360DigitalInfluence

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B2B companies have been utilizing social media in a variety of ways for several years now. I’m no longer hearing B2B marketing and communications people say “should we be using social?”. Today what I’m hearing is “how can we apply a strategy to what we’ve put in place? How can we show that our social media efforts are helping sales and the bottom line?” It is with that bottom line orientation that we started work on an evolved approach to leveraging social media for B2B companies at Ogilvy and within our technology PR practice specially.

Today we launched a new offering called Digital Influence for B2B. Check out our launch announcement. We aren’t new to using social media in B2B environments. What we are saying is that there is ample data and experience now to evolve our thinking and tighten our approach. Specifically:

The B2B buyer journey is starting earlier with prospects utilizing organic search, content and comments of others to influence their consideration lists. (often without the knowledge or help of sales teams). IDG has great customer engagement research that shows just how many pieces of content a prospect wants to consume before they’re ready to talk to sales.

Digital influence for B2B companies ought to be aimed at driving awareness, sales consideration and conversion
and therefore requires an integrated team of specialists in B2B communications, social media and sales enablement.

B2B organizations should be encouraging their employees and ecosystems to engage in social media. B2B decision makers say colleagues are a top source for information influencing purchase decision-making (Forrester) yet many B2B organizations are slow to develop advocacy programs in social media to share the opinions of employees, customers and partners

There’s tremendous opportunity for B2B marketers and communicators (including Tech PR professionals) to consider the ways they can help optimize social media in the B2B environment. Our POV is simply to keep things anchored in the buyer journey and think cross discipline. The collaboration across marketing, sales, and PR has never been more important or valuable.

Pivot logoAt the Pivot Conference #pivotcon these past two days in New York, there has been a great spirit of sharing and learning among social media stakeholders at major brands like Unilever, Gap, American Express, IBM, Bloomberg to name a few, their agencies and the ecosystem of technologies that serve as the backbone and analytics of this discipline. Knowing Pivot is very focused on consumer-facing brands, I was delighted to hear a few good examples from b to b technology companies and technology PR professionals too.

A few themes at the conference have stood out, such as:

  1. It’s about relationships, not megaphones
  2. Authenticity is required, and
  3. Transparency.

Conference speaker Charlene Li of Altimeter Group acknowledged what most in the audience were thinking, that these themes are words that are increasingly thrown about, but she was focused on drilling into what do they really mean in the realm of social media.

Her message: That being online representing your brand, say on Twitter, and responding to consumer concerns is simply not enough anymore. Charlene contends that individuals want brands to know and understand them. That It’s not about technology, its about relationships.

So here is how Charlene suggests brands can prepare to do more than simply respond in social media:

  1. Create a culture of sharing. (Which is difficult when we are conditioned to be secretive in many corporate cultures)
  2. Have the discipline needed to succeed. (For example, create different flow charts for positive and negative comments, thinking through ahead of time various scenarios. Response should not be an ad-hoc process that can walk out the door with an employee)
  3. Prioritize disruptions that matter. (Focus on user experience; your business model; your ecosystem value. What can you do in social to change the flow of value?)
  4. Prepare for failure. (Fail fast, fail smart. Define ahead of time what kind of failures are acceptable, and what the consequences will be)

There has been a great spirit of learning and humility here, acknowledging that nobody has all the answers and that to be successful in social, you need to be prepared to develop sound social strategy, but also amass the drive to champion its adoption and best practices throughout your organization. And I guess that is the point. Your company culture needs to embrace the inherent openness of social in order to be successful in social. How else can a brand be authentic? (Yes, that word again).


Mike Vizard, former editor-in-chief of Infoworld and CRN, former editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise and now entrepreneurial blogger with the IT Business Edge Network, attended CSC’s Technology and Business Solutions Conference in Orlando, Florida, recently, as did I. One evening, CSC hosted a social event by the Hilton Orlando pool and Mike generously gave a couple of hours of his time to talk about the technology industry and the evolving media landscape.

Mike’s blog is called “IT Unmasked” and he definitely unmasked for me some of the mysteries of blogging today. A few of the topics Mike opined on can help all PR professionals:

  • On Exclusives. While important to him in his Infoworld days, they are no longer a high priority. He would like to be pre-briefed on news so he has time to develop his story, but the advantage goes now, not to the first mover, but to those that wait a little. If he waits 48-to-72 hours, he can link to other stories on the same news and improve his search engine optimization.
  • On Video. In the future, all text stories will have a video lead-in, according to Mike. He believes consumers of information will want to watch a short preview video and, based on that experience, decide whether to delve deeper and read the text of a story. PR professionals will need to think about creating and supporting video used in this way.
  • On Infographics. Mike accepts and likes to use infographics and screenshots but for business as much as for journalistic reasons. He likes to deploy three text paragraphs followed by an infographic because it brings the readers’ eyes further down the page, where the ads are. PR professionals will need to think about how to support the success of entrepreneurial bloggers in both the realm of news-gathering and in the realm of business.
  • On Content Distribution. “No one wakes up in the morning looking for IT news and information,” pointed out Mike. Therefore, he gets about half of his traffic from Google searches and a quarter from social networks, primarily LinkedIn and Twitter. He doesn’t see a future in which many readers will download apps of IT media. Search engine optimization is important to his success and he works hard at it. If PR professionals can provide content that helps him with SEO, then it’s a winner. Mike wants to work with PR professionals that link back to his stories through social networks and vendor web sites to help improve the search engine optimization of his blog. He calls this “the new social PR contract.”

Every public presenter today should assume his or her remarks will be tweeted and aim to find just the right words that will succeed with both the audience in the room and the audience on Twitter.  These parallel aims require different skills and, ideally, today’s public presenter prepares to succeed at both.

Recently, I attended CSC’s Technology and Business Solutions Conference in Orlando, Florida.  While there, I listened to half-a-dozen presentations and developed tweets for use by CSC’s social news bureau.  I observed in this time what statements were most “tweetable” and these observations may help you as you plan your next presentation.

My observations don’t make for a comprehensive or final list at all; however, they offer a “sideline perspective” that can help you write your next speech or write one for someone else.

In three days of listening to presentations, I observed that the most “tweetable” remarks from the conference speakers had one or more of the following traits in common:

·         They were declarative.  “We appeal to customers that want more than sidewalk sales of computing capacity.”

·         They were opinionated. “Loyalty cards are buying my business, not my loyalty.” “The greatest enemy of application modernization is legacy thinking and parochialism.”

·         They use colorful analogies. “There’s no pixie dust in the cloud.” “Cloud is a little like legos.”

·         They were short.  “Your data is not enough.” “Climate models are the epitome of big data.”

·         They were surprising.  “All CIO surveys are a waste of time.”

·         They were predictive. “We believe today’s innovations are approaching the levels of the dot-com era.” “I believe hybrid is the way we are going to experience cloud over the next 5 to 10 years.”


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My family travels quite a bit for work and pleasure. This past year has been a particularly busy travel year. While living in and flying often to United hub cities over the past 20 years or so, I became a loyal United flyer pretty early on and our kids have followed suit. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise in 2010 when both of our kids, under the age of 12, made United Premier status. This got me thinking about Kid customer loyalty. Our family can’t be that unique, two traveling parents who take their kids with them a lot. So what does United do uniquely to engender loyalty in a family/household that is 100% loyal? Turns out not much. Sure, the kids collect miles and get free upgrades, just like their parents. But isn’t establishing brand loyalty with kids, preteens in this case, like hitting the jackpot for consumer marketers? The fact that air travel is one of those hard-to-switch categories once you’ve achieved status, makes me wonder why United wouldn’t try to lock in my kids now for life? Would it be so hard to add more kid-friendly CE gadgets to the United miles for gifts options? Or offer them Netflix-like movie usage while in the Red Carpet room?

So what does this have to do with tech PR? The PR profession has always listed ‘customers’ as an obligatory target audience in PR plans, but the truth is we haven’t always had consistent access nor purview with this important audience. With the arrival of technologies like social CRM that invite customers to engage with brands from customer care, innovation and enthusiast perspectives, I’d argue that the PR profession has never been in a better position to help engender brand loyalty. This is a step beyond leveraging social media with customers.

When I think of my family of four traveling over the holidays this year, all of us with Premier and higher status on United, I can’t help but think what a huge lost PR and customer loyalty opportunity that was for United. Not that we were somehow so unique, but more-so that United would want to focus on this Frequent Flyer Family, and do whatever it could to engender and promote it. They knew who was traveling ahead of time, the kids’ ages, and their United status. Why not ask more families like us to blog about it? Check-in as a family at different United Family online locations? Submit a video chronicling what travel is like from a kids’ perspective? Provide service enhancement suggestions? (side note: my kids are way better travelers than a lot of adults I see. They can beat most people’s bin-to-gate time, hands-down.)

So PR peeps, let’s deliver in 2011 on that component of the PR plan that pledges to treat customers like a priority audience. Think beyond the social contest and fan page. Which brands do a good job of engendering loyalty across everyone who lives under the same roof? And United, if you are listening, I am all ears and would love to engage with you as the representative of a very loyal, enthusiastic traveling family.

Recently I gave a talk at SMU (Singapore Management University) on the future of social media and its impact on businesses. Here is a blog post by Michael Netzley on the talk.

In a nutshell, I see 4 key drivers that will shape the way we work: Enterprise 2.0, Mobile, Content and Video, and finally Crowdsourcing. All of them are related in one way or another.

If you think that only 10 years ago we were dealing with Y2K, that Google was just one and a half years old, that we were excited by the first USB flash drive… We can only imagine what’s ahead, in the next 10 years.

FHM Germany replaces website presence in favour of Facebook

 

By the end of July FHM a re-known lifestyle magazine in Germany will dismantle its homepage. Instead, FHM wants to manage its internet activities via a Facebook fan page. “We are where our readers are, on Facebook. Interaction with our readers is our most important focus”, argues a representative of the publication.

 

OK, everybody seems to be on Facebook and of course giving up a homepage in favour of a Facebook page will save some resources and costs. The decision raised some buzz in social media in Germany when marketing experts and social media discussed the pros and cons of becoming dependent to a third party with its own interests, and how this would result in less opportunities in terms of branding, functionality and tracking.

 

What is even more interesting is the fact that FHM sees “no future” for its homepage. Looking at the numbers confirms this view. Only 8.000 users per day visited the page, its Google visibility was relatively poor as were the inbound links. As the old site seemed to have low relevance for the target group it would be interesting to know what makes FHM think that this would change on Facebook.

 

Simply transferring an apparently unsuccessful concept to another platform would not be a very strategic answer and it would not even be very consistent from a financial POV as any budget spent on a concept with low perception would be a poor investment.

 

As social media is not a one-size-fits-all solution the answer to the question of whether a brand should move to Facebook or not is a quite individual one. But the answer is always NO if it is done without a content and engagement strategy that is tailor-made for the new address. And by the way, it’s a myth that success in social media comes for free.


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A company cannot just start a twitter and/or facebook account without having any competences in this field. Well, (technically) it can. But acting in an unfamiliar but public arena generally bears risks and this is especially true for social media. But what if a company does not have the man power – or the know-how – to professionally run a social media campaign? Fortunately, there are PR agencies that offer professional advice.
But when social media is all about transparency and authenticity how can that be handled through an external PR agency? Ok, this seems to be a no-go and could mean the end of all social media activities in the above mentioned case.

But wait – taking a closer look at the issue, there is an approach to outsource major parts of an enterprise’s social media activity without interfering with the social web’s ethos. Most important thing here: major does not equal all. A successful outsourcing of social media marketing requires active partnering and contribution from both the enterprise and its chosen agency.
At the end, it is much more crucial that the created content sticks to the social web’s rules and expectations than the question of its originator. It is important that a consistent delivery of quality content is guaranteed. And that is a task a social media specialist who is familiar with the company’s business can fulfil even better – if he is not stuck in time-consuming approval processes.

Does anyone feel like they are watching the Apple-version of LeBron’s “Decision?”  Sure, one is a device and one is an athlete – but they are both monumental brands in their respective industries being faced with very difficult decisions.

It is hard to argue that both the iPhone 4 and LeBron are at the top of their game — sure there are others great players, but these are the two heavyweights of their markets and its not very often they have been tested the way they are now.

Almost every man, woman and child (even those of outside of Cleveland, New York and Miami) are aware of the drama and speculation surrounding the free agency choice LeBron James made last week.  It has become a parody many cannot resist having some fun with (my favorite being the skit from the ESPYs last night) and has drawn the attention and commentary of celebrities, politicians and just about anyone with a blog and remote interest in basketball.

Equally so, almost everyone knows about the iPhone 4 antenna issue.  The way the iPhone 4 antenna “problem” has played out over the last two weeks feels very similar to me to the LeBron “Decision.”  Both spurred great excitement around their arrival (iPhone 4 hitting the market and the day LeBron became an official free agent).  Both had to make big decisions in very small time frames.  Both are on the receiving end of mass media and public pressures (where to play? what to do? when to do it?).

With the LeBron decision already made, here are a few things I think Apple can learn…

  • Take your time, but not too much: I’m not arguing that either party is taking too long, but responding in a timely manner is very important.  One report I read yesterday stated that Apple lost approx. $5B in market valuation since the issue started.  Not to say a company like Apple they can’t regain that, but it is a steep price to pay.  The longer you wait, the more the speculation will mount, the opinions of what you should/could/would/may want to do will pile up — and your ultimate decision will be criticized or debated. 
  • Stick to your brand/what you do best: LeBron went into uncharted territory with his one hour ESPN special and it wasn’t well received.  When I heard LeBron would host a one hour event on ESPN from Greenwich, CT, I was quite surprised.  The location (Boys & Girls Club was great – but Greenwich?), the format, the tone, etc. just felt packaged and it was wrapped in a commercial way that just didn’t feel right.  I was equally surprised this morning when I saw that Apple is now hosting an press conference tomorrow.  This seems very non-Apple to me, but the situation they are in is very non-Apple.  My hunch is that they stay true to their roots in how they manage this conference.  This will certainly be challenging for them as they’ll have to walk a fine-line between swagger and style and the more serious issue of what they plan to do to address the issue.
  • Get to the point: If you watched the LeBron ESPN one hour special about 15 minutes into it — you suddenly realized this was a 60 minute show, to find out a 20 second (or less) answer.  Q: “Where are you going to play next year?”  A: “Miami.”  Done.  People want answers around what you’re going to do and the why you’re doing it can follow (the details are still very important). Apple would do well to be up-front about this, provide the answer and then the right amount of details to follow.

Ultimately, how you handle your “decision” is quickly becoming almost as important as what you actually decide to do, but hopefully they’ll do it quickly, directly and with a bit of Apple style.

Now, lets sit back and wait for the next round of “The Decision” to play out…


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Shortly after Friday morning’s US – Slovenia World Cup match, which ended in a draw following a absolutely terrible contentious officiating call, I logged onto Twitter to join scores of US soccer fans tweeting their collective disgust over the outcome only to reach Twitter’s ‘fail whale’ screen…my second ‘fail whale’ in less than a week of World Cup play.

These fail whales led me to do a bit of research about the popularity of Twitter around sporting events and how this is being utilized by marketers.

As it turns out, both the World Cup and the NBA Finals have been a bit overwhelming for Twitter. Records for posts in a single day have been broken and re-broken, with major peaks occurring around the times points are scored. As Benny Evangelista of the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out in a recent blog post, Twitter has experienced several site outages, slowness, bursts of error messages, duplicated or missing tweets and timeline problems that can be attributed to the World Cup.

Beyond a discussion of why Twitter’s architecture is unable to handle the tweet traffic of so many sports fans, this points to an interesting shift in the demographic of Twitter users (see Claire Cain Miller’s excellent NY Times article here). Where once the social networking site was composed primarily of early adopters in hi-tech hot spots, it has become apparent that the makeup of Twitter has started to reflect the interests of the general population.

As Twitter more closely mirrors a cross-section of the US and the world at large, it has become a valuable tool for measuring the buzz associated with any given product or event. In a recent Wall Street Journal blog post, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries describes how Twitter is now one of the primary measurement tools for determining which brands are winning the World Cup marketing battle. Much to the dismay of official FIFA World Cup sponsor Adidas, Nike has dominated World Cup online chatter, with a dominant share of Twitter mentions.

While ambush marketing has long plagued official sponsors, the rise of Twitter and social media creates new headaches for official sponsors. As brands learn to capitalize on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, their successful domination of world events is leading savvy marketers to ask whether the sponsorship of a major sporting event is necessary in the era of social media.

For the next Olympic Games, should companies shell out millions of dollars just to have exclusive rights?

While I believe that sponsorship of major events continues to have a significant ROI, sponsors must be aware that the marketing game has changed. As Nike has successfully demonstrated, to become the brand most commonly associated with the World Cup, a company must make use of social media to drive creative content across the Internet.

When considering the ROI for sponsorship of major events, one thing is certain–sponsorships alone will not ensure a victory. Word is still out on if scored goals will.

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