Marketers: How Do You Use Word of Mouth?

I'm really excited to be a keynoting the WOMMA Summit in Miami this November. It's going to be a great event, including speakers from Comedy Central, Nissan, Twitter, Google and more -- and I'm glad to be part of it.

But to do a great keynote, I need to ask for your help: I'm working with WOMMA to generate fresh survey data for this event. If you're a brand-side marketer whose company uses word of mouth marketing, could you take a few minutes to complete our survey? It won't take long -- and to thank you for your time, we'll be sure to send you a copy of the aggregated data.

Thanks for your help -- and see you in Miami.

How Does Your Brand Stack Up On Facebook, Twitter, And Instagram?

Ever wonder how you compare to the top brands in your use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks?

Forrester recently reviewed how the top 50 global brands market on social networks. We evaluated 11.8 million user interactions on 2,489 posts made by 249 branded profiles, and collected tons of great data -- including how many top brands use each social network, how many fans they've collected, how often they post, and how often users interact with their posts. We published our complete findings in our research brief "How Top Brands Are Using Facebook, Twitter, And Instagram" -- but I also wanted to highlight some key findings here.

First, follower counts for the big global brands have skyrocketed in the past year. Top brands now average 18.1 million Facebook fans each -- more than double their average in 2014. Their average number of Instagram followers is now over 1 million -- almost five times higher than last year. Follower counts have nearly doubled on Twitter and Google+ as well.

Second, marketers are posting more often than in pervious years. Top brands now post 18.3 times per week on Twitter and 6.5 times per week on Facebook -- both slight increases over 2014. They post 4.9 times per week on Instagram, an increase of more than 50% over last year.


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Social Marketers: Give Away Your Ad Budget

Social marketers have worked for years to justify ad budgets—and that effort is finally paying off. But if you’re a social marketer, and you want your social advertising to succeed, you’d be better off giving that money to your media buying team instead.

We recently surveyed 173 of the most avid social marketers in the world and found that the large majority are buying ads on social sites like Facebook and Twitter. More than two-thirds said they would increase their social ad budget this year. And in most cases, they told us the social team or social agency was responsible for this social ad spending.

But it turns out social teams aren’t very good at spending social ad dollars. Sure, social practitioners claim they’re as good as media buyers at getting value from Facebook ads — a claim few can back up — but even the social marketers themselves they admit to lagging far behind their media-buying peers on other sites.

When social teams run the social ad budget, just 59% of marketers say they get value from Twitter ads; when media teams are in charge, Twitter delivers results 79% of the time. Likewise, social teams only get value from YouTube ads 64% of the time; media teams find success on YouTube 80% of the time.

Media Teams Spend Social Ad Budgets More Effectively

So what should you do with your social ad budget? Take a lesson from some of the most successful social advertisers and give almost all of your social ad dollars to the media team, rather than to the social team:

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Twitter product pages are a mediocre idea, but a fantastic sign of progress

Twitter's had a busy few days. Last Thursday, the company opened up about Project Lightning, a new feature that'll make it easier for users to follow live events like the NHL Stanely Cup Finals. And Friday, Twitter announced two more new features: product pages and place pages will collect people's tweets about, well, products and places; and product and place collections will allow people to curate lists of their favorite products and places. 

It's fantastic to see Twitter innovating. These announcements mean the company has now launched more new features in the past nine days than it had in the previous nine years — and that'll be important if they're going to get back on track. And Project Lightning looks like a great idea. Twitter created an event-specific experience for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and credited that experiment with a boost in usage. Offering similar experiences for other events makes a lot of sense, and should bring more people to the site more often. 

But product-focused pages are unlikely to be the company's savior. According to our Forrester Technograhpics survey data, US online adults are more than four times more likely to research products on a search engine than on a product's social media page. And they're more than three times more likely to do research on a brand or manufacturer web site than on a product's social page.

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Calling All Word of Mouth Vendors

Word of mouth isn’t just one of marketers’ favorite social tactics, it’s one of the most effective as well. But many word of mouth marketers still simply post content online and hope it'll spread — and this "post and pray" method rarely works. Forrester believes the real key to generating word of mouth is identifying people to speak on brands’ behalf and then motivating those advocates and influencers to action.

To help marketers create more successful word of mouth programs, Forrester is planning a Market Overview report that details which vendorsoffer Word of Mouth Platforms and what specific WOM technologies these vendors offer. Forrester defines Word of Mouth Platforms as “technologies that help brands identify customer advocates, employee advocates, and category influencers, and then activate those advocates and influencers to share messages on the brands’ behalf.”

If you’d like to be considered for this report, please email me at nelliott at forrester dot com, and we'll send you a questionnaire.

Our Forrester Wave On Social Relationship Platforms, And The Case For Social Automation

Today we released an update to our Forrester Wave™ on social relationship platforms. Forrester defines social relationship platforms as technologies that help marketers publish organic posts to social networks as well as monitor and respond to customer posts on social networks.

We identified the 11 most significant vendors in the category — Adobe, Expion, Falcon Social, Hootsuite, Oracle, Percolate, Salesforce, Shoutlet, Spredfast, Sprinklr, and Sprout Social— and researched them, analyzed them, and scored them on 41 criteria. Clients can find the full report, including some very detailed product reviews and scores, here.

One of the things we looked for in our evaluation was vendors’ ability to automate key SRP functions. We know — automation remains a dirty word in social media. No brand wants to repeat the automation-driven mistakes of Coca-Cola or Bank of America. But marketers say one of their top social challenges is hiring and training enough qualified staff. In this environment, the greatest value that social relationship platforms can offer their clients is lightening their workload.

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Winners Of The 2015 Forrester Groundswell Awards

A few moments ago at Forrester's Forum for Marketing Leaders in New York, I announced the winners of the 2015 Forrester Groundswell Awards. Believe it or not, this is now the ninth edition of our awards — and it was one of our most competitive years yet. As always, the awards were based on Forrester’s Marketing RaDaR model and the way social programs can support the Marketing RaDaR. That means we presented awards in three categories:

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Two Weeks Left To Enter The 2015 Forrester Groundswell Awards!

You deserve to be recognized for the great work you do in social -- but there's not much time left! 

We're now accepting entries for the 2015 Forrester Groundswell Awards, and we'd love a chance to recgonize your social programs for their excellence. The deadline for entries this year is February 20, and we're once again accepting entries in both B2C and B2B marketing categories. Entry is free, and winners will be invited to accept their trophies in person at the Forrester Marketing Leadership Forum in April.

For more details, check out our FAQ and our entry form. We look forward to seeing your entries by February 20!

How To Win A Forrester Groundswell Award For Social Reach Marketing

We’re now accepting entries for the 2015 Forrester Groundswell Awards. This is our chance to recognize the very best social marketing programs from the past year, and we’d love to give an award to you for your best work. Our deadline for entries is February 20, 2015.

My favorite category is Social Reach Marketing — where we celebrate the best word-of-mouth and social advertising programs. If you used social media to reach new audiences and generated awareness, this is the category for you.

So what’s the key to winning a Forrester Groundswell Award for Social Reach Marketing? It’s not just a question of whether your word-of-mouth program or your social ads reached lots of people — you need to prove your efforts had a business impact on the people they reached.

Our 2014 winners in this category offer perfect examples:

  • B2C Social Reach winner Morningstar Farms increased favorability, trial, and intent to purchase. MorningStar Farms wanted to introduce its meat-free products to new audiences — a classic use case for social reach marketing. So they worked with House Party, Inc. to identify 3,000 influencers and sent them a "party pack" so they could host meat-free barbecues for friends and family. The social activity around the barbecues created a further 29 million impressions that reached 10 million people. But this program didn’t win an award just because it had big reach — it won because that big reach moved people closer to the point of purchase. Specifically, the parties themselves generated 128,000 trials of MorningStar Farms products, and the brand saw a 40-point lift in favorability and purchase intent from partygoers.
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The Pinterest Conundrum

I’ve been thinking a lot about Pinterest for the past year. I first planned to write a report about the social upstart last summer. When that deadline passed, I was certain I’d produce something in the autumn. Now here we are in the dead of winter, and at long last today we published our report on how marketing leaders should use Pinterest.

The reason it took so long? Pinterest is confusing. It’s a bundle of contradictions: at once it offers marketers huge potential and huge frustration.

On the one hand, there’s so much opportunity:

  • Pinterest boasts a fantastic audience. In fact, 21% of US online adults visit Pinterest at least monthly — nearly as many as use Twitter and more than use Instagram and Google+. Those users spend freely online, they’re willing to engage with brands in social media, and when they talk about products on Pinterest they drive vast amounts of traffic to brand sites.
  • Pinterest’s data has the potential to drive more sales than Facebook’s data. After all, Facebook users generate mostly affinity data: information about their tastes and preferences, based on their past experience with brands and products, that’s better suited to targeting brand advertising than direct marketing. But Pinterest users don’t only share historical affinities; they share the kind of purchase intent data that’s more commonly seen on search engines like Google. And just as ads targeted with Google’s data generate outstanding direct response, so will ads targeted with Pinterest’s data.
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