Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Another Shout-Out for the Importance of CEO Social Media Engagement

A recent study by social media agency BRANDfog gives additional support to the belief that CEO social media engagement is important. The survey included employees from 800 US and UK firms of various sizes in a variety of industries. According to their press release:

• 80.6% of respondents believe that social media is an important communications channel for CEOs to engage with customers and investors
• 68.7% of respondents believe that C-suite social media engagement enhances the perception that a brand is honest and trustworthy
• 83.9% believe that CEO social media engagement is an effective tool to increase brand loyalty.

The emphasis in this passage is mine! There are a whole host of reasons why CEOs and other C-level executives are reluctant to engage in social media, but increasingly the excuses just don’t hold water. Listen to BRANDfog CEO Ann Charles:

“We are witnessing a fundamental shift in the culture of modern leadership, brought upon by social media but sustained by the strategic inventiveness of smart CEOs. . .The role of the CEO has been transformed by social media and CEOs have no choice but to become more visible, social, and accessible than ever before.”

What are some of the benefits of CEO social media engagement? They include raising the corporate brand’s profile, communicating corporate vision and mission, attracting desirable employees, increasing brand loyalty, and even increasing purchase intent. (Study pdf)

The study also speaks to the importance of social media in times of corporate crisis and the belief that CEO involvement can be helpful. That goes back to my often-repeated question: How can a CEO know how to use social media under pressure unless (s)he has experience and is comfortable with the social channels? The answer is simple; experience and comfort level is crucial.

That said, what channels are the CEOs in these companies most likely to use? The answer is no surprise—Twitter! Are they linking to more detailed corporate information? I hope so! Many also use LinkedIn; why don’t all of them have a professional presence there? Facebook is fine and corporate blogs round out the important channels. The blogs, along with the website, are where the detailed information lives; that’s where the links should go. (See the complete infographic of study data here.)

It’s not a new message, but this study makes it clear that it’s still a hard one to get across. My personal opinion is clear. Why should customers trust a brand whose C-level executives are afraid to engage openly and transparently with them?

Increasingly the answer is: they will not trust those brands!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Social Media for Good IV

You may have heard that the Obama campaign is transforming the campaign organization into a movement for grassroots action.  It has its own Executive Director and an introductory video by the First Lady.

Will people who signed up for a political campaign now sign up to be active in their own local areas? For what causes or  issues?

It remains to be seen. What is interesting from a marketing standpoint is the desire not to abandon an existing community. It's what, for example, the March of Dimes was able to do.

It will be interesting to watch.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Consumer Product Reviews--Impactful and Mobile

A Cisco study called “Catch and Keep Mobile Shoppers” (infographic) highlights changes having a major effect on retailing. The key take-aways:

• 71% of shoppers interviewed want access to digital content in stores, either on their own devices or via touchscreens
• Online resources like ratings and reviews on retail websites have strong influence in shoppers' buying decisions
• Overall, they want  mobile, self-service access to information and personalized services.

The study adds that 1 in 3 are using mobile searched to guide purchases. That’s up 20% from the previous holiday shopping season.

Taking a broader view a study by Baynote found consumer product reviews among the most influential purchase decision factors (infographic). Reviews ran a close fourth behind price, free shipping and merchant reputation.

Adding to the chorus is a study of consumer electronics purchasers just released by Weber Shankwick and KRC Research. It caught my eye because it focused on the consumer electronic category and found that consumer reviews have become more important than expert reviews. That’s saying something in that category! This report also has takeaways about what marketers should be doing:

• Include reviews on the website. That means being open and transparent by including negative reviews. The report notes that 31% of the reviews have to be negative to cause consumers to doubt product quality.
• Product pages should read more like reviews. Avoid product speak and marketing speak!
• Encourage reviews on the retailer’s own site and on others, including social networks. Making optimal use of social networks require a community manager to encourage reviews and ensure they receive a customer service response if necessary.
• Marketer’s can’t directly influence reviews, but they should carefully curate the external ones that are posted to their own site. The report also suggests care in disseminating information to professional experts so their reviews are more likely to focus on issues of importance to consumers.
• Buyers consult reviews at various stages in the purchase process, so provide content that is relevant to each stage.

This report doesn’t specifically address mobile, but it’s obvious that the type of content they recommend can—and should—be mobile as well as available on a traditional website. The content should also include a healthy component of consumer-generated product reviews!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Charity:Water - A Case Study in Venture Philanthropy

I first heard of Charity:Water when a student sent me a Mother’s Day card representing a $20 donation in my name. I responded with a $20 donation of my own and was intrigued by the young organization’s use of email and video--and the very personal involvement of founder Scott Harrison--to cement donor relationships. This was about 2007, well before most other charities understood the power of digital media.

The business model of Charity:Water is also exemplary. They call it the 100% model; 100% of what they raise from public donations goes directly to water well projects. There are few non-profits with the kind of charismatic leader who can raise all the funds necessary to run the charity. The Clinton Global Initiative is one other that I know of and it makes the point about a well-placed leader. In recent years Charity:Water has been using GPS to locate projects on Google maps and to provide proof of successful completion to donors. Overall, it is a model of how to run a charitable organization in the Internet age. One thing you quickly notice is that they encourage supporters to raise money for them and that’s where a lot of social media comes in.

This is why we featured them as an Internet marketing “best practices” case study in the first chapter of the Internet marketing text. The organization has lessons, not just for other non-profits, but also for commercial organizations that wish to remain close to their customers.
GPS is useful but Charity:Water has just taken another big step. According to an article by the AP, “Harrison, a former New York promoter for nightclubs and fashion events, didn’t want to guess at how many water projects were actually working. He wanted to give donors more assurance, knowing as many as a third of hand pumps built by various governments or groups stop functioning later. His solution: why not create sensors to monitor the water flow at each well? But raising millions for a new innovation could prove impossible.” That, perhaps, is the drawback of the 100% model; if a large operational investment is needed it could strain the fund-raising ability of even a charismatic leader.

Enter Google. In December it announced a new charitable grants program to fund organizations that are using technology in innovative ways. It’s first 7 grants are fascinating—from DNA barcoding of endangered species to educational programs for under-represented students and for math and science education. All have a major technology component.

Matt Bannick, managing partner of the (Pierre) Omidyar Network says this represents a new approach to philanthropy. He describes the new approach: 

“Seeking out ideas to fund, rather than existing projects, turns traditional notions of philanthropy on its head,” Bannick said.

“Rather than looking for organizations that could do this specific work that we’re hoping to get accomplished, let’s look for fabulous entrepreneurs … that have a new and innovative idea that we can get behind,” he said.

These are two developments to follow with interest. Charity:Water continues to innovate in ways that bond with its donors. Entrepreneurial high tech firms like Google are looking for ways to use technology for social good. The approach of taking a risk by funding innovative uses of technology by leading-edge non-profits is the idea behind “venture technology.” Will we see more—and even more effective—ways to use technology in the future? Hopefully we will!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Social Media Prepares for Super Bowl XLVII

Last week I got a permission-based email from Toyota inviting me to submit a “road trip” picture and have a chance to appear in their 2013 Super Bowl ad. No, thanks, Toyota, but good job tying it in with your current ad theme, “Let’s Go Places.” I had forgotten the theme, so I had to check. What I found was a PPC ad promoting the contest on the SERP page and a vibrant website where it was hard to escape the content. There’s still time if you want to enter!

The email reminded me to check on how purchasers of those $4 million Super Bowl spots are integrating them with their social media. Leveraging the expensive ads in other channels isn’t new but social media is the ultimate manifestation of leverage. As you can see from Toyota, it gets the conversation going early. I think the key question is how much value it creates for the consumer.

The most interesting list of Super Bowl commercials I found was on The Business Insider.com, which appears to be updated regularly if you want to follow the hype. With input from the list on Ad Age and a delightfully edgy site for geeks who like ads, here’s what I found:

• Pepsi is also soliciting photos of consumers, in this case engaging in “movements” I don’t yet get the point, but it ties in with the half-time show, headlined by Pepsi’s “global brand ambassador” BeyoncĂ©.

• Doritos is repeating its ‘best ad’ contest. It was heavily promoted; every site I visited for research displayed a PPC ad for inviting viewers to submit a video. The finalists are up now and awaiting your vote. When I checked the page, it encouraged me to “Share the Word.” By the way, it’s all being done on Facebook, not a website as in the past.
• Axe says they have big news “taking our interaction with our fans to new heights” that will be announced on the Super Bowl. The brand is well known for edgy ads, but I can’t find any hints of what the big news is.

• The most innovative social media use so far is the newly-rebranded Lincoln Motor Co.’s twitter-based ad. Tweets about wacky road trips were solicited by Lincoln spokesperson Jimmy Fallon and three were selected to be “animated” for the commercial.  It’s an attempt  by the brand to appeal to a younger demographic.

• Also creative is Pizza Hut’s just-announced contest for a pre-game ad. Here’s how USA Today describes it:  “The pizza giant is asking football fans to submit very short videos of their best, silliest or most creative recitation of the words every quarterback shouts — and which Pizza Hut says is the heart of its name: "Hut. Hut. Hut." In other words, simulate the start of a football play, but with creative zeal.” Ok, if they say so!

There are other ‘usual suspects’ like Coke that usually integrate social media into their Super Bowl campaign plan. I checked Coke’s Facebook page and website but didn’t find any hints. Keep an eye on breaking news; I‘m sure there will be other social media aspects announced.

But I can’t end this without my so-far-favorite ad, even though it’s not social media. I just can’t get past the thought of Kim Kardashian being replaced by a bull dog—Mark Cuban’s racing bull dog at that! Go Mr. Quiggly—and continue to follow the Super Bowl of Advertising!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Social Media for Good III

We hear the words daily on news reports--“amateur video,” “powerful images,” “unable to independently verify.” The caveats are required from responsible journalistic sources, but the fact that major news organizations use social media for important news coverage attests to its power.

Citizen videos have been key to our understanding of what is going on in Syria. They make it hard to ignore the awful realities there—much harder than if they were out of sight. That is the ultimate contribution.

It’s less easy to understand the lives of the people who take huge risks to make and upload videos. This article, and the image of Omar Abu Al Huda and his cat in a safe house in the small town of Idlib, Syria gives human perspective to the story. The link is from the Global Voices site, whose newsletter is a fascinating read. It has a link to a partner site, Syria Deeply.

Either or both are well worth following.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

SoLo--The Importance of Google+ Local

SoLoMo has become a familiar acronym to all marketers. This post isn’t to discount the importance of mobile. It is to point out that in order for mobile to work for the local retail business those businesses have to get their local strategy in order. Google, Google+ and local search are key to that local strategy. Hence, SoLo.

After the holiday shopping season just past there should be no doubt about the importance of local search, much of which was mobile. This chart breaks down local search and it shows the importance to local retailers and restaurateurs and to others as well. I am surprised every time I get a heavy, expensive set of paper yellow pages. They are outdated before they get to my door! Who does anything except search???

I’ve been writing about Google’s evolving efforts in local for several years now, and it has evolved again. Obviously Google is not the only player in this field but no one else integrates various platforms/tools as well, especially since the purchase of Zagat. If you have any doubts about the power of the union, when I looked up Zagat I found a feed from their G+ page on the SERP page. An interesting way to get followers!

Google morphed Google Places into Google+ Local in May 2012. At that time PR Web identified the changes as the integration of Zagat reviews into the business page, integration across other relevant Google properties, and a circles filter to feed reviews from friends/family/colleagues circles. Last week Google announced the ability for business pages to interact with anyone on G+ whether members of their circles or not. It’s clearly pushing G+ pages by increasing their usefulness.
The integration is an interesting issue. The NYTimes had a useful article on the new SERP pages. It took me awhile to figure it out.  I searched for “snowblowers Cape Cod” but I didn’t see maps. What I discovered is that you have to hover over the paid listing and then click on the little arrows you see on the page capture. Ok, it works, but it takes some effort.  When I clicked on the link above the map, I got the company’s web site. When I switch to Maps view, I get a map and the ability to write a review. There don’t seem to be any reviews at present, nor does the firm appear to have claimed its business page and provided the information it wants customers to see. I can’t find a G+ page for it.

Here’s the  process for integrating a G+ brand page with the Google local listing. In case you wonder, a business doesn’t have to ask for a local listing. Google uses various databases of its own and commercial ones like yellow pages to create the listings. That’s the reason they may be inaccurate and that it’s essential for businesses to claim their listing and provide accurate information.  Here’s a post with detailed instructions and example that will be useful if you need to need to claim and verify your page, starting from your Google+ brand page. Of course, the business does have to set up its own brand page to create this integration.

I find the semantics confusing. There’s the G+ brand page and the G+ local business listing.  Here’s Google’s own explanation of how the new local listings are going to work: no mention of Google+ brand pages. However, it appears to me that Google+ is an important brand in the Google portfolio. I expect to see more integration in the future. That makes it important for local businesses to keep up with developments, starting by verifying the business listings or reviewing ones they haven’t checked on for awhile. Business owners need to be sure that their listings are correct and up to date and that they are taking advantage of all the social options that bring their customers into the process.