A Question for Marketers: Is It Social or Is It Media?

Sasha Baron Cohen took Facebook to task last week with his speech at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calling Facebook “the greatest propaganda machine in history.” Published in full by The Guardian, the speech was shared on the social media platform, to mixed reviews.

Facebook has 2.45 billion monthly users. Given that reach, it’s hard to classify Facebook as anything other than a mass media outlet. Compare Facebook’s reach to some of the most-viewed television broadcasts:

  • 600-650 million people worldwide watched the Apollo 11 moon landing live on TV (about 20% of the world’s population in 1969)
  • 750 million watched Prince Charles and Lady Diana marry in 1981
  • 2 billion-plus people watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing (about one-third of the world’s population in 2008)

In 2017, Mark Zuckerberg told the first Facebook Community Summit, “Our full mission statement is: Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. That reflects that we can’t do this ourselves, but only by empowering people to build communities and bring people together.”

How’s that working out for us?

Sasha Baron Cohen took Facebook to task last week with his speech at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calling Facebook “the greatest propaganda machine in history.”  Published in full by The Guardian, the speech was shared on the social media platform, to mixed reviews.

Cohen states:
“Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others — they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged — stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear … On the Internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.”

My Facebook comment about the speech: “Why shouldn’t social media platforms be held to the same standards as other content publishers?”

Someone replied,

“But they’re not content publishers … they’re conduits for publishers. On FB, you and I and Joe and all kinds of media are the publishers. Think of the phone companies. They can’t be held responsible for what people say over their systems.”

My response:

“I guess that depends on whether you put the emphasis on social or media.”

And of course, most phone conversations are private (at least for now) while most Facebook posts are not.

I sent The Guardian’s publication of Cohen’s speech to my children, two of whom have given up their Facebook accounts. My daughter replied,

“Did you learn about this on Facebook? If so, irony is dead.”

Actually, I did. RIP Irony.

SEO Best Practices: Hashtags or Keywords?

With the popularity and increasing influence of social media, marketers are rushing to select or create just the right hashtags to add to their social media posts. Hashtags, although useful, are not the same as the venerable search keywords and should not be confused with each other or, so to speak, concatenated in the best SEO marketing strategy.

With the popularity and increasing influence of social media, marketers are rushing to select or create just the right hashtags to add to their social media posts. Hashtags, although useful, are not the same as the venerable search keywords and should not be confused with each other or, so to speak, concatenated in SEO best practices marketing strategy.

Each has its own place. It is my own contrarian view that the marketer has more control over the interpretation of a keyword than a hashtag. The immediacy of the hashtag creates areas of unexpected ambiguity. In this article, my recommendation is that marketers should take care in how they select and use hashtags in SEO best practices.

When to Use a Hashtag

Hashtags should be treated as ephemeral in the same vein as marketing slogans. Because they are short and often require context for clarification of their meaning, they do not have staying power.

You might say: “What about #metoo or #neveragain?” Both have huge current social significance and have garnered tremendous support for the movements they represent. Many thousands have tagged social media posts or searched social media sites for posts tagged with #metoo or #neveragain. These hashtags have been very useful in providing a vehicle for social engagement. These are examples of hashtags used exceptionally well.

However, in 10 years, will people remember what these were and what they represented? It is hoped that they represent more than just a moment in time. These are powerful examples, and few marketing programs have been able to develop hashtags that have the kind of market power that these represent. Most are barely memorable even in the moment.

Keywords, when used in site content, represent blocks of language that are more universal and not as temporal. Keywords are seldom freighted with the social baggage created by their use in social media. They are easily clarified and amplified; therefore, it is my contention that in site content and meta data keywords are preferential. This does not suggest totally avoiding hashtags in site content, but use them in conjunction with keywords to carry the main meaning.

The Law of Unforeseen Consequences

Because the social media platforms were not all launched at the same time, most individuals and organizations do not have consistent nomenclature across all platforms. This can create some startling results when hashtags enter the mix.

I am an avid sports fan, and have refereed multiple high school and collegiate events over the years. Currently, my fan fixation is the University of North Carolina’s baseball team (basketball season is over, so). The team is known as the “Diamond Heels,” a nice play on baseball’s diamond and the Tarheels. Fans can follow games and get up-to-date information on Twitter @DiamondHeels. There are also official Facebook and Instagram accounts.

One day, I popped into Instagram and did a quick search for #diamondheels. Lo and behold, there were many baseball images tagged @diamondheels, but they were intermixed with some that were not suitable for office viewing. This is the law of unforeseen consequences at work.

Social media is consumer-generated media where everyday individuals create the message. I doubt the baseball team wants its brand side-by-side with some of these images, but fans placed it there by their use of the seemingly innocuous hashtag #diamondheels. That’s because hashtags are not restricted in their use and unforeseen and unseemly juxtapositions will occur.

To prevent such occurrences, marketers must aggressively research and promote the hashtags they want to see used. In selecting hashtags, marketers need to consider just how and where they might encounter the law of unforeseen consequences and try to limit its impact.

The 3 Habits of Successful Social Publishers

Publishers who represent non-fiction authors and experts can use social media to drive sales of books and information products by following the three habits of successful social publishers. Successful publishers who know the difference between wasting time with social media and selling with it rely on developing three habits.

Publishers who represent non-fiction authors and experts can use social media to drive sales of books and information products by following the three habits of successful social publishers.

Successful publishers who know the difference between wasting time with social media and selling with it rely on developing three habits. These are:

  1. Getting back to basics by solving readers’ problems on social media.
  2. Designing to sell, provoking responses from prospective buyers in ways that connect with authors’ books, coaching and other products.
  3. Translating, discovering customers’ evolving needs and desires, using them to induce sales transactions.

You can immediately begin selling books and other info products on social media platforms by applying these three success principles. Let’s look at each more closely and make them actionable in your everyday work life—let’s make them habits.

Habit No. 1: Solve Problems and Create Experiences
Here’s how the idea of solving problems to create sales works for non-fiction books, reference kits and informational products like webinars, DVD collections, etc. The main idea is to use social media platforms to:

  1. Provide answers to potential buyers’ most common questions in ways that provoke more questions (that your books answer!);
  2. Make it easy for the prospect to take action—to actually do something that puts them on the path to understanding why your book/product features THE hands-down expert/knowledge; and
  3. Give prospects a chance to actually begin to experience the power of your publications’ wisdom/method/solution through a small sample of the real product.

This is the best way to effectively coax or nurture prospects toward buying books, webinars or any kind of published information products. The objective with social media is to convert visitors to a lead. Then it’s up to you to nurture this lead into becoming a buyer of your books and information products.

But good news: This is easy work if you follow the formula.

Habit No. 2: Provoke Response and Earn a Lead
Blogging using this technique helps buyers discover answers to specific problems in search engines and make subtle yet direct, controllable connections with what you want to sell them. You see, when readers type specific questions into Google or Bing, your blog (or your authors’ blog, assuming you’ve coached him/her on this technique) will pop up and direct them to experts and authors with terrifically useful answers—yours.

The trick is to supply prospects with answers (within the blog post) in limited, short-form ways that provoke them to interact more with you/your author… so they can more clearly understand the thought you just provoked.

The key to selling more books and products is to answer potential buyers’ questions in ways that allow distribution of small samples of the more comprehensive solutions your books or products provide. To accomplish this, simply give prospects a clear pathway to “get more of that kind of thinking” into their heads/companies; give prospects something to sign-up for.

Help prospects act on their impulses by giving them a way to “get more” of what you just sampled. Mix in a direct response marketing element—a clear, irresistible call to action.

Habit No. 3: Begin a Courtship, Not a Drive-By
It is best to not ask prospects to trade their email for a whitepaper or access to a single video. Yes, most B-to-B marketers do this, but please don’t do it yourself. Don’t do a drive-by!

Grabbing at email addresses (just because you can) will reduce both the take and conversion rates. Ultimately, prospects likely will not connect taking the offer with your lead follow-up routine. They will feel spammed and unsubscribe.

Think about it in your own experience. Ever download a paper only to become part of an irrelevant sales follow-up call? Compare this to opting-in to a series of logical email messages that helped you get clear on something or learn a new skill.

Bottom line: You don’t need prospects’ email addresses to deliver a single piece of knowledge. Instead, when you give prospective buyers a way to act on their impulses, just be sure to set the context.

This (action your prospect takes) begins an educational process or journey for them. This approach will make it easier to connect your ultimate product pitch to that journey in ways that create more conversions.

Don’t Quit!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed join the club but don’t quit. Social media marketing is heaping on more work—and you’ve already got too many to-do’s on your list, I know. You may even be skeptical that social media can help publishing companies create sales. It’s tough moving beyond being liked, followed or re-tweeted.

Successful publishers know the difference between wasting time with social media and selling with it relies on developing three habits. These are solving readers’ problems on social media, designing it to sell (by provoking responses from prospective buyers in ways that connect with books, coaching and other relevant products) and translatin—discovering customers’ evolving needs & desires, using them to induce sales transactions.

How Much Time You Invest in Social Media Does Not Matter

“How much time do I need to devote to LinkedIn and/or Facebook per day?” Stop. Behind this question is a lie that is preventing your success. Wanting to know the optimal amount of time to invest in social media platforms each day is a natural desire, but having that answer won’t make social strategies produce more leads. That’s why top social sellers are putting down “hour-a-day” books and picking up a new habit: Changing the question entirely.

“How much time do I need to devote to LinkedIn and/or Facebook per day?” Stop. Behind this question is a lie that is preventing your success. Wanting to know the optimal amount of time to invest in social media platforms each day is a natural desire, but having that answer won’t make social strategies produce more leads. That’s why top social sellers are putting down “hour-a-day” books and picking up a new habit: Changing the question entirely.

Lack vs. Abundance
As it turns out, social media is evolutionary, not revolutionary and time is abundant, not lacking. Say to yourself, “I have nothing but time.” Seriously, say it to yourself right now. Try living the life of abundance for just one day and act as if you have time for social media. Play along; you just might just find yourself working differently—more productively.

Social platforms like LinkedIn are a better, faster way to get hired or locate and nurture a sales lead—if you honestly believe them to be. If you don’t, they’ll just be another “marketing channel” to react to in a very uncreative way that doesn’t increase your effectiveness or liberate you. Your thoughts manifest reality.

The harsh reality is that many of us find ourselves reacting to social media rather than getting creative with it because we’re adopting it out of the fear of being left behind by—or losing control of—customers. I know it sounds all woo-woo and kum-ba-yah, but an attitude of abundance goes hand-in-hand with generating more leads and sales; it always has.

Stop Worrying About Time
LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging … these strategies are making a difference to a select few marketers and business owners who see time as being abundant. They see—and experience—LinkedIn, blogging, educational YouTube videos, Facebook, etc., as time-savers, not time-wasters. And you can too.

“How much time do I need to devote to LinkedIn per day?” is a valid question. But when you ask it, you’re investing in lack—what you do not have. Time. But you do have time to invest in saving time, right? That’s what LinkedIn represents, after all. In coming weeks I’ll prove it to you by describing my own lead generation success using LinkedIn.

Change the Question
For now, let’s start by changing your question to: “How can I determine what LinkedIn’s purpose is for me, how I can best use it to achieve that goal in shorter time?”

More widely, you can be asking, “How can I get clear on what social media’s purpose is for my business—and how I can best use it to achieve that specific goal?”

See the difference? By asking these questions—first—deciding how much time to invest occurs naturally, painlessly and obviously as part of everyday life.

What if your purpose was to find a faster way to net a sales lead—rather than seeking out a “silver bullet amount of time?” What if your purpose was to meet the right prospect and pitch them in less time, get hired faster, have your manuscript discovered by a publisher sooner, speed up the conversion to sale process … whatever.

Make Purpose Primary, Time Secondary
Everyone I interviewed in my book said the same thing: If you want to sell with social media, start focusing on creating crystal clear business—not marketing—purpose for it before anything else. Time will work itself out. Trust in it, have faith.

Think about how you feel when you ask “How much time is this going to take?” You’re reacting, defensive. The presumption behind the question is that LinkedIn, Facebook, blogging or whatever is somehow “different.” But what if social media could be a better way to achieve a particular set of goals you have-rather than being “so different” and such a pain? It can be if you so choose.

Social media is not rocket science. The more you think it is the more you’ll believe time investment is what makes the difference. It does not. As Peter Drucker said, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”

How ‘Keeping Up’ With Social Media Will Sabotage Your Ability to Sell With It

What separates the leading social sellers from the aimless, follower marketers? Thinking. Sure, most of us believe we’re thinking about social media, but we’re actually just reacting to it. The sooner you stop reacting to every johnny-come-lately and defending against “the next big thing” in social media, the sooner you can start creatively applying existing strengths with the new social tool set. It’s the difference between an attitude of lack and one of abundance.

What separates the leading social sellers from the aimless, follower marketers? Thinking. Sure, most of us believe we’re thinking about social media, but we’re actually just reacting to it. The sooner you stop reacting to every johnny-come-lately and defending against “the next big thing” in social media, the sooner you can start creatively applying existing strengths with the new social tool set. It’s the difference between an attitude of lack and one of abundance.

Ignore the Deluge
“How do you keep up with all the change in social media, Jeff?”

I don’t. Keeping up with technologial change doesn’t grow my business. Adding new knowledge about Pinterest, Google+ and whatever might come next into my consciousness only inhibits success. Keeping pace with how, when and why customers are using social platforms might help grow my business and is where to focus attention.

The belief that we must keep pace with social technology arises out of a feeling, not an actual business need. Social media marketing feels very new, dangerously fast-paced, difficult to understand or define, and that’s a little scary. We’re only human, and like every new technology before it, it feels damn urgent to get involve with because … well, just because. Paradigms are changing yada-yada. Your business depends on it, right?

The truth is your business probably already has the answers it seeks from so-called social media experts.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing
Most social media platforms are solutions looking for problems that offer little, if any, immediate or future value to marketers. Consumer buying paradigms (their collective habits) are not actually revolutionizing, they’re just speeding up. Sure, once in a while something really useful comes along but even then it’s typically years before most of us can figure out how to apply it in ways that serve us. Why? Because we’ve lost track in keeping the main thing-customers-the main thing.

Social media has literally become the main thing! The conversation should be about how to sell stuff by innovating around customers’ problems, goals, fears or ambitions. Right? Instead, it often devolves into using social media to create conversations about the conversation. Whoops!

Social media has become “the main thing.”

Speed Up, Calm Down
The real opportunity for your business and you is to speed up and calm down. This has been the promise of every technological advance history has offered. We’re supposed to be launching, selling and distributing our products and services more efficiently to customers-and kicking our feet up a bit more. Right? Well, for some businesses, large and small, this is actually happening. Even kitchen cabinet dealers are selling with social media!

Hey, I know, the marketing world certainly didn’t ask for Facebook or Twitter. We didn’t need more ways to market our businesses. Social media just showed up at our door on a Wednesday night at 5 p.m. and invited itself over for dinner. “Hi, I’m social media. Need another dozen ways to do marketing?”

Who were we to say no? We let the well-dressed fella in. No sooner was he inside than he texted all his buddies to join in. So what did we do? We ordered take-out and outsourced to social media experts who, in fact, aren’t very expert because it’s new to them too!

Get Things in Order
In the end, we don’t think we have time to get creative in the kitchen feeding this beast, but we actually do. Therein lies the opportunity. The best “next step” you can take is to surround yourself with what you already know about customers. Find ways to leverage what you are already doing (outside of social media) that effectively creates and nurtures leads. Start using social media to give customers results in advance-a taste of success-in ways you can easily connect to the lead management process.

Next time a social media expert says something like, “You’ve got to be authentic, transparent, human and honest,” muster up the courage to say, “Well DUH, we didn’t build our businesses on a pack of fake, opaque, ogreish lies.” Now go get ’em!

Turn Your Customers Into Your Best Salespeople

Happy customers are your brand’s best salespeople. Today’s social media platforms make it easier than ever for brand advocates to share their enthusiasm with hundreds (if not thousands) of colleagues and other prospects in their online networks. The power given to consumers is real. It’s created a sort of forced collaboration between marketers and their customers — with industry bloggers, analysts and journalists chiming in too. Empower customers and your marketplace and you win. Try to control it and you may incite a mutiny.

Happy customers are your brand’s best salespeople. Today’s social media platforms make it easier than ever for brand advocates to share their enthusiasm with hundreds (if not thousands) of colleagues and other prospects in their online networks. The power given to consumers is real. It’s created a sort of forced collaboration between marketers and their customers — with industry bloggers, analysts and journalists chiming in too. Empower customers and your marketplace and you win. Try to control it and you may incite a mutiny.

Enabling satisfied customers to spread the word takes a combination of the right messaging and some careful listening to ensure you don’t lose out on valuable opportunities for positive online word-of-mouth. Empower your brand advocates by devoting attention to these four specific areas:

1. A great customer experience. Certain customers will go out of their way to praise a high-quality product, helpful customer service or even a compelling interaction with a brand. (This holds true whether they’re B-to-C or B-to-B customers.) Naturally, the first step is to offer a great product or service. Then start paying attention to who’s talking about your brand, what they’re saying and where they’re saying it. Social media listening tools will help you locate enthusiastic customers online. Make them prime targets for engagement.

Don’t wait for the active few, go after the silent majority, too. The primary reason most customers don’t share good news about brands they do business with is because they’re never asked. After every appropriate interaction — and without being creepy or becoming a nag — invite your customers to participate in product reviews, experience surveys, customer forums or just plain telephone calls as part of “executive outreach sessions.” Use the channel that the customer used, whether it’s SMS, social, email or retail.

2. Loyalty. Customers willing to share their positive experiences with your brand are well worth your time and resources. Once you’ve found these happy customers, invest in them to create a loyal following. You can’t underestimate the power of simply thanking customers for their business.

In addition, keep your database up to date and integrated with your segmentation and campaign management tools. Update customer profiles to include recognition of brand advocacy and nurture loyalty with special acknowledgments, promotions and discounts. It’s critical to keep these interactions relevant, personalized and well-timed. In other words, don’t spam. Just because you can email a brand advocate on her birthday, before holidays and whenever her favorite item is on sale doesn’t mean your messages will be welcome.

Track response rates over time so you can optimize message frequency and timing. While many of your loyal customers will be happy to receive lots of notices from you, never assume their interest. One of our retail clients recently found that a whopping 10 percent of their most loyal customers had marked their email messages as spam in the past year. When the retailer reached out to these customers via other channels to find out why, it learned that the email messages were too frequent and not specific to the interests of those customers. Don’t risk upsetting or annoying your customers to the point of complaints. Listen to the response data you have and back off when necessary.

3. A platform to promote. Help your brand advocates find their voice by giving them ample opportunity to share their feelings online. They’re multichannel, so think across channels too. Engage them via email, your website, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Make sure they feel welcome to talk about their positive customer experiences online.

Is your company blog comment friendly? Do you provide a timely response to mentions of your brand on Twitter? Are you using clickstream and email data to inform your personas and segmentation? Does your website provide easy access to contact information for customer service and social media accounts? Present a seamless approach across all platforms — both traditional and digital — so that your messaging is consistent and credible.

4. Pull your head out of the sand. There are dozens of examples every month of brands that tried to ignore negative social commentary or got “shamed” for suppressing negative comments on Facebook. Nestle, for example, battled with Greenpeace supporters who voiced their concerns over the company’s use of palm oil. Rather than listening and engaging with concerned consumers, Nestle created a wealth of bad PR for itself by deleting posts and snapping back at fans. Similarly, Pfizer agitated consumers by deleting Facebook posts that suggested one of its viral video campaigns may be sexist.

If you’re going to listen and respond to social data, you must accept and engage with consumers who don’t agree with your positions or didn’t have a good brand experience. Like all battles of public opinion, the trick is to empower your advocates to respond to your detractors while providing a fact-based, reasonable platform for thoughtful discussion.

Brand advocates have always played the role of valuable, cost-effective salespeople. Now their voices can be amplified even more via social media networks. With a little encouragement and support, today’s brand advocates can become a powerful sales force. Put marketing automation and integration tools to work and you’ll be able to find your satisfied customers, engage with them and delight them even more with offers and promotions that resonate and cultivate deeper brand loyalty.

How Your Bank Can Generate Leads with Social Media

You are about to discover a step-by-step way to make social media increase share of customer wallet for your bank or credit union. Whether you’re a branch manager, a banking associate or corporate executive at a major institution, keep reading and I’ll give you the key to unlock success.

You are about to discover a step-by-step way to make social media increase share of customer wallet for your bank or credit union. Whether you’re a branch manager, a banking associate or corporate executive at a major institution, keep reading and I’ll give you the key to unlock success. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs can help you actually get customers to identify themselves as candidates for your most important products.

Skeptical? I don’t blame you. But think about it. How will it feel to know that everything you’re doing with social media will result in more leads? Let’s get going. Here are my best tips to help unlock the true potential of social media marketing in your institution.

Solve Problems & Answer Questions
Today’s most successful banks and credit unions are setting aside the technical and tactical aspects of social media and, first, focusing on solving customers’ and members problems. I talk about this problem-solving and behavior-focused approach more in my book, Off the Hook Marketing but, in essence, this requires having a focused plan.

Close examination of successful banks, like Wisconsin’s AnchorBank, reveals a key success principle: make everything you do with/on social media answer a burning question or solve a problem for customers in ways that drive behavior.

Scratch Customers’ Itches
For instance, you might use Facebook to spark a discussion among college students aimed on avoiding an increasing problem like personal bankruptcy. Telling true, horrific stories can be paired with sensible approaches—good credit management habits to form. Those sensible approaches can be leveraged into behavior in ways that connect customers’ problems to answers—your products.

But beware: they aren’t just answering questions or listening to customers using social media. They’re taking the time to capture insights on customers’ problems, fears and goals. They are finding what’s itching customers so they can scratch those itches.

Provoke Responses
Are your tweets, posts or updates designed to provoke a response, generate customer behavior? The fact is today’s most successful, socially-savvy banks and credit unions are using social media to provoke responses from customers.

For instance, when using Facebook it’s best to give customers a reason to think about something that’s important to them in a powerful new way—something that gives customers a reason to contact a banker. Why would a customer do that? So they can more clearly understand what you just provoked. Again, consider the prior example with college students.

Translate Need
Now I know this goes against what “the gurus” say but the key to success is avoiding “telling stories” with social media. Resist broadcasting stories; instead, structure interactions with customers in ways that prompt them to tell you about their pain points or financial goals. Once you have this knowledge, your goal is to prompt them to ask questions—that your products often answer.

And beware: don’t stop at informing customers and avoid entertaining them. Focus on purpose-driven interactions that are part of a dialogue—a translation process. Whenever appropriate, guide customers toward products they actually want and need.

That’s it. This is the best, most effective, step-by-step way to make social media increase share of customer wallet for your bank or credit union. Now go get ’em!

3 Ways Social Communities and Engagement Will Redefine Marketing

The growth of social media provides many new opportunities for brands, including the ability to identify best customers and influencers, and to actively engage those influencers to grow brand advocacy and community. Naturally, it’s this prospect that’s helped fuel the enormous growth in spending across and within key social communities like Facebook, YouTube and more.

The growth of social media provides many new opportunities for brands, including the ability to identify best customers and influencers, and to actively engage those influencers to grow brand advocacy and community. Naturally, it’s this prospect that’s helped fuel the enormous growth in spending across and within key social communities like Facebook, YouTube and more.

But as always, marketers have been pressured to do more with less, particularly in today’s tough economy. That means even more pressure to track and measure marketing program success. For many marketers that success is increasingly defined by engagement and the ability to measure its value and impact on the brand. But what’s the value of engagement?

One of the best studies I’ve seen on this front was conducted by Aite Group. The study looked at the relationship between Generation Y and their banks. It dove into how the level of engagement impacted loyalty, influence, advocacy and sales. Specifically, Aite Group found that highly engaged Gen Yers are significantly more likely to use their debit cards, pay their bills online and receive email.

These users were also more than 3.4 times more likely to use their bank’s website and social networks to research products. Additionally, highly engaged Gen Yers were found to be high-value customers. Specifically, they were 86 percent more likely to open new accounts, 73 percent more likely to recommend their bank and 62 percent more likely to trust their bank.

While the value of engagement is likely to vary by industry and brand, one thing is certain: Social engagement is an important component to add to your integrated marketing tracking and it will have a profound effect on the way you plan, target, execute and measure marketing for many years to come. Here are some of the most important changes you’ll see as a result of realizing the enormous value of catering to highly engaged consumers who use social media and influence others:

1. Media mix allocation tools and research will include social channels. Social will take its rightful place in the marketing toolbox as media mix allocation tools and research include social media platforms and networks as viable options. Business goals, target audience, product type and targeting approach (e.g., geographic, behavioral, contextual) will be re-examined to help marketers prioritize and allocate budgets to appropriate channels, including social — e.g., when a new product launches.

More ambitious marketers will embark on customer research projects to customize these findings for their specific products and targets — i.e., prospects and customers — as social formally joins the budget and planning process.

2. Engagement filtering and targeting capabilities will emerge. The emergence and importance of engagement combined with the growth and increasing activity across social networks and communities will redefine how, who and when you target. You’ll see the emergence of next generation query tools that will allow brands to select and target consumers by applying channel and engagement weightings and filters based on the program or campaign objectives and goals. Highly engaged users will be tapped more aggressively to help launch new products and drive product adoption and sales across the social web.

3. Marketing plans and roll-out strategies will be reinvented. Product launch cycles will continue to be impacted by social channels and emerging technologies. Marketers will become better at not only identifying key influencers and highly engaged users across their respective communities, but also crafting more targeted messages to these audiences to encourage the desired behavior.

As a result, new product launches will be supported by a more formalized and sophisticated roll-out plan. Imagine a world where a new product launch will include a phased rollout. Phase one would include a roll out to key influencers where ideas are exchanged, feedback is collected and enhancements/revisions are made. Phase two would include a soft launch to loyalty or highly engaged users as advocacy and product education continues. Lastly, phase three would include a general or mass market-supported rollout. Communications and tactics within each of these audiences will also be customized to include various communication stages such as education, trial and feedback, and, hopefully, purchasing followed by advocacy.

There’s little doubt the emergence of social media and growth of social brand communities has impacted marketing as we know it. However, bigger changes are in store for marketers as communities occupy an increasing role and influence in the success of brands. This radical sea change requires new thinking and processes.

Marketers who can connect the dots by embracing these new channels and tying social interactions (i.e., engagement) to traditional CRM systems will be a step ahead. However, the real winners will be those that can leverage that data by implementing new strategies and tactics to support the social web and grow brand advocacy and marketing success.

Michael Della Penna’s Conversations: 5 Essential Technologies to Ignite and Manage Conversations

This month’s blog is all about the tools necessary to support a successful conversation. Over the last decade, I’ve had the privilege to be involved in building solutions that help brands connect and communicate with their customers and prospects. It’s from that experience that I present the five most essential tools in creating and sustaining a successful conversation with customers and prospects.

In my first blog I talked a lot about how you can overcome the fear of social media and embrace the medium so it can become an integral part of your overall marketing mix. My next post shined the spotlight on understanding your customers in order to build ongoing and successful conversations. My most recent effort demonstrated how B-to-B companies, like B-to-C companies, have much to gain by embracing social media. I highlighted specific examples of several social media programs that are making a measureable impact. All of which leads us to this month’s blog.

This month’s blog is all about the tools necessary to support a successful conversation. Over the last decade, I’ve had the privilege to be involved in building solutions that help brands connect and communicate with their customers and prospects. It’s from that experience that I present the five most essential tools in creating and sustaining a successful conversation with customers and prospects.

1. Email. Perhaps the most obvious one of the bunch. While email’s promise of facilitating one-to-one dialogs never really panned out, the effective use of dynamically-generated email communications based on subscribers’ profiles and/or behaviors help build timely and relevant conversations. While automated or triggered communications have been in practice for some time now, they are, in my opinion, not used often enough and are typically isolated to individual programs within the lifecycle communication strategy.

Therefore, although effective, triggered emails can rarely sustain the dialog over long periods of time and across different stages of the lifecycle. But the impact email has on conversations is hardly over. More recently, the emergence of social tools within email is on the rise. These tools encourage individuals to share content with their social networks, which then enables the conversation to be continued with a larger group across the social internet.

Look for email to remain a force for years to come as brands use targeted emails and Twitter to ignite discussions that are then continued and discussed in-depth on Facebook.

Top providers with both capabilities: ExactTarget, StrongMail (full disclosure: I sit on the board of directors at StongMail) and Yesmail.

2. Inbound reply handling. Who among us hasn’t used email to contact customer service? Who among us has been delighted by the experience? Truth be told, few, if any, of us have been delighted. Lackluster email response times continue to plague many brands, and often contribute to decreased customer satisfaction ratings.

While real-time social tools such as Twitter and CoTweet have emerged as critical tools for handling customer service inquires, sophisticated inbound reply handling for incoming inquiries via email is still essential to building and maintaining great conversations and satisfaction with customers.

Top providers: KANA, eGain.

3. Listening/monitoring tools. I’m a huge fan of listening tools. For many brands, it’s a natural starting point as they continue to search for the content that will best resonate with their customers and prospects. Listening to what consumers are saying about your brand and/or products often yields important insights. It may even provide you the context you need to spark a conversation around a shared passion or related topic that’s of great interest to the community. Listen carefully and use learnings from this listening to build conversations with critical customer segments and prospects.

Top providers: BuzzMetrics, Cymfony and Radian6.

4. Social media platforms.
The emergence of social media networks such as Facebook and microblogging networks such as Twitter opens up a whole new opportunity to connect and communicate with customers and prospects. According to a report from Nielsen, the average Facebook user now spends more than seven hours a month on the social network, which is more than three times the average time spent on Yahoo.

As social networks become more popular, so will the use of social media platforms. Like email, social media platforms enable brands to create, execute and manage real-time interactions and communications with fans and followers. In many respects, the emergence of social media platforms picks up where email left off — enabling communications with both individuals and groups who like your brand.

Top providers: Hootsuite, Objective Marketer, Spredfast and StrongMail.

5. Social communities and networks. Aside from the emergence of leading social networks like Facebook, brands are increasingly recognizing the power and benefit of building their own communities. These collaborative environments help brands capture customer ideas and feedback, allowing them to glean critical information from conversations between customers. Often the wisdom from these conversations results in new products and a culture of innovation. Look to see the continued growth of these proprietary communities as social and software combine to help build critical conversations that drive business success.

Top providers: Communispace, Jive Software.

There you have it: five essential technologies to help every brand create, execute and manage real-time, relevant conversations.

‘Til next time!