Social Media & Customer Service? Companies have got 60 minutes max. to react

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Many companies and brands are asking themselves (and us): „How fast do we have to give some feedback or answer when somebody is pinging us on Facebook, Twitter and the likes?“ Or: Do we have to give some feedback on the weekends? And the answers we have heard were quite astonishing. Many managers in companies still think they have got a day or two to reply to their customers – whether they are speaking with them on email or on one of their realtime streams. Many test we have done so far, have shown us that most companies don’t react at all, some not on weekends, and some after one or two days. Be sure, if you offer your clients a realtime channel, they will use it – and they don’t care if the problem comes up on a weekend or not.

In a recent research by Convince and Convert we can find some clean answer now: 42% of the respondents expect an answer in the first 60 minutes! What comes even worse for companies: 57% want the some reaction time no matter what time of day it is or whether it is a Saturday or Sunday. In total, 67% expect some response by companies in the someday.

Still, many companies don’t have the right resources to satisfy their customers Social Media expectations. And there are many reasons for it: not enough resources, lack in modern process management or lack in technical establishment. Some companies started mentioning their opening hours in the info or biography fields which kind of makes sense and becomes a state-of-the-art workaround for the interim period until companies understand what a full-fledged social business with proper community management means. And this definitely goes away from the „9-to-5“ workplace we know from our fathers.

Spot On!
The main challenge for companies and brands is to find out what the deeper demand of the status update, the comment, the review or a rating is. Remember the 3R’s? In the end, what we have learned years ago, is that people want to have the feeling someone is taking care of them immediately. This does not essentially say that companies or brands have to supply the best possible answer or solution. Many managers have still not understood the fine difference between these topics.
What we would like to know is: Do 60 minutes feedback time make sense? Should we try to be more patient as users? Is a quick feedback really that important if our lives are not depending on it? You give the answer…

Why employers should rethink their attitude towards Social Media…

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Many interesting infos have we seen concerning how companies and employers are seeing and opening up their minds about Social Media usage in their offices.

PayScale now comes up with an interesting collection of data based on how employers have adapted Social Media usage for their employees. Some key findings are in the following infographic which makes clear that companies are still in a control mode and have their difficulties becoming „The Social Enterprise“.

– Just a bit more than half of the companies (53%) have a formal social media policy.
– Still 42% of companies don’t allow any forms of Social Media activity at work.
– The smaller the company the more likely the company has a Social Media policy in place.
– With 65% the retail industry is the most evolved industry sector, followed by manufacturing and biz support.
– Energy companies are least likely to use Social Media versus media companies that do encourage their employees.

Spot On!
The infographic shows that there is some kind of ambiguity in the adoption of Social Media inside companies. Although most companies see value in employer branding, in recruiting people through Social Media platforms (80% according to LinkedIn) as well as for external communication like promotions, marketing and PR, many companies still don’t want to go the final mile in transforming their company into a „Social Business“. So, why are they banning the use of these platforms, if they see ROI for their employees in working with it? Isn’t the open and transparent use of Social Media in business more important for the future than it has ever been? For marketing and HR ok, for the rest of the employees not?

Just think about the fact that two out of five Gen Y workers rate Social Media above a higher salary (well, they don’t have kids and family liabilities…). When 56% don’t want a company than bans Social Media companies should rethink their HR strategy and see the value in a Community Centric Strategy

Study: Web-traffic boosts in-store sales

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In a recent study the research companies comScore, Accenture and dunnhumbyUSA found some significant relevance between in-store sales and a company’s web presence. The study was based on a panel of CPG customers and one million U.S. Internet users who have given comScore explicit permission to have their online activities continuously measured and matched to their in-store brand buying behavior provided by dunnhumbyUSA.

The report comes to the conclusion that consumers who visit a website prior to their shopping experience in a company store spend 34% more with that company and 57% more on products or services based on their specific industry sector. It also states that visitors of brand websites are frequent buyers of the brand in retail stores. It shows that 42% more of these clients finish their transactions than non-visitors. Furthermore, website visitors are also heavier buyers in a brand’s product category. They are spending 53% more in their category dollars than non-visitors.

„Since website visitors have higher affinity to the brand and the overall product category, there is an opportunity for brand marketers to drive loyalty through personalizing the website experience, catering to the preferences of their best customers.“John LaRocca, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships, dunnhumbyUSA

And again another study highlights the importance of content marketing as the new emerging trend in marketing. Shoppers were more aggressive in their approach to understand and evaluate their purchases prior to their visit in shops as a result of the massive information access through the web. According to the research, content marketing plays a significant role here. So, campaigns on the web not only add value to web shopping but also -and for some companies and brands more importantly- will help to drive and boost in-store habits and sales – apart from positioning a brand’s capability.

„Marketers who create compelling (brand) website experiences for consumers are extremely effective in driving incremental and profitable in-store sales. Analysis shows that consumers visiting the best of the 10 CPG brand websites evaluated in the research study, spent over 200% more on the brand than non-visitors.“ Jerry Lohse, Senior Director, Accenture Interactive

Based on the fact that Brafton reported some weeks ago that the average consumer visits more than 10 web pages before a purchase decision, this study marks an important point in the relevance between online and offline shopping. This might be catalyzed by the new opportunities that smartphones, tablets or Augmented Reality (see real-life community shopping) offer, and shows the straight relationship between the two shopping experiences which more and more merge to one close shopping cycle.

Spot On!
More companies are realizing that offering web shoppers the same information and service as in-stores will lead to more purchase at both ends of the shopping cycle: online and at offline locations. The challenge for companies is to differentiate the shopping experience by using SoLoMo (social – local – mobile). Here the question for the future will remain whether in-store shopping needs to become more of a lifestyle experience or adventure to attract more consumers to join in-store activity (see IKEA Sleepover), or wether people will want to have real people around them and thus make it a social reality world, rather than a social web world…

Community Shopping on the street – NET-A-PORTER.COM’s Window Shop

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Augmented Reality shopping is definitely a new trend these days. NET-A-PORTER have launched their Augmented Reality Shopping Windows in different capitals around the world like Sidney, Munich, London, Paris and New York.

The following video demo comes from late last year’s Fashion Night Out celebrations in London and New York. It will be rolled out globally now for the new Karl by Karl Lagerfeld collection. Consumers need to download the NET-A-PORTER iPhone/iPad app, then visit the stores and can use the Augmented Reality like a new shopping experience.

When pointing the iPad camera at the window, this will publish 360 degree product models doing their best on a video catwalk. It also displays product information, the clothes price and obviously the ability to purchase immediately.

Isn’t this a cool idea to offer a 24/7 shopping life? These doors are always open in the future. Well, ok their online shop as well but it is a different kind of shopping experience right…? Community shopping on the street…

THX for sharing!

The Social Google: Google Search and Google+ unite

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Google revolutionized the internet, the way we interact, we use our brains and thus, somehow it changed the world. And now they will do it for the second time… with „Search, plus Your World“. This new search engine technology does not only bring us information from across the web. It proclaims to make search even better better by including photos, posts, and „more from you and your friends“.

With an all new algorithm for their search they have changed their search strategy. Today, people are searching not only for content. Today people also want to find personal and private information and touchpoints. The normal result is one which we have all expected for a long time since Google+ launched: Google+ will be integrated in Google search which will definitely affect the power of Google against their hardest social competitor Facebook.

Google’s new „Search, plus Your World“ integrates also personal data like personal content, pictures or videos from Google+. Here is their new promotion video…

On the official Google blog Amit Singhal explains how the new Google search works with an experience of his past.

„As a child, my favorite fruit was Chikoo, which is exceptionally sweet and tasty. A few years back when getting a family dog, we decided to name our sweet little puppy after my favorite fruit. Over the years we have privately shared many pictures of Chikoo (our dog) with our family. To me, the query [chikoo] means two very sweet and different things, and today’s improvements give me the magical experience of finding both the Chikoos I love, right in the results page.“

Google’s first step to integrate Social Search results gets now followed by the integration of Google+ which becomes a massive hub to „socially unite“ all of their own products and services. The new search offers three main benefits…

1. Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts—both your own and those shared specifically with you, that only you will be able to see on your results page;
2. Profiles in Search, both in autocomplete and results, which enable you to immediately find people you’re close to or might be interested in following; and,
3. People and Pages, which help you find people profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, and enable you to follow them with just a few clicks. Because behind most every query is a community.

Spot On!
However, this might sound as if Google makes us more transparent, users have the opportunity to select whether they want the new Google search algorith, or not. This gives users the ability to see either the good old search results or the brand new private search results. People just need to use the little buttons…

…or they will simply change it in the account settings. And Google extends the Google+ circles idea to their search: Every single result in the private search mode gets marked whether it is private, public or limited entry. Somehow a clever filter, don’t you think…?

Pay a Blogger Day – How to reward a blogger’s work?

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Have you ever paid a blogger? Paid for your content love? I mean not for writing some good PR for your business. Just for them being bloggers, sharing valueble content, thoughts, ideas, and providing new food for thought. In some days you can do that. The „Pay a Blogger Day“ is here to come. Some thoughts that came to my mind with it…

Some months ago, Flattr started their outreach program to bloggers. And some months ago, they were on their way to revolutionize the monetization of blogs. Those days, the Flattr button went live on my blog, and in every post. I rewarded blog posts, and got some rewards. Just the way Flattr works. They had the idea for the „Pay a Blogger Day“.

On Flattr Cents pass from bloggers to bloggers to… Well. Companies never paid anything. They have the biggest budget pockets though. And I asked myself if bloggers want companies to engage in the monetization process, or if reputation is of higher value for them. And why should companies pay a blogger for something they produce for free. Still trying to figure that out…

Some blog posts generated some Cents immediately through Flattr, never enough for some nice ice-cream in a week though. Somehow the activity to „donate“ for a well-written piece of thought or idea felt like an act of charity. Some Cents felt like a pat on the shoulder. Sometimes, I discussed with bloggers if that is encouraging, or frustrating? Every blogger argued differently about this gesture. Many were not convinced. I have seen not many buttons on blogs since.

And often when I wanted to spend some Cents, those bloggers did not use Flattr. So, my reward for them often ended in a Retweet. Maybe Retweets are the killer of positive blog comments

The main problem many bloggers saw in Flattr was that it will be challenging to get attention for this payment theory outside the bloggosphere. Sounded like: „Bloggers will pay themselves and thus reward their work within an inner circle of the blogging community.“ One of the reasons why I finally decided to remove the button from my blog.

Now, Flattr starts -in cooperation with Bambuser, Twingly and Posterous– the „Pay a Blogger Day!“ on November, 29th. They intend to start a movement with the mission „Give something back to bloggers!“ A good idea…

How to reward a blogger’s work?
If I may inspire you -companies, marketers and managers- with reward opportunities for bloggers, then maybe you want to read this…

a) Companies that have used shared knowledge to improve their business could write a reference quote for the blogger why and how they benefit from reading a blog. It could be a comment, tweet or a blog post on their blog. Just be creative…!

b) Managers that have used shared knowledge for their career purposes could send a present when they think the blogger has deserved it (does not need to be on the „Pay a blogger day!“). A flower (digital or real), a freebie of your products or an invite to a paid for workshop about corporate blogging. And hey, chances are high, bloggers might write about it. Just be clever…!

c) Marketers that have used shared knowledge for their campaign ideas could start thinking about whether they shovel money into a print grave, rely on TV reach or hope for radio commercial payback. Maybe they want to start sponsor a blogger who is worth it as they act like brandvangelist, testimonial or brand advocate for a brand or company. And why are not many marketers trying to make use of bloggers in the offline world? Just be curious…!

d) Followers, fans, „plusers“ and bloggers that have used shared knowledge could start discussing the monetization of their work in an authentic collaborative manner. Do you want banners ads, text links, affiliate programs, brand advocate prgrams, or…? What is authentic blog monetization? Or is it reputation only? In short: money, products or reputation currency like Floout.me?

Here is how Flattr wants to inspire you to reward a blogger…

Think about the thoughts and then start acting! I am sure, bloggers know how to say „Thank you“ and all bloggers would love to see some of these rewarding opportunities. Right…?

Innovation study: Is culture or strategy the key to success?

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Obviously, the headline question is not easy to answer. Both elements have their impact on business success. At this years IBM JamCamp, we could hear many presentations why „culture eats strategy for breakfast“, and how to turn your business into a social business (i.e. Sandy Carter’s speech) that will drive innovation to new dimensions (and here is some hint how companies might get huge investments for social business realization).

A new study by Strategy& also shows that spending more on R&D won’t drive results. The results from the study illustrate that the most crucial factors are strategic alignment and a culture that supports innovation. The study surveyed almost 600 innovation leaders in companies around the world, large and small, in every major industry sector.

So what makes a truly innovative company? For sure, a focused innovation strategy, a compelling business strategy, deep customer insight, intelligent networking, as well as a splendid set of bright tactics. These are all elements that help giving your company an innovation boost. Still, the study states that corporate culture ties everything together — the organization’s self-sustaining patterns of behaving, feeling, thinking, and believing.

Still, the results of this year’s Global Innovation 1000 study make clear that only about half of all companies say their corporate culture robustly supports their innovation strategy. Moreover, about the same proportion say their innovation strategy is inadequately aligned with their overall corporate strategy. And although entire industries, such as pharmaceuticals, continue to devote relatively large shares of their resources to innovation, the results are much less successful than they and their stakeholders might hope for.

What I like about this study is that it supports my assumptions and thoughts of the Community Centric Strategy model. Across the board respondents identified „superior product performance“ and „superior product quality“ as their top strategic goals. And their two most important cultural attributes were „strong identification with the consumer/customer experience“ and a „passion/pride in products“.

Statements like the following from the study could be taken as a proof for the future development towards a more cultural business attitude that puts the consumer in the middle of your innovation efforts…

„Our goal is to include the voice of the customer at the basic research level and throughout the product development cycle, to enable our technical people to actually see how their technologies work in various market conditions.“ Fred Palensky, Executive Vice President of R&D and CTO, 3M Company

In my presentation at the IBM JamCamp 2011 I made clear that companies and brands need to close the perception gap between consumer’s demand and company goals. If companies don’t respect the 5 C engines of the Community Centric Strategy these two expectations cannot be aligned. We will continue to talk of target-groups instead of consumers that are grouping together in „community centers“. This is more of a cultural development companies need to go through than definable strategic capabillities by companies to drive innovations. By closing both the strategic alignment and culture gaps, companies and brands will better realize their goals and attributes.

Spot On!
The study results show that companies and brands should rethink the way they drive their innovation strategy. It suggests that the ways R&D managers and corporate decision makers think about their new products and services are critical for success. This includes all aspects how they feel about intangibles such as risk, creativity, openness, and collaboration. When nearly 20% of companies said they didn’t have a well-defined innovation strategy at all, it offers the chance to start anew and with the right approach. The Community Centric Strategy might be one solution for companies to evaluate culture as one of the main drivers to achieve your strategic goals in a modern way of doing business.

1 in 3 of 18-34s will do mobile shopping this christmas

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Harald Wanetschka/pixelio.de

Are you going shopping in stores to find some christmas presents? Or will you be doing your shopping tour via mobile? Well, if you use your mobile you are not alone…

According to a UK survey by marketing community site UTalkMarketing and online survey platform Toluna. 32% of 18-34-year-olds will use their mobile to buy Christmas presents this year.

However, this might sound as if only the young generation is shopping via their mobiles, the study makes clear that also older age groups are purchasing mobile with an increasing amount: 14% of 35-54 year-olds and 9% of over 55s year-olds also plan to get their presents for Christmas by using their mobile.

„The fact that a third of young adults are planning to buy their Christmas gifts via their mobile device is proof that the year of mobile-commerce is finally upon us. The fact that most mobile shoppers will do so directly via a retailer’s app is also strong proof that brands wishing to contend in the mobile-commerce arena must do more than simply provide a mobile optimised website,“ says Melanie McKinney, Publisher, UTalkMarketing.

The survey questioned 1,300 UK consumers and found that iPhone users are the most likely to make a Christmas purchase via their device. 42% said they will make a Christmas purchase via their iPhone devices. 31% of those that say they will make a Christmas purchase via their mobile will use a BlackBerry and 27% will do so via an Android phone.

However, the advent of HTML 5 is near, apps are the retail channels of choice for the survey’s respondents. 88% of mobile shoppers will only make a purchase this Christmas if their retailer of choice has a transactional app. Only 12% of mobile shoppers will make a purchase directly from a retailer’s mobile-optimised website.

„The results of this survey are a clear indication that retailers cannot ignore the mobile-commerce wave. They need to adapt to and embrace the changing ways consumers now shop,“ states McKinney.

Spot On!
Poor shops on the streets… The study is a good proof that mobile commerce is on it’s way towards mainstream. Also, the tablet movement, especially with the increasing use of iPads these days, will change consumer habits to go shopping in the future. Another YouGov survey released earlier this week suggests that 84% of consumers will buy at least one gift online this year with a third saying they will buy all of their gifts online. However, marketers have to be clear about the fact that more than a quarter of consumers (26%) are concerned about privacy issues when it comes to shopping via mobile according to the uTalkMarketing survey.

The Virtual Handshake

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Marko Greitschus / pixelio.de

When I was a kid, my grandparents had a little pub. Nothing special. Nothing glamorous. Just a comfortable meeting point for friends or business partners to catch up for a drink. The best day always was the „market day“. Merchants were setting up their booths at the marketplace in the little village my grandparents were living in, early in the morning when most people were still snoring in their beds. When their job was done, they popped up at the pub around 7am when their wives took over to sell their goods.

The guests in the pub did not expect very much. A drink was their desire. A tasty sandwich was luxury to them. Competition amoung pubs was tough, even in this little village a long time ago. There were many pubs around in that coal distrinct north of Germany. The owners of the other pubs in the village changed more or less every year, some even earlier. My grandparents’ business stayed for over a decade, until they decided it was time to stop working. The guests loved their attitude, their individual touch, their personalized way of talking to them. My grandparents‘ business was successful.

What was the key to their success story?

Before I answer this question, let me ask you something… When did you shake hands last time with a friend, or a business partner? Do you remember? Did you ever think about why we are shaking hands with people? Have you ever not returned a handshake? It is a common habit of introducing ourselves and of saying Goodbye. We just do it. Well, let’s say in the offline world we do it…

Those days, whenever somebody came into my grandparents’ pub, my grandma and granddad gave them a personal handshake, embedded in some small talk about the weather or last nights sports results. The conversation made people feel good, feel wanted, not just being anonymous guests. They created a living room. People started talking with them about their personal hopes, fears, issues. The handshake had broken the ice…

In our social web world of today, customer relationship management and social networking become an increasingly important factor to be maintain a successful business within a more and more challenging and competitive world.

Many relationships today begin with a virtual handshake. So you may ask: What is a virtual handshake? Today, it comes in the format of a comment on a blog post, a LIKE on a status update on a Fanpage, an introduction mail inside a social network, or an invitation to join a community (Facebook or LinkedIn or a company specific).

In the offline world, nobody would turn away and not return the handshake. However, in the online world individuals put effort in terms of writing, talking and engaging with companies and brands, making their brand passion transparent, or just opening their minds to „business“ (or privat?) conversations. All of that often before having received a virtual handshake with those companies that are reaching out to them via their -often anonymous- social hubs.

By participating in a community or engaging in conversations, customers take the initiative, they state a case and describe an act of will. Companies tend to forget that this is a virtual handshake. „Hello! Here I am! Look what I am telling you…“.

Many companies and brands do not answer. They don’t reply on social networks. They don’t value the hand that is right in front of them waiting. The hand which feeds them and their business. The free opportunity to connect, collaborate, or convert. Lack of time and resources is the killer of many of their social web activities.

My grandparents never forgot to shake hands with people that came to visit their pub. This was their success story. So simple, right…?

Think about it next time you set up a group, start a community or approach someone on a social network (be it via InMail on LinkedIn or a status update on Facebook). Relationships start with a handshake – whether real or virtual. There just needs to be somebody that returns the handshake. For some this might be a change management process, for some it is just natural attitude towards customers…

Marketing automation – A sleeping lead generation star…?

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Although companies get flooded with information concerning the benefits of marketing automation, the topic is still „not self-explanatory“ to most marketers. The majority of B2B companies understand the general benefit in principle. Nevertheless, only a few are using marketing automation yet (7-10%). It seems that marketing automation is a sleeping star…

Still, the market for marketing automation is growing as you can figure out from the numbers below. Not surprising. The solution providersfor marketing automation proclaim an increase in lead generation and explain companies how easy it is to manage the sales lead funnel. And generating leads is what drives the B2B world around…

The annuitas Group just recently published some statistics from numerous sources that summarize the marketing automation market and published an interesting infographic.

– 110 vendors are seeling products and solutions in the marketing automation space
– 81% of best-in-class companies see the benefit in closing deals faster
– 76% of marketing decision makers see generation of high-qualified leads as the biggest challenge
– 64% of them have neither an internal nor external process to manage marketing automation
– 36% use marketing automation for lead nurturing
– 451% increase in qualified leads get businesses that use marketing automation for lead nurturing
– 47% more closed werde generated via lead nurturing generiert
– 10% use marketing automation to follow up later in the buying cycle

Spot On!
The statistics illustrate the power of marketing automation and what it could do to lead generation. However, when companies use marketing automation, only 25% use the full potential of marketing automation. It has become a „must have“ in the marketing departments, at least of enterprises. If small and medium-sized companies use marketing automation or their a pre-sales/telemarketing to leverage their marketing and thus sales potential would be an eye-opening statistic in these terms. In many cases, time and resources hinder most companies from diving deeper into the potential of marketing automation and thus their brand content, the context in which it appears, and the community that talks about their business, products and services. The approach that I came across the last three years was an outsourced solution to service providers like agencies, publishers or software providers. And the main challenge of lead generation and nurturing is to align marketing, sales and customer service for a more efficient web strategy.

Would you agree that marketing automation is still a sleeping marketing star for lead generation…?

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