PART 3 – Mine! Mine! Mine! – Who “Owns” Social Media?

Who “Owns” social media? This is a question that keeps people up at night, because the question has a direct impact on who “owns” the conversation, the experience and (in the end) the budget. Ask instead, “Who owns the customer?” and the issue begins to expand and involve more functions along the customer continuum.  This same continuum exists in social media.  While customer service departments may be responsible for the direct interaction with the customer, can they also make a repair, schedule a product upgrade or install a new phone line?  The speed at which information travels in social media puts additional pressure on internal processes.  How quickly can the company respond, and in effect, “turn a complaint around?” How many steps are there along the resolution channel within the company? Can steps be removed?

The answer to each of these issues likely cannot be resolved by a single group; rather it is the responsibility of the entire company to ensure the customer’s experience is a good one.   In an attempt to break out who does what, below is a look at some of the general responsibilities for a social CRM program with a view of both the reactive and proactive functions in the social CRM continuum.

*These roles and responsibilities are generalities used to draw some distinction between functions. Lines can, and do, blur.

Lean-back & Lean-forward

Business Group Reactive Activity Proactive Activity
Customer Care  

(community-facing)

Monitoring and addressing messages sent directly to the brand through social media Proactively searching and addressing messages about the brand in social media; identifying systemic issues
PR/Community Manager  

(community-facing)

Monitoring and addressing direct messages from influencers Delivering information specific to broad company initiatives, messages specific to issues, and official company views; identifying systemic issues
Marketing  

Responding to the needs of customer care and the community manager team’s request for content Proactively engaging community managers to bring better, more frequent content to the channel; assessing systemic issues and operationalizing change
Advertising Bringing compelling paid opportunities in support and defense of the brand, including paid search, sponsored Tweets/trends, etc. Coordinating with the community managers & marketing to dial in advertising and search efforts to lead to the brand’s social channels when appropriate
IT Giving teams access to the tools necessary to monitor and engage in social media Becoming part of the process by advising on best-in-class tools for monitoring, tracking and engagement
Leadership Assessing the bottom-line imperative of social CRM; empowering teams to explore community needs Supporting the overall social CRM effort; approving operational changes; ensuring cross-business integration and cooperation

 

PART 2: SocialCRM Foundations – An Operational View

In the previous post, I mentioned that, of the changes impacting brands on the Web, few will have greater impact than the ability for customers to share their opinions online about the companies they do business with — from discussion forums to Twitter to Facebook, and the new breadth of conversations opening up through searchable Facebook discussions. And that’s not to mention the emergence of geo-location check-ins through cell phones. With all of these tools, the capacity for customers to talk about your brand is significant.  And, if you need more fuel for the hype of socialCRM (sCRM), just do a search on the term or look here.  The good news is that those channels consumers choose to talk to companies through are the same ones companies can use to talk back.

Brand, Reputation, Marketing & Influence – The Basics

 

Identifying and engaging with customers in social media must be the foundation of any long-term strategy.  Thepoint of social media is enabling that closer connection with individuals.  And, an important extension of that connection is addressing the totality of the discussion.

If a company is unable to address customers’ needs online, then its activities there run the risk of being undermined. Companies with a social media program in place already, however, are likely seeing  the challenge presented by customers raising issues.

Addressing that challenge starts with a strategy. As the space heats up, and as technologies begin to flood the market, it’s important to understand the role of technology and the role of strategy.  Because of the broad implications delivering customer service in social channels has on a company, these programs must be rooted in strategy.  This is true not only because social software is still early in development, but also because of how responding in near real-time to these public exchanges between the customer and the brand fundamentally changes the approach and business processes necessary to function effectively in social media.

Planting the Seed

Interacting with customers through social channels requires a few foundational pieces:

Philosophical Foundations

  • An inherent interest in improving relationships with customers
  • An understanding of social context and how discussions evolve in social channels
  • The willingness to take criticism seriously and act on it
  • A business-wide, agreed-upon social framework (or at least someone willing to stick their neck out far enough to identify and document the need and develop a plan to address the social conversation)

Operational Foundations

  • An official presence on the social Web (Twitter for a start, but also Facebook, and others as the social discussion continues to expand to other platforms)
  • Cross-team collaboration and coordination
  • Flexibility of internal processes to help facilitate and not impede issue resolution
  • Executive buy-in and support (this can grow over time)

Taking the First Step
The first step is rarely the easiest. Confronting the unknown can be daunting if you don’t have perspective on what the universe of possibilities and options is.  Like many things in this space, for socialCRM, it’s better to take things slow, gain an understanding of what people are saying about your company, and really dive into the cause and effect relationship between a customer’s experience and their expression of that experience. This first step is more commonly known as, “Listening,” — and while it does involve finding what people are saying about the brand online, it also involves more than just passively gathering intelligence. Companies must develop the ability to both listen and take action based on the ongoing conversations. Since listening alone can become an exercise of increased paranoia that doesn’t lead anywhere, successful companies build listening into an overall process that eventually leads to action and resolution.

Activating a Social Engagement Program

1)      Quantify the level of discussion about your brand online by individuals – a Twitter search can give you a baseline of the discussion, but search other platforms as well to get a broader view

2)      Measure the overall sentiment about your brand or product online (there are a number of tools for this)

3)      Identify the top three to five issues people have with your brand each day; keep track of the specific words that are used to express those issues – they’ll come in handy in your SEM work

4)      Take a handful of the issues, making up a representative sample by issue type, from the entire group of issues

5)      Analyze each of the issues and the profile of the person who raised the issue initially

6)      Map an engagement and resolution plan for each issue – don’t engage yet, but map the ideal or probable resolution path

7)      Once you’ve accounted for a clear resolution path within the company to quickly get the issue addressed and resolved, then you can begin to activate a proactive program for addressing these issues on a broader scale

This exercise imparts initial and valuable insight into the realities of the social media sphere – both within the company, regarding its ability to resolve an issue through traditional channels, and outside the company, as it gauges the overall volume and tone of the discussions. With this understanding, companies can begin to map a path forward for the social CRM program.

In the next post, I’ll map the structure of a social media program that’s built to address customer issues in real-time, some of the challenges and how the social customer is the responsibility of the entire organization and should be the basis of any sustainable program.

(Originally posted Sept 2010 on FleishmanDNA blog.)

SocialCRM: Redefining Influence & Building Trust

Few things can undermine a brand’s reputation faster over the next few years than the rolling wave of customer discontent expressed in social channels.  We’re seeing it with routine product launches as well as major corporate missteps — but just as damaging are the unattended, ‘percolating’ individual complaints about a brand, some of which are related, and some of which are only similar complaints about separate incidents.  Regardless of the context, one thing is clear – over time they will erode consumer trust in the brands they do business with.

Influential Shifts – Redefining “Friend”

Reports of peer recommendations and online reviews influencing consumer purchases grow each year.  Something that’s also expanding is the definition of a “friend.”  What used to be considered someone you grew up with, know personally or have at least met in person is now shifting to someone whose updates you get regularly letting you know where they are, what they’re doing or what they’re thinking.  While the definition and channel for connecting has shifted, the value we put in these relationships hasn’t.  Friends in the virtual sense have just as much, and sometimes more, influence as our friends in the traditional sense.  And, the channels of communication (social media enabled by cell phones and free wifi connections) and speed at which those conversations happen has increased exponentially.  Brands that hold on to traditional definitions of friends and influences will continue to find themselves at a disadvantage.  Truly listening to and addressing these customer conversations in social media must become a greater focus of successful companies’ marketing efforts.  Through this three-part series, I’ll outline some of the basic tenants of what’s being called social CRM and our approach to addressing the increased volume we’re seeing about brands in social media.

Making the Case for Social CRM

The challenge of social media is the high degree of visibility and the volume of consumer opinions.  The fleeting advantage brands have today is that many of these conversations aren’t organized, and their searchability is limited to a few datasets – namely Twitter and blogs.  But, even in this limited set, these conversations are having an impact.  The growing disadvantage is that many more of these conversations are becoming searchable, and the growing use of review sites like Yelp and location-based applications will continue to elevate many of these conversations, taking them farther into the social web, and directly into the collective consumer consciousness and perception about brands.

A common argument I hear is that it’s human nature to complain and that most people will see these complaints as one-sided rants that most people will see through.  The truth is that many customers who are drawn in to the negative comment strings are also finding real, relevant information to inform their opinions and purchasing decisions.  For social media-aware brands, these discussions provide an opportunity to become part of the conversation, taking complaints head-on, working to address them and building a closer connection with consumers.   And, if done right, these conversations are also a valuable source of feedback and insight to make tangible operational changes and shifts.

Addressing the Good and the Bad

To take full advantage of this open dialogue, a company must first be willing to address both the negative and the positive.  They must be able to resolve warranty complaints from one set of customers before trying to sell a new washing machine to another.

Can the proactive happen before the reactive?  Yes, and some brands have the right set of assets to start the conversation at the point of sale.  But, for most brands, whether they have a strong base of brand advocates or are struggling to regain a positive brand image, their best approach is to understand the conversation, recognize what customers want from them and begin a plan to address the entirety of the conversation happening about them in social media. What brands will find is that in order to grow their brand in social media and gain the advantages those channels offer, having their house in order and being able to assist customers with legitimate issues is necessary before they can actively engage in promotion or commerce.

In the next installment of this series, I’ll outline our approach to addressing the increased volume we’re seeing about brands in social media.

(Originally posted Aug 2010 on FleishmanDNA blog)

Twitter Catching Facebook in Total Actively Engaged Audience, and Other Observations

The nice people at DigitalSurgeons.com put out an infographic back in October showing a comparison of Twitter and Facebook use (and it was just called to my attention).  With the holidays upon us and the number of people helping their friends and cousins sign up for Facebook, I wanted to focus on some of these numbers as they stand today, or as they were at the beginning of this quarter.  The graphic shows some interesting things about use of these platforms.

The fact is, while these two platforms are the dominant players when we look at social media, they are still relatively new, and the way people use them, how they use them, why they use them and where they use them continues to evolve.  Here are a few of my take-aways:

1)    I swear I saw a stat over the past year or so that said 80 percent of people update their Twitter accounts via mobile.  So, generally, the mobile numbers, while still significant, seem a little low to me.  And, with the continued climb in smart phone adoption, we’re likely to see these numbers climb.

2)   
In the “Brand followers will purchase that specific brand” category.  I wonder if there isn’t an element of “have purchased that specific brand” and what are the motivations for following that brand on Facebook.  It would be interesting to see a break-out on the percentages.  I wonder if part of that category (although small) is a result of people turning to social media for customer service questions.  As more companies integrate customer service into these channels, those numbers will likely climb.

3)  And, most interesting to me, when you look at the “Update their status every day” category, while Facebook has more users, there are almost as many people who are active on Twitter everyday as there are on Facebook. (55 MM for Twitter, 60 MM for Facebook) This is balanced, however with the “Login everyday” category where Facebook as 205 MM daily logins vs Twitter’s 29 MM.  The argument to all of this is that people use the platforms differently.  But, do the numbers mean that Twitter is a more active channel and Facebook is a more passive one?  If so, does that impact your marketing approach?

Now that we’re all gathering for the holidays, we’ll start to see these numbers climb again.  Anything else pop out at you in the numbers? Anything I missed?

Disclaimer: I’m not a statistician. And, I wasn’t a math major, so feel free to check my numbers.



Mobilisms Labs: Chevy @ SXSW 2010 – Location-based Engagement

SXSWLogo

This past spring we worked with our client Chevrolet to re-envision the concept of a sponsorship.  In a world with multi-million-dollar stadium naming rights, athlete shoe endorsements and primetime television buys, Chevy wanted to bring something different to the SXSW experience.  And, it started there – with an experience.  That theme guided every decision and ran through every program tactic at the conference.  It also influenced how Chevy experimented with technology – which the brand recognized as an opportunity to surprise and engage the tech-savvy and trend-savvy crowd that congregates at SXSW.

GowallaJoshYouTubeGrab

The mobile execution focused on using those technologies to create an experience or to enable or enhance one.  Most of the technologies we used then are quickly becoming mainstream.  From the use of QR codes to make a connection to mobile information, to location-based services that can engage and give the brand an opportunity to interact with people.

Chevy’s SXSW Gowalla Experiment
One of the technologies we used last year isGowalla. The goal for the Gowalla program, and much of Chevrolet’s presence there, was to bring something to the attendee experience that wouldn’t be there otherwise.  To experiment with a “what-if” attitude that brought forward new technologies and new ways to engage to let the community decide what they liked, what they didn’t and how to improve it.

Airport Pop-up

The Chevrolet Gowalla program included the following elements.

  • A welcome message when passengers arrived and checked in at the Austin airport.
  • A special offer for a select few who checked in, offering them a free ride to their hotel in an awaiting Chevrolet.
  • Specific location markers in the game for the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge and the Chevy Ride & Drive spot.
  • A unique item that could be found in the game and redeemed for a Hot Wheels Camaro or Corvette at the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge in the convention center.
  • A Chevy Walking Trip of select Austin landmarks that show Austin’s unique culture, which upon completion of the trip was also redeemable for a Hot Wheels car at the Chevy Volt Recharge Lounge.

What we Learned

Since this was a first for all of us, there were a lot of unknowns when we began the program.  And I can say that we’ve just scratched the surface on the implications of these technologies for brands.

  • We showed that a big brand can integrate into consumers’ lives in a relevant way
    • We didn’t force users to embrace the technology, instead we created an experience by plugging into technologies that the community was already using
  • We were able to create something fun for users to do (free rides from the airport, downtown walking tour, collecting items) which made it an experience, rather than just a message
  • We learned that these applications can drive people from one location to another with a specific call to action (offering a redeemableitem at one location for completing the walking trip or finding a game item at another location)
  • Word of mouth helped spread news of the program organically, supplementing blog posts about the program on SXSW.com
  • We mapped anonline/mobile experience to an offline experience with a genuine pay-off for the participant

In the end, we were able to learn about the opportunities these platforms hold for brands and their value in extending a mobile, online experience offline where a transaction can take place.  We will take these learnings into account as we plan and build next year’s SXSW location-based experience.

GowallaCatchAChevy

By the numbers

In all, we learned a lot from the program, and it generally reflected well on the brand.  Some of the hard metrics include:

  • Several hundred people saw the Chevy welcome message when they checked in at the airport
  • 40+ people completed the downtown walking trip – putting it among the top most-completed trips on Gowalla at the time
  • Close to 75 Hot Wheels cars were redeemed at the Volt Recharge Lounge
  • 730 check-ins by446 people at the Volt Recharge Lounge – second most check-ins behind the SXSW badge pick-up location

While the numbers in aggregate tell one story, the overall message is that a brand can use these channels to engage in a way that people appreciate.  With more access, greater integration and new offers, these numbers will rise.

GowallaWalkingTour

Conclusion
Location provides a third dimension to social media that will continue to heat up over the next several months.  In that time, we’ll also see a huge push by the wireless industry to increase the speed and ubiquity of their networks.  This will bring more access at greater speeds over phones that continue to become the center of a consumer’s lifestyle.  The GPS capabilities of these phones that will fuel the mobile-social firestorm will also likely go through a firestorm of their own for security and privacy reasons.  But through it all these mobile applications will continue to be the bridge between online and offline social interactions – both for individual consumers and the brands that are trying to reach them.

(Originally posted on Mobilisms.com)

What we’ve got here is … failure to communicate

I recently spoke at the Location-based Marketing Summit.  If there’s one area where everyone is polishing their crystal balls, it’s in the future of location.  And, inevitably, the discussion turned to monetization.  As you can imagine, the first source for monetization that began to echo through the conference was advertising.  As I pointed out when I spoke, I like a paycheck as much as the next guy, but I wish there was a little more delay before we start to see an advertising discussion start around new platforms.  A little more time to let the concept breathe, and more thought put into how to use the platform for true, rather than artificial engagement. What I’m seeing, whether it’s at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, or at the Location-based Marketing Summit is a conversation that is starting to be dominated with an advertising voice – whether that’s from ad networks, technology providers or agencies and brands themselves.  It’s becoming predictable that, before the conversation begins about how people will actually use the new medium, how the platform will grow a community and what role the technology means in the greater context, someone in the back of the room stands up  and asks about the ad creative dimensions. I was reminded of this by the news/rumor that Twitter will begin to push ads into a users Twitter stream.  Twitter has a couple of years on the location platforms, but it’s still at a critical point in its evolution.  Is it that pushing ads into the experience is the only way to help get to its monetization goals, or is it a lack of creativity – on Twitter’s part or the part of the brand and their agencies – that other alternatives haven’t been explored?  Like anything, if you try to force it into the experience, the community will react negatively.  But, the last two offerings I’ve seen from Twitter that point to a monetization effort have been (paid) promoted Tweets and now potentially ads in the Twitter stream.  I think there needs to be more innovation on the part of the platform to find new and interesting ways to build an experience, rather than defaulting to advertising as a go-to strategy.  Admittedly, it’s difficult for me to give Twitter too much of a hard time for this.  I’m not the one sitting across the table having to justify my existence with investors, and they now face a similar challenge as Facebook with a platform that’s interwoven into the fabric of the social media experience.  I just hope that more opportunities for innovation and experimentation can lead the conversation and be given as much credence as monetization through advertising.

(There are any number of holes in this, so if you feel like weighing in, make sure to let me have it in the comments.)

UPDATE: In the spirit of fairness, here is an account from AdAge of Twitter in-stream ads as told by a user who has them.

The State of Location-based Services and Marketing

Location-based services (LBS), or geolocation applications, or “the creepy tech that lets everyone know where you are” is so new that there’s still little fighting over acronyms or adjectives to describe the category.

In reality, a fraction of people who have technologies that enable LBS even know they have it, and an even smaller fraction of those actually use it, and an even smaller fraction of that set use it actively.  So, for the three of you who are actively using these technologies (and I know where you are), you don’t have to read any further.  You get it.  You understand, or like the rest of us trying to understand, the implications that LBS will have on the social dynamic. With this post, I’ll try to put a stake in the ground and mark where we are in the adoption, proliferation and understanding of LBS and its potential.  Because, it’s early.  Really early.  But, it’s one that will continue to grow and change many of the tenants of social interaction and online/offline integration.

Location: A Brief History & Technology
Here’s my best attempt at a brief history of location and its technology that you’ll have to fact-check me on …. Location became relevant approximately 10 billion years ago when the earth was created and there became a locale to attach location.  Fast forward about 9.999 billion years (give or take a 9) and people are roaming the earth in search other people and places.  Discovering new continents, finding lost cities, creating beer trips in college towns.  The point is that location has always been relevant – whether you’re searching for the new world, or the closest World Market, location is important.  And, the technologies used to map and define location have become and continue to become more accurate and integrated into the other technologies we use every day.  Just as the use of these technologies will continue to evolve, so will the applications that sit on top of it.  Until recently, the technologies that power location weren’t refined, and the networks that they ran over weren’t dialed in enough to make the experience a good one.  So, to understand the proliferation of LBS, and anything that’s built on technology, you have to understand where we are in the evolution of the underlying technology.  While there are still pieces to fall into place (WiFi, other broadband technologies, etc.), the technology foundation LBS rides across and gives the consumer a good experience is now in place, and improving – which will facilitate broader adoption.

Availability Doesn’t Mean Adoption
With a strong technology foundation and a good user experience, LBS is ready to take off.  Wrong.  Just because the technologies are available, doesn’t mean people will begin to use them.  With this category, I’d say there’s almost an inverse correlation between availability and adoption.  LBS hit at the core of many of the fears people have about the Internet, generally, and cell phones specifically.  There will exist for a while a creep factor when it comes to letting people know where you are at any given time.  The fact that our phones can share that information is cause for concern for many.  But, the one thing that LBS has going for it is the great equalizer, Facebook.  Or, as I call it “the gateway drug to social media.”  With the addition of Facebook Places, that platform alone will accelerate the adoption of location-based features.  The more your friends share their location with you, the more you’re aware of and likely to share your location with them.  Pretty soon (in about 18 – 24 mos) we’ll see not only a proliferation of brands using even more location-based applications, but more consumers sharing their location.  And, it’s all going according to plan.  Technology — Availability — Propagation Across Social Set — Adoption

Location: It’s the Journey, Not the Destination
Or at least, location is only part of it.  It’s what location enables, and to paraphrase Gowalla’s Josh Williams, “It’s what happens AFTER people check in that’s going to be interesting.”  As we’ve seen with Twitter and now Facebook, location is quickly becoming a commodity.  For all the talk of “checking in,” it’s equal parts location and experience.  This is where the real value of location becomes apparent.  Whether checking in is a trigger for your friends to find you, or it’s an opportunity for the restaurant to enhance your experience, what happens because you’ve identified your location is the future of these technologies and where marketers have an opportunity.

Enter: Marketer – Stage Right
I’ve often said that location is the third dimension of social media, and that it’s one of the few platforms that get better when marketers are involved.  When done right, brands and marketers can bring greater relevance to not only LBS, but also to the locations themselves.  Part of the draw of these platforms is the element of surprise that’s possible through them.  Getting a benefit for being a loyal customer just got a lot more real.  At least, the opportunity for it to become more real and personal just got easier.  The challenge for marketers is to use these platforms in a way that’s not intrusive and to bring a real value to them.  I have a hard time when I see some brands trying to offer the same benefit they push through the Sunday circular in their location-based programs.  Ten percent off a car wash after your third check in doesn’t hit the mark for me.  Initially people may be intrigued by the function of checking in and seeing something, anything, from the business, but as we’ve see with other social channels, expectations advance faster than marketers can adapt to those expectations.  It’s best to try to stay ahead of that dilemma by starting from a place of value.  And follow the hallmarks of successful location-based programs – compelling, convenient, easy.

Exit: Marketer – Stage Left
As important as it is to be part of the location-based discussion about your location, it’s equally important to understand that these channels are best directed by the consumers who use them, not the brand.  As with any new technology that gets a brand closer to its consumers, there’s a delicate balance between helpful and relevant and forced and annoying.  The non-benefit I mentioned earlier is one example.  If you’re not able to offer something of value through your location-based program, look for other ways to be present.  Actively manage your location, engage with the people who frequent the location (engage, not harass with offers), find ways to show that you’re in tune with, value and understand these new channels.  In addition, find ways to incorporate other platforms and emerging technologies together to create a unique experience.  But, above all, be a human and bring value to the relationship.  If you’re not delivering value, wait until you can, but don’t wait too long.

Where we Are; Where We’re Going
We’ve established the relevance of location and that it’s inherent to our lives as human beings.  We’ve set the expectation that there’s a technology foundation from which to build, and building we are. We’ve established that, while location is important, it’s only part of the puzzle.  And, as location becomes a commodity, it’s the experience that’s enabled through location that matters.  We’ve also unraveled the adoption mystery and how that plays into our long-term strategy.  And, finally, we have a better understanding of the role of the brand in these channels and how to add value.  So, what’s next.  Since I’ve taken far too much room to lay this all out, I’ll save that for the next post, where I’ll draw insight from the Location-based Marketing Summit and the discussions I’ll have at that event.  I’ll meet with some of the platform providers themselves as well as some of the brands and marketers who are exploring and using these new tools.  I’ll package all of that up and offer a view of where the group thinks LBS is going.  I’ll finish with this.

I’m speaking at the Location-based Marketing Summit about a category of technologies that haven’t even hatched yet and with the experience of about a year actually developing these types of programs.  But, I view LBS like I did Twitter and similar platforms early in their development and adoption.  And, I encourage clients in the same way – experiment now to find the relevance for you as a consumer and for your brand’s consumers.  Because these tools are so new, as a brand, there’s no reason why you should have already explored the options that LBS holds for you and the connections they’ll enable with your consumers.  You have time to justify it and make good decisions based on how consumers engage with your brand.  But, as an individual, there’s no reason why you can’t create a trip on Gowalla, download SVNGR and complete some tasks or begin to attach location to your Tweets to understand how the technologies work, what’s possible and what’s worth exploring more.  Discover, learn and activate.  Now is the time.

(Previously published on Mobilisms.com on 9/28/10)