have to level set expectations up front.

Not too long ago there was a book out titled Bounce by Matthew Syed, in it, the author contends that most of us are amazed at and marvel at athletic achievement at the elite level, but what we don’t know or see, is how hard great athletes at that level, work at their craft to become, ”great.” We just think it’s their natural ability coming through and that’s what propelled them to the top.

The same holds true for a lot of people and companies in tech. We want to solve problems, we want to make life easier, we want to show how beautiful and easy something might be to create, or we want to share information that can make our lives easier. But what do we do?  A very poor job of intimating how hard it might take, how long it might have taken, and the money and resources required to just get in a position to be successful online.

And then, at the end of the day we punt, and are conditioned to think that the clearest path to success is to give it away for free. We’ll set up a pricing model later… Look, digital is not free, somewhere somebody is getting paid because of your current web experience.

We need to level set expectations up front not after the fact.  Value what you do.

Consumer Empowerment or Why Brands Can’t Afford to Falter

Danny Brown is right.  2 days ago he wrote a post about brands that drive  customers away. Essentially saying/asking, why give your customers, the loyal one’s, a reason to leave. I loved his examples and his post is a quick must read. But let me take his thought a step further.  Recently WebTrends released a whitepaper in which they analyzed the website traffic of Fortune 100 websites based on ‘unique visits’. The study revealed that 68% of the top 100 companies were experiencing a negative growth in unique visits over the past year.

Now we might easily attribute that to the rise of social and particularly to Facebook possibly, but what the research revealed was that Facebook was gaining tremendous popularity as a destination to connect with brands online, and is increasingly chosen over the websites of certain companies. Partly because when customers went to the websites-those sites were still stuck in 1990’s “brochure-ware” mode.

Do you want to give a customer or potential customer, an easy out and an easy path to the competitior? Beyond Danny’s examples of bad customer service experiences, make their initial destination location and landing page user experience a bad one and that should do the trick.

Though there are websites sustaining traffic in spite of Facebook, I’ve said all along that when Facebook catches up with an e-commerce solution that makes the brand experience simple and efficient,  the corporate website is done. This is not an if, it’s a when, and it’s already happening.  When we add mobile and mobile social to the mix, the old adage of you never get a second chance at a first impression will have never loomed more large.

It is time for brands and retailers to understand that it’s not neccessarily about surviving online with a website that has a multitude of itabs that point you to all it’s web properties, it’s more about understanding why people seek out your web property in the first place. What does your user want and expect from your brand online? If you’re a commerce site, or you sell product online, then why complicate the landing page with a corporate look and feel and experience? I don’t care about who your board of directors are! But I do want to possibly buy your product. Make it simple. Want to get ahead of the curve? Then you need to understand, TODAY how mobile and social play into the user experience, you MUST  measure and improve the  performance of all your social, mobile and web entities-KNOW WHAT YOUR USERS WANT AND EXPECT.

Survival for brands and retailers will now be predicated on a customer expectation that is high, seamless, one click in theory, and will eventually be one site in nature. Ok so if we take into account Danny’s post that brands are doing everything they can sometimes to drive their loyal customers away and visits to corporate sites are down-what is happening?

Consumer empowerment is what is happening. Choice is happening.  And brands not recognizing the new age of the educated and enlightened consumer, and moving slowly to adapt, is what’s happening. Stop getting caught up in the minutiae of why you’re moving so slow. Let’s go.

5 Blogs I Like to Read

I struggle to write good content. I’m sure if you write a blog you probably have the same problem as well at certain times. I want to write stuff that you would want to read, but it’s tough. It starts with a compelling title and then goes from there.  I used to be able to write every day but that was when the social media space, which I wrote about heavily back in the day, was not as crowded and everything was new and shiny and so experimental.

I probably don’t blog as much because I also see a lot of the same content regurgitated as well. But that’s OK, because what’s old to me might be new to others.

I still think there’s a lot to learn in the space though-It’s just that I’m not sure if I can provide that information for you when there are so many really smart people writing different, fresh, wonderful content. There are lots of new perspectives and fresh ideas-just maybe not from me. With that being said, here are five blogs I read that you might not that still maintain some amount of contiguous freshness to them. I read a lot more than just these 5-but this is as good a start as any.

Being Peter Kim I know, most of you probably know who Peter is, but he’s not a me-me person and pulls no punches with his writing style-It might be why I like his blog and it might be why you will too.

I am a big believer in the intersection of search and social and you should be as well. I also pay a lot of attention to the e-commerce space. One site that I like because of the depth of each post as it pertains to the above mentioned topics, is Get Elastic

Tamar Weinberg is smart, she just doesn’t go around telling people that she is. I like the variety of what she writes about, I like the fact that she covers the digital space completely and I like her writing style.

I generally don’t have oodles of time to read long drawn out blog posts. Do you? I do like and want digital, relevant, consistent content in snackable bits though. You’ll like Viralblog

Want someone who gives it to you straight? I always do. Not only is there something about what Amber Naslund writes that has always grabs me but she actually is one of the few that really really gets what social is…

What I look for in a good blog nowadays may fly in the face of conventional wisdom but I look for personality in the writing and not necessarily in the title-but the title is what grabs the eyeballs. What we really should be looking for though is compelling content, variety and personality. I hope this helps make that process a little easier for you.

M-commerce will work…for Gen Y…for now.

In the next 12 to 18 months analysts predict that m-commerce revenues will reach a half a billion dollars.  Pairing that with almost 300 million wireless customers, “someone” is going to be buying something through their wireless device. The question is who is that person? Is it the Baby boomer? No, they are just becoming comfortable with their computers and shopping online. Is it the Gen X’ers? No not yet, although they will follow pretty quickly as soon as the cool and the perceptive ease of use factors rises to a palatable level.

The answer my friend lies in your Gen Y users. The 15-29 users who just so happen to be your biggest social network users as well. This is, by no means coincidental. It makes complete sense on a lot of levels but here it is in its simplest terms. This generation is so technologically saavy that buying “things” using their mobile phones is nothing more than another viable option for spending money, communicating with their friends and being in the NOW.  It’s just another way to simplify their overly simplified “Me generation” entitled lives. It is a mere blip on the landscape that is their socialized technified world.

Not to sound bitter, and if I do it’s only because this generation can embrace a new technology so easily and so seamlessley that the projections for what kind of money might be generated might be underestimating the puchasing power of this group. The only way the numbers get pushed down is by overestimating the mobile purchasing power of a 15-19 year old who might not have a credit card to complete the transaction.

Gen Y users have 2 things working in their favor as well. 1) they account for almost a 100% ownership of cell phones and 2) have a purchasing power of almost $200 billion.  Add to this the fact that this group has no problem accessing the mobile web with relative ease, and couple it with their comfort level in regards to their expectation that mobile web sites meet their demands, and you have volatile mixture of a captive audience ready to buy with expendable cash.

In the next 12-24 months, marketers, consumers and advertisers will need to look to Gen Y to call the shots in regards to usage numbers, trends, and expectations. As soon as Gen X and the Boomers see how well it works for Gen Y. Look for M-commerce to explode. Look no further than Japan for a classic example, where in the last year e-tailers rang up almost $10 billion in revenue from M-commerce sales.

S-Commerce, where the E meets the social network.

A funny thing is happening to all of those builders of cool social networks. It’s the same thing that happened in the pre-dot com bust days. After their cool sites were built and they were all sittin’ around drinkin’ a microbrew, they all got the “South Park” look in their eyes and in unison said, “How do we make money”?

Again, in unison they said 2 things. “Well first we’ll make money off of advertisers and then, when we get so much traffic we can barely function, someone will buy us’.  I got news for you, a 1000 visitors a day, let alone a week, ain’t gonna gitter done.

So lets flash back to the South Park image again as they all look around after seeing that their traffic aint hittin the millions. “Now what”?

Well here’s an idea. Since consumer visits to social sites are growing at an exponential rate,  and since they’re becoming more comfortable with the model and more comfortable with the tools, controls and widgets of these sites, wouldn’t it make sense as a marketer to take advantage of this niche community? The answer is yes. But what about the owner/operator of the site what do they do?

So’s here how it goes down. Lets say I have this  social network for the lovers of all things llama. Why can’t I blend the transactional and social aspects of this group  by involving consumers in promoting and selling their offerings as they pertain to…”All things Llama”?

As these social sites become more and more “social”, and people find themselves spending more time on these sites, they become impervious to traditional media; That media being Tv, Radio, Newspapers and magazines. And what happens is that now all of a sudden your social network of peers and “friends” can now influence a buying decision. Because you trust them and they, you. Statistics show people join a social networking site to receive four benefits, 1) to meet people (78%); 2) to find entertainment (47%); 3) to learn something new (38%); and  4) influence others (23%) I tend to disagree with the 4th, but that just maybe a residual effect of a marketers desire to influence the social perception of their product.

Whats interesting to note though is that members of social networks have a higher disposable income than the general population – 20% more – and spend more of it online. So if they do and going back to our llama group analogy, we now present Joe, who is selling the most healthy llama snack ever made.  You trust him because Joe is a llama lover like you. Wouldn’t you buy your llama snacks from Joe? Of course you would!

You now have seen the benefit of selling to your peeps. S-Commerce.

But the question will  and does arise, how does a marketer get to Joe? How is Joe influenced to buy the best llama snacks?  For starters maybe Joe went to a branded micro-site devoted to llamas and their snacks, saw that they were offereing a free trial, and jumps on it. Or maybe Joe read a review online somewhere about the latest in llama feed and someone mentioned Killer llama Snacks. Joe could have been in a llama forum where he saw a skyscraper? Perhaps he could have been on a competeing site and saw an add for the latest llama snack? See how many ways you can get to him?

Of course Joe might be a heavy blog reader and reads a couple of killer llama blogs everyday where he reads some posts by the author or readers about an amazing new llama snack. Better yet, Joe loves Youtube, so combining his love for llamas and video, Joe does a search and finds a cool 30 second spot on the llamas at the san diego zoo that are big and strong thanks to the killer llama snack.

So by combining all elements of branding, and marketing, and advertising along with the power of a social network. And the trust that only a niche group could have for someone within the group, S-Commerce can thrive. The best part about it is that if your product makes it into the group. No selling is required.

Furthermore, you’re probabally asking, how does the owner/operator make money? Well since he owns the niche site, wouldn’t it behoove the maker of the killer llama snack to come to the owners and see if they can cut some type of marketing deal to push their product? You betcha. So now the only advertisers on the social site are relavant to the niche aspect of the site. Everyone wins…

Lastly, taking this to the next level then would be a company like lemonade.com Where they literally provide you with the stand and all you have to do is supply the products. Just make sure they(the products) are relevant to your group and you are good to go! It would also help if you were actually part of the group. Trying to win over the group as a  passing member of this group is a hard sell and could result in an instant loss of street cred. So tread lightly, stay long, grow some roots and sell some product. Can you name another seamless example of e-commerce in play in a social networking setting?

Cyber Monday is coming, load up the bandwith!

Come November 26th, offices across the US will struggle to get their work done. Why?Because their employees will be shopping online for deals.  If you are an internet retailer then you better have your shopping carts polished and ready to rock. If you are a large e-tailer than you better have enough bandwidth to endure the crush. And if you are a Wii dealer, forget it you’re screwed.

A recent survey revealed that 46 percent of working Americans expect to shop for bargains online the Monday following Thanksgiving, while they are at work. The study, conducted by Decision Analyst ,  stated that although more than 11 percent said they had been caught shopping by their boss while on the job, the survey showed that the temptation to find a great bargain is so strong, they would spend nearly an hour on average shopping online this Monday instead of working coupled with the risk of being caught again.

Cyber Monday was coined to identify the online activity that happens on the Monday immediately following Black Friday, which is traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year for “brick and mortar” stores. Cyber Monday is considered the ceremonial kick-off of the holiday online shopping season. Like Black Friday, many e-retailers offer some of the most exceptional deals of the year on Cyber Monday.

Shopping online during the holidays is a trend that has grown beyond a novel thing to do. It is now an accepted and expected form of Christmas Shopping. With that, comes the expectation that all e-tailers deliver on their end of the deal. Online Christmas shopping
allows shoppers to take advantage of  broadband speeds within their offces, veritable privacy, as well as the ability to possibly surf the web for deals for extended periods of time. It also provides a way to save on purchases that would normally cost more in the brick and mortar world as well as a way to avoid crowds, traffic and long lines.

In the words of of Mr. Michael Buffer,”Are you readdddddy to rumble?”