I've noticed a disturbing trend in one of the markets I study. Thirty percent of marketers say their top social media goal is creating brand impact, but only 10% tell us they measure brand impact — a gap of 20 percentage points. But then while just 4% say sentiment or engagement are their top goals, a whopping 26% measure these numbers —leaving us with an almost identical gap of 22 percentage points, but in the other direction. It’s clear what's happening here: Marketers are using sentiment and engagement numbers as a proxy for brand impact surveys.
Deep down I love the idea of measurement proxies. A properly constructed and proven proxy could be a cheap, quick, and effective stand-in for direct measurement of things that are quite frankly hard to measure — like brand impact.
But there’s a big problem here: I've been looking pretty hard for good measurement proxies for a while now, and I’ve found very few that could be described as "properly constructed and proven." And I'm pretty sure none of the marketers in our survey have proven their proxies — because if they'd tried, they'd have almost certainly failed.
Tech marketers often fret over their marketing mix, but it’s usually couched in terms of “how” – e.g., “How do customers get information about us?” or, “Do we have the right mix of web content, events, blogs and [now, of course] social media conversations?”
We know that all those “how” things are not equal. Customers utilize web content more than events, and events more than blogs. But every bit as important (if not more), and sometimes not taken into consideration, is the “who” of the “how.” In general, customers highly value tech vendors’ websites and events, industry analysts’ research reports and blogs, channel partners’ online videos, and social media conversations with peers. But customers’ go-to information source preferences vary by industry, company size, and geography. [For more information, see the Forrester report on “The Who And How of Influencing Customers’ BT Decisions.”]
With social media stacked on top of websites stacked on top of events stacked on top of collateral … well, I don’t have to tell you how complex marketing-mix allocation budgeting has come to be. But designing your mix model on a “who-what” framework simplifies the model, and goes a long way to ensuring that you’re investing in the information sources that customers are tapping.
European marketers are as excited about social media today as ever before. In fact, according to our annual survey, three-quarters of interactive marketers in Europe either already use social media or plan to use it by the end of 2011 – and they expect social media marketing to grow in effectiveness more than any other online or offline marketing channel in the coming years. But there’s a problem: European marketers still aren’t spending very much on social programs. In fact, a quarter of the marketers in our survey plan to spend less than €35,000 on social media this year – and many of the rest won’t spend much more than that. And most European marketers said they had no plans to increase their social media budget this year compared to last.
I think this lack of spending is both a symptom, and a cause, of problems inherent in how European marketers use social media:
It’s a cause, because the resources aren’t there. One of the biggest problems social media marketers face right now is a lack of resources. When it comes to social media they have trouble finding budget, staff, time, and even good help from their agencies. And that actually makes a lot of companies afraid of success. You’d be surprised how often I hear statements like "I want to start a Facebook page, but what if it takes off? I don’t have the budget to staff it full time!" When marketers are afraid of success, rather than failure, then you know you’ve got a problem.
One of the many interesting topics of discussion we get into in our Social Business Strategy workshops is around the social ecosystem. This is the name I have given the collection of business capabilities potentially enhanced by one or more social technologies.
First let me define social technologies. Note I’m using the word “technology” quite deliberately in place of the more common term “social media” because social media is too often associated with consumer-facing technology as deployed in support of marketing. In defining the entire social ecosystem I prefer the more generic “technology”. I define social technology as “any technology that enables one-to-many communications in a public forum (or semi-public if behind a security firewall)”.
We all know that companies are trying to leverage social channels for customer service. But how can they be deployed in a way that adds value to an organization? Here are my thoughts:
You can’t implement social technologies in a silo within your contact center because you have to be able to deliver a consistent experience across the communication channels you support: voice, the electronic ones, and the social ones. Read my blog post on how you can do this.
Once you get the basics right, you are ready to add social media capabilities. Best practices include:
Start by listening to customer conversations. These conversations can surface general issues with products, services, and company processes. Make sure you create workflows to route surfaced issues to the correct organization so they can be worked on.
Flag and address social inquiries. Understand the general sentiments expressed in these conversations, but also identify specific customer inquiries and route them to the right agent pool for resolution.
Extend your customer service ecosystem with communities. This allows your customers to share information, best practices, and how-to tips with each other, as well as get advice without needing to interact with your agents. But don’t implement them in a technology silo; they should be well-integrated with current contact center processes.
We work with a lot of different types of marketers at Forrester, and we always customize the recommendations we deliver to different clients based upon their unique situations and needs. But over the past few years there's one piece of advice I've found myself giving nearly every company I work with: "Hire a listening vendor."
I love listening platforms and the social data they create; it's a powerful source of information that, used correctly, can make marketers and their programs more effective. But not enough marketers are taking advantage of these benefits.
Develop your messaging. If you want to create messages that resonate with your audience, you need to know what they care about. Many of our past Forrester Groundswell Award winners have used private listening communities to craft their marketing messages; increasingly, we're seeing companies use data from public social media to guide their messaging as well.
Source your creative. We know that consumers trust what they hear from other consumers more than any other source of information -- why not use listening platforms to identify positive social content that can be included in campaign creative? I've even seen a UK bank, First Direct, use social sentiment data in an outdoor advertising campaign.
Let's face it, there are plenty of examples emerging of organizations doing great things with social technologies -- but just how many are having a measurable impact on their organization's goals?
If you think your organization is already doing great things with social technology you may be right. If you are seeing measurable results, I encourage you to nominate your organization for a Groundswell award.
What's a Groundswell award? Josh Bernoff, one of the authors of Groundswell, explains the history of the award in his blog here. Each year we review multiple nominations across various categories of social technology use; we identify the examples we believe best demonstrate the criteria for winning each award. We have categories that include internal and external uses of social technologies, and we're especially interested to see examples of strong collaboration between IT and Marketing. This is the fifth year we are running these awards (you can see past winners here and a full list of award categories below).
Forrester’s book Groundswell made the power of social media tangible with real-world examples and laid out a framework to help onboard organizations. However, many companies today still struggle to benchmark their social media journey, manage bottom-up social activities, and prove the ROI of social media activities. The new chapters published in the just-released expanded and revised edition of Groundswell highlight some best practices. Here are some of them:
Understand why you are embarking on the social journey, and connect social media objectives to the company strategy. Ask hard questions like “Will my social presence help move the customer satisfaction needle?”, “Will it help sell more products?”, and “Will it deflect costs from my service center?”.
Treat social media as another channel in which to engage customers. Customers still want to call you (a surprising 67% of the time), email you, and chat with you. Make sure that your processes, policies, and communicated information are the same across all channels — traditional and social.
Connect your social media efforts. There may be many social media technologies used within your company. Ensure that there is some level of coordination between internal organizations so that you can uphold a consistent experience and brand for your customers.
Start small and staff social media initiatives with existing employees who understand your customers and your business. This is important to help extend your brand — your DNA — to your social channels.
It’s been almost a year since I wrote Latin American Social Technographics® Revealed, which demonstrated this group of consumers’ voracious love of social media. In that report I highlighted how this high level of social engagement is not exclusive to just entertaining themselves or connecting with family and friends. In fact, it also extends to interacting with companies, with activities such as reading their blogs, following them on Twitter, or even watching a video they produced.
Given the ease with which companies can connect with online Latin Americans via social media, I’ve now published a new report entitled Take Advantage: Latin American Consumers Are Willing Co-Creators that examines whether companies can extend this interactive and social connection with consumers into the realm of co-creation in the social online world. My colleague Doug Williams, who focuses on co-creation processes for the consumer product strategy professional, defines “social co-creation” as the process of using social technologies as a vehicle to execute co-creation engagements.
To examine the viability of social co-creation in Latin America, we assessed the factors that we feel are crucial for a successful social co-creation engagement to occur. They are:
A high level of engagement with social media — especially at the Conversationalist and Critic levels.
A high degree of interaction with companies using social media tools.
An inherent willingness to co-create with companies.