Awards Bring Out Key Elements of Social Media

If social media had an Oscars, the annual Forrester Groundswell Awards would be them.

Now in their third year, the awards honor companies for excellence in achieving business and organizational goals with social technology. The program was developed to support principles outlined in the Forrester book “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies” (Harvard Business Press, 2008).

If social media had an Oscars, the annual Forrester Groundswell Awards would be them.

Now in their third year, the awards honor companies for excellence in achieving business and organizational goals with social technology. The program was developed to support principles outlined in the Forrester book “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies” (Harvard Business Press, 2008).

On Oct. 27, Forrester honored 13 winners at its Consumer Forum 2009 in Chicago. For the first time, awards went to business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies, as well as nonprofits. For a complete look at the winners and finalists, click here.

To me, the awards are unique because winners are awarded based on the following actions: listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing. These concepts represent the strategic goals Forrester advises organizations to consider when using social technologies to interact with their customers. I found this particularly refreshing, especially in an age when marketing awards seem to be a dime a dozen and don’t really get to the heart of what matters when it comes to making money.

What’s more, this year, for the second year in a row, the Groundswell Award selection process allowed the general public to rate and comment on all entries on the Groundswell website. Forrester took the community’s evaluations into account when selecting winners, but chose winning entries based on proof of business value, and not which applications were the most popular.

Here’s a look at some of the winning companies and their programs, via the Groundswell site:

NASCAR Fan Council/Vision Critical. NASCAR and Vision Critical, which won in the B-to-C Listening category, created a community of 12,000 fans and used it to reduce research costs by 80 percent. NASCAR also took the community’s suggestions and changed its restarts from single file to double file, which fans loved.

Lion Brand Yarn Blog and Podcast/Converseon. These companies won in the B-to-C Talking division for a program where Converseon identified influential bloggers and social networks dedicated to knitting and crocheting. Lion Brand Yarn then created a biweekly podcast and targeted it to these groups. The podcast eventually generated 15,000 to 20,000 downloads and a blog featuring “knit-alongs.” This drove impressive e-commerce sales for the brand, including people who ordered the knit-along projects. Also, those who visited the company’s social media sites were 41 percent more likely to buy at the website.

Scholastic Book Clubs Reading Task Force Community/Communispace. These companies won in the B-to-B Embracing division for a program that involved redesigning Scholastic’s school book sales flyer, which is its main vehicle for book sales through schools. Using a community of 200 teachers and 100 parents created by Communispace, Scholastic embarked on a 10-week collaborative process to talk to members about how to improve the design of the flyer. The process generated ideas such as including student recommendations and showing interior pages so parents could judge the reading level of the books. Results? The new flyer has already generated a 3 percent increase in sales in test markets.

I think all of these programs exhibit great, unique uses of social media and technology, and show how the medium can bring about real, specific ROI. What do you think? Post your comments here.

How Dell Leverages Social Media Across the Company

While attending the eTail East conference in Baltimore this week,  I was pleasantly surprised at what seems to be a pattern in online retail shows this year. While the show was small, all the sessions were packed. And everyone seemed to be in generally good spirits — despite the economic situation.

While attending the eTail East conference in Baltimore this week, I was pleasantly surprised at what seems to be a pattern in online retail shows this year. While the show was small, all the sessions were packed. And everyone seemed to be in generally good spirits — despite the economic situation.

One session I attended on Aug. 5 featured Liana Frey, the director of communities and conversations at Dell. Her session, “Community 2.0 — Lessons Learned From Engaging in Conversations With Customers,” focused on the success of the Round Rock, Texas-based firm’s use of social media.

Dell’s successful use of social media has been well documented. Dell Outlet, for example, has attributed $3 million in revenue to its presence on Twitter, where the division posts its latest offers.

What’s more, Dell Outlet has almost 1 million Twitter followers and is a “recommended” presence to follow by Twitter. It also occasionally makes “Twitter-only” offers available to followers.

Dell has put a concerted effort into its social media programs, according to Frey. It started them through a small group that was part of its corporate communications department. Today, however, social media is embedded throughout the entire organization.

“We’ve changed our organizational structure so that our tech department can answer specific technical questions through Twitter, and our customer service department can answer customer service questions,” she said.

While Frey admitted there’s some risk to this approach — where someone may say something that’s inappropriate, despite the social training, and damage the brand — she added that using this approach was worth the risk.

“We had enough confidence in our employees’ expertise that we felt it was important to make them transparent,” she said.

At lunch later that day, many folks agreed with Frey’s comments. Almost all of my tablemates said that for social media to work, it has to be part of a corporation’s culture. And, most importantly, there has to be buy-in from the top of the corporate structure — the CEO or president.

Do you agree? Let me know by leaving a comment here.

Wunderman’s Morel on Social Media, Online Video and Mobile, Part 2

I recently spoke with Daniel Morel, chairman and CEO of Wunderman, a New York City-based marketing services firm that’s part of Young & Rubicam Brands and a member of WPP. Among other topics, we talked about the difference between social media and social networking, online video, and mobile marketing.

I recently spoke with Daniel Morel, chairman and CEO of Wunderman, a New York City-based marketing services firm that’s part of Young & Rubicam Brands and a member of WPP. Among other topics, we talked about the difference between social media and social networking, online video, and mobile marketing.

Last week I offered part 1 of the highlights of our discussion. The following is part 2.

Melissa Campanelli, eM+C: I know Wunderman has used video extensively in its campaigns. Why is video important?
Daniel Morel: People are more seduced by moving images than fixed images. They’re more interested in entertainment than text. People are inherently lazy — you and me included. We want to be entertained constantly. That’s why television moved from a static experience — simply voice and text — to a medium of moving images. That’s when it became an entertainment medium.

The same thing is happening on the web, thanks to new technology. Moving video — and thus entertainment — is appearing on the web, and when entertainment arrives in a medium, that medium takes off. This is why we’re doing more video on the web. It’s possible. It’s what people like to consume, and it allows for customization. It’s also tested, and we know it works.

My only concern right now is about how many creatives we need to produce if we want to use our data to create customized video. We’ll have to create several versions of the same piece of communication — not just one 30-second spot. So, what kind of production capability will we need?

MC: What about mobile marketing. Do you see that as a growing area?

DM: We spend a lot of time testing mobile marketing. But I still haven’t made a large bet on it yet. Maybe I’m making a mistake, but the reason I haven’t made a serious bet on it is because I follow the desire of my clients, and they’re not asking for it. Sure, I try to push them a bit and have them look at new technologies, but in most cases, I can’t make the economy of mobile work for my clients and me. A large amount of time is spent on working on the mobile platform and technology and making sure messages can be calibrated properly and tabulated.

On a $100,000 mobile marketing project, for example, I could spend $75,000 on technology and only $25,000 on communication. And when I get 10 [percent] to 15 percent of the $25,000, that’s not a lot of money.

We do have several people here working on mobile with clients. Ford is very interested in mobile, as is Microsoft. Our clients Nokia and Burger King are very active in it. But what does that represent in terms of a percentage of our business? It’s not large.

Yes, technology has improved. The chips are getting faster, the messages can now be in color and customized for each platform, and mobile operators are becoming more receptive to the needs of marketers.

So, the channel has become more marketing-friendly and more interesting to me. But, the technology has to mature even more, and the people in charge of the pipe have to recognize the value of marketing more before I make any real bets on it.

MC: Where do you see advertising or marketing being in the next five to 10 years?
DM: You’ll see exactly the same thing you’re seeing today: The existing channels will continue to coexist with whatever new channel or new use of an existing channel comes around.

Books have been around since the 16th century and still haven’t been replaced. The television advertising market is also very robust even after 15 years of internet communication. So, we have yet to see an example of a new medium totally eradicating what was done before.

Customers in the end will decide how they want to consume information. Consumers like to have choices. They want to watch the Oscars on large screens, product demos on their laptops and stock quotes from their portfolios on their mobile phones. They decide which channel is most appropriate. Five years down the road it will be exactly the same.

Wunderman’s Morel on Social Media, Online Video and Mobile

I recently spoke with Daniel Morel, chairman and CEO of Wunderman, a New York City-based marketing services firm that’s part of Young & Rubicam Brands and a member of WPP. Among other topics, we talked about the difference between social media and social networking, online video, and mobile marketing.

I recently spoke with Daniel Morel, chairman and CEO of Wunderman, a New York City-based marketing services firm that’s part of Young & Rubicam Brands and a member of WPP. Among other topics, we talked about the difference between social media and social networking, online video, and mobile marketing.

In 2005, Morel launched an aggressive strategy to expand the agency’s influence on digital direct marketing and was instrumental in Wunderman’s acquisition of interactive and web analytics agencies — Blast Radius and ZAAZ among them. Digital programs now account for 60 percent of Wunderman’s revenues.

Here are highlights from the discussion:

Melissa Campanelli, eM+C: How would you describe social media?
Daniel Morel: A while ago, when I used the term you’re using — social media — I was corrected by some folks from Forrester Research. They told me that social media is a euphemism. It’s not media, per se; it’s not something you buy but something you measure. Now, when describing what I think you’re talking about, I use the terms social networking, social interaction and social conversation — but not social media. If you look at the largest examples of what I’m describing — Twitter, Facebook, blogs — you’d see little advertising, little paid media.

MC: Do you think social networking is important?
DM: As for social networking, we monitor Twitter, but in my opinion, Twitter doesn’t really have many capabilities these days. We monitor all of the blogs and online communities, of course. We then harvest that information using a variety of tools in combination with vendors, such as Visible Technologies [a provider of online brand management solutions for new media environments that’s formed a strategic partnership with WPP] and Radian6 [a tool for real-time social media monitoring and analysis designed for advertising agencies].

When it comes to social conversations and social networking, the important thing for us is accumulating data and organizing it into knowledge and information. Social networking offers real-time data as opposed to secondary research, where you have to wait six months before getting the results. You have immediate access to what’s on the minds of consumers. Social networking is important for us, but only as much as we can convert the commodity we call data into valuable insight.

Once a client told me that one of his colleagues was doing “the Facebook thing.” He asked me, “Can you give me one of those?” Our job is not to just give our clients a Facebook page. Our job is to ask why. “Why do you want to do it?” “What’s your objective?” “What are you trying to achieve?” You shouldn’t do it just because someone else is doing it.

MC: Is it true that social networking is changing marketing today?
DM: Whether you’re shopping for a car or insurance, you want to know opinions about the products you’re shopping for from people like you — not the brands. You place more trust into what people of similar backgrounds and interests to you are saying about brands, products and services than discourse from the brand.

Brand speech is necessary, however, because you can’t go to a search toolbar and search for a product if you haven’t been informed about the existence of that product. If I want to type “Ford Mustang 2010” into the search toolbar, I must have heard the term at some point. Public relations does a good job of placing words in people minds.

Social networking will become more present, more sophisticated and more original in the future. Right now, a lot of the content on social networking sites is republished, refurbished or reformulated. But at some point some creative people will make it original and germane to each environment. As a result, social networking will become even more relevant.

Check out the rest of my conversation with Daniel Morel here next week. We’ll discuss online video and mobile marketing.

A Twitterview Live From TWTRCON

Question: What’s the best way to learn about what went on at TWTRCON SF 09 (www.twtrcon.com), the first conference entirely focused on Twitter as a business platform?Answer: Do a Twitter interview, or a Twitterview, live from the conference.So that’s what I did with Michael Della Penna, an attendee of the event and founder of the Participatory Marketing Network, which was a sponsor of the event. (Full disclosure: The Twitterview wasn’t exactly live. It took place a few days later.)

Question: What’s the best way to learn about what went on at TWTRCON SF 09 (www.twtrcon.com), the first conference entirely focused on Twitter as a business platform?Answer: Do a Twitter interview, or a Twitterview, live from the conference.So that’s what I did with Michael Della Penna, an attendee of the event and founder of the Participatory Marketing Network, which was a sponsor of the event. (Full disclosure: The Twitterview wasn’t exactly live. It took place a few days later.)At the conference, which was held in San Francisco on May 31, attendees learned how to create Twitter business strategies, use Twitter applications to create revenue, and use Twitter to listen to customers and respond. Attendees also networked with marketing and media executives, Twitter developers and social media experts. Speakers included Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of Alltop; Stefanie Nelson, who runs the marketing communications for Dell Outlet; Jeremiah Owyang, senior analyst at Forrester Research; Bob Pearson, president of The Blog Council; and Ed Terpening, vice president, social media marketing for Wells Fargo.Mike and I discussed some key concepts brought up at the event, all in tweets of less than the specified 140 characters. The following are some highlights from our discussion: mcampanelli: What are the some of the biggest obstacles for companies looking to adopt social media?mikepenna: Typically 1. Fear; 2. Costs; 3. Scalability concerns; 4. Perceived lack of tools; 5. IT/corporate departments.mcampanelli: I just learned of a study your org. presented there that said Gen Yers aren’t using Twitter. Why?mikepenna: Most don’t get it. They do text messaging and visit social networks, but don’t understand the value of Twitter yet.mcampanelli: What do some of the best corporate social media policies include? mikepenna: 1.What you can or can’t say; 2. What behaviors are appropriate; 3. Who owns what; 4. Disclosure info.; 5. Education. mcampanelli: Are companies starting to put these policies in motion? If not, what could happen? mikepenna: They are — but have to re-examine traditional approaches and policies and address new ones.mikepenna: One example of what companies now must address is “who owns the followers” when an employee leaves? mcampanelli: Let’s talk about marketing with Twitter. Can you do real targeting with Twitter? mikepenna: Yes. New tools are coming to market. In essence they will allow marketers to create groups, schedule tweets, etc. mcampanelli: What are some of the new tools out there? mikepenna: There were several at the show. CoTweet for one helps marketers manage dialogs with customers. They are in beta now.mcampanelli: Any interesting case studies from TWTRCON? Firms that do marketing on Twitter right?mikepenna: Yes. Several in fact. Some of the bigger ones were @comcastcares for customer service and @delloutlet for sales.Click here for a larger version.

Q&A With Bob Pearson, New President of The Blog Council

Editor’s Note: Bob Pearson, the former vice president of communities and conversations at Dell, recently left his post to become president of The Blog Council, an organization that represents the heads of social media at 45 major corporations including Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, The Home Depot, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart.

Pearson is widely known as the leader of one of the first major social media programs at a global enterprise. His work at Dell is considered the model for how big businesses should work with blogs, communities and other social media. In many ways, his move to The Blog Council symbolizes the significant acceleration of major companies adopting social media techniques and tools throughout their organizations.

I recently chatted with Bob about his personal goals and how he sees blogs and social media evolving with business. Here are highlights from the discussion:

Melissa Campanelli: Tell me about your new position at The Blog Council. What are your goals for the organization?

Bob Pearson: What we are all here to do in The Blog Council is accelerate the sharing of best practices. A big trend we see now is that people are realizing social media is actually becoming a discipline, no different than marketing, communications, HR or finance. And, it can be embedded and used throughout an entire organization. So the intensity of sharing best practices and learning is key.

This is what drove me to The Blog Council. At Dell, we were certainly doing a decent job of building out a social media capability worldwide, and this just seemed like a natural continuation to do it on an industrywide scale with peers.

The changes going on in the market are amazing. There are 500,000 people going online every day for the first time in their lives; YouTube is the second largest search engine (if separated out on its own); and the way people search, buy and interact with each other before they make purchases is evolving rapidly.

MC: I understand you’re involved with TWTRCON. What is the idea behind this event (being held May 31 in San Francisco), and why should marketers be interested in it?

BP: I’m excited about this conference because I think Twitter is much more significant than most people realize today. It’s getting a lot of attention as a microblogging tool, and people are intrigued by it. But what they are probably not spending enough time thinking about is the idea that tools like Twitter can ultimately replace e-mail.

Here’s why: Customers can get the information they want, at the time they want it and in the account they want it in, rather than getting stuff in their inboxes they don’t want even though they have supposedly opted in for it.

MC: Can you offer our readers any examples of social media leaders?

BP: A leader in the practice of using social media to communicate with customers is Tony Hsieh and Zappos (@zappos), of course. Another good example is the Dell Outlet (@delloutlet), which has over 380,000 followers to its Twitter account. The Dell Outlet sells products directly through Twitter, and even offers exclusive Twitter discounts.

I’m also intrigued by what companies such as Ford and General Motors are doing. Scott Monty (@scottmonty), the head of social media at Ford, is doing an excellent job of using social media to pass along information about Ford to its customers. Chris Barger (@cbarger), director of social media at General Motors, is also doing a great job.

Reach Bob Pearson via Twitter at @bobpearson1845.

An Ill-Timed Folly for Facebook

Facebook has caused quite a stir lately. About two weeks ago, it revised its terms of use, but the change caused such a turbulence in the blogosphere that the social media pioneer backed off and reverted to its old terms — at least for now.

Facebook has caused quite a stir lately. About two weeks ago, it revised its terms of use, but the change caused such a turbulence in the blogosphere that the social media pioneer backed off and reverted to its old terms — at least for now.

What temporary revision caused the uproar? Basically, the terms said members own their information on the site and control who sees it. But when they’d go to delete their accounts, Facebook would retain the right to the information, so friends still would be able to access the shared information. Facebook sated that it would have an “irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid worldwide license” to material on the site, per the short-lived terms.

But after the new rules were posted, many people contacted Facebook with questions and comments about the changes and what they meant for people and their information. Many expressed distrust and aired suspicions that the site would sell or share their information with third parties. Users protested on the site, while external groups also took action. The Electronic Privacy Information Center threatened legal action.

Data-sharing issues have been dicey stuff among American consumers since well before the economy tanked. Facebook has become such an American icon that this revision was ill-timed. Facebook made a mistake and had best rectify it quickly before the site becomes just another fad.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a Feb. 16 blog post that the revised terms were intended to make the site’s policies clearer to users. “One of the questions about our new terms of use is whether Facebook can use this information forever,” Zuckerberg wrote.

“When a person shares something like a message with a friend, two copies of that information are created — one in the person’s sent messages box and the other in their friend’s inbox. Even if the person deactivates their account, their friend still has a copy of that message. We think this is the right way for Facebook to work, and it is consistent with how other services like e-mail work. One of the reasons we updated our terms was to make this more clear.”

“In reality,” Zuckerberg continued, “we wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want … Our goal is to build great products and to communicate clearly to help people share more information in this trusted environment.”

Nevertheless, based on the feedback on his blog on Feb. 18, Zuckerberg said Facebook had decided to return to the previous terms of use while it resolves the issues people have raised.
But the matter isn’t resolved. The Harvard-schooled boy wonder of social media said Facebook is working on a new version of terms. The next version, he said, will be a substantial revision from where Facebook is now. It will reflect the principles of how people share and control their information, and it will be clearly written in language everyone can understand.

He also said Facebook has created a “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” and a forum where users can discuss the issues.

The incident marks the third time that Facebook has backed off changes after users voiced privacy concerns. The site’s news feed and its Beacon advertising program drew criticism, which prompted the social networking site to increase privacy protections.

So, what do you think? Is Facebook doing the right thing? Is the flip-flopping affecting your opinion of the site? Let us know.

5 Social Media Best Practices for Publishers

When it comes to social media marketing, some magazines and newspapers are doing it right, while some could improve their strategies. These issues were discussed at a session called “Social Media Marketing For Newspapers & Magazines,” held during the Search Marketing Expo East conference in New York, Oct. 6-8.

When it comes to social media marketing, some magazines and newspapers are doing it right, while some could improve their strategies. These issues were discussed at a session called “Social Media Marketing For Newspapers & Magazines,” held during the Search Marketing Expo East conference in New York, Oct. 6-8.

During the session, Adam Sherk, a search specialist at New York City-based search engine optimization firm Define Search Strategies, revealed the results of a survey showing that between the first and third quarters of this year, traffic on magazine sites coming from social media sites ranged from 0.6 percent to 18 percent of total traffic. Definitely a wide berth.

The session also discussed best practices in terms of getting a high percentage of social media traffic to a magazine or publisher Web site.

With this in mind, Chris Winfield, president and co-founder of 10e20, a New York City-based social media marketing consultancy, offered the following strategies for serving up a successful social media plan.

1. Research. “Find out where your visitors are already coming from,” he said. If they’re coming from Facebook, for example, start there. In addition, Winfield said that marketers should determine on which sites people are talking about you and who is already linking to you by tracking your inbound links.

In addition, “figure out what has worked so far in terms of social media marketing,” he said, “what hasn’t and what sites have the most potential for growth.”

2. Decide. “Once you figure out where your audience hang outs and what the demographics of these people are,” Winfield said, “decide if you should continue focusing on these areas. Also decide which specific media sites are right for your content and focus on those as well.”

3. Get your content up to snuff. “Make sure your content is easy for consumers to consume,” Winfield said. “Make it easy for people to share your content.”

But, Winfield warned publishers not to go overboard with social media buttons that users can click on to share content. “It’s a turnoff and people are not going to use them,” he said. He also suggested looking out for evergreen content that can be “easily updated and prettied up.”

4. Make internal changes. “Get key employees and stakeholders on board with your social media marketing plan,” Winfield said. “Get your existing readers on board. You’ll want to educate them and explain to them how your strategy works and how it can help them.”

While it’s important to make internal changes, Winfield cautioned attendees not to alienate their existing audiences.

5. Open up. Once your strategy is up and running, Winfield advised to maintain it by continually adding fresh content to your blogs, while also having a good RSS strategy.

“Many companies are not really sure what they are doing now when it comes to RSS feeds,” he said, “and they don’t understand how important a good RSS strategy can be.”

When working with microblog sites, such as Twitter, “don’t just be a feed,” he noted. “This can be boring. You want to be more than that — to gain new followers.”

Social Networking for DMers

Here’s a novel idea.

The National Mail Order Association is launching new direct marketing networking groups in each state of the U.S., and using social media as a component.

The NMOA’s strategy is to incorpate the social networking site Facebook as the first point of contact, and combine it with the all important aspect of “human interaction” that only comes from in person face-to-face networking.

Here’s a novel idea.

The National Mail Order Association is launching new direct marketing networking groups in each state of the U.S., and using social media as a component.

The NMOA’s strategy is to incorpate the social networking site Facebook as the first point of contact, and combine it with the all important aspect of “human interaction” that only comes from in person face-to-face networking.

“Online social networking is all the rage, but business does not live by the net alone,” said NMOA president and chirman John Schulte in a press release. “Face-to-face networking is still vital to business and career success,[and] these new networking groups combine the old with the new for super networking”

The online Facebook groups will be for day-to-day networking and information sharing, and once a month or more, members will coordinate local outings for some face-to-face networking, and have a little fun at the same time.

The best part? It’s all free. The NMOA will not require membership to be part of any of these groups.

“These new networking groups are needed,” says Schulte. “You can’t deny it, direct marketing is the way of the future, almost every business now utilizes at least one direct marketing tactic for creating sales, be it the web, direct mail, catalogs, infomercials, television home shopping or response ads in newspapers and magazines, and people want to learn more, especially the small business and budding entrepreneur.”

So far, direct marketing groups have been set up for 19 states and one main group for international connectivity. New states will be added as people request them. People that want to get involved on a leadership level in their state will be made officers of the group.

Every group is set up so members can start a discussion, ask questions, share links, promote their company, and post videos and pictures. If for no other reason, people should join their state group as part of their overall Web 2.0 strategy.

Links to currently active states can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2ntwdc