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‘NOT EVERYTHING THAT COUNTS CAN BE COUNTED’

It’s important to monitor social media ROI
 
We’ve explored the importance of using social media on this blog. We’ve talked about how companies should respond to crisis and when. We’ve talked about being present where consumers are. We’ve talked about monitoring the brand’s page to make sure to curb negative comments in a timely fashion. But, there is another aspect of social media that companies and strategic communications professionals must pay attention to – monitoring the success of social media use.

blogeinsteinTaking stock of social media return on investment (ROI) is a good way to decide what efforts work and what efforts should be kicked to the curb. “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” said department store mogul John Wanamaker. Wanamaker died in 1922, so the concept of tracking ROI isn’t a new one.

In order to successfully measure ROI, companies should not only focus on how many followers and likes they receive, but also the impact that social media conversations and efforts have on overall sales and product image. That certainly means taking a step back and looking at the big picture when it’s so easy to see immediate gratification through clicks and views. The thought is to not solely rely on clicks and views, but to try and quantify what those mean in terms of increased sales.

blogtableThe CMO Survey took a look at metrics that companies use to measure the impact of social media efforts. They asked companies to share numbers in August 2010 and February 2013 to watch the change in results. Some of the categories were hits/visits/page views, number of followers or friends, sales levels and online product ratings. The results showed that while there was a 14 percent drop in website views, there was a 27 percent increase in the number of followers or friends as reported by the participating companies. An odd category, abandoned shopping carts, leads survey readers to believe that an increase in web mentions and social media followers trended 26 percent fewer shopping carts left abandoned in stores.

A May 2013 Forbes article analyzed the survey results and reported that social media impact has “first-order effects” when it comes to non-purchase behaviors. That includes people talking about companies and brands. That talk generates exposure, shapes attitudes and eventually leads to increased (or decreased) purchases.

We know that consumer talk about brands is a great way to boost brand loyalty and positive feelings about companies. However, strategic communicators and marketing professionals can’t simply stop at tracking how many mentions a company has on Twitter. That number means little to nothing if a company can’t tell what the sentiment behind the numbers is. Is the conversation positive or negative? Companies such as Viral Heat, Twendz, Tweet Feel, and Sentiment Metrics all provide sentiment analytics for Twitter mentions. The old addage “any publicity is good” doesn’t ring true for brands. All it takes is one negative comment on Twitter to be retweeted to friends and by celebrities to send a company in a downward brand spiral.

While companies might not understand the intangibles behind social media marketing, tangibles can be measured that prove the technique can be successful or detrimental. Social Media Today suggests that results achieved by social media come from some intangibles created by social media efforts, including:

  • A positive or negative emotional reaction from brand communications.
  • The acknowledgement of being heard.
  • The feeling of not being just a dollar sign to a brand, rather than a valuable person.
  • The feeling that the brand is trustworthy, transparent and open to dialogue from consumers.
  • The sense of recognition for contributing to the value of a brand.
  • The ability to influence others who share similar sentiments about anything, everything and anyone.
  • The connectivity people feel from human, rather than institutional, communications.

BFG Communications content manager Hal Thomas spoke to a portion of the DMA2011 conference and said, although social media ROI may be “fuzzy,” there are things companies can keep in mind to help measure social media success.

  1. Social media is the vehicle, not the destination, according to Thomas. He further explained that marketing professionals mistakenly think that having a media presence on Twitter or Facebook is “the destination,” when it is really a communications tool that carries a company to a larger goal – profit.
  2. Listen and apply what you learn. Thomas said the number of likes and comments generated on social media sites is great, but what do they mean. Take time to see what posts and thoughts receive the most interaction on social media sites. If more consumers comment on one product over another, it could be a way to notice how consumer preference is trending. That offers companies a direction point when it comes to how they might invest dollars in the future.
  3. Understand how social media is used in an organization. Thomas notes that different departments within a group measure success in different ways and social media metrics will mean different things to different departments. Each measure of success should be based on a department’s specific goals.

Trying to measure the success of social media efforts isn’t for the impatient. Brands must be built on social media blogstarbucksnetworks over time and kept up with constant updates and interactive features that enable a consumer’s voice to be heard. It is only when working ahead for a positive brand image that companies can be prepared to battle the negative that could arise – as a result of anything from a poor customer service experience to a product recall. Over time, companies should be able to track the effects of their social media interaction through a boost in sales, a shift in brand image and an increase in overal popularity.

Are their any brands you believe are monitoring the ROI of social media? For me, just based on the efforts exerted by the social media team and perceived popularity, I believe Starbucks is. They have a reputation for customer service and that extends to their efforts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. And the company listens. Did you know the stirrer/stopper you get at Starbucks was actually the creation and suggestion of a loyal customer? Can you think of any other companies who use social media to their benefit?

TOMORROW IS TOO LATE

Companies must jump on the social networking bandwagon, now

Tomorrow is too late when it comes to crisis management. A text book we used early on during the grad school program I am in suggested that 24 to 48 hours was a suitable time to respond to an issue or crisis. Most public relations professionals worth their salt today would laugh at that number. If you aren’t involved in a conversation about a crisis within 30 minutes of it happening, you’re playing catch-up through the whole ordeal and company branding and trust is likely to be damaged.

Think back to the Chick-fil-A blunder, BP’s big mistake and the Domino’s disaster.

socialmediaWe live in a 24-hour news cycle world. People log on to Facebook in the morning to talk about what they ate for breakfast, hipsters instagram photos of bricks and sidewalks or ironic signs like they’ve never seen them before and more than two million active Twitter users tweet and retweet as fast as they can type 140 characters. Companies simply don’t have the luxury of taking a step back to decide a method of response these days. Plans should be thought out in advance and must be carried out in a multi-front way.

“The savvy journalists are not waiting by their fax machine for an official press release, but are ready to quote live accounts of passengers and bystanders being shared online,” wrote Shashank Nigam on Simpliflying.com in response to the July 2013 Asiana Airlines 214 crash in California. Nigam noted that Asiana Airlines was the major voice not present in the world-watched aftermath of the crash. It’s important to the success of modern companies, such as those in the airline industry, to be present where conversations are being had. Anyone with a smartphone can upload information or photos of breaking news and company displeasure. And with LTE service and WiFi increasingly available, spreading news via social media can happen with ease. That means, industry professionals must monitor Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and any other social media outlet that takes off. Ideas of controlling information go out the window considering social media. Issues must be addressed on all fronts. Tales of angry customers taking to Twitter and Facebook to bash brands happens so often that companies must understand the time to shift the way they respond to both digital and traditional methods is now.

asianaNigam noted that while the voice of Asiana Airlines wasn’t heard, a clear and loud (but calm) voice echoed over social media. David Eun, former president of AOL Media and Studios, tweeted, “I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I’m ok. Surreal…” Eun was a passenger on the July 6, 2013 Asiana airplane crash. His tweet, coupled with a photo, was retweeted 32,700 times and his 2,000 person Twitter following increased about 10 times just hours following the crash. Simpliflying reported that the first tweet about the crash happened just 30 seconds after the crash and that tweet was quoted more than 4,000 times by media outlets in a period of 24 hours. “The lesson learnt is that social media needs to be an integral part of any crisis management plan for an airline or an airport today. There is no longer the luxury to respond in two hours, or even 20 minutes,” Nigam posted on the website.

Need more proof digital is the way to go?

Morrison Foerster’s hosts a Socially Aware blog that discusses the Internet and social media boom and how that relates to consumers and businesses. The blog released findings in November 2012 regarding how many people use different social media outlets, and how much time they spend on which outlets. The blog reported that, in 2011, the average American spent 6.9 hours each month using social media. That’s nearly a full work day minus a lunch break. That number was up from social media users spending 2.7 hours each month tweeting and “liking” in 2006. Three hours each month was spent on YouTube in 2011, according to Socially Aware. Another interesting shift in interactive time reported by the blog is that email and instant messaging fell 22 percent and 42 percent, respectively, while social media use rose 24 percent between July 2010 and October 2011 when it comes to 15 to 24 year olds. Other age groups reflected that shift, too. The fastest growing social networking user segments are males and people older than 55, Socially Aware reported. Although numbers are likely to have increased in the year following the blog’s findings, in 2012, 56 percent of Americans had a social networking profile and 22 percent of people in the United States use social media several times each day. Social media accounted for 18 percent of all time spent on line in 2012, the numbers showed. My guess is that number has grown by now.

Still not convinced digital is the way to go? Here are some quick numbers that show the shift is valid.

A 2012 Neilsen survey found that 18- to 24-year-olds, of whom half make less than $15,000, said they own a smartphone. The device was a luxury the young adults said they weren’t willing to do without. The Pew Internet Project found that, in 2011, 35 percent of those the group called for a survey said they owned a smartphone. Nine out of 10 smartphone owners surveyed used their phones for Internet access with about 78 percent doing so every day. Cisco Visual Networking predicted that by the end of 2012 there would be more smartphones than people on the planet and that by 2016, there would be 1.4 smartphones per person on Earth. With the growth of smartphone ownership and the ever-developing world of social media applications for phones and tablets, future crisis and issues management researchers should keep an eye on any developments that could make it even easier for consumers to make their voices heard.

Social media, for better or worse, is a fast way for news to travel. Companies should be pro-actively looking for ways to get in on the conversation, both before and after a crisis.

WAIT? DID YOU SAY SOMETHING?

Video marketing has to be clever, to the point

 Billboards, television, radio – Oh, my!

Advertisements are everywhere we look. From writing on vehicles, to marketing in elevators and bathrooms, there aren’t many places consumers can go to escape being bombarded by ads. We’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads in the 1970s to about 5,000 ads on an average day.

parkingI, like many other people I am sure, have what I call advertising ADD. I don’t usually focus on one thing long enough to actually receive an advertisers message. It seems the goal of advertising execs these days is to fill every space available with some sort of ad. Now, especially in larger cities, we see messages on parking stripes, on stairs, below ground in metros and subways, on taxi toppers, on cars, plastered on buildings, being pulled by airplanes and on mobile billboards.

But, do any of those techniques really work? With so much smacking us broadside each day, do we really pay attention to the ads that have become as common as nondescript buildings we pass by each day?

A couple of years ago, television advertisements became shorter to appeal to our shrinking attention span. Once-popular minute-long ads had already decreased to 30-second and in 2010, 15-second ads took over as the most popular for advertisers. Shorter, 15-second TV commercials increased in use by more than 70 percent over a five year period.

With the invention of items such as Tivo and online ad blockers, consumers can fast forward through and ignore pesky advertisements. Sites such as Hulu create less of a presence for advertisers. Laptops and phones have also contributed to shortened attention spans. Consumers truly do control what they see, when they see it.

Grunge vintage televisionAccording to Kantar Media, about 5 percent of a viewing audience for a 15 second commercial will stop watching. That number increases to 6 percent for 30-second spots and 6.5 percent for minute-long advertisements. And advertisers are taking note, creating new 15-second ads as opposed to editing down already produced 30-second ad. Procter & Gamble doubled the company’s number of 15-second ads to more than 299,000 in 2010 and Walmart increased its 15-second ads to 148,000 in 2010 as compared to about 5,700 in 2005.

That was two years ago. What about now? Since online advertising is an increasingly important branding tool, let’s take a look at those stats.

More than 20 percent of people will change their minds about watching an Internet video if it doesn’t load within five seconds. Seventy-five percent of people change their minds after a 10-second delay. Research by Visible Measures shows that it takes 20 percent of viewers 10 seconds or less to abandon a video that doesn’t hold their attention. By 30 seconds in, a 33 percent of viewers have moved on. Forty-four percent say “goodbye” at 60 seconds and just about 60 percent abandon the video at two minutes.

What do those numbers mean for advertisers? If an online video reached 10 million people, two million saw less than 10 seconds of the probably-expensively produced advertisement. But those numbers also hold true for shorter online videos.

That means, when it comes to video branding, it’s important for advertisers to get to the point quickly.

vineTying social media into video branding, Twitter’s new Vine product forces video makers to creatively get a message across in six seconds. Just as Twitter helped us learn to get our point across in 140 characters or less, Vine uses the same methodology with video.

Even if you aren’t ready to jump on the Vine bandwagon when it comes to sinking money into a different type of video advertising (which you really should consider doing, by the way), there is still much to be learned from the art of condensing an idea in to a six-second spot. Here are some ideas for formulating the perfect video pitch:

  1. Be brief. Think of one idea that you want viewers to know about your brand. Limiting the pitch to one thought will help the viewer retain the message.
  2. Make it quirky. Think of interesting ways to showcase a product in hopes of helping it go viral. The more shares, the more people see your message.
  3. Communicate your difference. What makes your company stand out? Are you organic? Do you donate to a cause? Are you safe for kids?
  4. Make it interactive. Is there a way you can turn your video idea into a contest, or encourage people to share the content for a discount? Or, create a video that asks viewers to create their own and share it on your networking site. Creating an avenue for company, consumer interaction is always a good thing!
  5. Remember, social media messages don’t always have to push your brand. Use clever historical trivia (like Google does with their daily Doodles). Participate with a holiday-related short. Create a video that others will share. That promotes your brand as fun and relevant.
  6. Educate viewers about something new and cool. Maybe there’s a unique way to use your product. Show folks how! Be amazing.

Need some more ideas on clever videos. This site shows some great examples that use the tips above, and there are even more thoughts on how to catch the attention of viewers.

viralAs for Vine, The Gap, NBC, The Humane Society, BuzzFeed, GE, Tropicana and sports companies and teams have already jumped in and are spreading their vine messages everywhere. And it’s easy to track the effectiveness of Vine videos. An app called Simply Measured offers a free analytics tracker to keep tabs on how popular your videos are. The tracking is free for Twitter accounts that have 10,000 or fewer followers.

Keep in mind that 87 percent of marketers in the United States use video for branding purposes and mobile video is expected to make up 66 percent of global mobile data traffic within in the next five years. That’s up 51 percent from 2012. So whether you are using YouTube, Brightcove, Vine or another form of video branding, it’s important to find new and creative ways to keep your audience coming back for more.

2.5 BILLION HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE

Crowdsourcing has become a valuable tool

While the term crowdsourcing may sound new, the concept is not. It’s been common for centuries for governments and companies to ask the masses for help, either by force, by contest, or by appealing to the volunteer spirit.

chronometer Way back in 1714, the British government knew the necessity for the country to participate in sailing the globe for exploration, invention and trade. However, sailing can be a dangerous business. So, the government offered up a contest asking the public for a solution. That’s how the marine chronometer came about. John Harrison invented a way for sailors to navigate using the stars.

Fast forward to 1858 when the Oxford English Dictionary was created. When a group of scholars was crafting the dictionary, they needed help with the thousands of entries and relied on volunteers to create entries based on their areas of expertise.

The idea of reaching out to the public to help solve problems isn’t a new one, but it wasn’t until the Internet became widely used that companies began using the concept so much there needed to be a term for it. “Crowdsourcing” was born.

There are more than 7 billion people in the world and Nielsen Online reports that 2.5 billion of those people have access to the Internet. While large companies may have 150,000 people working for them and small companies could have as few as five, there is a large margin of untapped talent that could provide services to companies who find value in using crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing doesn’t sound as big and scary as the term might suggest. It can be as simple as sending out a Twitter question or creating a Facebook post asking for feedback on a product. Police crowdsource when they ask for “anyone who may have seen something to come forward.” News outlets even use crowdsourcing when they ask readers or viewers to share information, breaking news video and even pet photos. (Check out this new app the Guardian in the UK is using to crowdsource.) In a more advanced sense, companies can use crowdsourcing websites to solicit innovative ideas for products, logos and other things a company might want to think outside the box on.

Companies such as Amazon, Netflix, istockphoto.com and DuPont have embraced the idea of tapping into talent outside the company’s workforce. According to bizmedia.com, companies have paid between $1-2 billion for ideas and products generated from crowdsource solicitations.

netflix2What does Netflix need with crowdsourcing? Something they were willing to pay $1 million for. Netflix offered the prize to anyone who could write an algorithm that could outperform the one the company uses to make recommendations to consumers. In September 2009, the company paid out the prize. Team “BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos” beat out more than 41,000 teams from 186 countries.

And while the Netflix prize is on the high end of payouts for a request that could only be complete by people with a highly-specialized skill set, there are many contests and contributions that can be made by amateurs. Crowdsourcing can certainly provide an avenue for up-and-coming innovators and creative minds that might not be able to make a connection with a company due to location or other circumstance.

ThreadlessThreadless may be one of the most popular businesses in the crowdsourcing world. Freelance designers submit T-shirt designs and customers vote on the artwork. The most popular submissions result in a cash payment and the T-shirt being manufactured by the company. While it’s not a mega pay out, it’s money made from the comfort of wherever designers happen to be. The Threadless website reports that the company has paid more than $7 million to about 1,500 artists for a total of about 274,000 T-shirt designs. It’s win-win for the company who doesn’t have to hire designers, pays a minimal amount for artwork and also makes money off of the sale of T-shirts.

There are many benefits to crowdsourcing. It affords an opportunity for companies to hear from their consumers, or potential consumers. Crowdsourcing can keep company overhead low. Also, since many products, such as T-shirts produced by Threadless, are voted on or commented on prior to production the idea is already tested.

But while there are many positives to crowdsourcing, there are also downsides. Because ideas are thrown to the masses, there is no guarantee that the right person with the needed qualifications will see the call for help. Many times crowdsourcing opportunities don’t pay much, companies may not see repeat submitters who are qualified. There’s also been some push back from skilled professionals. While photographers have previously charged $100 and up per stock photo, companies such as istockphoto.com enable companies to find photographs for less than $5. That’s great for a company’s budget, but bad for the professionals who have made their living off of a particular skill. Crowdsource responders are also working on their own time, so companies who have rush projects might not find the method valuable in that sense.

Finding a balance between using qualified company employees and utilizing crowdsourcing requires planning and balance.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOne example of a company has been able to integrate crowdsourcing into their business plan successfully is Proctor & Gamble. According to the company, 50 percent of company product ideas were coming from outside the company by 2010. P&G reports there are now 1.5 million people in the company’s extended network. P&G calls their crowdsourcing program “Connect & Develop.” Through the program, P&G has created 137 products, including Olay Regenerist, Swiffer Dusters, and Crest Spinner Brush. Through Connect & Develop, the company was even able to find a way to print text on potato chips. A bakery in Italy was already using the technology and P&G licensed it from them by way of the company’s crowdsourcing program. The product was on store shelves within a year.

Crowdsourcing will no doubt continue to change and shift due to emerging technologies and innovative ideas on how companies, governments and other organizations can put to use the collaborative efforts of the public. Are there ways companies could be utilizing crowdsourcing that they aren’t? Please share your thoughts. (See what I did there? I just attempted crowdsourcing, myself.)