Selling through social media has always been a challenging business. However, all brands and companies we have spoken to in 2014 wanted to turn around Social Media from a brand reputation channel into a sales opportunity touchpoint.
Obviously, many of the companies had already failed. Most of them as they were either too greedy, or just not prepared to go in a bar without expecting someone to sell them a drink – or respectively, to buy their products and services after the brands or companies have posted their first status updates. In my eyes, it is time to shift expectations and start anew. 2015 should not be your year of sales disappointment, it should become your year of redefined engagement.
All companies aim for the same goal. Customer engagement is what companies are waiting, hoping and praying for. Thus, they pump out tons of content pieces from their latest brand sponsoring activities to the best white papers and case studies they can offer until they cannot find any content piece in their PR or marketing repository that has not been shared across the globe. And by accelerating the content via Facebook, Twitter and the likes, they expect their KPIs to become real.
And then, the guys from SocialFlow conducted a study in summer last year. analyzed organic posts with almost 1.5 billion social actions, showing them 99 percent of those updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ create little to no engagement at all. Did brands use engagement the wrong way? Where their tactics bad? And if so, what were the obstacles they did not obey?
Let’s look at the following three tactical approaches. Ask yourself if you really follow the three rules of engagement.
1. Engagement: Think cross-department, cross-partners and cross-employee
Companies still tend to be structured in silos. Internal politics, department thinking and career ambitions rule out what could be replaced by community engagement, employee engagement initiatives or engagement incentive plans. Still, most responsible managers don’t know or forget how networking inside the company and with all external forces like resellers, retailers and partners might might leverage selling opportunities.
Now, whether it is limited digital capabilities of employees or the HR department that is often only involved in social media in terms of setting up social media guidelines, companies should start realitzing that their social media manager is not the company’s silver bullet. HR and marketing need to align forces and work closer together: Culture, relationship building and trust creation is not only a sales business which got nicely highlighted by a study from Altimeter at the end of 2014.
Setting up processes, programs and platforms that work towards a common goal, that get updated by various minds, by different perspectives and manyfold views attracts the engagement of more customers. The formula is easy and proven: More brains can be in more conversations and generate more engagement.
2. Engagement: Learn cross-platform, from „free-meal“ to „pay-for-play“
Companies and brands seem to accept that social media is not a „free-meal“ any longer by investing in consulting companies to help transforming their social media efforts into social selling enagement. Facebook is leading in driving engagement to brands according to Simply Measured’s 2014 Facebook Study which analyzed the Interbrand Top 100 Global. Photos accounting for 77% of total engagement, and link usage to around 16%.
However, brands still haven’t respected the fact that getting people to listen and read their marketing messages by posting in social media is changing dramatically. When Facebook turns the algorithm into „less promotional“ this year, companies need to start redefining how they approach their customers more subtile. Even if they will be addressing them with building clusters (or circles), contacting them via the „@name“ phenomenon or hashtags. The wording needs tob e chosen carefully, and we can be sure other networks will follow that example.
Thus, the next big thing will be the shift from investing in traditional media to spending more money in platforms that leverage social networking engagement. Products like the LinkedIn Sales Navigator or individual targeting through the combination of data analytics and marketing services, will become the new sales kid in town. Where marketing and media decision makers have invested in nebulous target-group definitions, social networks can cluster target-groups by their individual interest in content, in pictures or in videos.
The only shame is that smart data (and especially media and sales data exchange) across platforms does not work yet. So, banners and sponsored posts will continue to haunt customers although they have already bought a product or service a banner promotes to them. Clever managers invest in blogger programs, in brand advocates and loyalty programs to drive up and cross-selling opportunities. Don’t just think about content!
3. Engagement: Understand cross-quality values
Just to make this clear from the beginning: A LIKE is not only a LIKE, like a Retweet, Repin or Reblog is not just a meaninglesss interaction of some lazy engagement. In many seminars, we see marketers that still center their KPIs around quantitative engagement figures while under-estimating the chances that are covered behind such „automated“ customer interactions: joy, interest, passion, emotions, etc..
Clever sales people use such quantitative engagements for profiling their customers’ habits, experiences and interests in their social CRM database or sales management systems. They value every single customer engagement as they know when to turn quantitative into qualitative engagement, and how to turn it to their favor in meetings, calls and conversations. Knowing that a client has liked a shared golf or football video can be the start of a long-term relationship and open up doors for introductions to others.
Customers will be happy if they get good content to share with their own peers and community. They appreciate the dedication (seasonal content), commitment (consistency of service) and the quality of engagement (high interactivity) that brand accounts offer to them according to a study by the Engagment Labs. Appreciation, well-understood from customers and companies, is the key to social media engagement.
The link between customer engagement and employee engagement was not only proven in a study by Answers Corporation lately. In many examples with customers and experts have we experienced that social media engagement is not rocket-science, however the process of setting it up plus using and finding the right technology is a challenge. Still, the rules of engagement are changing in social media, especially in social networks. Facebook is the former RSS feed, just with the difference that you can sponsor it now. Youtube is the new search engine. It’s 2015! Redefine your engagement mindset!
Adobe’s CMO.com did a great job in summarizing the leading social networks for business in one nice infographic alongside their CMO Guide to The Social Landscape. The marketing technology company checked each of the platforms according to four criteria: brand awareness, customer communication, SEO and traffic generation.
Obviously and not surprising, the leading platforms are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. From our experience not all marketers are aware of the importance to change the contents for each platform and not just run them in different timings. The target-groups on the various platforms may be quite different, thus their interests in content and context as well as their wants and needs might vary extremely – although they might be the same people sometimes.
YouTube will probably become the leading platform when the whole world is more driven by Millennials and their input. Although you might be thinking about funny videos, going viral now, most of the business content can be manuals, employer branding stuff, or even product explanation videos. The opportunities are massive and it is time for marketers to realize.
In the B2B space, Slideshare might be a new platform for marketers. The chances are big here as well, as companies and brands get the option to show presentations from various standpoints. Especially, if the company is addressing different stakeholders in a purchase process, it is sometimes good to open up some thoughts before the meeting, so stakeholders can prepare. And, how often did presentations before meetings not go through as of company email file restrictions…?!
Obviously, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest play a role from a corporate brand perspective. And Google+ especially from a SEO and content marketing point of view. However, we are still at the beginning and every case needs to be evaluated on its own.
Any important platform you are missing in the top 8 social networks?
Are teens real trendsetters when it comes to using the latest online gig or social networks? Well, Niche gives some insights into the websites that 7.000 high school graduates in the U.S. were using lately.
Although many of us would have thought that Facebook is not the biggest hype for them any longer, the interactive infographic provided by Niche proves that 87% of the graduates are still happy with reading their news and being active on Facebook. Instagram makes up 66% and Twitter is used by 55%.
In terms of quick chat platforms, 72% use Facebook Messenger and 65% are active on Snapchat. Those platforms that are said to be the latest trend like YikYak and Whisper are not really getting big activity rates – 97% and 95% don’t use these platforms.
From a broadcasting point of view, it is interesting to see that YouTube, Netflix, and Pandora are the leading edge platforms whereas Hulu, Spotify and Beats like Amazon Prime are not yet their main interest spot.
PS: The interactive infographic with further info can be seen at Business Insider.
According to a recent study by Klout, the most popular content topics on Twitter and Facebook seem to be similar. However, they differ significantly beyond the top 10 topics, states the report based on Klout Topics data from more than 580 million people all over the world. The topics were categorized interests, passions, and content areas.
The study shows that music and television are still the main topics to talk about on the main social networks Facebook and Twitter. And obviously, people are still generating and sharing their words and views on celebrities, holidays, software, films, and business, which showed up to be highly popular among the social networks.
In general, engagement and interaction on various content topics occur in 40% of the cases on the same top 10 content on Facebook and Twitter. The pattern of engagement does not really make a massive differentiation obvious on the various social networks. Still, the remaining 60% show some interesting variations on interactions which definitely need some mentioning as tzhey vary from network to network.
However, the remaining 60% of all engagement comes from topics beyond the top 10, and the percentage of interactions with those subjects differs significantly by network
Twitter 95 vs. Facebook 23
Twitter 104 vs. Facebook 52
Twitter 89 vs. Facebook 197
Twitter 98 vs. Facebook 196
Twitter 66 vs. Facebook 21
Twitter 50 vs. Facebook 22
Stop reading this blog post if you are a Facebook fan. You might hate it. You might like it. Stop it! You won’t? Well then, don’t try to be a consultant and just read this and act like a Facebook user. This is our idea how Facebook could become even better…
When I wrote about The Social Globe -a world of paid social networks- some years ago, people called me „mad“ and „crazy“ teasing such „wild“ and „early“ paid ideas around social networks. Sometimes, I wondered why The Social Globe – a „network“ of social networks like the broadcasting network Sky (earlier Premiere in Germany) never kicked off, bearing in mind all big social networks needed revenue. Maybe it was too big an idea. Maybe too superficially explained. Maybe… Whatever. I never found an answer. Well, maybe one. All major networks want to outplay their competitors. Collaboration is out. Although, we all have the social media philosophy in our heads: Sharing is caring. It does not count for social networks it seems.
Some years are gone since, and we all think about and discuss the value of Facebook. We wonder about it’s algorythm deciding what we see, watch and read. And we blame their advertising programs which often don’t make the user happy, nor does it seem to meet the personal targeting criteria. Well, in case people even notice the ads.
Traveling a lot, I have discussed a new monetization approach with social media and social networking insiders all over Europe. What happened if Facebook would change their business model according to the following „freemium“ scenario. Yes, I know that Mark Zuckerberg has said, Facebook will never cost the user anything.
But what is the value of restricted and filtered content? What if I cannot see the content of my real friends? What if I don’t see (the ads of) my favorite love brands anymore on Facebook? What if Facebook loses it’s personal benefit and value for me more and more?
So, this is the moment of truth. Users get two account options on Facebook in the future…
a) Free Account
Filtered user account. Ads and branded content to be displayed according to Facebook’s targeting system. Facebook decides what content the user sees. Who your „real friends“ are is decided by the algorithm.
Costs: 0 EUR per month
b) Paid Account
Unfiltered user account. Opportunity to personalize the own stream. Ads and branded content of the user’s favorite brands will be displayed according to their love brand personalization. The users decide what content they see. Who their „real friends“ are is decided by the user.
Costs: 1 Dollar per month
Facebook has opened up a new field of communication, a new way of bringing people closer to each other. No matter how far separated they are. It is a great way to make us aware how close we are living, breathing and experiencing our daily lives.
The idea of paid for Facebook accounts is out there to being discussed. Go ahead and give us your thoughts.
Maybe this is the start of a new way of thinking about Facebook. Maybe we can start a real discussion on how to make Facebook a better social networking place with more personal value, less self-glorification, and so on. One that leverages „real“ personal connections.
Would you use such a paid version, or stick with the old free account?
It is one of these questions, we always get asked in meetings and seminars. How much is social media growing, or is growth already declining? Search Engine Journal provides some good overview on the topic of growth and use in an infographic just recently released.
The most popular sites -in terms of how they are used by marketers- are still Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Same as in the study from Global Web Index in 2013, Twitter still shows the fastest growth in social networks from an active user perspective, especially in the 55-64 age group.
In the time period from June 2012 to March 2013, Google+ increased their active user base by 33%. The age group of 45-54 years showed the fastest adaption growth in Google+ with a 56% increase.
And Facebook? Although they showed a 23% increase, especially the age group of 45-54 years is adapting the fast moving „Likes and Hypes“ network.
The questions we get asked by management team all over Europe are quite similar whenever it comes to best possible conversion times, or perfect hours and days to posting on social networks, to send out updates and to generate engagement. Although this might be an option to boost your social and web activities, it should be clear to everyone that if we all obey these options, we are challenging our clients more and more in generating engagement.
Above all, not all social media platforms are alike. The user types of social networks are different, depending on whether these are coming with a purchase intent, the idea to keep their friends up to date about their latest spare time activities, or whether they are looking for new job opportunities in career networks. Sentiment, time and openness for your updates might vary from minute to minute.
Mitt Ray summarizes some advice on when could be the best and worst time to publish your updates on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest and Tumblr. Take it for whatever it is worth to you…
How important do you see social search for your brand or your company? Not much. Well, you might reconsider this answer when you have read some of the stats provided by Prestige Marketing in the following infographic.
The compilation of figures and data gives some insights in why brands need to understand the benefits of social search.
– When exposed to relevant branded media, consumers are more likely to click your information: search click-through rates increase 94%.
– Comparable to the Nielsen findings some months ago, 78% of consumers trust personal recommendations over search result rankings.
– In order to make purchase decisions, 48% of digital buyers use search and social media for their buying decisions.
„Social search engines use data from social networks and online relationships, including rating, shares, and likes, to determine the display order of search query results,“ claims the infographic.
The following infographic will tell you more about a toppic you might not really be spot on…
The study shows that most business leaders own a mobile device (90%), live and like the mobile business and are agreeing that life is „easier“ (68%). Even more, 64% see their lives becoming more productive and enjoyable. Apple is still leading with 44% owning an iPhone versus Android users with 35%. Obviously tablets are on the rise as well with almost. The merging worlds of private and business becomes clear with the fact that 72% (up 39% from 2011) use their tablets for both work and leisure.
Not surprisingly, two thirds value tablets „useful business tools“. Also second screen usage is big among the business elite: 75% watch TV at the same time as using their tablet. The engagement effect of the tablet is striking with nine in 10 of these consumers taking some form of action on their tablet as a result of seeing TV content. And when the study shows that a third of the business executives are responding to TV advertising, marketers should think about ow to implement clever brand and lead generation campaigns in their TV spots. And when marketers want to reach the business elite, they are best in sending out their messages in the evening and at weekends (tablet usage). Smartphones are always-on, so no special advice here.
„This study shows the huge influence mobile technology has on our lives. Europe’s elite are keeping up with technological change, owning more devices than ever and using each in different ways. In the area of social media and its value in business, the jury is still out and it will be interesting to see where this leads next year.“ Mike Jeanes, Director of Research, EMEA, CNBC.
Top content for tablets…
– business and financial information (72%)
– web browsing (70%)
– news updates (70%)
– email (69%)
– reading newspapers/magazines (69%).
Top content for mobiles…
– email (79%)
– business and finance (72%)
– web browsing (70%)
– news updates (70%)
– GPS (69%)
Despite some common disagreement that the business elite is not on social networks, the study makes clear that 85% are a member of at least one network with 61% on Facebook, 58% on LinkedIn, and 43% on Twitter. It is important to note that 40% (up from 19% in 2011) of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter users are now connected to all three social networks. Furthermore, 58% of the business decision makers use social media for business (still private use is the standard for 75%). It could be that private and business worlds are really not kept as separate any longer. The commercial impact of social media is seen critical. When 46% see social media „neither useful nor essential“ (compare study 2012), it shows that most business decision makers had either the wrong advice or the wrong expectation raised by consultants. One of the reasons why we are always very critical in analyzing the benefit of social media for a company or brand, and trying to show the realistic benefit for companies.
In an interesting report by Zendesk across the globe, it becomes obvious that telephone is still the preferred way to the customer service of companies. The report shows insights based on actual customer service and support interactions from over 16,000 companies across 125 countries.
According to the Zendesk report, customer all over the world were most satisfied with customer support they received on the telephone. The insights done in Q3 2013 show that 91% of customers liked the way they got help on the phone. In the second place of the satisfaction ranking came Chat (85%), followed by Help Centers/Web Forums (83%). On the social networks side Twitter (81%) came in before Facebook (74%).
Not surprisingly, the report also made clear that during normal business hours the support got the slowest first reply times (FRT) plus the lowest satisfaction scores. In the time period between 5-6pm local time -often when the service teams change or leave business for the day- companies have got the longest FRTs.
Interesting to see that Brasil and Canada received the highest customer satisfaction scores although there was no real indications on what the reasons could be. United Kingdom finished in position 6, US in 11 and Germany only in 14. From an industry perspective, the IT services and consultancy business, government and education achieved the highest customer satisfaction rankings.
Companies would be clever to combine these findings with their customer churn and growth rates to see the impact of customer servcie on the development of their customer base. Although many companies do custoemr servcie via Twitter and Facebook, which is steadily growing and improving since 2012 according to the report, we have experienced that social media in customer service if often just used to calm people down and get them engaged in a phone call to solve their issues. A trend that has shown the best customer service satisfaction results.