"Social Marketing" Strategies Are Holding You Back

Social marketing is at a crossroads.

The explosive popularity of social media over the last decade led many B2C marketers to launch social programs, often without any strategy or even an understanding of what they hoped to accomplish. Since then, nearly all marketers have jumped on the social media bandwagon launching Instagram accounts and influencer programs, putting UGC on their websites, buying listening platforms and ads, and, yes, maintaining a Facebook page -- but many are struggling to articulate the value of all this “social.” What’s going wrong and where do marketers go from here?

In order for marketers to take back the reins on their social practices, they must realize two fundamental things:

First, that “social media” is not one single channel. It is a collection of technologies -- from social networks to blogs; ratings and reviews to full-blown communities; and everything in between -- that allow people to connect with each other, whether that’s friends connecting with friends, consumers connecting with brands, or employees connecting with each other.

And second, since it’s not a single channel that you can turn on and off with the flick of a switch, it’s not something for which you need a single dedicated strategy. Instead, you need a marketing strategy in which social tactics and technologies are employed and deployed where they’ll help you make the most progress toward your goals.

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Microsoft + LinkedIn = Everything But An Advertising Play

The second the story broke about Microsoft’s $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, everybody you can think of who has any kind of an opinion about either company, social media, business productivity, enterprise software, the stock market, data and mergers & acquisitions in general has weighed in on the deal’s implications for their areas of expertise. Ordinarily this would inspire some serious eye-rolling in me, but in this case it’s warranted because Microsoft has its hands in so many businesses and enterprise applications, and LinkedIn has so much consumer activity and data that many people-- talking heads or otherwise-- have a relevant take. Speaking of which, Forrester clients should keep an eye on our website tomorrow morning for first-take analysis from all sides of our research org. Spoiler alert: The implication for social selling and business productivity are potentially massive.


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The Importance of Creating a Marketing and Technology Lingua Franca

As the IT agenda gives way to the Business Technology agenda, marketers and technologists are working together more closely and more often than ever before, but many of them don’t feel like those collaborations are going smoothly yet. In fact, lack of communication is the No. 1 reason cited for a very poor relationship between developers and other parts of the company, according to our data.  

One of the reasons for this miscommunication is that marketers and technologists often use very common words differently. We experienced this ourselves a few months ago at a large gathering of analysts at Forrester HQ, with both marketing and business technology analysts represented. First, there was plenty of acronym and abbreviation confusion: Did DR mean direct response or disaster recovery?  Was CRM customer relationship management or change request management?

But there was also confusion around very common terms that both marketers and technologists use, but which mean slightly different things for each. This is the kind of misunderstanding that you might not even know in happening because you have no reason to think you mean different things until some brave soul raises her hand and admits she doesn’t understand something. (Think the meaning of “database” is obvious? Think again!)

A few weeks ago, we published a report that looks into this further and our research revealed that these conversational mishaps are having huge repercussions on projects and business results. For example, one brand we spoke with had a half-million dollar project go nearly totally off the rails over a misunderstanding of the word “strategy.”

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The Magic of Disney's Brand Promise

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Disney World for what's recently become an annual trip. I've always been a fan-- I spent most of my childhood in South Florida which means I was either going to love everything Disney or develop a deep aversion to it-- which makes it as nostalgic a vacation choice as it is a "magical" one.

If you're a Forrester client, you've seen Disney mentioned in research and speeches many times-- and for good reason. They're frequently on the forefront of innovation across the company, its products and brand extensions, all of which contributes to making it one of the country's most admired companies. As a consumer, these annual vacations give me a tangible glimpse into both the constant iterations of their digital commitment and the consistency with which they embrace and apply their brand promise. On the other hand, the experience also reveals just how difficult it can be maintain such a high standard once a brand has established it.

Here's what stood out this trip:

Disney continues to demonstrate its brand promise-- "magical" experiences abound

All of us marketing analysts at Forrester talk about the importance of demonstrating and delivering your brand promise, not just communicating it. And if you're joining us atMarketing 2016 next week, you'll hear this emphasized many times. Disney never fails to impress me on this front. For example:

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Boomerang: More Than Just a Weapon

Forrester has a long tradition of boomerangs— former employees who re-join the company—and I joined their ranks back in January. It’s been an incredibly busy first few months, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The quick re-immersion has meant that I’ve started to solidify my coverage area (social marketing primarily with a bit of overall marketing strategy sprinkled in), had some great collaborations with the rest of the social team (Erna, Jessie and Sam), and already have an updated piece of research to share.

We’ve just published our updated Vision report for the Social Marketing Playbook, Integrate Social Into Your Marketing RaDaR. With the near-ubiquity of social—both in consumers’ lives and marketers’ plans—it’s more important than ever to ensure that you have a strategic, measurable approach to social marketing. This updated report has new data and examples to help you make the most of social across the entire customer lifecycle, making the just-checking-the-box style of social planning as unnecessary as it is obsolete.

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Embrace Utility Marketing — Even If You're Not A US Brand

Last month I blogged about the impressive growth of always addressable customers among US online adults. We've just seen the data for Europe, and I can confirm what we all knew instinctively: This is not just a US phenomenon. At least one-third of European online adults are always addressable today — and the pace of this evolution is only accelerating.

These customers are exposed to more brand interactions than ever before simply because they're always connected to some kind of digital media. But this doesn't mean you should just push even more brand-centric messages out to them. Instead, the opportunity is to demonstrate your brand promise — not just talk about it — by creating programs that are visibly and functionally useful from your customers' point of view. That's what we call utility marketing.

Last year, in our research about the mobile mind shift, we discussed the five primary strategies you can employ to achieve this kind of utility:

  1. Become a trusted agent.
  2. Solve a customer problem.
  3. Get out of the customer's way.
  4. Automate mundane tasks.
  5. Fulfill a need they didn't know they had.
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Create Marketing Your Customers Can Use

Half of US online adults have reached 'always addressable' status: using at least three connected devices and accessing the web multiple times per day from varying locations. It’s perhaps no surprise that this customer base has grown quickly since we first introduced it in 2012, when 38% of US online adults were always addressable. And for marketers, this is seemingly good news — now you have more opportunities to meaningfully engage with these customers than ever before. So what's the bad news? These customers tend not to trust or pay attention to advertising, and worse, largely find brand messages irrelevant.

There is a silver lining, though. Forty-six percent of always addressable customers don't mind getting emails from companies they've opted in to as long as the offer is relevant, and 27 percent are willing to share information about their interests to receive more relevant advertising. This leaves marketers with a great opportunity to engage with these willing customers, just as long as you embrace customer obsession.

But first, you must accept a hard truth: Your customers are done with traditional, campaign-based marketing. More often than not, customers are interacting with a brand outside of typical campaigns, and it's marketing's job to identify the context of those interactions and build upon them to create new forms of useful, continuous engagement. At the center of this contextual marketing is utility — becoming visibly and functionally useful to your customers. You can offer this utility either organically or transformatively, depending on your level of maturity across four key elements: customer addressability, data maturity, partner compatibility, and digital commitment.

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Q&A With Jeannine Rossignol, Vice President, Marketing Services, Xerox

Marketers have paid lip service to customer-centric marketing for a long time. But consumers and business buyers have flipped the conversation from "Oh, they think they know me" to "They better know me, or I'll find someone who does." For brands to be truly competitive in the Age of the Customer, companies must become customer obsessed – or risk losing market share to the competition. 

At Forrester’s Forum For Marketing Leaders next week, Forrester analysts and industry speakers will address why marketers must go 'beyond the campaign', to deliver real-time customer value. We'll hear from Jeannine Rossignol, Vice President of Marketing Services at Xerox, who will discuss Xerox’s Get Optimistic initiative. Designed to engage buyers by talking about what they care about (hint: it’s not your brand!), the initiative feeds self-interest with highly relevant, customer-centric content.

In the run-up to Forum, I posed a few questions to Jeannine. Here's a sneak peak of what's to come next week.

Q: B2B marketers aren't typically known for being customer-centric. What was the biggest barrier you faced as you attempted to pivot?

Barriers are just opportunities in disguise (I am an optimist, after all). How you view them can make all the difference in whether you can overcome them or not. Businesses today face unprecedented choice on a daily basis – and to stand out among their options, we can’t just say we’re customer-centric; we have to make them believe it. And for most of us that requires a complete mindset change.

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Q&A With Simon Fleming-Wood, CMO, Pandora

Marketers have more channels to choose from than ever before. But in the age of the customer, people distrust push-style marketing methods that interrupt and intercept them. In fact, 49% of consumers don't trust digital ads; 38% don't trust emails; and 36% don't trust information in branded apps. What consumers want is genuine value from their interactions with brands, but most marketers fail to deliver it.

Simon Fleming-Wood, Chief Marketing Officer at Pandora, is working to crack the code. As he notes, “There is a phrase that I have repeated many times to members of my teams at all of [my previous] companies. Simply put, ‘the product is the marketing.’ First and foremost, products (and companies) succeed if they inspire usage because they effortlessly address a consumer need, even if the consumer did not know they had that need.”

In the run-up to Forrester’s Forum For Marketing Leadership Professionals in San Francisco on April 10-11, Simon was kind enough to answer some questions that we posed to him. I hope you enjoy his responses as much as I do, and I look forward to seeing many of you in San Francisco.

Q. You’ve led marketing efforts at a wide variety of companies from big and established like Clorox and Cisco to disruptors like Pure Digital and now Pandora. Are there key things that all brands—regardless of size and industry—should be doing today to stay relevant and top of mind in our hyper-connected world?

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Join Us At Forrester's Forums For Marketing Leaders This Spring

One evening in early January, I was stuck at home, suffering through the second in what would become the string of bad winter storms that we’ve all been experiencing. I hadn’t been to the grocery store for the week, and dinnertime was sneaking up on me. I was contemplating the soup that had been in the cabinet for at least 18 months when I received this email from a local restaurant delivery service:

They were delivering! Dinner (plus leftovers) and avoiding the risk of botulism? I was sold.

Clearly this made an impression on me — I mean seriously, I saved a screenshot of an email — and thinking about it now, I know why. It’s because it spoke to me as both a customer and a marketer. This wasn’t part of a planned campaign. The company anticipated and fulfilled an immediate need I was experiencing with the kind of contextual responsiveness we’ve come to expect almost exclusively from social media programs. Delivery Now used the tools and insights already at their disposal to solve a customer problem. Opportunistic? Sure. But it got me what I needed in that moment, so why should I be bothered that they benefit, too?

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