Why Some Sales Stall While Others Cruise Through Darwin’s Social Funnel

Guest post by Mark Fidelman, CEO of Evolve! Capital, Inc., and author of Socialized!  How the World’s Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social.

FunnelYou’ve probably seen a traditional marketing or sales funnel where leads sources appear at the top of the funnel and customers are at the bottom. In between, the funnel has been segmented into linear steps, and at each stage a percentage of leads makes it through to the next stage.

This traditional marketing approach presupposes a solution for customers without ever understanding their problem. Some leads mysteriously make it through and become customers while others do not. Smart companies compensate by A/B split testing content and messaging to gauge what positively impacts moving prospects through the funnel, but these methods do not properly engage prospects or show you what the new information means for their decision- making process.

Think about purchasing a new car. Most people go through a decision-making process in which their opinions change as they learn new information. For example, let’s imagine a prospective car buyer named Bill is in the market for a new electric vehicle. Bill has heard about how these cars help protect the environment and save on fuel, but he doesn’t know many people who have experience with them. So he decides to ask his friends and contacts on his social networks for feedback by sending a request on Twitter and Google+. A few people on Twitter respond and give their opinions about how great it is that Bill is going green. But one current owner of an electric car on Google+ claims that owning an electric vehicle is extremely difficult because there are too few recharging stations and recharging the vehicle at home is not practical. The owner also claims the car lacks acceleration and doesn’t climb hills well.

Those possibilities obviously raise some new questions about the efficacy of electric vehicles for a potential buyer, so Bill visits the car manufacturer’s website hoping for some more information. The website has some high- level content about recharging options and a six-month-old map of vehicle recharging stations, but nothing about acceleration or hill climbing. So, Bill decides to e‑mail the car manufacturer to get more information. Luckily, the manufacturer responds, but gives him the phone number of a dealer located one hundred miles away. At this point Bill is ready to give up, but he decides to place the call anyway. After ten minutes on hold with the dealership, Bill is passed to a waiting salesperson. The salesperson seems knowledgeable but can’t answer Bill’s specific questions about fueling stations in his area or why his social network contact was having trouble accelerating and climbing hills. The salesperson asks him to drive a hundred miles to test drive the vehicle and see for himself. But Bill’s had enough. He likes the idea of an all- electric car but he’s already spent too much time trying to get basic information. As a result, he stops in the middle of the car manufacturer’s traditional marketing funnel and doesn’t become a customer.

If the electric car manufacturer’s executive team learned about this experience, they’d be justifiably upset.

Yet this scenario plays out every day across multiple products and services both in the B2C and B2B spaces. So what’s the solution? The traditional marketing funnel needs an upgrade to support the social era by integrating adaptive, real- time feedback into what I call Darwin’s Social Funnel.

Think of Darwin’s Funnel as a series of small improvements that make the organization more effective by learning to be very efficient in adapting to its surroundings.   Adding Darwin’s Funnel allows an organization to make real-time adjustments based on real-time feedback. No longer do you need to wait months for the results to trickle in while sales pass you by; you can take a proactive, social approach that enables you to fine-tune the funnel so that it is faster and more fluid.

To illustrate how this works, let’s go back to the electric car example. Once Bill made his request for information about the car on Twitter and Google+, a company that is tuned in to certain keywords like “electric car” or “fuel economy” would be instantly alerted to a potential opportunity. At this point, it may make sense for the company to test out a few short messages (using Twitter) or a lengthier response via Google+. The key is to follow and watch Bill’s reaction. If he responds positively, then the company recognizes that this type of engagement was successful in moving Bill to the next stage. If he didn’t respond positively, then the company can either reach out to him directly to ask him a question or try another approach. These small wins and losses become institutional knowledge and make the organization more effective over time. It also prepares the company for the next prospect who displays similar needs.

So when Bill receives the bad news from one of his contacts on Google+, the company can decide if it makes sense to jump in and respond to the objection. Perhaps Bill’s contact lives in a city that doesn’t have a lot of recharging stations and has found owning a car in that city impractical. Furthermore, Bill’s source may have bought a model that was underpowered for his needs and should have bought a more powerful electric car. The point is that the company is ready to respond to objections or engage in context with a personal message for the prospect. This creates trust and desirability.

Because the company is now engaging prospects through social channels and content, it can better affect potential customers’ actions. I call this the “social impact effect.”  The benefit of this phenomenon is that you can learn right away how different methods of engagement affect your prospects. As a result, you acquire five benefits:

  1. You gain deeper insight into whether the prospect intends to buy your product.
  2. By having short conversations with prospects on social networks, you gain valuable knowledge that can help you modify your product messaging.
  3. Just engaging a prospect via social channels may be the deciding factor in whether or not he buys from you.
  4. If the prospect is charmed by your organization, he most likely will refer you to a few of his friends or relatives, thus adding prequalified prospects to the funnel without the company spending large sums of money to do so.
  5. Because the most popular social networks (especially Twitter) are open, new potential prospects may begin to inquire about your products and services because they admire how you handle existing prospects.

Of course, social business is still business, so you’ll need to measure its performance and its value to your organization. You need to prove the value of any initiative, especially an enterprise-wide transformation. Few executives will make such a move on faith.

Adapt or Die Roundup: Who Got Social Media Right and Who Got it Very Wrong in 2012

Guest post by Mark Fidelman, CEO of Evolve! Capital, Inc., and author of Socialized!  How the World’s Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social.

Goodbye 2012Today’s socially savvy, constantly connected consumers expect more from brands, and organizations that rely on traditional arm’s-length relationships with customers and who try to dictate the relationship rather than participate in it will find it increasingly difficult to succeed. The increased use of social technologies over the past few years has forever changed the relationship between customer and brand. Now, individuals can create viral videos that reach millions, blog posts that embarrass corporations, and Facebook pages that organize citizens to oust dictators.

Some companies have already recognized these trends and are capitalizing on them in a big way; others haven’t figured out how to be social smartly and stumbled publicly on the social stage.  As the examples in my new book Socialized!  show, the best way for people to learn about social media is through real life examples. In that spirit, here are a handful of organizations that got social media right and those who got it wrong in 2012..

Who Got it Right in 2012

The jump heard round the world:  Red Bull. Red Bull brought new meaning to its tagline, “Red Bull gives you wings,” when, on October 14, the company sponsored Felix Baumgartner’s sound-barrier breaking, record-breaking free fall from space. Using social media, the company successfully built up huge buzz around the event and weeks before the jump, Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels were ablaze with interest.  Traditional media chimed in just days prior to the jump and covered it live.

What companies should take away from Red Bull’s space jump is the magic of choosing the perfect event for their brand, making it easy for people to connect with it.  Of course, not every company can afford to sponsor someone’s jump from space, but you can as a brand sponsor something related to your product or service and see a huge impact.

The twist: Oreo. To celebrate Oreo’s 100th anniversary, Nabisco launched a brilliant social media campaign called the 100-Day “Daily Twist” in which a different Oreo cookie design was featured every day for 100 days. It kicked off the campaign with a seven-layered, rainbow cookie in honor of gay pride, which quickly went viral. Other cookies included designs commemorating the Mars rover landing, Elvis Week, the Dark Knight premier, tennis, and so on, brilliantly providing the company with a way to target a wide variety of consumers they hadn’t been able to reasonably directly approach in the past.

This campaign was a great way for Nabisco to turn their Oreo cookie into a brand that really stood for something meaningful.  It was a great way to help many different groups of people create an emotional connection with the product. As a result, the company saw a significant increase in fan interaction via social media.

The bright idea: Domino’s ThinkOven. Domino’s ThinkOven was an effort to encourage customers to submit their “best Domino’s ideas” to the company. Whether it was an idea for a new uniform, a new dish or something for the restaurant, Domino’s opened the door wide to its customers’ ideas. Domino’s then rewarded their best idea-generators.

The more you involve your customers in the development of a product or service, the more emotionally invested they’ll be in your company.   And also, the more likely you are to get that product or service exactly right. Before social media, it was much more costly and difficult to get customer input using focus groups.  With social media, research can be ongoing.

The Wrong Way

Not that “Happy”: McDonald’s. In mid-January, McDonalds launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag, #McDStories, asking users to post nostalgic stories about Happy Meals. However, this campaign quickly took on a whole different meaning, as Tweets using the hashtag came pouring in about horror experiences and shocking tales.   From poor work conditions to appalling food quality, McDonald’s campaign turned negative attention back to itself.

McDonald’s should have been more careful about groups like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) that would react negatively. They also showed a lack of knowledge about what the best social medium to use for this type of campaign was. McDonald’s chose to use Twitter, but really Twitter is far too wide open for a campaign where this kind of feedback is likely. Next time, they should use a moderated forum such as Facebook.

Not that into you: Toyota. During the Super Bowl, Toyota planned a major Twitter campaign meant to promote the Camry.   But instead of creating their own hashtag, the Camry Twitter accounts started tweeting at anyone using the #Giants or #Patriots hashtags. As you may have guessed, even with a potential prize in play, not everyone cheering for a team wanted to be spammed by a Toyota Camry.

Toyota intended to engage users by directly tweeting them.  However, this had the opposite effect: users accused Toyota of bombarding and spamming them with unsolicited messages.

Toyota made the mistake of focusing too much on themselves rather than the Super Bowl and fans, and while they quickly suspended the accounts, this campaign still resonates as an example of a failed, large-scale endeavor.   The key in these social campaigns is to promote the initiative, not to talk about yourself.  When you try to make it all about you from the get go, you’ll only succeed at alienating people.

Not that smooth: Belvedere Vodka. A picture says a thousand words, and as Belvedere Vodka discovered, sometimes pictures insinuate far too much. The company would often put up cute and/or humorous ads on its Facebook and Twitter pages. It hit a snag; however, when it put up an ad that seemed to promote sexual violence.  The company received a significant amount of negative feedback, had to apologize for the ad, and made a hefty donation to RAINN (an anti-sexual violence organization).

With social media campaigns, because the messaging can spread so quickly and there’s no censorship board to screen it, you have to be very careful about what image or message you put out there. Especially if you’re trying to convey humor or use an overly aggressive visual, you better be certain that it cannot be misconstrued. The message needs to be crystal clear, and you need to make sure that it is absolutely the message you want to be sending. Sometimes companies want to just throw up a message or an image because social media makes it so easy to put content out quickly. But you must carefully vet these messages. Rest assured, they will live on forever. Case and point, Belvedere took the ad down from its social networking pages, but with a simple Google search, you can still easily find the ad and learn about the controversy that surrounded it.

Bottom line:  adapt or die

We’re drawing ever closer to a business environment where simply relying on traditional media and one-way communications to reach customers is going to leave you well-behind your socialized competition.  Like it or not, the moment of truth is upon us.  Adapt or die. 

Socialized!Win a free copy of Socialized!

Head over to Social: IRL’s Facebook page for a chance to win your free copy of Socialized!

Two winners will be drawn at random. Deadline for entry is 8pm CST on January 4, 2013.

 

Note – If you entered last week’s drawing, you’re automatically re-entered this week, no need to enter again.

Is Your “Give” Mobile?

Guest post by Dale Knoop, CEO of RAZ Mobile, a Kansas City-based startup that helps non-profit causes, campaigns, and candidates better engage a new generation of supporters via the power of mobile and social media.

“Give.”

At any time of the year, this simple four-letter verb carries a lot of weight.  At year’s end, it becomes a mission-critical request for nonprofit organizations that combine it with “please” to create an opportunity for holiday generosity and last-minute charitable deductions.

Americans do a lot of giving. It’s 2 percent of GDP. Giving by individuals is the third largest industry in the nation, behind Uncle Sam and banking. And amazingly, today 75 percent of that individual giving is transmitted using the U.S. Postal Service.

Unfortunately, postal rates continue to rise and subsidies for nonprofit use of the USPS will likely be amended or could be eliminated entirely. Realizing the diminishing returns for “snail mail,” non-profits are being challenged to find alternatives to direct mail for soliciting and collecting donations.

“Give” is finding more and more power on the Internet, and fundraisers and donors alike are thrilled with what they see. But as we look back at 2012, there’s something missing to the “give” Internet presence:  mobile giving via smartphones.

Sometime soon, when no one is looking, the number of smartphone Internet sessions will surpass the PC and never look back.

Giving a look ahead to 2013, you can see what’s driving this trend. More than half of all Americans have smartphones, and those numbers are growing exponentially. People of all ages (and especially millennials) live on their smartphones, and if your “give” isn’t there, then it’s got no power.

Mobile giving is capable of so much more than simply the cell phone carrier’s text-to-give product. Today’s web-based technology for mobile giving offers massive scale and provides nonprofits with vastly superior means for anywhere, anytime donor engagement and brand building. At the same time, today’s platforms provide immediate access to funds instead of waiting on the carrier for 90 days or longer with text-to-give.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, today’s web-based mobile-giving platforms offer nonprofits the opportunity to dramatically lower fundraising costs while also raising the lifetime value of the donor by making easy to give when the impulse strikes.

“Give” wants and needs a new home on smartphones. Will 2013 be the year you go mobile and put your “give” where your donors live?

Successful Social Business Starts From Within

Guest post by Mark Fidelman, CEO of Evolve! Capital, Inc., and author of Socialized!  How the World’s Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social.

History is littered with innumerable organizations that failed to adapt to changing market conditions. Industry leaders Polaroid, Kodak, Commodore International, F.W. Woolworth Company, Montgomery Ward, Tower Records, Tribune Media, Circuit City, Blockbuster Inc., and Borders Group did not adequately respond to changing market conditions and either filed for bankruptcy or went out of business. Each had a different reason for its demise, but each failed to adapt to circumstances despite having superior financial and human capital.

To make matters worse, the business dynamics in play today are far more difficult to navigate.

Markets are incredibly fluid, dissatisfied customers can disrupt any business on the planet, and executives who build shrines to themselves are far less powerful.  That’s why the popular command-and-control culture, with a top-down information control and little tolerance for contrarian views, is dead.  It’s well suited for yesterday’s business climate, where customers had little broadcast influence, and executives became powerful by building walled gardens around themselves.  Today, it’s a surefire path to employee demotivation and, I would argue, a threat to a company’s very survival.

The most successful social businesses like IBM, Salesforce.com, and Yammer (now Microsoft), are highly adaptive and hypercompetitive because they’ve adopted the philosophy and strategy of using social tools to create more adaptive businesses.  Their business cultures encourage new ideas and feedback, leverage the wisdom of crowds and operate with a great deal of transparency.  In each of these examples, innovation is connected to every facet of the business. From product development, customer support, and marketing to employee career development, these empowered workers care less about the financial impacts of failed innovation experiments (while of course learning from them) and more about developing high-performing cultures that drive customer value over time.

According to a McKinsey & Company study, the value of creating a digital village is a 20 percent increase in customer satisfaction, a 20 percent decrease in the time it takes to bring products to market, a 30 percent cost reduction in talent management, and a 30 percent reduction in the time it takes to find knowledge experts. From my experience, this is just a short list of the benefits.

In Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social, I elaborate on the infrastructure for a digital village, or internal social network, where employees can go to connect, share, collaborate and receive help from colleagues within the company.  The village metaphor is appropriate because you’re creating an online location that over time will become a rich, vibrant community that will be the core of your social business.  I also lay out eight internal social business requirements that executives can follow to both build and jump-start their company’s internal growth engines.  For example:

Get the Right Team and Budget in Place.  It’s difficult to create a social business with executive support. It’s nearly impossible without it. Find the directors who really wanted us to become more social, and ask them to pay for the social platform.  Then identify stakeholders with the greatest support, influence, and need to get the big picture on the rest of the organization. Don’t wait for your mid-level and frontline employees to push for change. Find the right team and change agents to build and carry out a program of change. I’ve never met an executive who thought social business was not a priority, but I’ve met many who limit the budget and restrict their involvement to seeing that it happens. Worse, most of them were not monitoring progress against a set of objectives set by the team.

Create a Digital Village Code of Conduct.  In any township or city, the citizens are governed by a set of laws and rights. In your digital township, you will create the same— but yours will be better suited to a digital environment.  For example: read and abide by the company’s social computing policy; endeavor to contribute quality content or participate in quality discussions; and be interesting or be invisible.  Create your own code of conduct, but remember to update it as the village evolves.

Realign the village to create a social environment.  Knock down silos to make way for cross-department employee communications.  It can be difficult to knock down entrenched interests, but you have to do so.  Recruit early adopters in each to shape the organization’s future technology platform.  They’ll begin collaborating on the new platform and invite others to do the same.

Senior leaders who have implemented these policies, systems, and workflows have created opportunities for growth that were never before possible given the constraints of a command-and-control business model. In my experience, companies can surpass the benefits identified by McKinsey, while preparing the business to adapt to future challenges.

What do you think? Can a business be smart socially on the outside, without being social on the inside?  Why are why not.

Win a free copy of Socialized!

Head over to Social: IRL’s Facebook page for a chance to win your free copy of Socialized!

Two winners will be drawn at random. Deadline for entry is 8pm CST on December 27, 2012.

Five key lessons learned: Social media’s impact on CFCA marketing strategies

Guest post by Shanxi Omoniyi, online content manager at Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA).  Founded in 1981,  CFCA has grown into a movement of more than 250,000 sponsors who are supporting more than 300,000 children, youth and aging friends worldwide.

Here at CFCA we’re blessed to have an organizational strategy that is extremely open and flexible to the potential of social media.

We believe in the power of community, and one of the best ways to illustrate that is through our social media team.

The team spans several departments but has one goal: to support our marketing efforts by providing a welcoming space where sponsors and potential sponsors can build community, receive answers to their questions, and hear more about our work.

Here are some of our key learnings over the years:

1)       Personalize wherever possible.

We hear great stories every day of lives being changed through CFCA’s work in developing countries. These are the stories that get the most views on our blog, retweeted most on Twitter, and shared and liked most on Facebook.

Even in blog posts when we’re running a list of “how-tos” or “Top 10 things to remember about sponsorship,” for example, we’ve found that it’s essential to feature a picture of a sponsored friend in the post.

Often your headlines are the most widely read part of your content. Therefore we’ve tried to personalize every blog post headline, tweet and Facebook post.

Sometimes this just involves asking questions: “Why isn’t my sponsored child smiling in photos?” or “What happens when my friend leaves the sponsorship program?”

At other times, it means using pronouns like “you” and “your.” A good rule of thumb is to try to think of your headlines as if they were to appear on the CNN home page – would you click on them?

2)       Encourage your supporters to help you.

We have the best Facebook fans in the world! Whenever we ask them to take action on our behalf, they’ve regularly gone above and beyond by liking, commenting and sharing our posts with their friends.

In 2010 we tried a new approach to helping children in need by posting their pictures and stories in a Facebook photo album. In the post, we encouraged our fans to share these albums with their family and friends.

Because Facebook is such a visual medium, photos are one of the most highly shared items. Over the last two years, more than 80 children, youth and aging people have been featured on Facebook and sponsored.

Photo albums are also a fantastic way to keep your supporters posted because you can regularly update the photos. When you do, everyone who has previously liked, commented or shared the album will receive an update.

3)    Create a hub of great content to support your Facebook efforts.

When we began cross-posting our blog posts to our Facebook wall, we noticed an increase in our blog audience almost immediately.

Additionally, our blog posts also increased our Facebook presence, creating a relationship of mutual encouragement and support.

The CFCA blog has now become central to our social media strategy, where great content is produced and then shared across a variety of platforms such as our website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

4)    Take time to express your appreciation.

Sometimes Facebook pages respond on their wall only to negative comments or comments that ask a question.

While this is better than not responding at all, I strongly encourage Facebook page administrators to respond also to positive comments.

Sometimes just a “Thank you! We appreciate your support” is all it takes to make a commenter feel special and valued. And after all, we want more of those positive posts appearing on our Facebook wall, right?

Tip: Under Facebook’s Account Settings, you can toggle the “Notifications” settings so that Facebook will email you anytime someone posts to your page’s wall or leaves a comment.

5)    Get organized.

For us, a Facebook editorial calendar is an absolute must. It helps reduce writer’s block and keeps us focused on learning how best to serve our audience and how often to call on them.

So far the best experience for us is to post twice a day at most, in the morning and afternoon. It’s a delicate juggling act to know when and what to post, but this has worked best for us in our experience. Also, weekends can be our most responsive times for Facebook posts.

Another tip is to reach out across departments to help with your community outreach. The CFCA social media team started in the Communications department, but we’ve realized over time that social media doesn’t belong to just one person, department or office.

We share updates about Facebook at our weekly community meeting, which includes all departments at our Kansas City headquarters – finance, child services, information systems and more.

Hopefully many of these thoughts will coincide with your own social media experiences. Now it’s your turn! How has social media affected your organization’s awareness and marketing efforts?

Social Media Marketing: Storytelling in 140 Characters

Guest post by Jessica Best, Community Director at emfluence, a full service interactive marketing company based in Kansas City.

In the last half of 2012, buzzwords like “content marketing” have been flying around and industry articles tell us to think more like publishers instead of like marketers. No longer can we simply share our product, its price and where to buy it. Our products solve problems. Our services provide solutions. And when we are great it, it makes for good stories. That’s what social media marketing is really about.

But how? 140 characters isn’t even enough for an introduction to your first chapter… Is it? The Salvation Army recently used a single tweet to tell a story and draw donors into their mission.

Telling a great story in just 140 characters >>  READ MORE

Trends in Email Marketing: Symbols in Subject Lines

Guest post by Sara Theurer, Account Manager at emfluence, a full service interactive marketing company based in Kansas City.

When sending an email to your subscribers, how do you write a subject line that entices people to open your message when the Delete button is just a few inches away? Some marketers are starting to experiment with the use of symbols –like hearts, stars and airplanes – in the subject line. Why? Because it looks unique and can be eye-catching. Used strategically, a symbol can enhance your subject line by replacing a word, used as a separator in a sentence, or draw attention to special offers. But… proceed with caution and TEST, TEST, TEST because not all inboxes are created equal, and some trends are too good to be true. How do you do it correctly, then? Read on!

PodCamp Topeka: A Low Cost Unconference Dedicated to Emerging Web Media

On October 13, social media enthusiasts, bloggers and podcasters from across the Midwest, will come together in Topeka, Kansas, for the third annual Podcamp Topeka. 

Presented by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, Podcamp Topeka  is a low cost “unconference” dedicated to emerging web media, including social networks, podcasting & videoblogging, blogging, and web design.

The nontraditional “unconference” format encourages the event’s attendees to set the agenda.

Registration for the day-long event is just $10, with breakfast and lunch included.

After an opening keynote presentation from Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations for Wizzard Media in Kansas City, attendees will participate in a diverse array of attendee-lead breakout sessions, details of which are available on the Podcamp Topeka website.  Most sessions are aimed at those with an intermediate to advanced understanding of technology and social media.

If you’re interested in leading a session there’s still time to email event organizer David Lee King with details of  your proposed presentation topic.

In addition to the unique “unconference” format and attendee-driven agenda, Podcamp Topeka offers many valuable networking opportunities, including a post-event meetup being hosted by event sponsor PTs Coffee.

For additional information and to register, visit the Podcamp Topeka website.

  • Saturday, October 13, 2012 – 8:30am to 4:00pm
  • Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th Ave, Topeka, KS 66604
  • $10 Registration at PodcampTopeka.org
  • Registration includes breakfast and lunch

 

 

 

Uncovering The State of Corporate Social Programs: The Spredfast Engagement Index Benchmark

Guest post by Jordan Slabaugh, Director of Social Media at Spredfast, a Social: IRL sponsor providing an enterprise-class social media management system that allows organizations to manage, monitor, and measure their voice across multiple social media channels.

Over the years, we’ve asked as social practitioners how to quantitatively gauge our social programs. The surge of social business has left many questions about the dynamics of companies’ social. How many people are active across the company? How often are companies publishing? What level of engagement are they receiving from audiences? In short: how do you as a social brand stack up next to your peers?

It’s something we’ve discussed at great lengths at Spredfast. And now, we’re excited to announce the launch of the first Spredfast Social Engagement Index Report.

WHAT IS THE REPORT?

The Spredfast Social Engagement Index Benchmark Report defines the current state engagement across social brands by looking at quantitative data from real social brands from Q2 of 2012. The data uncovers how brands are engaging internally – people, business groups, activity and publishing – and how they are building external engagement – network size, interactions and social reach. We looked at data from 154 Spredfast customers, captured within the Spredfast social media management system (SMMS), which was analyzed by market research firm, Mindwave Research. The 30-page report focused on the following key indicators of internal and external social engagement:

  • Number of users
  • Number of groups
  • Number of messages published across all channels
  • Total activity
  • Current network size
  • Total reach
  • Total engagement

WHAT DOES THE SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT INDEX SHOW?

The Social Engagement Index Report breaks down each area of social programs, highlighting the averages across brands, and then segmenting out three groups that emerged based on their level of engagement –“Activating”, “Expanding” and “Proliferating” (more detail on this in the Methodology section of the report).  The goal was to pinpoint levels of engagement and plot current trends across actual companies running social programs. Below, you can see where the 154 Spredfast customers analyzed fall. Organization represents users, publishing, activity and groups where Audience represents network size, external engagement interactions and social reach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The data validates the growth of social business and the findings point to a few key trends across the industry:

  • Social media is no longer one person’s or one team’s job. On average, 29 people are participating in social programs within an SMMS across 11 business groups and 51 social accounts. Gone are the days when one social champion or social media team is expected to “own” all social activity. The trend is to activate more people to have more targeted, relevant conversations.
  • Companies are expanding social engagement opportunities through increased publishing and activity. Companies published an average of 4,924 messages over the quarter, averaging engagement of 2 million interactions during Q2 of 2012.  These messages, or social content, each provide new opportunities for audiences to engagement with social brands. These messages, or social content, each provide new opportunities for audiences to engage with social brands. While quantity doesn’t equal quality, the Social Engagement Index shows that as brands increase contributors, groups, and activity their external engagement rises disproportionally.
  • Social is allowing companies to communicate directly with an “opted in” network. Companies have an average social network size of 1.8 million people, potentially reaching 47 million impressions over one quarter. Pair the increasing pace of audience acquisition with a high level of activity, and brands are increasing the chances of being seen in coveted news feeds.
  • Publishing is heavier on Twitter, engagement is higher on Facebook. Companies are publishing nearly three times as often on Twitter compared Facebook. Yet Facebook yields 9x the engagement for each message published. However, some brands found the opposite, highlighting that determining goals and audience preferences are mission critical to success.
  • Corporate social programs are multi-channel, requiring employees to participate in multiple roles. It’s no longer a debate on which one network to adopt. Companies are utilizing at least three social networks and assigning up to five levels of roles to employees to allow the right people to focus and engage their audience in the best way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR SOCIAL BRANDS?

The report is chock full of data and insights. And while there’s more to be said for each specific area, a few key opportunities and takeaways emerged.

Engagement is the name of the game.
Social brands are vying for both placement in a news feed and validation that their audience is actually actively participating. These interactions – Comments, Retweets Likes ,Clicks, etc. – prove message resonance and relationship intent with a brand.

Orchestrating the outliers.
The truth is, a good percentage of brand activity is still being published natively or through disparate applications. Meaning: brands have an opportunity to “reign in” social accounts, content and users currently active outside a centralized system. Without this, aggregate reporting, orchestration and brand protection oversight are nearly impossible.

Technology is a friend.
How can a brand be efficient with 29 users, 51 social accounts and publishing around 50 messages a day? Similar to how Content Management and Marketing Automation Systems help coordinate, centralize and measure other communication efforts, the exponential growth of social business is emphasizing the need for technology like an SMMS.

Low hanging fruit, ripe for the picking.
Personalized approach and goals aside, tactical opportunities surfaced as opportunities for social brands.

  • Content. If engagement is the name of game, content is the secret weapon. Ensuring that messages appear in a user’s news feed so that they can engage depends on the fact that your content is compelling and resonates.
  • Contextual insights. Great moments in engagement are exciting. But realizing how to learn from these and optimize for future content is key. Findings ways to use labels and add context to social activity helps percolate up insights.
  • Segmentation and focus. Your audience wants more, quality activity. Getting the right people internally (your 29 users) sharing the most relevant and targeted activity with your external audience allows brand to stop marketing by megaphone.
  • Coordination. It may not be an attractive area of focus, but it’s crucial. 29 users across 51 accounts that need to respond to 2 million user interactions each quarter signals the need for concerted coordination and internal planning. What content does each user focus on? Who will respond to what? What is the escalation process?
  • Conversion. Not all engagement is equal. And interestingly enough, the data showed Clicks outperformed any other interaction type. Regardless of industry, brands have a keen opportunity to actually convert social users from a social site to a corporate website, landing page or even point of purchase.

More thoughts and insights to come about Spredfast Social Engagement Index. In the meantime, get a copy of the report, digest the findings and share your thoughts and feedback.

 

Solving the Challenge: Effective Governance in a Distributed Engagement Environment

Guest post by Peter Heffring, CEO of social software company Expion, a Social: IRL sponsor providing scalable enterprise-grade software to listen, content plan, publish, moderate, analyze, govern and share content on Facebook and other social channels. The post originally appeared in MediaPostBlogs.

The most pressing concern from marketers who manage social media for global brands is no longer about presence or participation – it’s now a mature focus on governance and collaboration. The proliferation of social media engagement through Facebook, Twitter and other widely adopted platforms presents a new frontier for global brands as well as a new set of multi-location challenges that involve cultural and communication differences in every country, city and corner of the planet.

Marketers face many obstacles when it comes to distributed engagement, from how to control what is being said and shared by page administrators across various brands, locations and countries to who is managing the process and ensuring the sharing of best practices across the globe.

As motivated marketers, we constantly strive for perfection. In a distributed engagement environment, our collective efforts toward a P.E.R.F.E.C.T. solution would significantly improve the chances of overcoming today’s social governance challenges.

Policy

A global brand that is serious about governance must start with a comprehensive social media policy that encompasses all the rules and guidelines on how to appropriately communicate as a representative of the brand. A policy is intended to be a map that shows the boundaries of communications, but also the various opportunities that social media empowers the brand with — customer interaction, direct-response, product feedback and more.

(No) Exceptions

Good governance gives different levels of publishing and administrative authority to different individuals within a social media or marketing team. All members of the team should understand their roles — and a social software solution can ensure they are properly managed with a clear management and approvals structure. If the social software can’t handle the governance requirements of a global brand, then exceptions are created and the system won’t work. The platform must be able to handle the various controls and rules for the brand; otherwise, there will be a gap in communications and the worst exception can generate a crisis.

Real-time

The ability to have a real-time conversation with customers or people or see a real-time pulse of what’s happening are frequently mentioned when asking someone about the power of social media. The need for real-time governance is essential in this dynamic world of now. Real-time translation and sharing capabilities for top-performing tweets and posts across a brand’s social network will ensure best practices and maximum efficiency on a global level. Social software continues to evolve to empower marketers further with a system that distributes information, changes and alerts in real-time.

Flexibility

Governance must be flexible and adapt to the various job roles and responsibilities for each region, team and page. Brands today need a social software solution that can be configured based on the social media needs of their unique brand, giving them the flexibility they need to communicate — within the agreed-upon guidelines that ensure a consistent brand voice, and sharing of best practices.

Experiental

Social media is more than a conversation. The interaction between a brand and a customer or fan builds a relationship and produces an experience — whether positive, negative or indifferent. Governance should integrate the ethos of a customer-centric company, always considerate of the customer experience and ensuring that the entire path of customer interaction exceeds expectation.

Centralization

A centralized approach through a brand hub (and approval chain) ensures a consistent brand voice and generates the needed oversight for relevant stakeholders regardless of region. Marketers should look for a social media management platform that offers a highly efficient mechanism for centralizing social media communications and facilitating governance and collaboration for a global brand.

Training

Marketers should receive training up front that is ongoing, as social media engagement evolves and tools and features in social media management emerge to serve the public. Training on these tools is essential, but training and guidance on how to engage people and build relationships is critical.

Governance of this distributed engagement paradigm is — and should be — a cornerstone for any marketer looking to promote or protect a brand with multiple locations, pages or products. Global brands that tackle the CORE social media challenges through the above value-set are well-positioned to meet the needs of distributed engagement – and well on their way toward a dynamic world of perfect governance.

 

10 elements regulated brands must consider before entering the social space

Today’s post is a guest post from Melanie Woods, Interactive Marketing Manager at UMB Financial Corp.  Melanie will be among the guest speakers at the upcoming Social Media for Financial Services and Regulated Industries forum Social: IRL is hosting at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City on Friday, May 11. This event is free to attend and while the focus will be on financial services, many other businesses will relate to the challenges being discussed (including privacy concerns, desire to control the message and protect the brand, risk and regulatory compliance, getting corporate buy-in).  All are encouraged to register.

Everyone knows by now you begin a social strategy with goals, key performance indicators, relevant content and a clearly defined social media policy. If you are in a regulated industry, you have to take a few more steps to reach a compliant social media strategy. Simply put, regulators consider social media (likes, posts, comments, ratings, etc.) from the brand, or its associates, another form of advertising; therefore, it’s subject to the same rules. The following elements are critical for regulated industries to remain compliant in the space.

1.       Risk assessment

2.       Archival process

3.       Compliance approval workflow

4.       Customer service integration

5.       Crisis plan

6.       Training and certification for anyone representing the brand

7.       Internal social media guidance council (compliance, legal, technology, human resources)

8.       Enterprise-wide social policy education

9.       External social policy

10.     Access controls

Regulators are updating their guidance on a regular basis to try and keep up with the ever changing landscape of social media. Thankfully, your friends in legal and compliance can help guide you through the regulated waters. If you are just getting into social, start by grabbing lunch with your legal and compliance departments. You will be spending a lot of time with them in the future.

Finally, people always ask me if I think every brand should be on social. My answer is, if your audience is there and you have content they want or would find helpful, then YES. However, if your audience isn’t there, then you need to focus on the channels they are in, but closely monitor shifts. And, if you don’t have content worth sharing, then you have bigger problems to solve before you consider social media.

If you can do social in a regulated industry, you can do it anywhere! Cheers to all of those who are paving the way in regulated industries.

Want beta access to the latest social and mobile apps? Check out BetaBait, a new website connecting startups with early adopters

Today’s post is a guest post from Cody Barbierri, c0-founder of BetaBait, a new website connecting startups with early adopters interested in testing and being the first users of new web, mobile and social apps.  The post continues Social: IRL’s new series spotlighting startups in the tech, social and mobile space. Contact us to have your startup considered for a future post.

A while back I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about how there are so many startups out there that never see the light of day because it’s so hard to get noticed with today’s clutter online. To date, the only real way to get enough exposure to reach the early adopters who can help get a startup off the ground is by hounding reporters and spending countless hours within social media trying to engage people.

We wanted to remove the gate keepers making the decisions on who gets spotlighted and give that power to the early adopters – the people interested in testing and being the first users to many of these startups. With that, BetaBait was born. The service started out as a simple email service, spotlighting the latest startups looking for early adopters. Users could click-through on any startups that were of interest and be directed to their websites to learn more.

After just a few weeks, the response was incredible and we quickly ran into an issue – the email was getting too long with startups. We needed a place to house all of them and still give users a way to browse, share and test. We then launched an app directory online, which segmented the startups into categories, such as business, social, lifestyle and more. The email then only spotlighted the startups submitted from the past 24 hours.

Shortly after launching the app directory, we decided that we needed to give our community more of a voice. These early adopters have incredible ideas and can bring tremendous value to the startups looking to deliver a better product. We then shortly rolled out individual app pages for each startup, which gave additional information, sharing features and a commenting section meant to leave feedback based on the user’s experience and general thoughts on the idea.

BetaBait has been live now for almost 2 months and has close to 1,000 startups, 5,000 early adopters using the service, which remains free for both parties. We are currently generating revenue through email sponsors, which are able to create a welcome message to our daily email with a link to their website. Sponsors enjoy being the first thing our community of early adopters sees when they open the email.

In the near future, as the community continues to grow, we will be launching a redesign of the site to make it even easier to discover new startups, share them with friends and family, including a voting mechansim to push startups to the top of the page as well as leave feedback. In addition, we will be offering more sponsorship opportunities online for startups and other advertisers.

If you’re an early adopter or early stage startup looking to use the service, please sign up at www.betabait.com.