We work with a lot of different types of marketers at Forrester, and we always customize the recommendations we deliver to different clients based upon their unique situations and needs. But over the past few years there's one piece of advice I've found myself giving nearly every company I work with: "Hire a listening vendor."
I love listening platforms and the social data they create; it's a powerful source of information that, used correctly, can make marketers and their programs more effective. But not enough marketers are taking advantage of these benefits.
Develop your messaging. If you want to create messages that resonate with your audience, you need to know what they care about. Many of our past Forrester Groundswell Award winners have used private listening communities to craft their marketing messages; increasingly, we're seeing companies use data from public social media to guide their messaging as well.
Source your creative. We know that consumers trust what they hear from other consumers more than any other source of information -- why not use listening platforms to identify positive social content that can be included in campaign creative? I've even seen a UK bank, First Direct, use social sentiment data in an outdoor advertising campaign.
For the past five years, we've been running the Forrester Groundswell Awards to recognize the companies that do the best job using social media -- and last year we added an international category for the first time. We were thrilled to recognize some fantastic international social media programs in 2010 -- from companies who both used social technologies in an innovative way and were able to show how their social programs helped build brand awareness, develop new products and services, or generate leads and sales -- and I'm excited to see the entries we receive for 2011.
If you think you (or your clients) have used social media exceptionally well in the past year, and the program was targeted to consumers outside the US, we'd love to see your entry. Feel free to browse the rules here and to submit your entry here -- just remember our deadline is August 3rd. So get busy with those entries -- and good luck!
You'll have to forgive Facebook if they woke up this morning thinking the sky was falling; if they were subject to the same avalanche of news, comments, and questions about Google+ as the rest of us were for these last 24 hours, it'll seem like they've already been condemned to the social media scrapheap. And in case Facebook needed any reminder of how quickly social networking pioneers can fall, Google+ was launched on the same day MySpace, once supposedly valued at $12 billion, was sold for just $35 million to an ad network.
As my colleague Josh Bernoff points out, however, it's a bit too early to write Facebook's obituary. First, we have to consider the fact that Google hasn't exactly lit the social world on fire in the past: Google Buzz was largely ignored, Google Wave was largely ridiculed, and even Orkut may be starting to lose its famous lead in Brazil. Then there's the fact that Google+'s key feature — the ability to organize your friends into "circles" and share certain content only with certain circles — isn't exactly new: Facebook already offers "lists" that let you target which content is seen by which friends.
A couple months ago I talked about the reasons interactive marketing is ready to lead your brand -- namely, that it offers scale that can compete with any other channel, it provides more depth than any other channel, it’s more trusted by consumers than any other marketing channel, and it provides marketers a richer storytelling palette than any other channel.
The logical next question is: If interactive is ready to take the lead, how do we make that happen? A lot of people think budget is the answer; they say if we simply push more spending online we’ll have a better chance to leverage interactive tools. But I’m not fixated just on budget, for two reasons. First, more than 70% of marketers are already taking budget out of traditional channels to fund new interactive spending -- so this budget shift is already under way. But second, and much more importantly, is the fact that simply pouring more money into interactive tools won't fix the flaws in how companies develop their marketing programs.
For me, leading your brand with interactive marketing isn’t about choosing one channel over another; it's about rethinking how all our marketing channels work together. The way we "coordinate" our marketing channels right now is broken: Even today, most marketers develop their TV ads first and then hand them to the interactive team and hope they can build a site or a banner campaign that matches. As we've all seen, this rarely works well.
Our London-based Interactive Marketing Research Associate James McDavid chimes in with this great tale of how listening to and embracing your fans in social media can create powerful word-of-mouth marketing:
As every dance music aficionado knows, Miami is the place to be every March as it hosts the Winter Music Conference (WMC), an event that brings together leading lights from the industry to party, share records, and make fun of Paris Hilton. So when Dutch airline KLM announced they'd be launching a new route between Amsterdam and Miami at the end of March 2011, a couple of Dutch DJs tweeted KLM to see if the airline could move the flight forward a week to coincide with the WMC. The DJs claimed that they could fill a flight from Amsterdam to Miami solely with revelers and ravers. KLM, seeing a great opportunity to show off their social savvy, offered the DJs a challenge — if they could get 150 people to register in seven days, then KLM would move the inaugural flight forward — and, as a bonus, let the DJs spin some records in the cabin.
Brand marketers don’t spend much online. It’s been a long-time frustration for me, but it’s undeniably true: According to our most recent interactive marketing forecast, marketers in brand categories spend less than half as much of their marketing budgets online as marketers in direct response categories. Brand marketers also continue to spend a huge portion of their marketing budgets on TV.
I’ll be honest: Five or 10 years ago, this made sense. Although lot of us were shouting from the rooftops back in 2000 about the scale and power of the Internet, the truth is back then its scale and power were relatively limited. The majority of the population still wasn’t online, Internet usage averaged only a few hours per week, and the brand stories we could tell online were constrained by both tiny banner ads (anyone remember "half banners"?) and tiny bandwidth (broadband access, and with it online video and other rich creative, was years away from the mainstream).
In that environment, it made sense that TV was by far marketers’ most important channel for building brand. After all, it offered brand marketers by far the largest media opportunity (more total users, and way more total hours, than any other media channel) and by far the richest brand impact of any platform. Marketers would have had little choice even if they wanted it: 30-second TV spots were the be-all and end-all of how they explained the meaning of the brands, and all other channels — online, radio, print, outdoor, and everything else — were simply a chance to reinforce the messaging in the TV spots.
But the conditions that made TV the de facto heart of our brand messaging no longer exist. Today, interactive marketing is ready to lead your brand campaigns, for four key reasons:
I've been talking a lot lately about how to build great digital branding programs, and it's gotten me thinking about the best ones I've ever seen. Remember the Ford Explorer home page takeover on Yahoo from years ago, that actually shook the browser window as the truck drove across the screen? (It's so old I can't even find a screen shot of it online.) Apple reprised the idea for an iPod program about 18 months ago — as have many others — but the Ford one was both more amazing (I mean, the browser shook) and one of the first that really got people talking. It was incredibly bold in its creative execution but also in its media buy (while there's nothing special about buying home page advertising on the then-biggest website, just think about the monetary bet they put on that buy! It must've cost a fortune).
The Audi program that won a Forrester Groundswell Award last year was fantastic too — using a combination of online content and social media to raise awareness of the automaker's new A1 model. Why? It gave users a customized impression of the new brand (by letting them customize the car) and it was intelligently distributed through a huge number of social channels.
The Groundswell is now global. Social media has entered the mainstream in every single market Forrester regularly surveys — and in most of those markets, social media use is at 75% or higher. Australian, Japanese and Italian online users all show stronger adoption of social media than Americans do – and Chinese, Dutch and Swedish users have nearly pulled level with the Americans. And in 2010 Facebook reported that more than 70% of its active users were outside the US, while Twitter said more than 60% of its accounts come from outside the US.
The simple fact is that if your company has a social media program, that program is global — whether you want it to be or not. And this isn’t just a nuisance or a language issue. Failing to recognize the global nature of your social programs means you might be telling foreign users about products that aren’t available in their countries (for instance, Toyota UK reached more than 100 million people with a fantastic blogger outreach program for its iQ model; but it turns out that more than 95% of those people live in countries where the iQ isn’t for sale). Or you may be advertising discounts and promotions to which many users don’t have access (for instance, while Amazon’s Facebook page promoted a special price of $89 for the Kindle last November, a Kindle cost almost twice as much in the UK — and wasn’t available at all in most other markets). If you work in a regulated industry like financial services or pharmaceuticals, you risk running afoul of government regulators.
But saying that raises the question: If the number of fans or followers you have doesn’t tell us whether you’ve succeeded as a company, then what does it tell you? And if your CEO shouldn’t be worried about the number of wall posts you’ve generated, then who should be paying attention to this number?
Since last summer, I’ve been using a structured model to help my clients focus on delivering the right social media marketing data to various stakeholders inside their organization. Social media programs throw off so much data that the key to measuring and managing your programs well is focusing each stakeholder on just the pieces of data that are relevant to helping them do their jobs. If part of your job is measuring the success of your social media marketing programs, then you need to start segmenting the stakeholder groups you’re providing that data to and tailoring the type of metrics, the volume of metrics, and the frequency of reporting you provide them.
This quarter I'll be writing a report on the rise of the digital brand -- focused on how interactive tools have changed the ways in which we convey the meaning of our brand to our customers, and how smart marketers can react to (and even take advantage of) those changes. I'm at the early stages of my research, and I'd love the community's help in shaping the direction of this report.