Back in April I published a report called Take Control of Your Social Marketing, which looks at the emerging market of social marketing management tools. In it, I identified three groups of these tools: the social publishing platforms, the social promotion builders, and the platforms that focus on both.
In the two brief months since that report came out, the volume of questions I get about the topic has skyrocketed. I can’t say this is surprising, as our own research is showing that many marketers are reaching a level of social marketing maturity at which tools like these can greatly increase the efficiency and success of their programs. There’s also been a lot of press coverage of the moves, changes, and announcements coming out of the vendors in this space, which has undoubtedly raised the profiles of these companies with marketers.
In January, Vitrue, a company that falls into the “concentrating on both” category and which wasn’t able to participate in the original report, announced the closing of a $17 million series C financing round.
In February, Syncapse Corp. made its own financing announcement -- an investment commitment of $25 million.
In March, SocialWare announced a partnership with LinkedIn that brings its regulatory compliance expertise and tools to the professionals’ social network.
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.
There are a lot of vendors pitching their social media listening capabilities. And, the more that I hear these pitches, the more it has made me think that a bunch of companies jumping on the social media bandwagon are going down a dangerous road of using it as a customer service escalation strategy — which is a horrible idea.
Let me illustrate with a recent story I heard. A woman discovered that the VIN number of her car was improperly recorded on her last visit to the California DMV. As she tried to get it fixed, she found out it was going to require a lot more effort than she hoped (perhaps it included a visit back to a local office). She tweeted about it. Remarkably: The California DMV was listening!! It tweeted her back, contacted her, and helped her resolve the issue in a fraction of the time and energy it would have taken. The result: a happy customer.
There are a couple of strange things about this story. First, the DMV can’t fix its long waits and broken processes, but it has people listening to Twitter. Hmm. Second, it rewarded someone who complained to the entire world about its broken process. The next time I want a quick fix to a problem I have with the DMV, remind me to tweet about it!
Congratulations to companies that can respond to the relatively few tweets they get via this channel today. Are you prepared to scale this operation as you re-enforce people to get service from you this way? More importantly, is that really the venue in which you want to solve problems?
I am absolutely thrilled to publish my very first blog as a Senior Analyst here at Forrester and am looking forward to providing you with a lot of exciting research and thought-provoking insights on what continues to be a hot topic in the technology industry: Social Media in B2B. As many of you know, social media is evolving at a very fast pace, and one of my goals is to keep you posted on the latest trends we are seeing and how you, the tech marketer, can utilize these insights to create effective social strategies for engaging with your customers.
How did I wind up here at Forrester? Well, prior to joining the talented TI Tech Marketing team in April, I spent 14 years at Sun Microsystems, working in various senior marketing roles. I was fortunate enough to lead some pretty groundbreaking campaigns that utilized social media and other emerging marketing tactics. These projects ranged from executing basic marketing strategies using blogs and YouTube to very complex, multi-faceted social media campaigns to drive new product adoption for Sun's software and Java product groups. Lots of fantastic stuff that is worthy of a separate blog post!
After Sun was acquired, I spent the past year at Oracle as a Global Campaigns Manager responsible for Java, cloud computing and enterprise architecture initiatives, where social media was also a big area of focus for demand generation activities. A few months ago, I was presented with an amazing opportunity to join the Forrester team, and, to make a long story short, I have now hit the ground running with a very rigorous B2B social media research agenda and a speaking engagement at next week's Forrester IT Forum in Las Vegas.
Cloud computing continues to be hyped. By now, almost every ICT hardware, software, and services company has some form of cloud strategy — even if it’s just a cloud label on a traditional hosting offering — to ride this wave. This misleading vendor “cloud washing” and the complex diversity of the cloud market in general make cloud one of the most popular and yet most misunderstood topics today (for a comprehensive taxonomy of the cloud computing market, see this Forrester blog post).
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is the largest and most strongly growing cloud computing market; its total market size in 2011 is $21.2 billion, and this will explode to $78.4 billion by the end of 2015, according to our recently published sizing of the cloud market. But SaaS consists of many different submarkets: Historically, customer relationship management (CRM), human capital management (HCM) — in the form of “lightweight” modules like talent management rather than payroll — eProcurement, and collaboration software have the highest SaaS adoption rates, but highly integrated software applications that process the most sensitive business data, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), are the lantern-bearers of SaaS adoption today.
Late last night the market research vendor landscape became a little more consolidated with the announcement that e-Rewards reached an agreement to acquireConversition Strategies. This is not the first, nor probably the last, move that e-Rewards will take in growing a versatile offering in the market research industry. In 2009, e-Rewards, acquired UK-based online panel provider Research Now, which allowed it to become an online panel provider with global reach. And in 2010 e-Rewards acquired Peanut Labs, which enhanced its panel by offering a social media specialty sample that is recruited and surveyed through social and gaming networks. The acquisition of the Conversition platform EvoListen will allow e-Rewards’ clients to listen and analyze, in a market researcher’s terms, what consumers are saying on social media.
This announcement is significant for the market research industry because it:
Disqus, a SaaS commenting platform that companies can embed in any website page, just announced a funding round of $10 million yesterday. In the same announcement, they stated that they are reaching 500 million unique visitors a month across 750,000 different websites, including major media sites like both CNN and Fox News, as well as many high tech news sources, such as ReadWriteWeb (which wrote an article on the announcement).
As a B2B marketer, why does this matter to you? Because B2B sites can learn from these largely media or consumer examples. B2B sites that want to enable community and commenting on their pages, including blog posts, need to make it extremely simple to engage using whichever of your social identities (and resulting social networks) you want to bring to the site.
Requiring a unique login in order to get an IT developer to share feedback on your new server architecture, for example, makes it easier to capture information in your CRM system, but your visitors want to add value to their existing social identities. Allowing visitors to engage with you using their preferred identities creates a valuable service for them by strengthening their preferred online identity. See the screenshot below for what this looks like with Disqus. This may increase their willingness to engage on your website instead of across the Internet.
. . . but bad reactive marketing can make the problem much worse.
[co-authored by Zachary Reiss-Davis]
As has been widely reported, in sources broad and narrow, Amazon.com’s cloud service EC2 went down for an extended period of time yesterday, bringing many of the hottest high-tech startups with it, ranging from the well known (Foursquare, Quora) to the esoteric (About.me, EveryTrail). For a partial list of smaller startups affected, see http://ec2disabled.com/.
While this is clearly a blow to both Amazon.com and to the cloud hosting market in general, it also serves as an example of how technology companies must quickly respond publicly and engage with their customers when problems arise. Amazon.com let their customers control the narrative by not participating in any social media response to the problem; their only communication was through their online dashboard with vague platitudes. Instead, they allowed angry heads of product management and CEOs who are used to communicating with their customers on blogs and Twitter to unequivocally blame Amazon.com for the problem.