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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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:

Read more

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.
Read more

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.
Read more

Now Accepting Entries: The 2015 Forrester Groundswell Awards

Every year since 2007, Forrester has recognized the very best social marketing programs from around the world — and I’m thrilled to announce we’re now accepting entries for the ninth annual Forrester Groundswell Awards.

The rules are simple: Entries should represent the effective use of social technologies to advance an organizational goal. The more data you can offer to prove this, the better your chances of winning. You can enter using our online form. If you win, you get a nice shiny trophy,a winner's badge for your website, and lots of recognition from Forrester. (For much more information on rules, guidelines, and award categories, click here.)

Read more

Want More Social Marketing Budget? Stop Measuring Social Engagement

Every week I get calls from Forrester clients asking how they can measure engagement on Facebook and Twitter. And every time, I tell these marketers the same thing: You must stop measuring social engagement.

I understand that it’s hard to measure social success: Marketers tell us measurement is their single biggest social challenge. And I know that tracking engagement feels like an easy option. But the simple fact is, engagement is not a useful social marketing success metric.

We’ve spoken with scores of social vendors who measure engagement, and none has proven if — or how strongly — engagement correlates to business success metrics like loyalty or sales. Even Facebook itself says engagement doesn’t prove success: In its marketing collateral, Facebook warns that engagement metrics are “not a reliable indicator” of whether social marketing improved your business.

Some say that engagement matters because when people like or share your posts, they reach a broader audience. And your social posts’ reach will go up slightly if people engage. But engagement can’t overcome declining organic reach. Brands’ Facebook reach is already low, and heading lower still. And data from Socialbakers shows that even the Facebook posts that receive the highest level of engagement still get 99% of their reach from paid, not organic, impressions.

Read more

Facebook Has Finally Killed Organic Reach. What Should Marketers Do Next?

After years of pushing brands’ reach lower with one hand (and opening marketers’ wallets with the other) Facebook has finally announced the end of organic social marketing on its site.

In a Friday night blog post the social giant warned brands that “Beginning in January 2015, people will see less of this type of content [promotional page posts] in their News Feeds,” and admitted that brands that post promotional content “will see a significant decrease in distribution.”

It’s not as if marketers could count on much organic reach or engagement anyway. Ogilvy reported that in February 2014 large brands’ Facebook posts reached just 2% of their fans (a number that was falling by .5% per month). And earlier this year a Forrester study showed that on average, only .07% of top brands’ Facebook fans interact with each of their posts. But Facebook’s latest announcement will certainly make matters worse.

What should marketers do now? Today we published a report called “Social Relationship Strategies That Work” that details several options. Two of the most important things brands can do are:

Read more