Tag Archives: Return on Relationship

What’s A Marketer to Think?

Written by Ted Rubin

There’s a lot of angst in marketing land right now. With Google’s Panda and Penguin changes and social algorithms that favor engagement, it may look as though SEO is dead, or that traditional ads will soon be going the way of the dodo. What’s a marketer to think? Are we supposed to throw out everything we learned about marketing and advertising to date and learn to ride a new horse? How the heck are we supposed to get in front of customers now?

Well, things ARE changing. Traditional advertising isn’t yet extinct, but there is simply too much noise out there, and people are sick of it. They’re shutting out the blast advertising that has crept into every aspect of their lives and centering in on the things they truly care about—friends, family, and social connections. You need to take a step back and study this shift in order to take advantage of it.

For brands, that doesn’t mean you can simply move your blast advertising campaigns into social channels. You actually have to make real conversation with real people and help them get what they want. That means knowing your prospects well enough to understand what they want. It also means creating content that’s helpful, entertaining, educational, or all of the above—content that helps them make a decision when they’re ready to buy; content they’re willing to share with friends.

Does that mean advertising is dead? Not entirely. Smart brands have noticed that we’re moving to a “connection economy,” and they are producing ongoing content that meets the new search “relevancy” standards. They’ve studied their audiences, listened to their social conversations, and have developed plans to use that content in their social profiles to emotionally connect to their audiences and encourage conversation. When it resonates, it gets shared and receives comments and likes, which makes that brand more visible in search.

What it all boils down to is that in the new world of content marketing, the Content “IS” the Marketing. Sharing, conversation, and emotionally connected content will be the ads of the future. Instead of thinking in terms of “Convince and Convert,” start thinking in terms of “Converse and Convert.” Helpful content gives your customers reasons to stay engaged—not just react—and also increases brand advocacy.

So start thinking like a publisher because the more relevant, helpful content you create, the better you can drive engagement. And as my ROR formula illustrates… Content drives Engagement, Engagement drives Advocacy, and Advocacy correlates directly to Increased Sales. 

 

Building Customer Relationships with Branded Story-Telling

Written by Ted Rubin

There are some new buzzwords in marketing going around, everything from “Collaborative Marketing” to “Relationship Marketing,” and even “Branded Content.” But what do those phrases really mean and how can today’s businesses take advantage of them to build customer relationships?

Well, we all know that consumers are becoming more and more contemptuous of push advertising, which has traditional marketers scrambling to find a magic bullet to replace it. But with what? When social came along and marketers mistakenly tried to force push advertising messages there, the failures were huge.

What we’re seeing is a gradual shift away from advertising in general, and back towards communication, which has always been the human strong suit. People want to get information when they want it—not have it thrown at them, and they want to have conversations about and with brands. I read an article recently at retailcustomerexperience.com that quoted Scott Olrich, CMO of the relationship-based marketing software company, Responsys. Olrich sums up the shift pretty nicely:

“A century or so back, the local corner shop lived or died based on the relationships they built. As new means of mass communication emerged, companies used their increased reach to try to advertise their way out of that responsibility. But today every aspect of a company’s behavior is on public display. A relationship first approach to every customer interaction has again become the imperative.”

Even Google’s algorithm changes are indicative of this shift towards communication and conversation, with content relevance being a key factor. Content that’s helpful and educational trumps marketing-speak, improves SEO and is instrumental in opening the door to those all-important relationships.

So where does that leave the average business? Finding ways to start more conversations is a good place to begin. At Collective Bias®, we foster a collaborative marketing approach by managing a private community called Social Fabric. It’s a platform for micro-publishers (or bloggers) who are passionate about building relationships and telling stories. Collective Bias® uses Social Fabric® to gain shopper insights and to identify brand advocates to create content for client campaigns.

This works very well for retailers and other brands because these bloggers are your shoppers and consumers. They are the brains behind some of our most successful campaigns – building, leading and managing them. Our community is different from most, because our members are highly involved in the campaign process. The content our bloggers produce is creative, engaging and compelling, and its reach is exponential, because it’s syndicated across various social channels as well as through the blogger’s audience. But what makes this type of content influential is that it’s tied to an emotional connection that resonates with people. It’s not about selling—it’s not about hype—it’s people talking to people about their lives and experiences with a brand being a part of the story.

So our focus is on collaborating with the Social Fabric® blogger community to create the informative, educational and emotionally compelling content that people are looking for online.

Some big brands are also finding success in creating “branded content,” which research analysts at Forrester define as “content that is developed or curated by a brand to provide added consumer value such as entertainment or education. It is designed to build brand consideration and affinity, not sell a product or service. It is not a paid ad, sponsorship, or product placement.”

That’s not to say that ads don’t have their place, but they can no longer be the major focus—it has to be delivering great brand stories. Companies that have moved the needle on branded content include Proctor & Gamble, Cisco, Duane Reade, Tyson, Nestle, Bigelow Tea, Red Bull and The Cleveland Clinic, to name a few. And they consistently leverage this content ahead of ad campaigns, which gives them even more top-of-mind reach and better ad response. These brands improve their products by staying close to their customers with constant communication at every stage of the customer relationship.

The marketing shift to branded storytelling also means that companies need to re-think metrics. It’s not enough today to simply measure impressions as a factor of campaign ROI—we need to think in terms of measuring our influence as well and our SOV (Share of Voice). Tracking the quality of engagement with our messaging is crucial to measuring overall effectiveness.

So whether your business is selling widgets or services, success depends on thinking more in terms of delivering stories about those widgets or services and how people use them than about pumping out feature-rich fact sheets or ads. Your customers want to hear those stories, so find more ways to tell them! Reach out to your brand advocates and collaborate with them, and don’t forget to include quality of engagement in your metrics for a better overall view of how you’re doing. In other words, think like a publisher—you’ll get better results.

As originally posted on tedrubin.com.

Influencers versus Inserts: Is the Writing on the Wall for Print in 2013?

Written by Ted Rubin

The co-founder and CEO of Collective Bias, John Andrews, recently told Marketing Daily that there are changes in the wind regarding shopper marketing and the last bastion of print media advertising to still be alive and kicking, the Free-Standing Insert (FSI) .

It’s amazing to me the amount of money that’s still dumped into coupons and inserts in the retail space. According to the global market research company Kantar Media, more than $419 billion in consumer incentives were delivered via FSI coupons, with retail giants Wal-Mart and Walgreens taking top position. However, with print newspapers shutting down circulation and the shift in consumer focus from print and television to internet and social channels, I think the writing’s on the wall. It’s just that brands don’t know where to put those dollars yet, and it’s comfortable to hold onto whatever print vehicle is still giving somewhat of a return—especially during tough economic times.

Marketing folks predicted a faster shift to digital mediums, but circulars are still a stubborn holdout. John thinks the “Print Cliff” is coming, and he predicts 2013 will be the year everything starts to change.  So where will brands shift their current FSI marketing dollars?

With people spending more time online, sharing on social platforms and accessing information using mobile devices, the smart money will be in attracting influencers in the digital media space to recommend products and services. However, that requires a different mindset than the traditional “interruption advertising” mentality. Today’s consumers like interesting, contextual content, recommendations, reviews and information when they’re seeking to buy something—and they can find pages and pages of it by searching online. That’s where brands need to be. While their customers still use coupons and incentives, they’re looking for them in the digital space—not in print circulars.

That’s why Collective Bias was formed— to create New Media options that position brands in the space that’s gaining the most traction with today’s shoppers. Taking advantage of the power of the social graph (and integrating it with what we call the “Family graph”) for generating, at scale, targeted, contextual influencer content in a story telling narrative. Done in a way shoppers like to receive it… such as blog posts, how-to videos, attractive photo montages. We’re seeing brands increasingly grow returns on their marketing dollars in this format as they make a gradual shift away from print.

I don’t think it will be too long before the FSI will go the way of the dinosaur. In a few years most of them will not even be available, but digital influencer content can serve as a viable alternative. Established bloggers and other influencers concentrate on giving value, and their audiences trust them to keep providing that value. That’s where today’s consumers are going. By developing relationships with micro-media publishers, who as a group create content strategically, and shifting to “advertorial” content rather than advertising pitches, you can avoid throwing marketing dollars off the fast-approaching print cliff, and begin using those dollars more efficiently and effectively.

Inserts still have some life left, so I don’t think this is going to take place overnight. But trust me—it’s only a matter of time. Smart brands are already moving in the direction of emotionally connected content, social sharing and relationship building… and seeing dramatic results. Feel free to reach out and let us show you at Collective Bias… or read about some of them in my new book, Return on Relationship.

Social Media… How Do You Measure Success?

Written by Ted Rubin

This post written jointly by Ted Rubin and Casey Petersen

“Success” in a social campaign, and an annualized social media calendar, should be determined by the goals for the campaign and an overall long-term strategy… we like to use the term “Conditions of Satisfaction.” Far too often, companies start a campaign simply with the goal of having a “social” campaign, because that’s something they feel like they need to do or have been pitched by an agency. Most Social Marketing “experts” flock to those kinds of clients, and then pick some random metric as success.

In our world of coordinated creation of social media stories at Collective Bias, there’s typically two kinds of success, or ROI, on social campaigns – Cost Mitigation, and Sales Increase. And we believe there is a Return on Relationship (ROR) fostered by all brand relevant content and communication… simply put the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship. ROI is simple $’s and cents, ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through loyalty, recommendations and sharing.
 #cbias, social content marketing, social marketing, social media marketing, ROR, Return on Relationship, Collective bias, @Tedrubin, content marketing, shopper media, social media

With Cost Mitigation, we look at success as generating more impressions than traditional media, for the same spend, or generating the same impressions for significantly less money.  It’s purely a CPM play. This is great for consumer packaged goods brands who have a large marketing budget, and view social as simply one part of their communication plan.

 Tying Sales Increases to social is a bit trickier, since there’s almost no way to connect a register transaction at a retailer to a reader of a blog, a Facebook Fan, or to a Twitter follower. Sometimes, you can find a correlation in the amount of content produced per day, and the sales per day… but it varies wildly by product and shopping habits in a category. So understanding the brand and retailer, and the path-to-purchase, is very important and something we focus on when connecting shoppers with the brands and retailers they use in their daily lives to drive content and conversations. Coupons can also be a good tactic to tie some real-world transactions back to online influence via social when used appropriately and to better understand your audience.

Our preferred method of defining ROI is around annualized customer value. Typically a shopper who regularly absorbs content that references a brand in one manner or another… or a Facebook fan, Twitter follower, or particularly an email subscriber, for instance, is a more valuable customer than a non-fan/follower/subscriber. They may spend more (average order value) and visit more often and make more purchases (frequency of purchase), or remain loyal customer for a longer period of time (lifetime value of a customer). Very similar to legacy Loyalty Program metrics. Finding that average value isn’t all that difficult, and can give you a KPI for the campaign – readers of blog posts, new Facebook Fans, Twitter followers, or new email subscribers, that is tied to real-world value.

 As far as measurement tools – there are a lot of interesting things out there. Ultimately, the best tool for “social” measurement is going to be able to quantify and track true influence… in other words, if you post about the new retina Macbook, do I value your opinion enough to make a decision based on that. Those tools don’t really exist yet.
#cbias, social content marketing, social marketing, social media marketing, ROR, Return on Relationship, Collective bias, @Tedrubin, content marketing, shopper media, social media

In the meantime, there are some great tools that allow you to track the path of conversation, and conversation topics around your brand, impressions generated, virality, etc. On the low-cost end, we really like Viralheat. Up in the enterprise class, Sysomos has some great tools, Mutual Mind (our partner at Collective Bias) is doing some really interesting work in the area of influence metrics, and of course there is Radian6, probably the most recognized name in the tracking industry.

Overall when combining consumer and influencer-generated content and amplified online syndication, correctly structured and maintained media programs will produce significant results including Search Engine Optimization results that last, an increase in online share of voice compared to competitors, and engaged impressions and reach that drive brand awareness, loyalty and ultimately sales conversion.

Originally posted here: www.TedRubin.com

Are Your Customers Lying to You? How Can You REALLY Tell What They’re Thinking?

Written by Ted Rubin

In John Nosta’s Thinkology blog post, “The Fundamental Marketing Dilemma: Language is a Lie,” he discusses books like Malcom Gladwell’s Blink and Tor Norretranders’s The User Illusion, which explore the ideas of how we perceive things. These authors assert that our first impressions are processed not by conscious thought and language, but by much faster processes that are rooted in our reptilian and mammalian brains.

Nosta’s take is that language is really “a corrupted surrogate for what’s REALLY happening.” He says that maybe we shouldn’t be asking our customers what they’re thinking. Maybe we would get more and/or better information by trying to measure direct neural function such as eye tracking, facial coding and other biometrics.

What about surveys and focus groups? Bunk! According to Nosta, people’s thought processes pollute their first impressions about a product or service to the point that the language expression we get in response to asking a question isn’t reliable—and yet 90% of market research focuses on verbal communication, while verbal accounts for only 23% of most communication.

So what’s a marketer to do?

Now while I didn’t really like Blink, and still think Gladwell, no matter how brilliant, was just cashing in on the success of Tipping Point, I get the whole “first impression” thing and how it can shape your interactions going forward. In fact, I think that’s why images are so very important, and why a site like Pinterest is taking the social media world by storm, and why Facebook paid a cool $1Billion for Instagram.

This power of visual medium is much more evident in social, where reaction is faster (and often more visceral) than in traditional marketing. That’s the reason more people hit the “like” button than actually take the time to comment or even share a post. It can be done in that “blink” period—rather than taking the time to process through language centers.

Think about it. Why is YouTube the second largest search engine? Why do people react more on Facebook to images and videos than any other type of post? It’s pretty simple… we connect more in the “blink” of an eye to what we see rather than what we read. It stays with us longer and allows us to process in so many ways. That is also why creating short memes or one-liners of 140 characters or less (yes Tweets) can be so powerful… easy for people to process, remember, and share.

So as a marketer, how can you turn that to your advantage? What visual or auditory tools could you use to get people to connect and react on a subconscious level—rather than the need for them to “process” first and then take an action? I find this fascinating and think there is so much opportunity for this in in the social realm.

A lot of companies are springing up in the “Neuromarketing” field that use biometric tools to help businesses get a better sense of how people react to advertisements and other marketing stimulus (before language kicks in). However, I think you could get started in the right direction by reading books like Roger Dooley’s Brainfluence to get a better handle on it.

In the meantime, and within the petri dish we all have at our fingertips, experiment with various ways to use images, video and short one-liners in your social communications. Pay attention and see how people respond. Do they get more interaction than standard posts? What kind of interaction? Do you see any patterns over time? Start using Pinterest, Instagram and any other visual tools your consumers fancy… and try all different things.

Visual is powerful and how consumers relate to, share, and think about what they have seen can open a whole new world to marketers… but it‘s scary and hard to control. Are you ready?

 

 

The Death of the Click

click tracking, return on investment, return on relationship, CollectiveBias

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on BradLawless.com last week.

Almost every day we have discussions with clients (brands and retailers) at Collective Bias about the best way to measure success in content marketing. Many ask us to have community members insert trackable links into their content so the client can measure some type of conversion (a like, follow, or hopefully a sale.)

We’re starting to see, however, that consumer interaction with social content just doesn’t work this way.

Socially powered content marketing is all about relationships. Relationships are fuzzy things not easily categorized or tracked, but they have tremendous power. Relationships connect us to loved ones and create opportunities to discover new things. As my friend Ted Rubin likes to say, social media and content marketing are more about the Return on Relationship™ (ROR) than Return on Investment (ROI).

Think about your interaction with friends and family in your everyday life. You have a conversation about something interesting. Maybe it’s a new product available in stores. Maybe it’s a new service like a car wash or a accountant. The item in question really doesn’t matter. What does matter is the action you take next — which is really no action at all.

When we hear about something new from offline friends, we rarely hop in our car and run to the store to buy it. Instead, we file that information away for future reference and look for the item the next time we find ourselves at the store.

The same thing happens online. When I hear about something new and cool from an online friend or trusted blogger, I rarely whip out my credit card and buy it on the spot. I think about it. When I later decide to buy, I’ll go straight to the retailer web site or search for the product name rather than going back to the blog post where I first discovered it.

In that scenario, I never click a link the brand can track back to social content, but that content still did its job. It made me aware of the product. It showed me how people like me use it in real life, and convinced me that I’d like to buy it, too.

Online marketing has built its entire ROI model on click tracking from the early days of display banners to the ubiquitous use of URL shorteners today, but those days are coming to an end. Industry trends like Microsoft’s implementation of Do Not Track functionality in Internet Explorer 10 will make tracking clicks that much harder.

Click tracking will still have a place in a brand’s value equation, but it’s only one piece of of a much bigger formula. We’ve seen a correlation time and again between increased share of voice for a brand and retail sales. Get more people talking — really talking and engaging with your brand — and you will see sales increase. To truly understand the value of social content, brands need to analyze the quality of their online engagements, their overall conversational volumes and match those to their sales.

People like things they can measure, and click tracking provides a level of comfort. We can count clicks. We can also count Fans and Followers. Each of those numbers by themselves are just that — numbers devoid of meaning.

When you choose to engage your fans, reach out to your followers and connect with them in meaningful ways that provide value to their lives and yours, you will finally begin to crack the code to the enigmatic relationship value equation.

** Photo used with permission under Creative Commons License by Jeferonix.

Want More from Social? Empower Your Employees as Brand Advocates/Evangelists

Written by Ted Rubin

Brands have it tough these days. Many are trying to make the “social leap,” but are still stuck in the traditional marketing thought process of “controlling the message.” It can be a bit hard to switch gears, especially when Madison Avenue still feeds us the same old lines; however, Madison Avenue doesn’t get it either. The days of handing your marketing over to a bunch of agency wonks without getting involved and staying involved are quickly coming to an end—at least if you want real results. Companies must be hands-on now, and be willing to jump into the conversation and participate, because that’s what their customers demand. Social is where your audience lives. It’s how they want to communicate with each other and where they share brand experience—YOUR brand experience.

So what’s the fastest way to devolve from the old “agency” way of thinking to social communication? Empower those who work for you to create conversation and represent your brand—especially those who have a customer service or customer-facing role. If they build it, service it or sell it, they’re in a perfect position to communicate with your audience in a way that humanizes your brand, but only if you let them.

Many companies that are fearful of social media put muzzles on their employees in an effort to control the social conversation. However, if you’re going to have a social presence at all, just the opposite needs to happen.

In a Networking Exchange Blog post “Brands Under Pressure,” digital and social strategist Cheryl Burgess highlights Apple’s “Genius Bar,” which is the ultimate in employee branding for retail. She notes that the genius bar is “… a lynchpin of the most successful retail concepts and innovative employee brand relationships of our time.  Apple simply gets it,” she writes…” employee branding matters.”

Check it out for yourself. Go into any Apple store and count the number of blue shirts milling about in the retail space. It’s astonishing—and each one is an Apple genius whose sole purpose is to communicate with customers, answer questions and share knowledge one-on-one. However, you don’t get a hard sell. The emphasis is on providing helpful information. In doing so, each employee puts a “face” on the Apple brand, and turns a shopping excursion into a human experience.

The great thing is, you don’t have to hire a zillion blue-shirts to stand around your company store to do the same thing for your brand. With a little guidance, your current employees can be blue-shirts for you in social circles.

The key word here is guidance! This includes having a written social media policy for your employees, going over it with them, and involving them in the process. Your employees can be your best advocates and a natural extension of your brand that gives you much better Return on Relationship™ than advertising ever could—but you need to switch your thinking by opening up your internal communications first.

Sit down and talk to your employees about how they can communicate your company mission and values. Open up a dialogue. Get their opinions. Involve them in the process of creating a social media policy so they feel empowered to spread the word about you within the right framework. But make sure that you do not overcomplicate the process and make them feel they are under a microscope.

Opening internal lines of communication and building healthy employer-employee relationships is the first step. The next is figuring out how to train them to communicate externally.

Cheryl’s blog post includes a handy infographic by Mindflash.com on How to Train Your Employees to Handle Social Media. It’s a visual primer on the basics, such as how to identify your employees’ social temperament, ideas on what to share and what not to share on personal as well as corporate social platforms, etc. If you’re just starting to wrap your mind around this concept, it’s a good place to start.

The short of all this is that in today’s digital age, you can’t afford to try to control your company’s brand. You need to learn to let go and become involved in the conversation already going on about you in the social space—and let your employees help you. Otherwise, the cost in market share is steep, because competitors that “get it” are already out there eating your lunch.

Now, I’m not saying you should let go of all the reins; there must be some structure and planning involved. However, a good social strategy MUST involve your employees. Give them some leeway. Educate them about your core values, and about what’s appropriate to share in social circles. Train them to be your brand evangelists and you’ll be amazed at the resulting Return on Relationship!

Suggestions for Crowdsourcing Content

Written by Ted Rubin

Every business needs content in order to be found in search, and to differentiate them from the competition. Without quality, helpful content (and lots of it), you’re lost in a school of fish that are all the same color. Who’s going to find you? Who’s going to pick you?

The trouble with content development is that it can be expensive. Website copy, blog articles, e-books, reports—they all take time and effort (and dollars) to produce. However without them, you really can’t do an effective job of marketing your business—especially in the social age. It’s the classic chicken-or-the-egg syndrome. The more social our businesses become, the more we need that variety of content that speaks to our listeners and helps them solve their problems so we can A: get their attention, and B: develop relationships with them.

The bad news is that most companies still don’t understand the relationship between content marketing and relationship building. Investing in content is absolutely essential—whether you’re writing it in-house or outsourcing it, and I personally believe bloggers create some of the most engaging, relevant, and worthwhile content for brands when managed strategically. The good news is that if you know who your customers are and where they look for and share content, you can use crowdsourcing to have others help you write the kind of truly helpful stuff that your market is looking for. Developing a steady stream of user-generated content isn’t free, but the BEST news is that this type of content is trusted by more people and produces better return than most advertising that uses “marketing speak.”

Here are a few suggestions for crowdsourcing content:

Blogger Outreach: There are two ways to approach this. I’ve seen some companies (like manufacturers or retailers) have their marketing directors research influential bloggers in their niche and pitch them on doing reviews of their products—offering to send a sample to use. However, this can be hit-or-miss, not very efficient and it does not incorporate story telling, or insert the product in the lives of the users. Another way to approach it (and the one I prefer) is to develop relationships with a set of bloggers, and pay them to create the content around a strategic set of goals and incorporated into lifestyle. Bloggers are micro publishers and deserve to get paid for their work. I think this approach to blogger outreach produces the best results if you want a constant stream of relevant, user-generated, authentic content. It requires a great deal of management, relationship building and strategy, but can be outsourced and managed with the right partner.

Blog Interaction: On your own blog, floating a concept or question about your brand and asking for responses can be a good way to encourage subscriber interaction. You never know when a really good response will trigger a connection and deeper conversation. I often find that asking and answering these kinds of questions (both on my blog and others) leads to more relationships, which results in more content-building opportunities. Always be thinking of ways to encourage response…. and make the questions, and the process, EASY!

Video/Visual Contests: Using Contests on social platforms such as YouTube or Pinterest can encourage user-generated videos or photo boards that portray your brand in positive light. I wouldn’t put all my eggs into this basket, but it can be a fun way to garner graphic and video content you can use in other places to build the kind of “social proof” that helps you win hearts and minds.

Co-authoring thought leadership pieces: This is where your relationship rubber meets the road, so to speak. Co-authoring books and e-books with a peer (or set of peers) requires that you have a solid relationship with your co-author(s), which will stand the stress of time-management issues and headaches that go along with getting published. However, the result of a successful collaboration here can garner wonderful results that would be difficult to achieve if you had to do it all yourself. We’re all stressed for time, so think of ways you can reach out to your peers and colleagues to crowdsource all kinds of thought-leadership pieces, such as case studies, white papers, e-books, books, webinars and videos.

You can see that all of these examples rely on collaboration—which is the cornerstone to getting the best Return on Relationship. In my opinion, planning a good content strategy should always include finding ways to crowdsource, whether it’s tapping your customers to find out what their needs are or how they view your industry, to building on your relationships with your peers to produce thought-leadership pieces. At the end of the day, your content should make everyone you deal with (your prospects AND your peers) comfortable with your brand—and using input from others to create value-oriented content can be a good way to make your brand more approachable (for more on this, check out the video (ROR: Return on Relationship™–Will They Buy from Me?).

There are lots of ways you can use crowdsourcing to build value in your organization, your personal brand, and enhance both. Don’t wait for a comprehensive strategy… start now

 

 

Relationship Killers: Four of the WORST Mistakes Brands Make in Social Media

The biggest goal for any brand delving into social media should be to develop quality, productive relationships. That’s the bottom line. However, many brands still “don’t get it,” and consistently make mistakes that are damaging to them in social media and therefore damaging to their brand. In my opinion, there are four big no-no’s that not only kill those all-important relationships, but also tarnish your reputation:

1. Broadcasting:  Blasting out sales messages rather than listening and engaging has got to be the number one relationship killer of all time. Bar none. People hate to be sold—especially on social channels, where their main objective is to talk, get opinions, relax and have fun, or find answers to pressing problems. When a brand spends the majority of its time broadcasting, it’s a clear message to followers that they’re not interested in real, two-way communication.

Listening should be your first priority, followed by engagement. Don’t try to sell to people until you’ve earned their trust!

2. Taking Followers Offline to Resolve Issues:  If someone has a problem and comes to your social presence to try to get it resolved, the worst thing you can do is shunt them off to a customer service contact with a “form letter” response. Too often I see… “follow us so we can DM you,” on Twitter, or a quick move to traditional customer service channels on Facebook. People have an innate need to be validated—and “showing them the hand” is the fastest way to sour a customer relationship. Sometimes there are things that have to be resolved offline for legal issues, but the majority of complaints or requests for help should be addressed promptly and publicly in social channels. At the very least, if you MUST send them offline, do so in a friendly, personal manner. Address them by name, thank them for bringing the problem to your attention, and so on. Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes—how do you feel when you’re ignored or made to jump through hoops by a company you deal with?

Responding publicly has another important, beneficial, and cost saving benefit. Other people with the same issue, and you can/should assume there are many more, can receive resolution via your response, and see how you interact… and then make their own judgments about your brand character based on those interactions. If you’re doing it right, you will build brand advocates in the process, and when/if needed your best brand advocates will support you when they see that kind of open, honest communication.

3. Having No Brand Personality:  People who spend time on social media like to spend time with people—not logos. If you have a team of employees handling your social responses, don’t make them hide behind the brand logo when they interact with followers—give them a voice and a face. Ford does a great job of this with @ScottMonty building his personal brand along with theirs. Scott interacts with followers as himself, not the Ford brand. This humanizes the brand and fosters good communication. Being able to see the team members behind the company and interacting with them personally makes a big difference in fan loyalty.

When a company censors its employees and doesn’t allow them to participate in social discussion surrounding the brand, it’s usually because they’re afraid of “what might happen if…” They’re afraid they’ll spend too much time on social or say the wrong things. These issues can be resolved with a comprehensive social media policy so all employees know how and when they can and should interact. Remember, your employees should be some of your best advocates, and a natural extension of your “public face.”  You can’t do social right with employee censorship. Your people are your company’s personality. Let them shine for you. And… if you don’t trust your employees, maybe you have the wrong employees, or a business approach that will be difficult to sustain in this hyper-connected world.

4.  Making Social a Direct Marketing Channel:  Can you develop a relationship with a piece of direct mail? A TV commercial? A newspaper ad? An email blast? Of course not! Yet many brands treat social as an extension of their direct marketing efforts—mainly because that’s all they know. They’re used to handing off their marketing to an advertising agency and having them run with it so they can get on with their day. They think in terms of ROI formulas, but falter when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of one-on-one networking.  If that’s you, don’t feel too bad—it’s a habit that’s been drummed into you and hard to break. But you’ve got to break it! Adopt a whole new mindset around social, and think in terms of building relationships and an emotional connection to your brand, or you’ll always be frustrated with your results. Remember… Social Media drives engagement, engagement drives loyalty, and loyalty correlates directly to increased sales. Return on Relationship™ = ROI.

This goes back to the “Broadcasting” mistake I mentioned earlier. Think in terms of providing helpful content, fun ways to communicate, sharing information and asking questions. Leave the direct marketing stuff in traditional channels. Get a sense of who your audience is and give them what they’re looking for in your social communications, or you’ll get “un-followed” or ignored in a hurry.

What other “relationship killers” have you come across when dealing with brands online, and how do you think they could be avoided? Conversely, which brands have you noticed that are “getting it right” in social media when it comes to Return on Relationship™?

Originally posted at TedRubin.com

Twitter basics… In My Humble Opinion

Written by Ted Rubin

The mistake I see being made is trying to measure Social engagement with the same tools we measure every other digital touch point. In my view email, search, even banner ads, have spoiled marketers into thinking everything can be and must be measured with the metrics used to gauge success in other mediums. I am not sure of what the next stage will be for you, but in the beginning, when you are building your Social Media audience, and testing, I have three stages with which I measure… #1 is Audience growth, #2 is Reactivity… getting them to take an action, and #3 Stickiness… keeping them coming back, engaged and interacting. After you achieve all these I feel measurement will easily follow, depending upon what is important to you and your brand.

If you want to continue to reach your market in this social media age, the marketing focus needs to be on building relationships, and metrics need to expand beyond ROI (Return on Investment) to include ROR: Return on Relationship™. If you are not engaging in your field of expertise on Twitter someone else is, so the first issue is that you are missing that opportunity and handing it to others. Second… if you are not talking about your business, your customers and prospects probably are, and you are not there to participate, engage, interact and most important for your business… listen and lead.

My philosophy is that Twitter is a tool that leads into other forms of social sharing. I consider Twitter a place to lay the groundwork where other people pick up things. Twitter is a seeding medium and a place to build engagement and interaction… it is not a broadcast medium, so it is not about the quantity of people listening at once, but the ability to lay it out there for those whose attention are drawn to what you have to say at any given moment.

Twitter is a river that continuously flows and flows. You add content one second, and the next it is gone. Tweet to keep your personal brand on your followers’ radar, increase your following, and provide value that keeps followers listening and you top of mind. Send the same tweet often multiple times in a day and send valuable content repeatedly over the course of time.

How you do that?:

  • I suggest picking a hashtag for a brand to use on most tweets and encourage anyone involved with you to add that hashtag to their tweets.
  • This allows you to track who is tweeting about you, more importantly for you to retweet, and to make your hashtag top of mind and used regularly by others if possible.
  • Periodically check out your followers sites to find interesting posts and RT’s and show you are paying attention.
  • Ask your team members to send you tweet ideas regularly.

 

How do you get/maintain followers?:

  • Twitter has a cap to the number of people you are allowed to follow (gets particular around the 2,000 mark) There is a bit of a process to follow, to grow the accounts.

 

The process:

1. Sign into Twitter Handle

2. Make sure you are following back everyone who is following you

3. Search for a relevant and reliable Twitter Account

-Example: If you are in the Cooking vertical, search a celebrity chef or a cooking mag/site, and follow all of those followers, etc.

4. Twitter will stop you when you’ve reached the maximum limit of following

Sign into JustUnfollow (an unfollowing and follow back application)… http://www.justunfollow.com/unfollow.html

-Unfollow those who don’t follow you back.

-Unfollowing should be done every few days- not every day. You want to give all the people you just followed a chance to follow you back. If they don’t within 72 hours+ depending upon what level you are at and how quickly you hit your follower ceiling, you want to unfollow them to give you more room to find followers that WILL follow you back. People who do not follow you back have no value as far as building your presence. If you are interested in what they have to say you can simply follow them from an alternate handle that you only use to garner info, create a list using Twitter’s list functionality… or have a list of those you want to check daily and do so manually (which is a more efficient way of seeing what they have to say anyway). With JustUnfollow it is also possible to “whitelist” these people to avoid unfollowing them.

Email address & Passwords:

I suggest setting up handles with email addresses such as handle@gmail.com (i.e. cbFamily@gmail.com)

All passwords, if you are using multiple handles, can be the same for ease of use (or simply keep a spreadsheet) especially if you are inventorying handles for future use so you never forget how to log in.

Always remember: If you think nobody is tweeting about your products or services, think again. If you’re not tweeting about your business–someone else is. If you’re not setting your own business message on Twitter–someone else is. But more importantly, if you’re not listening to what your customers (and potential customers) are saying on Twitter –someone else is, and you are missing an incredibly valuable opportunity to engage and interact.

  • Track Mentions: The major thing you should be tracking is mentions of your twitter name. Anytime somebody mentions your name, it’s an opportunity to start a conversation and acquire a new high quality follower.
  • Track Retweets: You should also pay close attention to the people who are retweeting the tweets you have written. It’s obvious that they like your content, otherwise they wouldn’t be sharing it.
  • Create a List: Have a list called your inner circle. Anytime somebody mentions or retweets you, make a point to add them to that list.
  • Engage with the People on that List: Simply creating the list is not going to be enough. Once you have created your inner circle list, you need to start engaging with them.
  • Have periodic conversations.
  • Retweet their stuff and look to periodically RT others to get their attention and interact. I often choose some randomly and make a point at conferences, whether I am there or not, to RT many. If you follow event or group hashtags, and check in on them, you can RT those and it makes it easy to interact.

 

Where to Start When You Are at Zero: If you are starting at zero, some of the above might seem more challenging, but it’s not. Just start with bloggers who you have been reading. This is why it’s important to read more than just the a-list blogs. Find people you think are interesting and just reach out to them. They’ll be happy to hear from you… Bloggers, marketers, brands, etc.