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Friday, October 8, 2010

Stages of Social Media Adoption

I was having a conversation with Peter Kim the other day and we were talking about how it doesn't seem like people are talking about social media as much as they used to. Is it possible that we've left the echo chamber?

As I was thinking about this, I wondered if there was a model for the phases people go through in their social media conversations. This is what I would propose to show how people progress as they use social media platforms.

1. Awareness

This is when someone has initially heard about a new social platform. They may talk about it with their friends or read what people are saying about it on a different platform. It's unlikely they've tried using the platform yet; they may even go as far as to claim they won't use it.

2. Discovery
After someone has joined a social network, they start to feel out how to use it, connect with other people, get down the 101 basics for the platform. They also start to look for influencers on the service, the people that have already forged a path.

This is also the phase that people are likely to abandon a particular platform if they don't feel they're able to 'figure it out.' 

3. Sharing
This is the phase when people start to publish content about the platform. As they have learned the 101 lessons, or started to get their own insights, they want to share with other people how to get into the platform. This stage does reinforce people's use of the platform but can also create the echo chamber effect where original content gets drowned out.

At this phase, people are still talking with their friends or other people interested in the platform. This tends to drive the topics of conversation towards mutually shared interests -- typically social media -- rather than content about their business. In fact, people that skip this step and just start broadcasting all about themselves are usually ignored.

4. Use Case
For me, this is the threshold that indicates long-term adoption of a platform. When someone understands how they can use the platform effectively for their personal or business purposes. They stop spending so much time talking about the platform, or sharing the 101 tips, and begin to use it for the reasons that make sense for them.

This is also why it is difficult to find (or create) social media content that moves beyond a 101-level. Once you start looking at deeper use cases for a social media platform, it becomes specific to the needs of your business. That is hard to translate into general practices that other people can follow.
At this stage, people have figured out where the money is and they are going for it.

I would say that most people who have incorporated social media into their professional role, and have been doing so for a while, are more likely to be in this phase, and for those of us connected with other social media professionals, this may account for why we aren't seeing as much content being published about the platforms. We have figured them out and are using them for business now.

5. Integration
Once someone is familiar and comfortable with the tools, it starts to get integrated into their other social platforms. I don't just mean cross-posting, but really creating a value network for their own business that allows their customers to find consistent messages, response, and personality across different social media platforms. 

This is happening quicker on a personal level where people manage their own 'brand' across all the platforms, but I believe that we are starting to see - and will continue to see - this happen with brands. Smart brands are looking for how they can take the successes from each social media initiative and use them to improve their presence elsewhere. The lessons don't translate directly from platform to platform, but the power of working cohesively across social media channels is the next frontier in social business.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Making Excuses - For the Right Reasons

I had a very positive experience this week with Apple. Let me relate the story.

The backlight on my iPod Touch went out and I'd been meaning to get it checked for about a month. I finally took it into the Apple store to ask if there was anything to be done. As I was passing it over to the Apple Genius, he dropped it about 4 inches to the table we were standing by.

He checked out the iPod, cleaned out the connection area, basically tried the simple things to see if it could be coaxed back into working. When this failed, he said he'd check what it would cost to replace. He came back with a quote that was more than I really wanted to spend, and he recognized it before even giving me the number.

So he said that he needed to check in the back again. When he came out he told me that because he had dropped it, they would replace it for me at no charge. In essence, he found an excuse to provide me with over-the-top customer service. This was more than I had hoped for and expressed how thankful I was for that.

They didn't have any in-stock yesterday, so he took my number to call me when it arrived. I got that call today. And I'm now in the process of re-downloading everything to my new iPod.

Sometimes you do want your customer service reps to find excuses, just make sure they're looking in the right direction when they do. I will definitely be going back to Apple for the next shiny new device that they come out with.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kelly Stonebock Interview

I had the chance to grab a quick video from my friend Kelly Stonebock a little while ago. She shares her experience coming to Austin and getting involved in Twitter.


And, if you haven't read her blog, it's got a great voice. Try it, you'll like it.



As someone who has found a job through Twitter, I can agree with the power of networking that she's talking about.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Interview with Bryan Person

I had the chance to sit down with my friend Bryan Person a little while ago and ambushed him with my Flip cam to answer one question about social media marketing.


He handled it without hesitation and had this advice about using facebook as a marketing channel.



I want to expand just a little on his point about consistency.

Consistent publishing is a challenge because it requires dedication after the 'honeymoon' phase of kicking off a new social media project. After you've gotten approval to launch a new channel, it's very exciting, and you want to prove that it's going to be effective. The motivation to produce content is high -- and because it's a high priority the time to produce it is easier to block out.

But once you've proved that it works, or you've built a decent community base, then other priorities start creeping back in. The channel becomes another project to manage among multiple priorities and it's easy rationalize scaling back on content creation.

What you should keep in mind is that content creation is a self-feeding cycle.

When you are producing, your community is going to remain more engaged. They will be more likely to add their own input, generate additional content, and share what you have created. You are then able to build on what the community is doing with more of your own content.

On the other hand, when you slow down your publishing schedule, the community expects less from you, they become less engaged. Your metrics start to dip, which may raise internal questions about the value to spending time on the channel. At it's extreme, this leads to abandoned pages, leaving a constant reminder that you've given up on it.

How can you maintain your publishing consistency?

1. Create an editorial calendar. Even if you just have a list of topics that you want to cover during the month, a sense of direction will help you stay motivated.
2. Read other people's work. The ability to comment on, or make a short post with a link, to news, entertainment, or other opinions can be an easy way to keep content flowing.
3. Cross-post from other channels. If you've got events happening, or are posting to other social media channels, find ways to re-use that content. It helps you extend your reach and reduces the volume of new content you have to produce.

What are you doing to keep up your consistency?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Building the Right Fences Between Marketing and Sales

Good fences make good neighbors
Traditional wisdom stands up because it's proved over time. In the case of this quote, it conveys the significance of setting clear boundaries and knowing how to respect those boundaries.

This is often a challenge for Sales and Marketing teams. Neither wants to give up control over the fruits of their labors but each has expectations of what the other will do when leads or prospects are "passed over the fence" so to speak.

This post is going to talk about the theoretical boundaries and then how to implement real fences. Both pieces are important and many companies get through the first step. Let's start with that, see what it looks like and if you can see why it's not enough.

A couple of specific criteria that Sales and Marketing should define are:
  1. What triggers a lead passing from Sales to Marketing (MQL)
  2. What actions must Sales take with every accepted lead (SAL)
  3. What triggers a stalled lead passing back to Marketing (Lead Nurturing)
  4. Who decides which current Prospects to include in Marketing campaigns
  5. How can Sales remove Leads or Prospects from Marketing campaigns
Once you have those, or other definitions that make sense for your business, you need to build fences. Fences means you remove ambiguity from your database about who owns what and what actions can be taken.

I'm going to use Salesforce.com for my next set of examples because it's what I'm most familiar with.
  • Lead Owner -- The Lead Owner should be assigned to show who will primarily will be interacting with the person.
  • Lead Status -- Each value should be "owned" by one team or the other. There should be clear reasons when a lead status should change, and who is responsible for doing it.
  • Lead Score -- If you are scoring your leads, make sure you can act when a score reaches your defined thresholds. Who takes ownership and what is the next specific Touch that needs to happen to these leads
  • Opportunity Stage -- Marketing doesn't typically contact "Open" opportunities on which the salesperson is actively working. However, for Stalled opportunities that would make good candidates for nurturing, marketing should help retain and re-activate these prospects.
  • Customer by Segment -- Once a customer has purchased, the relationship likely changes again. By setting up some clear marketing tracks around segments you can define and mark in your database, you can help your existing customers learn more about other products, upcoming events, and other opportunities to continue interacting with your company.
So, as a marketer, how do you know if you've got good fences? An easy litmus test is if you have to get your lists approved by Sales, 0r if you send them a list, and they return it with "Include/Exclude these...", then you have not built good enough fences. Giving each team responsibility for keeping their own data clean will make it easier for both sides to work together.

How are your fences? And what can you do to make them better?


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why ROI Matters to Marketing

Marketing can be seen as either a cost-center or a revenue-generator.

Which makes tracking the return from our marketing efforts of utmost importance. You are integral in the perception of your organization towards marketing.

In a recent position, I was the first full-time marketing hire for the company, and one of my primary tasks was to step up demand generation. After a few months, I had successfully increased the size of our database and had a decent response rate to our campaigns.

But, looking ahead, I could see that executing lead gen activities wasn't going to be my objective. The sales team was going to look at how many opportunities they got out of the leads, how many deals they got from those opportunities.

If I kept my focus on putting new leads into the top of the funnel, I'm wasn't going to be aligned with the rest of the organization.


That was when I started tracking the metrics that Sales was going to be looking at - Opportunities they worked on that came from Marketing Leads, and percent of new business that was generated by adding a marketer.

How are you looking forward to the metrics that will be important next quarter or next year?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

ProductCamp Austin -- Content Driving Sales Process

The first session that I attended at ProductCamp over the weekend was by Fernando Labastida about using Content to Drive the Sales Process.


Fernando made some excellent points, starting with one that particularly stuck out to me at the beginning of his presentation.

He said that companies should not forget the role of relevant outbound marketing (getting your message into the right hands) or the tenacity of a Sales 1.0 mindset (making judgments about prospects and pursuing those that are most likely to close). The rise of content as a marketing tool, should not derail the objectives of marketing and sales.

The second point that was about creating a "buzz piece" of content. This is a piece that requires more effort, goes deeper on a topic, looks at a serious industry problem, or produces new research. When you have put in the time and work on a buzz piece, it becomes a foundation for your content strategy.

With this foundational piece, you have something that can easily be distributed by other people. It's not an advertisement for your products but content that makes the people sharing it look smart for passing it along. It gives you a piece to break smaller chunks of content out from -- allowing content re-use and enabling you to get the message into channels that might not have worked for the original. And, it builds your credibility simply because of the effort required to produce it.

How are you using content to make a big splash in your space?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On Symbols, Value, and Shared Meaning

The purpose of media is to facilitate communication. The purpose of media is not to deliver messages. That can be done in-person, a slower but effective method. What media does is intermediate - allowing communication to scale, asychronous, repeatable, and add elements like video or audio not possible in-person. Different media channels have taken advantage of different strengths of media. The broadcast model of the 20th century focused on scale but required audiences to consume what was presented to them. This was true for traditional media (print, radio, television) as well as non-traditional sources -- movies, plays, museums. This model distributed content which was then used to star between other people (e.g. think 'water-cooler' conversations). Social media, in contrast, lowers the barrier of intermediation because it focuses on enabling person-to-person communications. (Because the tools are flexible, it can also be used similar to broadcast media but the consumer landscape has changed enough to make this less effective.)

Social media is also different from other media channels in a distinct way -- distributed, near-real-time interaction. This creates an immediate feedback loop, allowing not only for instant reaction to content but active audience participation in creating the direction of future content. The purpose of social media is to facilitate communication. Trying to adapt the tactics of broadcast media tools simply cannot be successful. We must bring a fresh set of eyes and learn anew how to use these media effectively.

On Symbols

The point has been argued that we are not able to distinguish the symbol from the thing the symbol represents. I agree with the argument and would add Social Media to the list of places we confuse the symbol and the meaning. As I mentioned above, the purpose of social media is to facilitate communication. This is a deliberately broad meaning because the diversity of social media allows for significantly different kinds of communications to take place. The most common symbol in social media is a connection -- often called following or friending. These connections (the symbols) signify both parties willingness to communicate with each other (the meaning).

What frequently happens in social media is that the symbol (the connection) is seen at the reason for joining a social media network. The number of connections then changes from an expression of how interested they are in listening to and communicating with diverse voices to a symbol of broadcast-era authority based on how widely they can distribute their content. The pursuit of the symbol fails to recognize the value of the meaning behind it.

On Value

The immediacy of the social media feedback loop as well as the volume of connections being made on social networks is leading to a culture that makes snap judgments of unsolicited connections. Social networks are considered to be the potential next step for search, in which the network of connections filters content and helps the searcher arrive at their answer. This is happening with the connections themselves as well, the network acts as a filter. A connection from someone through a shared network is more likely to be accepted than a request from someone unknown.

The way to gain acceptance in these networks is to look past the symbol (the connection) and begin with an understanding of the value you can you offer to create meaning. The ethos of sharing in social media requires all participants to have some value they can add to the communication. The definition of the value is co-created by the connected parties but requires each participant to join prepared to share what they consider to be of value. This often takes the form of information but it can also be notifications -- as pointers to information or to transactions.

By considering the value that can be added to a social media channel, the participant is forced to look past the symbol of being connected and into the meaning of how they can facilitate communication.

On Shared Meaning

Related to the immediacy of feedback through social media channels is the concept of 'shared meaning.' I feel this term is more accurate than 'relationship' because not everyone wants to join a toothpaste community. In some cases, the need for close, personal connections is neither necessary nor desirable. Rather, the connected parties co-create a space in which they are able to provide value in a way that is meaningful in that context. Again, this is one of the strengths, and differentiators, of social media -- successful experiences are created by both the producer and consumer of content. Where in a broadcast model, the producer of content would look at measures of consumption and make assumptions about what the audience is willing to accept, under a social media model the consumers are much more likely to state their preferences directly.

The greatest challenge facing participants in social media -- especially as social networks include more company/consumer connections -- is tempering the desire to push one sides desired meaning onto the other. The mantra of "Listen First" is not a platitude; listening intently to the other participants in social media helps you understand what value they have to offer and where they are looking for added value. The strongest ties are created when shared meaning is truly co-created by the community. And when a community reaches this point, people can remain active for years.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sustainable Content Strategy

Content creation has exploded. The ability for anyone and everyone to generate their own blogs, videos, podcasts, pictures, articles or conferences has given rise to a culture of creation that is constantly pushing out some new piece of content.


Content has also been a driving force behind marketing as a way to get more involved with social media, drive inbound marketing, or add depth to their corporate website. But, companies are facing ever-increasing competition around content.

A content strategy enables a company to rise above the crowded marketplace of ideas and make an impact. There are three main areas companies should pay attention to when creating their content strategy.

Context

Readers are not interested in your content. Content is readily available. What they do care about is the context you can provide for them around the topics that interest them.

Companies are well suited for providing context because the collection of people in the organization provide a bigger picture of what is happening in the space. The ability to look at trends, offer insight into upcoming changes, or give readers enough information to act on something immediate will establish a company as a reliable source.

Developing context does require effort. It requires a strong internal moderator who can look across different departments to synthesize information and keep the voice of the organization consistent.

Once that credibility is established, readers are more likely to continue consuming your content and engaging when they want to know more from you.

Accessibility

Many content creation platforms default a chronological organization scheme and rely on search engines to determine the relevance of that content based on user keywords. That is not a strategy, that is abdicating responsibility for understanding your audience.

One benefit of being a company, rather than an individual content creator, is that you have products or services for specific, defined markets. You know the types of people you want to keep interested after they've found your content. Creating entry-points based on customer profiles will lead to more time spent on your site and a more engaged audience.

Entry-points into your content do not have to be complicated. A simple way to start is bundling content assets that related to a topic or theme and presenting the reader with a quick way to access them. A reader that finds an area with multiple pieces of content that are relevant to their needs is less likely to leave and head back to a search engine.

Re-Use

Content completed should not be content ignored. Content should be used throughout the buying cycle and companies should be taking a proactive position in getting it into the hands of their audiences.

Re-using content is built on the foundation of your audience profiles. When you have provided someone with an easy access point, and they reach out for more information -- either through a web-form or some other mechanism -- you should have in place a clear content path that you can provide. Re-packaging existing content to be delivered at an appropriate time, and prompt the next desired action, extends the usefulness of your content assets.

This area is one that many companies are lacking as part of their content strategy, yet it has proven to be one of the most effective tools in lifting rates of prospect conversion, reactivating stalled leads, and maintaining positive customer relationships.

Conclusion

Content marketing will continue to succeed for companies that understand how to position themselves and their content towards the needs of their audiences. With a clear strategy and consistent effort, the goal of improved content is well within reach.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Know Who You Are Writing For

I listened to a webinar recently by Bulldog Solutions about building buyer personae. This was a service they were rolling out when I worked there, and I wanted to see how it had evolved over the last year. It looks like they've made great strides with their tool.

My biggest take-away was the challenge companies face in selecting specific audiences to address in their marketing. It's very easy for companies to want public-facing information to be applicable to any reader. The downside to this approach is that the content must be so broadly understandable that it loses it's impact.

The buyer persona becomes valuable in directing your content development is knowing which audience you want looking at your content. When you've determined the right audience then you can provide information that is meaningful.

With a clear sense of audience, your content can then focus on:

  1. Specifics -- What does your reader need to learn from your content?
  2. Motivation -- How does the content move your reader further down the sales funnel?
  3. Call to Action -- How can your reader to take the next step?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Man's Search for Meaning

Alternate title I considered "John's Search for Work"

As I prepare for myself to look for new career opportunities, I'm grateful to friends that have already helped me refine how I should be searching and what I'm actually looking for.


To that end, I'm going to post here the three short bullet points about what I'm looking for in my next opportunity.
  • Company - I'm looking for a company that has established itself but remains agile enough to execute new ideas -- ideally between 150-2,000 employees.
  • Department - With 8 years of experience in communications and marketing, I'm looking for a position in a marketing or social media department.
  • Role - My passion as a marketer lies in content development. Creating valuable content starts with a clear understanding of audience, requires skillful execution, and ends with measuring results. I have experience across this entire cycle.
For more information about me, please view my LinkedIn profile or contact me at jljohansen at gmail dot com.