Measuring the Impact of Customer Relationships with Social Media

18 11 2009

A few weeks ago I posted a white-paper, Determining the Impact of Customer Relationships, providing some well researched information on social media measurement and analysis. I also created a slide deck outlining the information in much more digestible format. The deck provides a good outline of the importance of measurement as the web continues on its path toward a widely adopted social communication platform. The presentation also provides a good overview of the type of data the social web provides, how businesses can utilize the data to obtain actionable insights, and how to synthesize those insights into a measurable social media strategy. Some case studies are also provided to outline some good examples of social media success stories. Enjoy!


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Social Media Measurement & Analysis

13 10 2009

Organizations continue to adopt social media marketing practices at an increasing rate, yet most still look to create highly measurable social media strategies.   In a period of time when budgets are scrutinized and executives seek proven methods over experimental tactics,  marketers must utilize the plethora of data available via the web to justify large capital investments on social media marketing.   So… What kind of data does exist on the web? How do we measure this data?  What kind of insights does this data provide? and How do we create this so-called measurable strategy?  

In September, we set out to answer all of these questions in an effort to pave a path for measurable social media strategy development.  This white paper covers the importance of creating a measurable campaign, types of data we can measure, how to measure and analyze this data, how we might determine a financial impact of our social media marketing efforts, and much more.  I’d love to hear your feedback.  Enjoy! 

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What Twitter Learned… from Twitter

21 09 2009

Twitter This past Friday, Sept. 18 2009, St. Louis welcomed a special visit from a former STL native, Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter. Webster University welcomed Jack as a part of a speaking series to the discuss the impact of Twitter on communications and his role as a leader in the social media revolution. Jack gave a very candid speech discussing the genesis of Twitter and his goal to bring imediacey, transparencey and approachability to all technology systems. One interesting point Jack discussed, was that while he may have developed the communication platform, the use and the now implications of Twitter all came from the Twitter user base. He stated “A lot of what you see today on Twitter, comes from the users.” He then went on to explain that the ways in which people communicate on Twitter such as the @reply, re-tweeting behavior, and even the word “tweet” itself are all user generated. He stated that in many instances Twitter, as a company, was very reluctant to adopt some of these uses, but over time they have had to become very good at listening and editing. As Twitter continues its domination as an all-star social media platform, these points raise some very important marketing implications about the social web.

Jack

The popularity and widespread use of Twitter can in many ways be attributed to an embracing strategy that Twitter has adopted since its inception. Providing users with the technology, allowed individuals to figure out how to utilize the communication platform in their own ways, making it an incredibly personal experience. Listening to this burgeoning online community, allowed Jack and other members of the Twitter team to actually embrace these behaviors and build them into the technology. While marketers continue to utilize social media, one major strategy component continues to be stimulating user generated content and adopting customer ideas. Both Starbuck’s and Salesforce.com are prime examples of companies using this strategy. Twitter is no exception and is another great example of how embracing the online user community and adopting their ideas can lead to an incredibly successful platform or product. In most cases the online community will provide ample insight into their likes and dislikes. It is now the marketers responsibility to listen to these customers, adopt tangible ideas, and let users know that they are contributing to something greater than themselves. As the web continues to become more social, companies and brands must also become more social. This means listening and talking with customers to find out what they actually need and want as opposed to telling them what they need/want. Embracing customer relationships has become a clear fundamental principle of social media marketing and Twitter is just another excellent example of giving the audience control and running with it. 

See the whole speech here: http://www.webster.edu/jackatwebster/

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The Importance of Listening

18 09 2009

Listen UpMajor brands and corporations are beginning to find the value in social media marketing, yet many still do not know how to begin the process. It is easy to set up a Facebook fan page, Twitter account, Flickr photo stream etc. but what exactly does this accomplish and why choose these social media sites? The main-stream buzz around social media has created almost a clarion call amongst executives to undertake social media initiatives. What many do not realize is that social media marketing must be executed with a clear strategy consisting of strong metrics, objectives, and goals. The “ease-of-use” of these technologies has really created a tremendous problem within the marketing world, in which marketers are throwing out traditional long-term planning and strategy development to jump head first into so-called “social media marketing.” One of the most critical components of social media marketing is determining how to effectively engage the target audience before even attempting to do so. This can be accomplished by listening to the conversations that are already occurring online even before building that Facebook fan page or Twitter account, a step that many marketers forgo. As marketers it is essential that we understand this critical step in social media marketing.

WHY WE LISTEN

Today, more than ever, people research products and services online before making a purchase. Social media marketing utilizes a pull strategy allowing customers to reach out to products, services, and brands, relevant to their own experiences, via the web and social media sources. Therefore, it is important organizations know how to engage their audience to provide some sort of value, in a relevant manner. Through the process of listening, organizations can find where/why the audience looks for products and services, and determine how to effectively reach them.

A VIRTUAL FOCUS GROUP

Listening to the online audience essentially serves as a virtual focus group. Conversation occurs across a wide array of social web components such as ratings/review sites, blogs, multimedia sites, wikis, and social networks. Listening reveals insight into satisfaction, brand association, brand loyalty, product ideas, product improvements, demographics, competitor activities, market opportunities etc. Once organizations have gained a deep understanding of the online audience, strategic objectives and relevant success metrics can be defined to develop a measurable social media or marketing strategy.

LISTEN BEFORE ENGAGING

Social media marketing allows organizations to establish meaningful and impactful connections with their target audience that may lead to valuable long-term relationships. Social media marketing works similar to offline conversations and business networking. A dialogue is established in which both parties exchange thoughts and ideas. The exchange allows individuals to find relevant connections, which may then lead to a valuable relationship. It is necessary for companies to begin the process with social media monitoring, to first listen to conversations already occurring online. Listening and analyzing to the on-going social communication produces valuable insights that are then used to effectively engage the target audience. 

What are your thoughts on the importance of listening in social media marketing?

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Online Info Privacy vs. Transparency

9 09 2009

Lock DownAs social media continues to embed itself in our everyday lifestyles, the question of privacy burns in the mind of all users of the social web.  What information can people see?  How much do I want people to know about me?  Is my boss going to see my Facebook profile? The issue is a hot topic and one that legislation and government can’t seem to ignore.   A few days ago I came across an article in Adweek: Pressure Mounts on Web Tracking.  The article discusses a proposal for new legislation to alter commonplace internet advertising on the web.  The proposal looks to essentially eradicate, or at least hinder behavior-based advertising by limiting the amount of time advertisers can access behavioral data (24 hrs.) and relying on consent of information by consumers for long term use of data. 

While I believe that the privacy of information is a very important issue and I agree that out-right exploitation by consumers is obviously wrong, I do not agree that the social web should be censored or limited by government regulation.  What these consumer advocacy groups who made the proposal seem to misunderstand is that by creating an open social web, we can actually limit the amount of advertising white-noise that we come across today.  I’m talking about complete personalization. Using information put forth by users online, willingly, to make web content relevant, including the advertising of products or services.  Finally, the social web may one day enable us to stop searching, and allow products and services to find us.  I think this will in fact decrease consumer exploitation.  After all, advertising online is extremely voluntary (click/or don’t click).

Through the use of behavioral data, consumers can receive highly targeted and personalized messages that will allow them to evaluate options and make better choices based upon these offerings.   Think about small local businesses.  The internet has democratized commerce allowing a number of small local businesses to offer services that compete with major corporations, but succeed due to a better value offering and basic awareness generated via the web.   If we begin to limit contextual and semantic data, which can provide some important demographic and psychographic info, we are stepping back ten years when display ads on the internet become the annoying pop-up that is immediately ignored. 

In a time when transparency is demanded by so many consumers for businesses and corporations, I do not see why the same for consumers should not be true to an extent.  The web is a social forum.  If individuals do not understand this, then they should not put their information out there. No one is to blame for a lack of privacy on the web other than yourself.  No one forces you to put your age, gender, location, favorite sports team etc. etc. online.   As consumers, we must first learn the true implications of contextual data before we condemn it as the next form of identity theft.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue as it continues to unfold.

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Gamer 2.0, Exploring the use of Gaming, Community, & Social Media

25 08 2009

The video game industry has always been at the fore-front of using innovative technologies to create unique, fun, and addicting experiences for their ever-evolving tech-savvy consumer marketplace.  That being said, its no surprise the gaming industry has been utilizing social media as an effective means to reach their audience and expand gaming experiences into the online social realm for years.  I remember my first real social gaming experience with Starcraft (another Blizzard MMOG), around the same time that Napster ruled the world and DSL internet connection became wide-spread.   Fast forward to today, and we are see new start-ups like Zynga, Playfish, and Playdom create a multi-million dollar industry from social games via social networks, a burgeoning virtual goods economy, and new gaming experiences that blow my once coveted Sega Genesis out of the water. 

Recently, I worked with Partner and head of Interactive Strategy at Crimson Consulting, Karen O’Brien, to conduct research on gaming industry trends and the use of community and social media.  After completing an extensive competitive analysis across multiple game sites and gaming social networks we narrowed down important industry trends as well as some best practices for utilizing the social web to reach the new Gamer 2.0.  

Where do you see the industry heading?  Will mobile soon outgrow console or even desktop gaming platforms?  Will console gaming be overshadowed by social network gaming? Or, will social games on the console be the first step toward integrating social media and television?


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Five Ways to Create an Engaging Artist/Musician iPhone App

30 07 2009

AppsYesterday, I posted my analysis on 10 iPhone artist/musician applications and their content strategies. After analyzing my findings and thinking about what is currently available in the music app world,  I came up with five content strategy suggestions for musicians, marketers, app developers, and labels to create more engaging and value-oriented artist/musician apps. Each of these strategies offers some sort of value to the music fan that will always keep them coming back and may one day create a valuable revenue stream for some artists. 

 

1. Use OpenID technology such as Facebook Connect and utilize existing social networks to create a community.

The problem I found with most of these apps is that their community platforms exist only within the application itself.  This means that you can only communicate with other people logged onto the app, normally strangers, without any sort of identification or profile. This creates chat-rooms full of spam, wingdings (smiley faces and what not), and fragmented conversation that is really more annoying than interesting. The solution to this problem lies in OpenID technology such as Facebook Connect, which may soon proliferate the web.  Allowing users to log-in to the app using an existing profile, such as their Facebook account, would open the app up to a world of possibilities.  Social gaming companies such as Zyng and Playfish are perfect examples of app developers harnessing the power of Facebook’s word-of-mouth/viral capabilities.  Facebook Connect might be the easiest solution to creating an engaged community, because lets face, when you fall in love with a band/musician/artist, the first person you to tell “You gotta hear this!” is a good friend. 

2. Provide lots of content ranging from photos, videos, artist information, podcasts, FREE music etc. and make sure its quality content.  

Every should have the ability to stream FULL tracks from the artist.  Why would I download a musicians iPhone app if I can’t even listen to their music?  This seems like the most basic value that a music application can offer to a consumer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have all your music streamed for free (although I strongly believe that it should be), but a music app that doesn’t offer any sort of music seems counter intuitive.   It’s also possible to post content directly to the applications photo and video portals, but this can also become very troublesome.  If you want to see what I mean, download the Lady Gaga app and watch an episode of her mobile show and compare it to the mobile show on the Soulja Boy app.  The difference is good quality produced content compared to a shaky iPhone video camera taking poor quality video of the every-day life of Soulja Boy.  While there’s a case for approaching video content in both of these ways, at least make sure its meets some quality standards. 

3. Allow and encourage user generated content

The only app that offered access to some type of user generated content was the Dave Mathews Band mobile app with photo sharing capabilities. Allowing fans to upload content to the app creates an interactive and immersive experience while also providing tons of unique content for the app. The apps could also link to existing social sites focused on user generated content such as Youtube and Flickr. Really, the mobile music app could be utilized to access an the artist’s entire cohesive web-presence with the touch of a button – I think there’s value in that. 

4. Create or enable the artist radio

When I heard about Irving Azoff’s partnership with Clear Channel to create a.p.e. (Artists Personal Experience) I thought “Brialliant!”  Who else would be the perfect tastemaker for new music other than your favorite artists themselves.  Not only that but if you love an artist’s music, your bound to be interested in their musical influences, experiences, and idols.  So why not integrate something that provides this entertainment in the artist’s mobile app? An artist specific radio station playing a similar type of genre, or music that influenced an album, or the band’s monthly new music picks…. the possibility of creating interesting and engaging content is practically limitless.  Another way to approach this would be to just include podcasts on the app – but I feel like this concept could be stretched to create something pretty unique. 

5. Offer interactive content such as mixing, re-mixing, social games etc. etc.

Make the content interactive.  This can be achieved in a number of ways such as allowing users to remix, mix, or interact with the audio content itself.  An approach that many major brands have been using within mobile apps is integrating interactive games into the applications.  This is where you have to get creative and come up with some a game that is relevant to the music, artist, and associated content. It could be something as simple as a trivia game, but allowing users to interact with the content will create a fun, unique, valuable experience for fans that will have them coming back for more.

What other ideas do you have to improve the current artist/musician app?

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Ten Most Popular Artist/Musician iPhone App Strategies Reviewed

29 07 2009

 

Akon Death Cab for Cutie  Wilco DMB       

When thinking about the future of music and artist content, one must now consider the myriad of possible distribution platforms now available to musicians.  Whether it be iTunes, a subscription service, P2p file-sharing, or services like Soundcloud, one thing is certain, the idea of bundled content (like the album) is slowly becoming something of the past.  Now record companies, entrepreneurs, and technology providers are scrambling to find the next best thing to the once lucrative physical album.  

Mobile applications seem to offer some very unique features for musicians from direct-to-fan contact, in-app mobile stores, and music streaming capabilities. Many artist’s apps are offered for free and grant access to a bundle of content in hopes that the app serves as a promotional tool and drive sales. The problem is that most of these artists apps do not provide any sort of real value to the user.  This is a major problem seeing as though the majority of the top 25 apps in the iTunes app store consist of practical applications that provide services or benefits.   Therefore, I decided to review 10 of the most popular free apps available in the iTunes store to understand how labels and artists are approaching the application concept.  Here are some of the best practices, as well as an overview of all 10 apps reviewed: 

Best Practices

The apps that I consider to be best in class offer a value to the user that would encourage continuous use over time in terms of community, content, and direct artist contact. 

Community:

The Akon, Lady Gaga, and Soulja Boy apps are all powered by Kyte ( an online video-streaming community).  This allows for some really great things such as user rated videos, live chat rooms, and exclusive mobile video streamed directly from the artists.

The DMB app allows users to sign in with their Twitter account allowing for easy communication with band and the fan community.  The app also allows users to upload user-generated-content such as photos from concerts and contains a fan chat room.  

Content

The Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, and Black Lips apps provide streaming of full tracks and albums on the app.  The app will also function while audio is streamed (a feature that is not found with the iTunes 30sec samples). 

Santana offers guitar lessons via the mobile app provide something of true value to Santana fans. 

The Wilco application has an extensive selection of podcasts from the band. 

Arists-to-Fan: 

The Dead and DMB applications offer exclusive content from the band such as Tweets during live shows.

Update:  Here are 5 ways to create a killer music app based on this research 

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Will Mass Media Still Exist within Decade?

22 07 2009

Mass Media of the PastWill traditional mass-media still have its place in society 10 years from now?  This is a question I began asking myself after the death of what many consider the last true worldwide pop-icon Michael Jackson.  MJ could have only reached such super-stardom through mass-media, utilizing a limited set of media channels aimed at massive nationwide audiences. Clearly with the rapid growth of the internet, digital technologies, and social media, the so called long-tail of media is in effect.  The clout that mass media companies once had with traditional media is withering away as people continue to interact on the web through blogs, social bookmarking sites, message boards, micro-blogs, social networks etc. searching for more customized, niche based sources of media.   This leaves us with a very fragmented and highly targeted consumer culture online.

What I come to question then is what happens when this sort of consumer niche seeking activity carries over into offline social interaction in the real world.   Ten-Twenty years from now, will each individual become so niche focused and spread across such a diverse set networks that some basic commonality is lost?  If we take this long tail effect to the extreme, we would end up with a society that seems to lack a broad set of common interests. This is why I believe that traditional media or mass media may never completely disappear. Lets face it, in many cases people want to be told what to like.  They need common interest to relate and share with strangers. They want to join the crowd and share in large-scale community experiences.  In some cases push-based marketing may still prove to be successful.

Then again, millions of people are joining social networks each month.  Will Facebook become the next form of mass-media?  What are your thoughts?

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Musicians Lead by Example with Innovative Social Media Strategies

14 07 2009

I have been reading a lot of blogs and articles recently about large, well-known corporations who have undertaken social media strategies with really no idea how to utilize social tools to generate, what they consider, a profitable investment. I blame this on a sense of apathy for innovation in exchange for other tried and true business practices such as utilizing mass media and the traditional push marketing strategies. But what happens when an industry is turned upside down, not by choice, but by disruptive technology.

The Crowded Musisphere

Enter Napster of 1999, the iTunes of 2001, and now the almost unlimited number of sources for digital music distribution existing today. With the traditional business model of physical unit sales and terrestrial radio promotion dying, artists and labels are hanging on by adopting digital distribution models, social media strategies, and direct artist-to-fan connections.

Music now thrives on digital and many musicians have led the way with some excellent social media strategies. This shift from mega-distribution to do-it-yourself, has given independent musicians an opportunity to find creative ways to promote themselves as individuals and their music. It is very important for social media marketers to keep an eye on musicians and the music industry — after all we did force them to become early adopters.

Here is a short list of musicians to watch who have used and are currently using some pretty innovative strategies to sell their music:

Umprhey’s McGee:

Using Twitter For a Festival Scavenger Hunt
Innovative CD Release – Word of Mouth Genius

Amanda Palmer:

Using Twitter to Gross 19,000 in 19 hours

Zoe Keating:

Indie Cellist Explodes on Twitter

Josh Freese

$20,000 for Mini-Golf With Rock Stars – Now That’s Engagement

Anyone else to add to the list??

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