Just Published: A Forrester Wave™ For Mobile Marketing Strategy

We’ve all seen the headlines:  2010 2011 2012 is the year of mobile!  Mobile marketing spend will outpace email search display!  Jump on the bandwagon now or else!  

. . . And while I’m bullish about mobile marketing — I better be, since it’s my primary coverage area these days — the importance of having a sound strategy and the right partners to execute often gets lost in all that hype. That’s why I’m extremely proud to have just published The Forrester Wave™: US Digital Agencies — Mobile Marketing Strategy And Execution, to help marketers identify the right agency partners to develop and build smart mobile marketing strategies that deliver real business results.

You’ll notice from the (rather long) title that I focused specifically on US-based digital agencies. Admittedly, this is a narrow view of a very wide array of service providers that help marketers create mobile programs.  However, to deliver the kind of value people expect from Forrester’s trusted Wave methodology, it was necessary to zero in on just one part of the market to ensure a level field for all players.  

Even with this focus, we screened scores of agencies for this study and ultimately ended up with nine agencies to evaluate:  AKQA, iCrossing, Ogilvy, Possible Worldwide, Razorfish, Rosetta, SapientNitro, TribalDDB, and VML. These top performing agencies were included in our evaluation because they all:

• Offer comprehensive mobile marketing services.
• Met – and mostly exceeded — a minimum revenue requirement from mobile marketing offerings.

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Google Search Gets Social- What it Could Mean for Marketers

I don’t know about you, but my head is spinning from all of the articles and editorials about Google’s incorporation of Google+ content and other personalized search results.  While there’s lots of conversation about whether the changes are good or bad for Google and the future of search, whether Google is opening themselves up to more anti-trust investigation, and whether Google was simply too late to the social media game to make a difference,  I’m going to leave those arguments to others.   I’m more interested in the potential opportunities and challenges for marketers that this integration of search and social presents.

Opportunities

  • It may give marketers an additional metric to track for social media.  Google will be surfacing your brand’s Google+ social content directly into personalized results, for consumers who’ve added you to their circles.  These search results may also include content that a consumer’s friends posted about you.  That means qualified clicks on your social content—and that means possibly tracking how much search traffic you generate to your own sites through social marketing. 
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Twitter: Is Anybody Doing It "Right"?

Twitter isn’t the largest social network, but its users are very active and tend to be influential. As a result, more and more marketers are looking for ways to leverage the service. The challenge of course is that Twitter is distinctively different than other digital channels, so marketers still struggle to find the “right” way to engage.

In our just-published report about Twitter, we found that:

·  Many successful uses of Twitter go beyond the marketing department. Alone, that’s probably not all that surprising. What’s particularly interesting though is that even when Twitter is used in non-marketing departments — like customer service, PR or even sales  — interactive marketers are participating in the development of the channel to ensure that disparate accounts are strategically aligned.

·  Twitter provides both an overwhelming amount of data and is dominated by a minority of influential users. This can be confusing to marketers because it often means that huge amounts of conversation are created by people who all seem to require a response. Handling that volume and depth of conversation can be particularly daunting. More daunting:  Marketers need to be even more interesting and more relevant than the average influential user if they want to cut through the cluttered streams and engage their consumers.

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Twitter Launches Brand Pages: What It Means For You

Yesterday, Twitter announced the launch of its highly anticipated brand pages. The move is being lauded as the next logical step for the social network in attempting to bring its offerings in line with competitive services for companies -- like the already-launched Google+ brand pages and the perennial favorite Facebook pages. But how exactly will the changes help brands or change the way they interact? 

First, the the pages offer marketers more branding opportunities. A large banner on the top of the page will let you show off your logo or other creative without worry that it'll get lost behind the Twitter stream like your custom background images may on your current pages.  

Second, you'll be able to make a tweet sticky by pinning it to the top of your stream -- with media like photos or videos -- for as long as you choose. 

These features sound -- and are -- good news to marketers who've wanted better tools to create a destination for their audiences on Twitter. But remember, the majority of interaction with your followers on Twitter happens in the stream, not on your brand page. So while these new tools will let you position your Twitter presence better to capture new followers, you still have to have a clear strategy for engaging your followers once you've got them . . .

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Facebook, Gowalla, And Marketing On Location-Based Social Networks

As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, yesterday Facebook announced its acquisition of Gowalla. The move opens up interesting possibilities for location-based and location-aware social apps, some of which I explored in my most recent, serendipitously timed report on location-based social networks (LBSNs).

On one hand, the acquisition means that the herd of strictly LBSNs is continuing to thin, which means the remaining apps have less competition, so marketers who are looking to play on those platforms should have fewer options with larger audiences to choose from. On the other hand, the move appears to be further integrating location into a user’s total Facebook experience — at once broadening the appeal of location-based social activity by baking location into everything a user does on Facebook and thereby potentially subverting the need for strictly LBSNs by integrating the user value into a larger social experience.   

And so the big question: should marketers get involved with LBSNs and other geolocation applications?

The bottom line is that geosocial apps are still niche, but they’re growing in usage. Since we published our previous report in July 2010, foursquare has grown from 2 million users to 15 million. Twitter — and now even more aggressively, Facebook — has continued to fuse their social offerings with location information; even technology companies like Apple are chiming in with the launch of the “Find My Friends” app. However, even though the user-base numbers have grown quickly, we still find that few consumers are checking in: 6% have ever, with only 2% doing so at least weekly.

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Scan This Post: What Marketers Need To Know About 2D Bar Codes

2D bar codes are one of the latest “shiny objects” in mobile marketing. And it’s no surprise — with mobile marketing spend increasing and smartphone adoption on the rise, you want to know if it’s time to invest in this mobile marketing tactic. The result?  More and more clients have come to me and said, "I'm working on my QR Code strategy, and . . ."

But in order to answer the questions that come after that statement, I wanted to explore and explain the actual benefits of this tactic (potentially huge), and the actual adoption today (still pretty low).  Here are some of the high-level findings from my research to help you de-code bar codes:

·         2D bar codes have a lot of marketing potential. They can be placed anywhere — allowing you to reach your audience at all stages of the consumer life cycle with targeted information. And they do it efficiently: they connect people with additional content immediately through a scan, require little consumer effort, and can leverage  context to provide more targeted and useful information in the moment.

·         But, consumers aren’t scanning away today. While marketers and companies are starting to dive-in, most consumers aren’t — yet. Adoption increased from 1% last year to 5% this year, and among smartphone owners, penetration is at about 15%. Why isn’t it higher? Because of basic unfamiliarity of what these codes even do, the required step of downloading a 2D bar code reader, and most importantly for marketers to note: disappointing experiences and content.

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It's Time To Start Thinking About Social Media Training

Over the past several months, I’ve been hearing a lot of clients say they’re ready for the next step in social media. Many marketers —probably most of you reading this post — have already established your initial social footprints and are ready to move on to the next phase of social media maturity. But as my colleague Sean Corcoran’s social maturity curve shows, the further along you move, the more people you need to involve to keep your social trains running — and that introduces more risk.

One of the most important ways marketers are avoiding problems as more colleagues start participating in social programs is to spearhead training programs in their companies.  My latest research explores the spectrum of these training programs, which ranges from casual all the way through formal certification. 

You can see from this chart that training programs are developed across four dimensions: content, delivery, participants, and measurement. The programs don’t always fall firmly and neatly into one level of difficulty across all these segments. Rather, training evolves as the company’s commitment to social media evolves, moving through formats till formalization is achieved. Usually:

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What Makes A Community Successful?

Anyone who follows my research knows that community management is one of my favorite topics. As I speak with marketers about their branded community efforts, the questions that come up most frequently are, “How do I know when my community is 'good?'" and “How many members do I need for my community to be successful?” Interestingly, these are the same questions people would ask me when I was a community manager, before I came to Forrester. Since these questions are clearly on a lot of people’s minds, I set out to answer them — analyst-style.

For my latest report, Community Benchmarking Metrics, I surveyed marketers with branded communities to try to nail down some standard measures of success. What I found was:

  • Standards come in the form of percentages, not hard numbers. For example, in communities that perform on par with averages, 8-12% of the unique visitors to the brand’s main website will visit the community. Of those community visitors, 4-6% will convert to become community members.
  • “Average” performance is consistent across communities of different types, from different industries, and with different goals. 
  •  To achieve typical results, community owners need to go back to basics: Make the community visible and don’t forget to promote it.
  • There are a few things marketers can do to beat the averages. My favorite: have at least one full-time community manager.
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How I'm Using Google+ (Hint: It's About Relevance)

If you were to glance at my Google+ profile, you’d probably think I’m practically inactive. But what you’re seeing is the public view of a very targeted set of actions, based on relevance.

I like to have different kinds of conversations with different people, so when I share content it’s with circles that designate not only relationship but topics too, and Google+ makes it really easy for me to be highly relevant in this way. Take, for example, politics. I like to talk about it, but I’m rarely interested in fighting, so when I share a politically focused news article, it’s not enough to be in my Friends circle. To see it, you have to be in my Friends-Politics circle, where I’ve included people who I know I’ll have an interesting conversation with that won’t result in insults and multiple exclamation points. 

There is one thing missing if relevance is an aim of the platform. As of today, my relevance-based circles only apply to what I share with others. What would be especially helpful would be a way to limit the content I see from others in that circle to the topic I’ve assigned it. For example, I’m following Christian Oestlien, one of the Google+ product managers, specifically for updates about Google+. So while the YouTube music videos and Onion articles he posts are probably funny, I can’t say I’m particularly interested in seeing them from him. Now, if one of the people in my Friends-Hilarious circle posted them, that’s another story . . ..

So what are the implications for brands?

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How Are You Using Social Marketing Management Tools?

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.
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