“It can’t be just ROI. It’s relevancy!”

Never have truer words been written about the shifting sands of marketing in the second decade of the 21st century.  As Mark Schaefer points out in a recent blog, companies need to understand that innovating within the social media sphere is simply part of doing business these days.  Furthermore, a website alone won’t cut it:  “68 percent of the Fortune 100 companies had a year-over-year decline in their website page views” because people want the relevant information parsed out and provided as needed (Schaefer).  Who wants to read a website when a twitter posting has the information required?

For mid-sized businesses, however, websites offer safety and ease of administration.  The also offer a marketing team a centralized location for coherent messaging.  One marketing person can monitor web traffic, add content through administrator panels, and send out emailed newsletters with embedded weblinks on a regular basis.  However, building out the website into a hub for Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In becomes a full-time social media job, particularly when “listening” to the echoes and responses is added to the responsibility list.

As mid-sized firms, such as financial services, law firms, banks, and insurance companies look to the daunting world of social media, they should take heart that they are getting involved in a maturing industry.  No longer will they need to wade into the weeds alone – there are many third-party and consulting firms that offer management tools that help to format and place content across the social media stratum.  Layla Revis, VP at Ogilvy describes six of these tools that she feels will gain adoption in 2012:  Buddy Media, Vitrue, Context Optional, Involver, Shoutlet, and Sprout Publisher.  The great thing about the management software she describes is that it packages the posting abilities with analytic tools that help assess the impact that postings are making.  These tools allow businesses to use their resources wisely to become relevant.  By investing in a dedicated social media team to listen and produce content, businesses can ensure their own future through monitoring their efforts.  As Schaefer points out in his blog, longevity depends on engaging in social media.  Customers and clients expect to find their goods and services on their phones, GPS devices, and by 2014, in their eye-glasses.

Sources:

Manjoo, F. (2012).  You Will Want Google Goggles.  Technology Review.  http://www.technologyreview.com/review/428212/you-will-want-google-goggles/

Revis, L. (2012, July 6).  The Best Social Media Management Tools for 2012.  The Huffington Post Blog.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/layla-revis/social-media-management_b_1648177.html

Schaefer, M. (2012, July 12).  It’s not just ROI.  It’s Relevance!  Business Grow.com @markwschaefer.  http://www.businessesgrow.com/2012/07/12/its-not-just-roi-its-relevance/

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Facing the Future

Does the Facebook fiasco of the last week matter?  It does, because it identifies the forces and tensions that are struggling to determine control of social media and the future of virtual communities.  In one corner are the companies that structure the internet, such as Facebook, that create the technological interfaces that bring people into contact with other people, goods, services, and information.  In another corner, there are the investors, corporations, companies, and other institutions who hope that these communities will serve as markets and prospective client bases that will generate profits.  In a third corner there are the various individuals who hope to engage with other individuals, companies, and other information sources in an honest, trustworthy manner.  As the Facebook story shows, there is no simple alignment between these forces.  For a full blow-by-blow of the last week, see Julianne Pepitone’s CNN Money Blog.  The key question, however, is simple.  What is Facebook worth?  From the investor perspective, does Facebook have a clear plan for how it will monetize the personal information that users provide to it in overwhelming amounts every day?  From an individual user perspective, does this plan provide enough benefits to keep the daily download of free and valuable information flowing?

It is easy to understand why Facebook’s collection of data makes marketers salivate.  Users willingly share contextualized information about who they know, how they know those people, and what interests they share.  The majority of adults who use social media, according to a 2011 Pew Internet Survey, use it to stay in touch with current friends (67%), family (64%), and old friends (50%); the next highest reasons are sharing hobbies or interests (14%) and making new friends (9%).  Marketing 101 tells us that the way to a consumer (or client’s) heart is through his/her needs.  Propose a solution to a clearly defined problem and the sale is at least half made.  Marketing 101 also tells us that people are more likely to trust information from known sources, including people they know or organizations they trust.  Publicize a product or idea through word of mouth, and obtain stronger credibility and more lasting awareness.  The contextualized information available through Facebook is a treasure trove of information that marketers can use to sell effectively.  Just browse Inside CRM’s 100 Tools and Tips.

So why the doubt this week?  First, investors are not convinced that they will receive a return on their investment.  One question is whether Facebook has the technological infrastructure in place to literally translate ‘likes’ into sales in a structured, guaranteed manner. The technology for culling through the mass of information to identify the most lucrative correlations and act upon them in a timely fashion may not be mature enough yet.  However, there is another issue.  Will the Internet communities created through technological interfaces such as Facebook remain constrained by those technologies?  Or, will they also mature, and demand more communal control over the terms of their participation?

Sources

Editors.  The Facebook Marketing Toolbox:  100 Tools and Tips to Tap the Facebook Customer Base.  Insider CRM, Retrieved May 26, 2012 from http://www.focus.com/fyi/facebook-marketing-toolbox-100-tools-and-tips-tap-facebook/

Pepitone, J. (2012, May 23).  Facebook IPO:  What the %$#! happened?  CNNMoneyTech. Retrieved May 24, 2012 from  http://money.cnn.com/2012/05/23/technology/facebook-ipo-what-went-wrong/index.htm

Smith, A. (2011, November 15).  Why Americans Use Social Media.  Pew Internet Survey.  Retrieved May 24, 2012 from http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Why-Americans-Use-Social-Media/Main-report.aspx

Virtual Marketplaces, Virtual Communities – The Best of the Web

As I begin this blog, the amazing potential of the combined information, talent and effort that people share on the Internet feels overwhelming.  Groundswell has described social media as a revolution or “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” (Li & Bernoff (2011), p. 9).  This revolution has two parts, a commerce piece in which goods and services are exchanged, and a communications piece, in which individuals interact with each other.  Technology facilitates both of these interactions.  Early in the social media revolution, sites seemed to specialize in either the exchange of goods and services or the building of online communities.  Think eBay.  Originally an auction website, it grew into a way to connect people to each other through the selling and buying of goods.  The virtual marketplace established by eBay, became what a traditional market in the ‘real’ world is, a place where people buy, sell, but also learn, gossip, and explore.  According to the site, “eBay continues to passionately believe in the potential of technology to connect people around the world” (eBay).

The sites that bring together the exchange of goods and services with the establishment of communities of people through technologies are the ones that illustrate the potential of virtual worlds and social media.  Four networks (described below) incorporate commerce and community into their essential workings.

Etsy is an artists’ marketplace that espouses a philosophy of making art a part of life, and challenges the cheap commodification of the goods and services people buy.

Twitter not only promotes conversations, but it promotes tertiary links between online communities and as such plays an extensive role in the viral nature of social media that is essential for maintaining communities (they need to exist in real-time).

You Tube, like Twitter, is a successful commercial and commercialized social media site with its own brand to promote and maintain.  It is an interesting site, however, in that it allows film clips and commercials produced by the major studios and agencies to be posted next to videos uploaded by the average next-door neighbor.  In between the commercial advertisers and amateurs, You Tube hosts video by news agencies, non-profits, educational institutions, and political campaigns, among other groups.  Commerce meets the world on You Tube.

Finally, Skype uses new technologies to let people communicate in what may seem to be an ‘old fashioned’ way – through real-time voice and/or video communication.  However, in a world market, it is essential that people have access to each other without crippling fees.  Skype allows businesses and individuals to maintain personal relationships without pricy institutional intermediaries.

When we think of the internet as a marketplace, it is important to remember that markets are where people exchange goods, services, information, lifestyles, and shape communities.  Although the internet moves at lightning speed in some ways, the goal should be more than efficient exchange of currency.  It should also be the inefficient, pleasurable, creation of lasting connections.

Network Business or Consumer User Primary Purpose or Focus Presence of Blog/ user feedback? Advertising Content Information Content Source(s) Single country or Global?
Etsy Both Handmade artwork sales; also sells   vintage items and supplies,  site   states its mission is to be “anthropologists of commerce” and to help people   learn more about being human. Yes – the site encourages   feedback, and states that “markets are conversations and we ask that you talk   vigorously back to us.” Yes – Etsy offers sellers the   option to pay more for a Showcase listing or search ad keywords to increase   traffic to their listings. Sellers post their wares;   designers and collectors also create blogs that link to multiple sellers;   Etsy links also found on Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc. Global – UK, French and German   versions
Twitter Both Quickly share something of   interest real-time through short (140 character) tweets or messages Yes – Twitter is created by user   content and user activity.  The site   offers multiple ways to contribute and follow tweets from various platforms Yes – Twitter offers Promoted   Tweets, Trends, and accounts along with Analytics tools that let large and   small businesses promote brands, products, and learn who is following them Users post and follow tweets.  There are two main types of content –   tweets on what is happening to a person/ situation real-time or retweets of   content available elsewhere on the web.    Twitter is fast becoming the glue that connects sites to each other   and therefore communities to each other Global – 27 language options are   available from the homepage in addition to English
You Tube Both Allow anyone to share video   content with a world audience; amateurs and professionals share video on this   site, all placed next to each other Yes – You Tube’s popularity is   that anyone can make a film and anyone can be a critic Yes – Almost every major advertising   campaign has a You Tube component Video postings from professional,   commercial, individual, and groups form the basis of the content.  Additional commentary on the postings form   the secondary content. Global – 43 countries are listed   as content locations
Skype Both Skype says its mission is to allow   users “to bring their social networks to life” b providing voice and/or video   communication in real-time; in a new campaign, Skype promotes the more   personal connections created by voice and face-to-face communications No, not directly.  But Skype does connect via Facebook, and so   extends the communities created there and elsewhere Yes – Skype has a business tool   that companies can use to make contacting them via Skype simple; Skype also   offers online Display advertising Skype’s online content consists of   listings, locations, and contact information for businesses and   individuals. Global – 23 languages in addition   to English are supported; calls place via the internet can reach many   countries

References

About Us, Etsy.  (2012).  Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/about/

Li, C. and Bernoff, J. (2011).  Groundswell:  Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies.  Boston:  Harvard Business Review.

Skype Challenges Impersonal Social Media in New Ad Campaign. (2012, April 6).  The Think Tank Blog.  Retrieved April 7, 2012 from http://thinktanklondonblog.com/2012/04/06/skype-challenges-impersonal-social-media-in-new-ad-campaign/

Skype. (2012).  Retrieved April 8, 2012 from http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/home?intcmp=wlogo

Start Advertising, Twitter. (2012).  Retrieved April 8, 2012 from https://business.twitter.com/en/advertise/start/

Timeline, eBay. (2012).  Retrieved April 7, 2012 from http://www.ebayinc.com/list/milestones#milestones_timeline_stage

You Tube. (2012).  Retrieved April 7, 2012 from https://www.youtube.com/