Some weeks ago in this post, we have tried to define an undefined social media species: Influencers. The feedback was very positive and many companies are still trying to find the secret sauce how to use and leverage the value of influencers for their brands and their sales funnel.
Now, a recent study by Twitter gives further evidence of the value of influencers, and on how they help positioning brands and in which way they might might upload the sales funnel. The first part of the study was meant to figure out amoung more than 300 users how they responded toward brand influencers.
The study conducted by Annalect, a data analytics company, in corporation with Twitter shows that almost 40% of the responding people stated to have purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer on a social platform like Instagram, Twitter or YouTube. And another 40% stated that they are following brands on Twitter.
But influencers are not only valuable in terms of sales performance. They also make people share products they are using themselves. Almost one in five (20%) respondents claimed that they shared something they saw from an influencer. Amoung Millennials even one in three said they follow a social media influencer on Twitter or Vine.
The study comes like an extension of two former studies from Nielsen and Lithium making clear that Millennials trust different people in different ways. Interestingly enough, this study also states that influencers rival friends in trust building. Just 7% of respondents rely more on recommendations from friends (56%) than from influencers (49%).
„This is telling us is that you don’t have to be a mass media star or a household name to be influential and actually drive people to buy stuff.“ Jeffrey Graham, Vice President of Market Research and Insights, Twitter
The Twitter-owned talent agency Niche revealed that the pool of influencers available to brands has grown from 6,000 to over 25,000 in a year. Honestly, we would say there os probably more depending on what you value: reach or relevance.
The smartphone has become the modern sales acceleration technology. Social influencers put trendy or interesting products on their sites or streams while walking down the street or by getting them from brands for free, and people following them would purchase those products. Have you not experienced this yourself?
The only thing we wonder is, how much would brands pay influencers to write about their product and share a picture of the product via their social media accounts? The numbers we know from influencers vary but maybe there is someone in the market who might want to share some insights.
According to the study of Harris Poll (conducted on behalf of Lithium Technologies), that addressed more than 2,300 consumers of all generations, more than half of all digital natives (56%) report to cut back or stop the use of social media platforms entirely.
Even more, 75% of the responding Millenials stated that they feel stalked by brands on social platforms. The reason: The eager way brands do target them in their news feed with the ambition to build trust and loyalty with their customers or consumers via social media platforms in the U.S.
So, what does this mean for brands? Do brands have to live according to a transformed version of the former cold call prevention: „Don’t stalk us, we follow you!“? The study suggests that direct targeting on social platforms via advertising might result in losing customers. It would be more effective to engage and to be present on the channels they use frequently. And also if brands might be tempted to leverage the huge purchasing power coming from the modern generations (Millennials and Gen Z make up 50% of the population), brands need to be careful not to waste the potential of social media and really meet their personal expectations. How challenging this might be in the end…
„The promise of social technologies has always been about connecting people, not shouting at them, and the brands that don’t do this risk their very existence.“ Rob Tarkoff, President&CEO, Lithium Technologies.
But how can brands build trust, the study also asked? A question that is also raised in a bi-annual study from Nielsen and might be evaluated in comparison with those results. Obviously, online is their general source of information but their trust in online exceeds that of former generations by far.
While in the Nielsen study, personal „recommendations from people I know“ are leading, Lithium sees „online sites with product reviews“ as the highest form of online trust creation. That websites are definitely not „dead“ can be seen that both studies see websites kind of in the second place. And, whereas Lithium sees „communities of like-minded people“ in the third place (just think about what their main product was…), Nielsen sees editorial content still a very important source.
In terms of service, the Lithium study shows that Millennials contact brands online (79%) and expect a response back within the same day – almost 10% more than Baby Boomers. So, if brands do not actively monitor and engage with the younger generations online, their brand loyalty might go down soon. The best way to interact with Millennials is described in a quote the study also delivers…
„I go on social media to see and know what my friends are doing. I don’t want to see ads clutter my news feed. If I’m interested in a product or service, I know where to look. Social media is a place for us to connect with our friends, not be attacked by advertisements.“ Mallory Benham, Graduate Student (23)
So, what are your learning on targeting Millennials and Gen Z via ads on social media?
The Internet of Things is said to have a major impact on the business world according to Jared Newman. Goldman Sachs even thinks that IoT opportunity for industrials could amount to $2 trillion by 2020. Connected cars, connected utility, connected houses, connected vineyards, connected streets, connected everything – the opportunities seem incredable bearing in mind that with IoT everyting can be addressed in the future.
Now, a recent report called „State of the Market: Internet of Things 2016,“ shows that the Internet of Things (IoT) is already mainstream.
The motivation behind the high adoption rate is quite obvious: The opportunity for revenue growth drives many managers towards IoT adoption with data being the monetization engine behind it. Still, just 8% of the respondents make use of more than 25% of their IoT data these days.
Not suprisingly, the report also highlights that enterprises are turning to startups to help accelerate their IoT growth. In 2015, enterprise IoT startup companies outpaced funding for consumer startup companies by 75%.
Verizon’s experts think that IoT will continue to be a revenue driver for businesses both large and small due to the confluence of five macrotrends:
1. Consumer usage of smartphones.
High expectations to automation possibilities as of simplified interface. 81% of IoT adopters in the public sector believe that their citizens increasingly expect them to offer enhanced services from data and IoT.
2. Data monetization is wanted.
By 2018, almost 50% of businesses expect to be using more than 25%of their data. Descriptive data collection will become predictive and prescriptive data analytics. Paradigm shift from „big data“ to domain experts expected.
3. Regulatory landscape will bring right ecosystem partners together to drive industry standards.
In the US, with the Drug Supply Chain Act manufacturers until late 2017 will implement systems to electronically transfer and store transaction histories for their prescription drugs including shipment information across their distribution and supply chain. Result: Thwart counterfeiting drugs and savings of $75 billion annually according to the World Health Organization.
4. Democratization of innovation by network connectivity, low power devices and IoT platforms.
Businesses can scale their IoT deployments from millions to billions of connections more cost-efficiently. With the new 5G, autonomous solutions such as cars and robotics will become a reality and new categories of uses cases will evolve, such as virtual and augmented reality for IoT deployments.
5. Security experts keep up with the development of technology by looking to arising threat vectors
Some old, some new – that will impact IoT deployments and ongoing operations. Data privacy, protection and processing will remain the biggest challenge for security experts.
Sometimes reports do not look at the data challenge of the IoT development in my eyes. The interesting aspect is that IoT offers some incredible opportunities to improve our lives, simplify our ways of health tracking and be informed about the status of our cars and houses. However, most of the use cases are often based on some cloud services that people do not trust in as the generated data is stored in some unknown data center somewhere in the world. I sometimes wonder, why companies don’t start to save the data in a personal private cloud that can be added as an add-on service to the IoT business.
But hey, maybe I am asking for too much at this stage of the IoT status. Thoughts?
Instagram is the rockstar kid on the social media street these days… at least among the younger generations GenY and GenZ as far as we can argue from our latest advice and studies we are seeing all over the world. And when users have shared over 30 billion photos on one platform that tells a trend.
Now, many marketers wonder wether they should invest in Instagram to create new content, how often they shall share something, and in which way to present their brand to their target group. Salesforce offers some interesting advice with an infographic called „Say cheese!“.
Salesforce thinks that posting quality photos on a regular basis is one of the key tactics.
Regular? Well, find the „balance between over-saturation and falling to the wayside“. Understood? No? Maybe try not to put yourself in the focus of your brand and company name in pictures all the time.
Quality? Whatever that means as it stays in some way undefined. Maybe they mean types of photos more than quality of photos. Their advice is to use previews of upcoming products or events, and employees.
Style? „Write clear and engaging descriptions that reflect and enforce your brand’s message“. However, the question remains what engaging descriptions are. The answer we think would be to include questions in descriptions: Ask, ask, ask.
Our main advice would be to reach out to those Instagram users that are sharing content that engages already others that might be in your brand customer range. And somehow the secret sauce is: Re-post, re-share and comment. Don’t always think about many own accounts on Instagram. Just make sure „you don’t look like a robot.“
Very often the question in our seminars come up which platforms, content types and tactics to use on social media. Now, a recent report by Eccolo Media enlightens us – although it has to be mentioned that the basis for the survey was a fair small number of 100 people responsible for influencing or making B2B technology buying decisions (33% influencers, 67% decision makers) but conducted in a series of three different reports.
The survey makes clear that just about every one in three B2B technology buyer (38%) states to not have seen any content from vendors on social networks over the past six months that influenced a business purchase. And now just think how much time you invest in all your information process towards B2B buyers.
It also found that 34% of responding people claimed they have seen vendor content on Facebook in the past six months that helped with a purchase decision. Now, this might be as the base was predominantly US marketers but still it shows the power and influence of the biggest social network also on B2B tech buyers. LinkedIn came in as the second most influential network. 32% said they found meaningful content there, Google+ was mentioned by 28%, YouTube 27%, and Twitter 20%.
The early stage decisions in the sales cycle is for tech buyers most useful when it comes to finding content on social media. However, the challenge is awareness (31%) and understanding (36%).
In terms of the content most welcomed and consumed 25% of the surveyed people think case studies from vendors on social media are best to work with. Further content types they liked to consume were technology guides (16%) and whitepapers (16%).
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!
Compared to some previous study, this years CMO Council’s „State of Marketing“ (sponsored by NetBase and Infor) shows that confidence to be a trusted source for the C-level is back with marketers. The online study that asked 525 global marketers in the first quarter 2014 shows that 69% of senior marketers see themselves as a trusted, strategic member of the C-suite and/or are increasing their credibility with the main business decision makers inside their companies. Furthermore, 81% of senior marketers responded that they’re confident to meet management expectations and goals for top-line revenue growth and market share in the next 12 months.
„The level of confidence and optimism is very high. We are seeing the CMO role being elevated to a much larger degree.“ Donovan Neale-May, Executive Director, CMO Council
From a budget perspective, the main areas of marketing spending growth for this year will be social advertising (71%), online video (71%), social engagement campaigns (69%), retargeting (67%) and search engine marketing (66%). However, mobile will go down in the attention of marketing spendings this year. Only 62% said they plan to increases and just 25% project increases of over 5% for 2014. 45% said they expect no change for mobile banners. The report makes no commments on reasons for this stagnating mobile budget growth. In general, 54% of marketers plan to increase their marketing budgets over the next 12 months, 27% will keep budgets stable. The most funding will go into new products and program launches (54%), corporate branding and identity building (53%), lead generation and qualification (50%), and customer retention and monetization (44%).
When asked to identify where marketers will allocate marketing budget across
From an operational and process point of view 12% of the responding marketers said they will invest in product marketing, 12% said in strategy and branding, almost 7% in marketing and planning, 7% in sales and lead management, and 5% in market research, among other areas. It seems that programmatic buying has still not reached the marketing department. Only 1% sees programmatic advertising technology systems an interesting topic to invest in. Maybe they just do not have the right arguments for their C-Suite on programmatic yet.
The senior management expects from their CMOs over the next 12 months to drive top-line growth (56%), grow or retain market share (52%), better define the brand and value proposition (44%), and further customer insights and analytics (37%). As the leading areas of responsibility the marketers see for themselves strategic planning and forecasting (74%), branding (71%), digital (68%), budgeting and mix modeling (68%) and market research (67%). from a C-level perspective the marketers state that their main tasks from the business leaders are driving top-line growth (56%); growing or retaining market share (52%); better defining the brand and value proposition (44%); and furthering customer insights and analytics (37%).
The challenge for marketers as of the cloud technology evolution is to connect with other departments inside the company. Interesting to see from the report to which people marketers are reaching out these days for partnerships. The marketers responded that the CFO (58%), CIO (53%) and chief sales officer (51%) are their main three touchpoints inside the organization to form partnerships with.
The report also states that 55% of marketers want to hire in 2014. Their main focus of reecruiting people or getting knowledge will be on customer analytics (40%), social media (36%) and content development (27%). Interestingly enough, a trend that we also experience with our clients is that B2B marketers (60%) are very active finding new staff. Their main interest is in people on topics like customer analytics (33%), product marketing support (33%), content development (32%) and social media (32%).
In a quantitative study with 1,200 respondents, which also included some qualitative secondary research and some new form of „blography“ component, it made clear that streaming has become a mainstream behavior. Almost four out of five (78%) participants of the survey had streamed music in the past three months. The streaming habit on the way to purchase is most often (91%) a form of auditioning music before buying it – especially YouTube has an important role in this process.
The age group of 22-30 year olds is even more active than their older and younger counterparts. Streaming music has become a daily habit for them (63% do it daily). As the group sample was taken from their target audience, it might be a reason that this result is even higher than in usual user studies.
The young generation of „streamers“ listens to radio as an important source of information to this group. However, the study credited broadcast and the Internet as sources of music discovery. Interestingly enough the study states that the act of listening seems to be passive. User do not seek to find their music, it basically comes to them. It could be a prove that the music industry has understood how to use big data to favor the music taste of their users.
Obviously, TV is another major discovery platform for this generation. 88% of respondents mentioned that they searched for songs on TV shows next to listening to them. This could become another important opportunity for track-identification mobile apps (like i.e. Shazam).
The path from discovery to purchase (which in this study can mean several things, including “streaming it incessantly”) is interestingly charted. The role of streaming in that path is often a form of auditioning music before buying, according to 91% of participants, who use YouTube for that purpose.
Not surprisingly, the respondents state that downloading music via P2P networks is not popular for them (60% see it as „risky“ or „wrong“). Still, this does not mean that the idea is completely gone from their minds. Sharing music data with friends via DropBox or other sharing platforms is a common practice for music fans. However, if 81% of participants believe this is a support to bands they admire can be doubted. Maybe the music fans haven’t quite understood how their bands make money. It probably „beams up“ the bands relevance and popularity more if 63% of fans follow artists on Facebook and share the bands‘ news in their personal networks.
Content marketing seems to be the new hype in the business world. But wasn’t it there before? Case studies, whitepapers, corporate brochures, corporate publishing, etc. – did we not have all of this before? Maybe the B2B world was better trained in this topic than the B2C folks.
The guys from Curata now train marketers with a step-by-step content marketing marathon infographic. It will make marketers understand what it needs to become efficient in content marketing, to have the right pace at producing versus curating content, to achieve the perfect help and support from your fans and get to the finish line.
Good luck – and don’t forget to drink some water!
Some weeks ago, we spoke about a study that described what B2B decision makers expect to read on vendor websites. Now, a new study of 352 buyers (predominantly large businesses) from The CMO Council and NetLine shows that the majority of organizations (94%) favors to curate and circulate relevant content in their organization before finally deciding to purchase B2B solutions and services. For years, marketers thought B2B buyers and influencers alike are simply using vendor-related content from time to time.
The study makes clear that there is no real sharing structure to be made out from company to company. However, there are three main patterns that the study highlights in their results:
– From the Middle Out (35%): Execution-level executives search and find content about vendors/products and make the purchase. Senior management gets educated thorugh them why the decision was made.
– From the Bottom Up (30%): Junior or mid-level employees find vendor-related content and share their discoveries with senior management. Then they make the final decision.
– From the Top Down (29%): Senior managers find the content, then share it with lower-level managers for analysis and final purchase.
The same as with the sharing patterns, there are three key personas within the businesses who act according to their own behaviors, expectations and needs.
– Researchers: Primarily focused on new industry reports/research to inform them of advancements in solutions, trends affecting the markets, and opportunities for improvement.
– Influencers: Interested in both thought leadership found in trusted third-party channels and vendor-branded technology specifications, data sheets, and use cases. Their special interest is in summarized content, i.e. infographics, videos, and blog comments.
– Decision-Makers: Want to stay informed through broad research reports and analyst commentary. However, they expect to have access to detailed data to enable better decision-making at the tail end of the purchasing funnel.
The study reveals some further interesting insights. The vendor selection is major to moderate influenced by online content, find 88% of the B2B buyers and more than a third (38%) find that online content provides strategic insights and shapes the purchase decision. The content that is valued the most is research reports and studies (65%), technical spec and data sheets (50%), analyst reports (46%), whitepapers (35%) and posts on trade publishing sites (30%). The power of Google and the vendor website comes out as well: When more than two third state they start their vendor-related content sourcing with search engines and portals, it shows that the best training the marketers is to read the two B2B studies and draw some conclusion out of it for the future of your own content, PR and marketing acitivites. And if you cannot find a solution, we are happy to help…