One week left to win a Forrester Groundswell Award

Every year, Forrester collects examples of outstanding social marketing efforts, focused on companies which have seen measurable results of their initiatives at each phase of the customer life cycle.  Our submission window for the 2014 entries closes February 28th, and I look forward to seeing your submission.  

To learn about the contest and see how to submit, check out:

And if you want to be inspired by last year's winners and finalists, check out:
Good luck, and I look forward to seeing your submissions.

How To Win A Social Reach Groundswell Award

We’re in our entry period for the 2014 Forrester Groundswell Awards (entries accepted through February 28th), and I want to examine the winners for social reach in 2013 and highlight how to put together a winning entry.

For social reach, show us how your program got new people (business people or consumers) to discover your solution, and how you measured its impact on your business — either by helping your engaged customers to discover additional offerings or by using them to create discovery among their friends. We’ll be less interested in how many social posts were made or times something was shared (although it helps), and more interested in how those posts, or shares, drove people to explore your brand and eventually make a purchase. 

Our B2C winner, City Year, is an education-focused nonprofit that works with at-risk students in urban schools. It enlisted its existing corps members to get the word out through social networks. Those members posted almost 29,000 tweets using the #makebetterhappen hashtag, and in total generated more than 26 million Twitter impressions — phenomenal reach. But even more critically, the results was that brand awareness among college students nearly doubled, and the number of students who said they’d either applied or planned to apply to City Year went up by five times in one year.

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Newly Published Forrester Wave™ Evaluation Of Social Advertising Platforms

After a few long months of research -- including selecting the seven most significant vendors and conducting in-depth briefings, demos, and customer references -- I am pleased to announce that the inaugural Forrester Wave™ evaluation of social advertising platforms is now live!

The social advertising space is a rapidly growing and maturing category. Social advertising generates more than 85% of revenue for both Facebook and Twitter, and marketers’ spend is trending sharply upward. In fact, the vendor customer references I spoke with for this evaluation spent an average of $512,000 per month on social ads. However, the public social networks’ native tools are insufficient for enterprise marketers manage this spend. Vendors have responded with products intended to help marketers achieve outcomes that justify the effort and spend.

We define this category as:

Platforms that help marketers buy, manage, optimize, and measure ads on public social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

These platforms are best used by marketers seeking to reach new customers who aren’t already aware of their offerings; they should be used alongside both TV and search ads as well as social reach tactics, such as influencer and advocate marketing.

We selected vendors that have a standalone social offering, a strong self-service platform, a critical mass of enterprise customers, and customers that spent more than $50 million on social advertising through the vendor in the 12-month period ending July 1, 2013. The best vendors help with analytics and measurement capabilities; measure beyond the social network's walls; and integrate social advertising with other reach tactics and types of ads. 

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Balance Trust With Targeting In Social Reach Marketing

Your customers don’t come to your website or your own social channels (such as your Facebook brand page) to discover whether what you offer meets a need or fulfills a desire they have. Instead, people discover you mostly through ads and word of mouth (WOM). To spread your message to a new audience, update your understanding of "reach channels" to include not only traditional tactics such as TV, search, and print but also the three key social tactics for this phase of the life cycle: influencer marketing, advocate marketing, and social advertising.

In my most recent research report, I examine how these different reach tactics are related and how you should balance trust and targeting in your social reach strategy. Specifically, there are four categories of contributors create content on your behalf:

  • Your marketing team uses social ads to target your prospects and customers precisely.
  • Employees, resellers, and partners share their experiences with your prospects.
  • Your customers relate to your prospects as peers.
  • Influencers shape the conversation about your solutions.
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Friday Flashback: Marmite’s Fans Advocate For A Forrester Groundswell Award

Our 2013 Forrester Groundswell Awards (submission deadline is August 30th!) are structured around the Forrester Marketing RaDaR model, with awards for outstanding social marketing in each phase of the customer life cycle. My research this quarter focuses on social reach – tactics to help people discover your brands, products, and promotions – so I want to highlight a 2011 winner demonstrating the power of advocate marketing.

In 2011, Unilever introduced a new extra-strong variant of Marmite, a yeast-based spread that no one is just “meh” about – consumers either love it or hate it. Marmite’s consumers are extremely passionate about the product, and Unilever created an exclusive community for only the top 200 fans and advocates to feed (pun intended) their excitement. Each community member received one of 200 commemorative jars of the new Marmite.

Marmarati logo

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In Business, Everybody Uses Social Media For Work; The Question Is How

You can no longer segment your business customers into those who use social media for business purposes and those who do not. Why not? Because according to Forrester’s newest B2B Social Technographics® numbers, fully 100% of business decision-makers use social media for work purposes. Other stunningly high numbers: 98% of business decision-makers are Spectators (they read blogs, watch videos, or listen to podcasts), 79% are Joiners (they maintain a profile on social networking sites), and 75% are Critics (they comment on blogs and post ratings and reviews), all in the context of their business activities.

Therefore, it’s no longer a question of whether you should use social, but how. B2B marketing executives no longer need convincing to invest in social. However, social marketing efforts are maturing beyond experimentation — where measuring results is secondary — to science. At this more advanced stage of maturity, marketers need to understand exactly how and when their customers are using social and target them differently in each stage of the customer life cycle.

Your customers don’t make blanket use of “social media,” “social networks,” or “communities” in general. Instead, they use specific social networks and communities for specific goals, both personal and business-related. The communities your customers visit for personal reasons are not always the ones they use for business purposes.

For business purposes, the No. 1 and No. 2 communities aren’t specific public social networks but “niche” communities focused on specific objectives. For example, business technology buyers might visit IT Central Station or Spiceworks to learn more about multiple competing technologies at once; alternatively, they might visit a community managed by a single brand, such as the Cisco Communities or SAP Community Network (SCN).

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A favorite prior Forrester Groundswell Winner, and the 2013 awards

We’ve begun accepting nominations for our 2013 Forrester Groundswell Awards, the seventh year we’ve recognized top social marketing efforts.  We use these awards as best-practice examples in our research and presentations, and I wanted to look back and highlight one of my favorite winners from 2012. 

Premier Farnell — an electronics components supplier with $1.4B in 2012 revenue that also operates as Newark in the United States — has a goal to sell to a broader range of design engineers by offering them resources throughout its projects. To do this, the company built a community called element14, which offers resources about all types of electronic design topics and — crucially — does not focus just on products that Premier Farnell supplies. The community has about 120,000 members, and 5% to 7% of them click through from the community to the transactional portion of Premier Farnell's site each day as fully qualified leads. Premier Farnell shows that large corporations can generate substantial new business by offering potential customers vendor-agnostic reasons to visit a new community.

The community also generates new content for the rest of the company's marketing, as 45 experts create a series of new content in the community which provides another reason for customers to return; in fact, a third of the community members return every week.  

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Facebook recognizes need for social, simplicity in social advertising

Today, Facebook announced a new road map for its social advertising solutions. Over the coming months, Facebook will evolve its ad offerings to:

Focus on business objectives. “Do Facebook advertising” is not a business object unto itself. Social advertising broadly, and Facebook advertising specifically, is just one piece of a broader mix of options to reach new audiences. Facebook plans to help marketers align their spending to their business objectives by offering solutions specifically for brand marketers, online retailers, and other types of advertisers.

Make social ads more social. Facebook’s data shows that ads on its site work better when they contain a social component (e.g., ‘your friend Nate likes this brand’) — so soon, all Facebook ads will contain social elements by default. This is part of a larger trend to make social advertising more personal than traditional display advertising.

Simplify its advertising options. As Fidji Simo, Facebook Ads Product Manager, said today, "it should be simpler." Today, Facebook offers a veritable Chinese menu of ad units that frankly confuse most marketers. To simplify ad buying, Facebook plans to slash its existing number of ad units in half to create a simpler ad-buying experience.

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Top questions for Yahoo about its Tumblr acquisition

Now that Yahoo has announced its acquisition of Tumblr for $1.1 billion in cash — about a quarter of its cash reserves — the top three questions I see are:

  • How will Yahoo manage to retain, and grow, the Tumblr user base while monetizing it? Today, Tumblr is quite unprofitable, and its lack of advertising is one of the many attributes that have made it popular. Yahoo has a very difficult balancing act ahead: It has to keep Tumblr's current active user base passionately engaged and spending time on the site, while also finding a way to add advertising and other revenue sources. Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, stated the ads will be “very light” and “really fit users’ expectations”; however, Ken Goldman, Yahoo’s CFO, added that Tumblr should "materially contribute to revenues" in 2014 and beyond. If users do not stay with the service, they will have bought a ghost town. 
  • Can the Tumblr user base be the next influx of loyal Yahoo users? Yahoo still has a massive user base, with at least 200 million users of Mail alone, and a passionate audience on Flickr. However, it is seeking its next core audience, and Tumblr users could fit the bill.  This is a similar challenge to Facebook's motivation for acquiring Instagram, however Facebook has so far held off on adding advertising to the Instagram platform. 
  • How will Tumblr fit into Yahoo’s existing product portfolio? Yahoo has announced it plans to keep Tumblr independent, leaving both its brand and management intact. However, over time, there will be pressure to integrate it more and more tightly with other Yahoo properties. Will existing Yahoo products gain some of Tumblr’s social DNA, or will Tumblr lose some of what makes it unique?
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Event Marketing Giveaways That Work

Between events and trade shows, nearly a quarter of the average B2B marketer’s budget is spent on events, dwarfing all other marketing mix categories, including website and advertising spending. Your customers agree that in-person events are highly influential. For example, in our Q3 2012 survey of business hardware buyers, 68% of respondents state that in-person events are important for researching and evaluating what to purchase.

As an analyst, I both attend and participate in a number of different trade shows, customer events, and industry or role events each year — including our own Forrester Forum For Marketing Leaders April 18-19 this year in Los Angeles. 

No matter what the event, vendors have event giveaways — or swag — for their customers and prospects. Marketing swag — when done right — can help you get the most value out of the events you are already running or attending. How? People will remember you favorably, and that's a good start to a follow-on sales conversation or marketing touch. Unfortunately, many giveaways fail to reach that objective, and waste both time and money.

I’ve created an interactive tool for clients, with three major categories of factors used to evaluate your event giveaways or swag. Consider:

  1. If the swag connects back to your brand message enough to be worth offering it all: The $2 bill test; Company branding; Value alignment.
  2. How valuable and useful the swag is for your intended audience: Usability; Interactivity; Durability; Portability.
  3. How practical the item is logistically: Unit cost; Reusability; Portability.
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