So, What About Results?

This week my reading focused on the problem of metrics for social media marketing.  Among all the items that I read, there are three that I would like to share, the first of which, Opinion:  Measuring ROSS  http://www.campaignasia.com/Article/281180,opinion-measuring-ross.aspx , by Hari Shankar, appeared in ‘Campaign Asia-Pacific’, on November 24th, 2011.  Mr. Shankar is the Asian-Pacific Director at Performics  (/http://www.performics.com/), a search engine marketing organization headquartered in Chicago.

So, what does the acronym ROSS stand for, anyway?  Well, ROSS stands for Returns on Social Spends, with ‘Social Spends’ signifying the total dollar investment a company ‘spends’ in social media.  From a recent survey, Mr. Shankar revealed the astounding statistic that 37% of respondent companies were unable to measure the value of social media to their organizations.

In the article, he proffered three critical questions for organizations to posit in evaluating the performance of their social media marketing efforts:

  1. Did you get their attention, and give them something of value?
  2. Did they talk about you, and ‘pass the word’ along?
  3. Did it affect your bottom line?

Mr. Shankar breaks these three questions down into simple metrics that apply to almost any social media platform.  The golden metrical concepts, according to Mr. Shankar, are:

  • Chatter rate
    • The number of responses, comments and posts
  • Propagation rate
    • The number of:  re-tweets per tweet; shares per post; share-clicks per action (posts, videos, etc.)
  • Popularity rate
    • The number of:  likes per post; +1’s per post; favorite clicks per tweet and per video

For actually measuring results, though, Mr. Shankar suggests even a site as basic and well known as Google Analytics, specifically Web Trends, is good for getting the numbers.  But, first, it’s good to know, isn’t it, the right questions to ask?

The second article, Measuring Social Media ROI:  3 Things to Consider, http://mashable.com/2011/11/15/social-media-roi-measure/ appeared in ‘Mashable’ on November 15th, 2011, contributed by ‘Mashable’ regular Erica Swallow.  Ms. Swallow’s recent story is actually the coverage of a presentation made by Hal Thomas, the content manager at BFG Communications (http://bfginteractive.com/work/geekend/), during the Direct Marketing Association’s 2011 conference (http://www.dma11.org/).

Mr. Thomas, Ms. Swallow writes, made 3 key points:

  1. Social media is the vehicle, not the destination
    • Social media represents potential
    • Take action, convert prospects into transacting customers
    • Social media is the starting place
  2. Listen and apply what’s learned to every department
    • Listen to the conversations
    • Apply the information across your organization
  3. Performance metrics are media agnostic
    • Different departments measurement of success are based on specific goals and metrics

The last article, Measuring Social Media, My Mantra is . . . ‘Measure What Matters’  http://www.business2community.com/social-media/measuring-social-media-my-mantra-is…-‘measure-what-matters’-094901 , was written by Michelle Carvill, the Owner and Marketing Director of Carvill Creative (http://www.carvillcreative.co.uk).  It was published in ‘Business 2 Community’, an online media, communications, branding and PR publication, on November 22nd, 2011.

According to Ms. Carvill, in approaching metrical analysis of any social media marketing efforts, there are five key points to keep in mind:

  • Social media should focus on delivering the objectives of the business
  • Have absolute clarity about the objectives, so you can measure the impact of social media
  • Measuring likes and tweets . . . if those metrics don’t matter to the end objectives, you shouldn’t be measuring them
  • The business should be measuring impact toward the business’s objectives
  • What you measure will depend upon the objectives you’ve set, and may differ from team to team within your organization

As Ms. Carvill sums it up, no matter how many tweets, re-tweets, likes, posts, views or whatever that your company’s social media marketing juggernaut may be racking up, if those metrics aren’t relevant to your bottom line, if they aren’t relevant to your objectives, then, well, you’re not really measuring impact, you’re just measuring activity.

What I Think About Measurements, and Social Media Marketing

The measuring of social media marketing results helps companies measure the effectiveness of their plan towards their organization’s objectives, and its effect on the bottom line.  Are they using the right channels to engage their audience?  Is the message on target?  Never mind the dazzling potential of social media; that potential can only ever be a starting point – nothing more!  A company’s marketing plan must eventually drive the audience to a point of action, whether it be a website visit or a sales transaction.  Counting the number of likes, tweets or views are measurements of activities; what organizations really need to know is how those activities translate into fulfilling their social media marketing plan’s objectives and goals. Measuring the results of social media use in marketing can be as simple or as complex as you want.  There is no correct, universal set of tools as of yet.  In the end, using a number of metrical tools will yield a more objective view of a plan’s performance, and is more likely to yield good results.

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Introduction

In the business world, Whole Foods (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/) gets noticed for a lot of good reasons, by customers and competitors alike.  When it comes to learning about how to do social media marketing right, it certainly pays to take notice.  For one thing, Whole Foods takes full advantage of social media integration.  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and a number of blogs are utilized to support and extend their website, enabling a truly dynamic social media presence.

For another thing, Whole Foods uses Technographic Profiling to determine ‘where’ their customers are.  This technique defines how different consumer segments use social media – ‘where they are’ – and thus, how to reach them.  Obtaining that critical bit of information gives Whole Foods an edge on determining what products to offer and what ways they might use to improve their product line and service delivery.

Besides understanding the importance of full social media integration to website productivity, Whole Foods also knows how to optimize SEO.  Do a Google search of “natural” or “organic foods”, followed by any city name and the local Whole Foods grocer will be on the first page.  Whole Foods believes that their commitment to be local, for their customers and the community, is important to their bottom line.

The commitment to being considered local is no small task.  Whole Foods has over 310 (and counting) stores, spread throughout North America, across the Atlantic, and into the United Kingdom.  To live up to their focus on local identity, Whole Foods implemented Twitter and Facebook accounts for individual stores.  That’s more than 300 Twitter accounts, and over 250 Facebook pages!  The payoff is worth it though, because the targeted information provided helps the local stores better understand the customers and community they aim to serve.

Whole Foods wants to bring a little fun, some discovery, and maybe even some excitement into the routine chore of buying groceries.  Whole Foods, you may or may not know, has a mission:  Whole Foods – Whole People – Whole Planet.  In a way, Whole Foods has made the 21st century drive for corporate social responsibility part of their recipe for success.

Whole Foods is respected for quality organic foods.  But, they also believe strongly in sustainable agriculture: buying regional and local produce, supporting local farming operations and promoting foods that are seasonal.  In addition, Whole Foods runs two foundations devoted to child nutrition and global sustainability:  Whole Kids and Whole Planet.

Whole Foods invites its customers and communities to learn more about Whole Foods; to learn the story behind the organization and its people.  On their website, for all to see, Whole Foods lists their Core Values, Quality Standards and their Declaration of Interdependence.

Whole Foods’ Goals

Whole Foods wants its customers to live well, and be well.  They want their target audience to know about healthful foods and ingredients.  They want to arm their customers with the knowledge they need in order to make better, healthier nutritional choices for themselves and their families.  They want their customers living healthier, more responsible lifestyles – not only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of the planet, too.

Whole Foods wants to bring back the trusted local grocer; the one your parents knew and relied on for wholesome foods and good nutritional choices.  Whole Foods wants to earn the trust of their customers; to interact with them and the local community, who together form Whole Foods’ target audience.  In this way, Whole Foods hopes to increase its market share, and grow their bottom line.  I think Whole Foods is the kind of company that believes in doing well by doing good.

Customer Goals

Whole Foods customers:

  • Want to find an alternative to the standard, run-of-the-mill chain grocery operation
  • Seek information about better nutritional options for themselves and their families
  • Want fresh options for healthier lifestyle choices
  • Seek variety with a local, seasonal flair
  • Want a familiar, personal touch in their shopping experience
  • Need to feel secure about the safety of the food they bring home, and to know the grocer who sold it to them is trustworthy

‘Whole Story’:  The Whole Foods Blog

Whole Foods’ blog (http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/) is entitled “Whole Story:  The Official Whole Foods Market Blog.”  The blog features posts by a variety of exceptionally well versed author/employees.  Colorful pictures support interesting texts, altogether making for a persuasive, pleasurable and very powerful branding mechanism.  Content is relevant, timely and includes local and community information.  Customers can access videos, podcasts and recent as well as archived posts covering topics ranging from healthy lifestyles and recipes to sustainability and community activism.  If they want, Whole Foods customers can set up a “My Recipe Box”; an account where they can store all the delicious recipes they’ve downloaded from the site.

Whole Foods also has two other blogs, one each from the two co-CEOs of the company:  John Mackey writes an eponymous blog (http://www2.wholefoodsmarket.com/blogs/jmackey/), and Walter Robb writes one called ‘Updates’ (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/company/walterrobb.php).  Recently, Whole Foods had to contend with the fallout from a controversy due to an Op-Ed piece by co-CEO Mackey published in the Wall Street Journal.  The article addressed Whole Foods’ answer to the 2009 Health Care overhaul passed by Congress in 2009, under the aegis of President Obama.

Rather than shy away from the stir that the article provoked, Mackey responded on his blog that he wanted and encouraged people to express their feedback.  Whole Foods welcomed all the controversy that ensued, taking in and posting more than 3,000 customer responses.  The incident is an excellent example of a company demonstrating one aspect of what ‘transparency’ means in a social media setting.

thrive:  Whole Foods on YouTube

Whole Foods’ YouTube channel is called ‘thrive:  a whole foods marketing thing’ (http://www.youtube.com/wholefoods).  Similar to ‘Whole Story’, ‘Thrive’ is a medium for showcasing the talents and individuality of its employees.  Unlike ‘Whole Story’, though the general tenor of the content found on ‘Thrive’ is reflective of the slightly anarchic quality inherent in YouTube as a medium:  zany, goofy, sometimes silly, and just really fun.  Despite the free-wheeling character of the content, Whole Foods skillfully manages to keep ‘Thrive’ videos true to their overall purpose:  they’re informative, for customers, and they’re also excellent devices for conveying a genuine quality of authenticity so essential for effective social media marketing.

Content ranges from “What is local?” (about produce), to recipes, to ethical and environmental issues regarding how domestic farm animals are bred and raised.  Whole Foods has also produced a number of excellent YouTube serials, among them:

Twitter

Whole Foods’ uses its’ Twitter account (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/twitter/) for news, updates, special events and, of course, fostering quick back and forth customer feedback.  What makes Whole Foods use of Twitter different is that in addition to their corporate account for their Austin, Texas headquarters they also maintain Twitter accounts for local stores; specific Metro areas and special topics, such as ‘Cheese’, ‘Wine’, ‘Recipes’, ‘PR’ and their Whole Kids Foundation.

Bill Tolany of Whole Foods said in a March 2011 speech at the Corporate Social Media Summit, in New York, that 85% of Whole Foods’ Tweets are in response to customer comments, 10% are content based, and that only 5% are promotional (http://friedmansocialmedia.com/blog/2011/07/27/whole-foods-markets-subtle-social-media-marketing-plan/).  From those statistics, it’s obvious that cultivating customer interaction is the core of Whole Foods social media strategy, and the key to growing the organization’s bottom line.

Facebook

Whole Foods’ Facebook account (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/facebook/) is used for news, updates, events and customer interaction.  With Facebook, Whole Foods gets the ability to have longer posts while also providing access to videos and photos.  Whole Foods’ Facebook strategy is similar to the one employed for Twitter, in that there is not only a Corporate Fan page, but there are also individual pages for local stores ( http://vimeo.com/12154582).

Each store has a community manager for each Facebook page (also the case for Whole Foods on Twitter).  This individual is a trained Whole Foods employee, and they can be anything from a cashier to a fish monger.  Employees are given the freedom for self-expression, and encouraged to use it.

Whole Foods believes that the individuality, originality and creativity that results from this approach, helps to establish and foster connections to the local community.  Those connections, and the conversations and relationships that follow can then continue and multiply outside of the store, ultimately working to strengthen and reinforce the Whole Foods brand.

Flickr

Whole Foods approaches Flickr differently than Facebook and Twitter.  There is a single corporate account to which all the stores have access (http://www.flickr.com/photos/whole_foods/). The images are of different events, promotions of various locations and of employees.

The Flickr account is an effective way for customers and employees alike to share their personal stories, highlight seasonal events and celebrate special activities within the stores.  On a recent visit, there were pictures of bright orange pumpkins next to subduedly colored but startlingly vigorous and full chrysanthemums, all in celebration of the fall season, and the October festivities culminating in Halloween.

Customers can select a number of tab options to locate and view photos.  Selecting the ‘Favorites’ while writing this blog entry yesterday, I came across an appealing picture of an infant dressed (all in green) to look very much like a peapod (http://www.flickr.com/photos/brynnshouse/3351109371/in/faves-whole_foods/).  The child was seated in an outdoor display of brilliantly hued fresh produce, holding a green bean, while in the foreground was an overflowing basket of garden fresh green beans.  What better way for Whole Foods to promote its brand?

Conclusion

Whole Foods is very effective in their use of social media marketing to answer the needs of their target audience thru various social media channels.  Whole Foods provides meaningful content while engaging their target audience.  They provide and nurture customer and community relationships that go beyond the bricks and mortar store.  They stay true to their brand and core values and deliver on their commitment to local by providing great service, and so much more, to all their customers.

Social media is ongoing with Whole Foods, they have launched a mobile site for web enabled devices including an app for iPhones and iPads.  Users can access recipes, individual store information, directions, specials and a calendar of events.  They are also attracting customers by offering deals on the location Foursquare app.

This ongoing, evolving social media marketing commitment benefits Whole Foods customers as well as its bottom line:

  • More than 1.8 million followers on Twitter
  • More than 480,000 Facebook fans
  • More than 95,896 times viewed on YouTube
    • More than 2,165,702 uploaded views
    • Over 3,554 subscribers
    • More than 8,348 items on their Flickr account, with more than 174 sets

Whole Foods is a great model for how to use social media for marketing.

Introduction

Southwest Airlines (http://www.southwest.com/) knows about Social Media Marketing.  For proof, take a look at the depth and breadth of their social media saturation.  They have an active and vital presence in a variety of the most popular and widely used social media outlets.  In addition to their Blog, Southwest can be found on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. 

Southwest is deft at leveraging the enthusiasm and lightheartedness of its employees throughout all its channels. Visit any one of the Southwest social media sites, and the underlying constant between them is the inviting, but implicit “Learn about us” theme.  That theme is delivered in ways that somehow always manage to seem fresh and interesting.  Through the employees, we see Southwest not as a multi-million (billion?) dollar corporation, but as a collection of real, occasionally goofy, talented, spontaneous and dedicated workers.  The employees share their work, their interests, sometimes their aspirations, and their commitment to customer satisfaction with us.  They share with us their desire to know more about us, and in turn, ask for our stories.

From their website:

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.

In fact, most of Southwest’s social media efforts are a reflection of the company’s culture and attitude “ . . . think of your customers first, second and last (the profits will follow).”

Southwest is a people oriented brand.  What better way to convey that essential, founding principle than through the faces/voices/involvement of all the people that are Southwest?

Southwest’s Social Media Marketing Goals

It seems fairly apparent to me that Southwest’s goals are to win over their target audience by providing a cost effective, hassle-free airline service that is also fun and easy to know, and easy to know gets you to, wait for it . . .  trustworthy!  If Southwest’s social media marketing can accomplish that, then they will by extension also be able to increase their market share and grow profits.  No small feat in today’s highly competitive domestic airline industry.

Southwest’s Customers’ Goals

Southwest’s customers’ goals, on the other hand, are to get the best price and the best service available for the flight(s) they need to make.  They also want to feel comfortable:  they’re about to entrust their belongings and their being to someone else (to a whole team of someone elses) with whom in all likelihood they probably have no personal connection of knowledge.  For many of us, that’s reason for pause.  So trust, and trustworthiness looms big in airline service – nearly as big as service (hassle-free service) does.

Nuts About Southwest

Southwest’s blog (http://www.blogsouthwest.com/) is bright, cheerful, and endearing.  Posts can be viewed by the most recent or the most active.  Customers can view videos that are both entertaining and informative.  You can meet the team:  bios are given for all 30 employee bloggers; access podcasts from Red Belly Radio; click on links to the Southwest website; get downloads for Nuts About Southwest wallpapers for computer, iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices.  But wait, there’s more:  no, no Ginzu cutting knives (TSA would probably not approve), there are Apps for your Android, Blackberry and iPhone, and a side bar called ‘Southwest Social Stream’ to keep you up to date.

Southwest on You Tube

Southwest offers informative and highly entertaining YouTube videos(http://www.youtube.com/user/NutsAboutSouthwest)  of all aspects of their operations.  For instance, there is a serial called “My Old Man in Maintenance” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpOSWn4Hpmg&feature=relmfu).  A young woman employee interviews her father about topics such as engine cleaning, aircraft flaps, hydraulic systems, and more.  Even Southwest is at times surprised what videos get the most views.  Recently, the video on engine cleaning was at the top of the list for ‘Most Viewed’.  Other videos range from a flight attendant delivering his flight safety instructions in rap; an impromptu concert by a country-western recording talent at 35,000 feet and shooting highly improbable hoops on the tarmac from, in and around a Southwest aircraft.

Southwest’s Facebook Page

Carrying the theme through, Southwest keeps things warm, friendly and relaxed on their Facebook page too (http://www.facebook.com/Southwest?int=GFOOTER-TOP-FACEBOOK).  The page is bright, colorful and pleasing.  Most recently, their Facebook page has featured the, novel, funny and slightly satiric device of having employees throw football penalty flags down on their competitors’ fees and practices.  Then, they invite the customer to throw his/her own flag, on a friend, just for fun of course.  To tie it all together, there’s an interactive penalty flag throwing game, sort of like a shooting gallery at a carnival game.

Southwest’s Twitter Account

On Twitter (http://twitter.com/?int=GFOOTER-TOP-TWITTER#!/SouthwestAir), Southwest informs customers about upcoming schedules, ticket scam alerts, and the occasional human interest item.  After a recent flight, a passenger tweeted that he was surprised to hear he and his bride being announced over the loudspeaker as newlyweds.  The flight attendants, immediately thereafter presented the stunned (maybe a little embarrassed?) new couple with a complementary bottle of champagne.  Is that good press, or what?

Southwest’s Flickr Account

The images on Flickr Southwest (http://www.flickr.com/groups/southwestairlines/?int=GFOOTER-TOP-FLICKR) are in constant supply, and consistently reinforce Southwest’s themes of warmth and friendly service.  Some of pictures are supplied by Southwest and its employees, and some of the pictures are sent in by Southwest customers and passengers.  The images range from in flight shots of sunsets, sunrises, long and low horizons, and people.  Among the people shots, some recent ones featured Southwest personnel pitching in on some community service projects.

Conclusion

Southwest is one of the earliest pioneers of social media for marketing purposes.  In 2006, they launched their first Blog, right after their participation in a cable TV reality show called “Airline”.  Southwest thought the Blog would be a great way to continue to capitalize on the interest cultivated by the reality show. Five years later, in 2011, Southwest has:

  • 12 million monthly visits to their website
  • 1 million Twitter followers
  • 1.3 million Facebook likes
  • 29,300 reviews on its Travelguide

The surprising thing about Southwest’s use of social media, is that they manage to cover all of this activity with only their in-house, Emerging Media Group . . . all five of them!

Unquestionably, Southwest demonstrates not only mastery of Social Media Marketing, but prowess.  Perhaps it’s instructive to draw an interesting, but probably not coincidental parallel to Zappos in one way:  Southwest, like Zappos, strongly encourages its’ employees to participate in its social media communications strategy:  across all channels.  Consider the 30 employee bloggers, consider the “My Old Man” YouTube serial, consider their employee participation on Twitter and Facebook. 

Finally, Southwest recently organized an internal social media conference to broaden employee involvement.  The conference provided overviews on training and social media content creation.   Southwest also sponsors a ‘Social Media Club’ within the company.  No wonder they’re good at it.

Link to my Twitter page: http://twitter.com/#!/rjruss6

Three Organizations Using Twitter, and How They Rank

 The three organizations whose marketing Tweets I followed are:  Whole Foods, Dell and Starbucks.  First up, Whole Foods http://twitter.com/#!/wholefoods:

Whole Foods is very effective in their use of Twitter as a tool for marketing.  They have targeted their audience, and have established their brand in the realm of wholesome foods and nutrition.  Their Tweets are upbeat, and timely; the Tweets coincide nicely with seasonal events and community happenings.  Whole Foods uses the question/response device very effectively to engage their audience.  It works.

Next, Dell http://twitter.com/#!/DELL:

Dell use of Twitter is also effective, especially when considering that Dell’s products are of an intrinsically different economic nature than that of Whole Foods.  Dell positions themselves well as a leader in the marketplace.  They establish themselves as up-to-date within their industry; thus credibly laying out for us their expertise.  They cultivate their target audience by providing excellent care and follow-up via their Tweets.

Last up, Starbucks http://twitter.com/#!/starbucks:

Starbucks use of Twitter is very effective.  Starbucks’ audience is of course very well established, and they pay very close attention to it.  They listen.  This is true in their use of Twitter for responding to questions and complaints about customer service.  Starbucks’ Tweets about their products and seasonal items are consistent and timely.  In addition, they even used Twitter recently to announce an opening within the company for a Product Manager for Global Digital Marketing.  And in Canada (but sadly, not yet in the U.S.) they even Tweeted about an iPhone App for mobile payments.

Some Guidelines

  • Again, Target your audience
  • Be respectful . . . as well as welcoming, and friendly
  • Content:  be engaging; ask questions . . . what has your attention?
  • Be upbeat; have fun!
  • Always listen; gather information, collect opinions . . . remember, it’s a forum
  • Post questions for quick answers (see Always listen, above)
  • Respond to questions quickly to establish credibility and expertise
  • Keep current within your industry
  • Promote more than just your own agenda; participate in the community
  • When talking about your organization, be helpful:  give advice; gain credibility
  • Show the ‘people’ side of your organization; demonstrate an interest in connecting
  • Always:  be consistent, be transparent, be authentic

Is Twitter Better Suited to Some Organizations, Over Others?

Twitter can be an useful tool for most organizations.  The most important thing is for a company to understand the inherent strengths/weaknesses of their products/services, and how those characteristics match up with their target audiences’ wants and needs.  For instance, the products/services that Whole Foods vs. Dell vs. Cleveland Clinic all sell very different things.  The nature of the connection that each of those establishments is trying to build is very different.  The type connection influences the analytics; in turn, the analytics determine how effective Twitter can be for each organization.  Twitter may not be the lead marketing tool for every company, but for most companies, it can still be an effective one.

Other Social Networking Platforms

This week, I Tweeted about four other social networking platforms.  Of the four, I found that Klout turned out to be more of a measuring tool than a true social networking platform.  Of those that I explored, I will summarize Flickr, MeetUp and Delicious.

Flickr  http://www.flickr.com/ is a photo management and sharing application.  It enables people and organizations to share their digital photos with like minded others.  Sharing groups can be selectively chosen.  Once invited in by the originating poster, the invitee is able to organize the photographic content to his/her own preferences with comments, notes and tags.  But, what does this mean for marketers?

Well, what it means is that marketers can use Flickr to target groups that have interests similar to their offerings.  It has been said that people would rather watch than read, and that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Flickr enables your company to get their message across with still images (with or without captions), and videos (with or without sound or dialogue).  Companies can get the most out of Flickr by using their website address as their Flickr screen name.  The screen name is attached to all visual messages posted. 

The Flickr ‘Profile’ should always be used.  It describes your company, your company’s mission, and your product line.  In addition, it’s advisable to provide a link from the company’s website to the Flickr account.  In this way, search engines will help draw traffic to the account, ensuring optimal usage.

MeetUp http://www.meetup.com/ is different.  Its purpose is to align like-minded people in physical time and place.  This can be within a single organization, or within a city, or within something like a national trade show or conference.  MeetUp facilitates networking and information exchange.

MeetUp’s marketing benefit is straightforward.  It enables a company to promote its products and services.  People are gathering here for this purpose:  Your company, whose interests align, can be there too.  There, you can distribute samples, pamphlets, free offers, etc.  Your company has a chance to connect with customers and potential customers; your company can gain valuable input prior to a product launch; your company can cultivate a wider network; your company can expand its professional profile.

Delicious http://delicious.com/ is a social media bookmarking site.  It provides an alternate location for storage of online sites and online resources.  Delicious is accessible anywhere, anytime, from any type of computer.  Content organization is flexible:  organize by subject, organize by quality or organize by type.  Information can be selectively shared, or not.

Delicious offers the marketer the ability to access, bookmark and share the most current information about industry trends, industry news and competitor status.  A marketer can also track company mentions, thus helping keep market research up to date.  Delicious gives marketers within an organization access to relevant information about topics that can be shared with the target audience.

I can see Delicious being a highly desired, and versatile tool for both marketers and PR people alike.

This week’s post is about three marketing videos, selected by me for what I think is representative of a good marketing video.

Apple iPhone 4S Siri Demo – Official Video

Apple is right up front with the purpose of this video.  It seduces us with the gadget’s ‘cool factor’.  It makes us want to be as together and on top of it as the people featured.  This is a really quick, upbeat demonstration of the versatility of Siri – a voice assist feature.  The closing sequence of a young blind woman at home, responding to a dinner invitation brings in an audio fragment of Ray Charles’ (tell me) ‘What’d I Say’.

I loved this ending for the really great way it brings home the voice activated feature of the 4S.  The content works throughout the video to reinforce the message.

1:33 min., 85,004 hits

2012 Passat Commercial:  Life in the Express Lane

This entertaining, fast-moving, very short video, uses quick edits, bouncy music, and the world seen through a small child’s eyes.  It shows a little boy, white-knuckled, as he steers the toy car attached to the front of his mother’s grocery cart through a series of hazards en-route to the check-out counter.  When they finally arrive, the tension filled icing on the cake is when he is rear ended by a pair of decidedly menacing looking twins in the toy car of the cart behind.  Cut to the end, and he breathes a sigh of relief as he’s tucked safely inside his mom’s new Passat.

A voice over at the end brings home the point that the 2012 Passat is an IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) top safety pick, deftly targeting the key audience.  The device of analogy: a child navigating falling produce, spilled milk and soda bottles cascading in the grocery aisle is fresh, novel and very effective.

31 sec., 28,082 hits

PBS Rebrand 2009

This video artfully combines over 600 images.  It uses vivid colors and gorgeous music to engage the viewer for a duration of a full two minutes.  PBS has a bit of a challenge, because what they’re marketing is very hard to quantify – it’s completely intangible.   Still, what they’re offering their targeted audience, for their time, is a whole world of new experiences.

The video shows us the wide variety of programming that PBS offers, and invites us – makes us want – to learn, to explore and to tune in by watching PBS.

2 min., 3,606 hits

Conclusion:  What I Think Makes a Good YouTube Marketing Video

  • Target your audience
  • Your content should be engaging , it should hold your audience by being  entertaining, educational or enlightening . . . something people will want to share
  • They should be 2 minutes or less, unless it’s a tutorial or ‘How To’ video
  • Keep things moving, don’t be static
  • Music can move the video along, and can underscore a point
  • Clearly demonstrate the product that you’re marketing
  • Be real about what it can do – don’t stretch the truth

The task of comparing and contrasting Facebook and Google+ as tools for businesses, especially for marketing, is difficult.  At this point in time, Google+ has only a few ‘test accounts’ for business that are up.  Google+ has said that they want to concentrate on developing and refining the personal accounts for now, while continuing to develop a parallel Google+ platform for business.  Much of what has been said so far about Google+ for business is a mix of speculation and inference based on the profile of the Google+ personal account.  In fact, it was only a short while ago that Google opened up membership in Google+ beyond the initial and select ‘by invitation only’ group, to the general public.

Google has built extraordinarily successful products that are widely used to search for things.  Their product line is both popular and extensive.

Facebook is all about connecting people.  Facebook is thought to have a half-billion users, but there is reason to believe that some  are unhappy because of privacy issues associated with their platform.  Facebook has also stumbled over their product upgrades, which have not always been well-received.

Google+

Google has a great line-up of products that are well-liked and in demand.  Thus, Google+ has the potential tap into Google’s already vast market, estimated to be over 1 billion users.  What’s more, Google seems not to have been dogged by problematic privacy issues, as Facebook has.

The Google+ personal account offers:

  • Circles – where you can make your own contacts, and group family, friends and work separately
  • Hangouts – live video with up to nine other people connecting on PC’s or phones
  • Huddles – a mobile chat feature that allows you to make plans with multiple people
  • Sparks – “an aggregate of all things you like and want to follow”, similar to Facebook, but this feature allows the user more control over the content

Google has designed Google+ to allow the user to screen who has access to your content, and ‘streams allow the user to filter content that is accessed (a feature similar to Facebook’s Newsfeed).

Google+ provides built in analytics, offers pay-per-click advertising and offers the user the advantage of being able to view link activities . . . to see who is hitting what link.  All this on top of the variety of apps designed just for business already offered by Google.

Google is considering offering live feed for the business accounts, enabling the users to answer their customers’ questions in real time, somewhat like Twitter.

Facebook, for business

Facebook offers:

  • Pages – where the user builds a business profile and identity
  • Ads – targeted advertising
  • Sponsored stories – allowing the user to see who of their ‘friends’ ‘likes’ the user’s company
  • Platforms – plug-ins and custom applications that enhance the social experience

Facebook has a partnership with Skype for one-to-one video conferencing.  It also has its own advertising network that is intended to make it easier for businesses to reach its target audience.

Some of Facebook’s recent changes include:

  • A newsfeed that groups posts as top stories, based on what Facebook considers will be most pertinent and interesting to the user
  • Lists, a way to automatically update your content to selected ‘friends’ or viewers
  • A real-time ticker displays the most recent content, such as posts, photos and other activities

Conclusion

I think it’s too soon to tell which of the two will offer the strongest platform for marketing.  A thorough comparison between them can’t be done yet, since Google+ can only be evaluated based on what can be observed from a personal account.  And, even though Google+ is now open to the public, Google is still referring to the product as beta!

Although many companies tried to get accounts with the first launch of Google+, Ford Motor Company was one of the few companies permitted to keep the one they opened.  Most other commercial applicants were screened out and their account disabled.  Ford and a few others were allowed to remain active as test accounts, enabling Google to hone the production and delivery of Google+ for Business.

According to Ford’s Social Media Director, Scott Monty, the Google+ crowd seems to be a more ‘cerebral’ lot.  To him, they seem more inclined to favor interaction with the people behind the company – in particular the designers and engineers.  This aspect alone makes it seem fundamentally different than the Facebook template of engagement and interaction.

Monty observed that Google+ provides the best of Twitter and Facebook while providing a very different way of obtaining and sharing information.  To him, the most attractive potential in this mode of delivery could be its discoverability factor.

Ford recently hosted a live chat session on Google+ with their Director of Marketing Communications. They covered Ford’s digital and social success; took questions, and were able to follow up with other participants using ‘Hangout’.  To me, Ford’s Google+ site offers all of what you might expect:  posts, history, games, photos, videos, and ample product information.  Of course there are plenty of links too, including to Scribd, YouTube, and . . . maybe with a little cheekiness, Facebook.

3 Facebook Pages

In reviewing the following Facebook pages, I took into consideration the information provided in the link in this week’s materials.  I also considered what we’ve covered so far concerning what makes for effective use of social media for marketing, including:

  • Call to action (engage and involve your audience)
  • Target your audience
  • Have fun!
  • Relevant content
  • Timeliness of updates
  • Inviting graphics
  • Transparency and authenticity

National Audubon Society’s Facebook page, October 10, 2011, makes a direct call to action to the visitor.  A large, colorful graphic has a prominent arrow that points upward marked “‘Like Us’; click below to get started”.  They’ve targeted their audience by including links to higher-profile organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, PBS and the Sierra Club.  The page invites the visitor to enter a contest to win a trip to the Galapagos Islands, or other prizes.  It’s called the Birding Net:

  1. Spot a bird online
  2. Identify it correctly in competition with friends
  3. Win an awesome prize!

Once you log on, terrific graphics appear, allowing you to follow birds on Twitter for more information to help you advance in the game.  I think this site is the second most effective of the three.

The look of Whole Foods Market’s Facebook page is consistent with their projected brand.  Most recently, their page was titled ‘Thrive, A Whole Foods Market Thing’.  It featured interesting, original videos relating to responsible farming, healthy life style choices, and of course, food.  It also featured a compelling, real-time graphic that illustrated Earth’s growing, total population.

In my opinion, even though it’s a good page, it isn’t the best of the three.  It’s very informative, and makes the company shine because of the way it highlights its connections and support to local small farmers.  Their target audience will no doubt respond favorably, and become even more loyal.  Nonetheless, it seems to lack mechanisms to really draw the brand new visitor in – the page seems geared to visitors already familiar with the Whole Foods brand, and what it stands for.

REI’s Facebook page works.  It’s colorful and easy to navigate.  REI appeals to their target audience’s interests.  They advise on a variety of outdoor topics, include links to their blog, feature a store locator (powered by Google maps), and of course include a link to their website.

In my opinion, this is the most effective Facebook page of the three.  I think it engages the visitor, and more; it’s enticing, potentially leading to a point of purchase.

Sources consulted for this post include:

Marquardt, Frank.  5 Key Tips for a Successful Social Media Content Strategy, Mashable, January 10, 2011.         http://mashable.com/2011/01/10/social-content-strategy/

Simone, Sonia.  7 Essential Elements of Effective Social Media Marketing, Copyblogger, August 31,2011. http://www.copyblogger.com/social-media-marketing-steps/

Carr, David F., Ford Shares Google+ Early Feedback, The Brainyard, August 24, 2011.                     http://www.informationweek.com/thebrainyard/news/social_crm/231600097

Ford Motor Company’s Google+ Jumpstart; Approved Brand Pages Coming Soon, International Business Times, IB Times Staff Reports, July 19, 2011.                                                                                                                                                                http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/183150/20110719/google-ford-motor-company-brand-pages-social-network-facebook.htm

Hammond, Jim.  The Skinny on Google+ Business Profiles vs. FacebookWhat It Can Do For Your Law Firm, Jim Hammond’s Blog, September 18, 2011.                                                                                                                                    http://www.jimhammondblog.com/2011/the-skinny-on-google-business-profiles-vs-facebook-what-it-can-do-for-your-law-firm/

Parr, Ben.  If Google’s Management Doesn’t Use Google+, Then Why Should You?, Mashable, October 4, 2011.   http://mashable.com/2011/10/04/google-needs-to-use-google-plus/

Pflaumer, Alicia.  Facebook Changes vs. Google+:  Who Made the Best Updates?, The Christian Science Monitor, September 21, 2011.    http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Horizons/2011/0921/Facebook-changes-vs.-Google-Who-made-the-best-updates

Samai, Bobby. Comparing Facebook and Goggle+, PEAK CHAT October6,2011.                                         http://blog.peakinternet.com/marketing/comparing-facebook-and-google/

Wali, Ahmad.  Google+ vs. Facebook – Equipoise or Cyberwar?, Famous Bloggers, August 8, 2011.      http://www.famousbloggers.net/google-vs-facebook-equipoise-cyber-war.html

Olenski, Steve.  While Facebook Changes, Google+ Grows . . . A Lot, Social Media Today, October 3,2011.       http://socialmediatoday.com/steve-olenski/370271/while-facebook-changes-google-grows-lot

Olanoff, Drew.  Facebook vs. Google+ – A Tale of the Tape, TNW, Apps, October 2, 2011.                                                                  http://thenextweb.com/apps/2011/10/02/facebook-vs-google-a-tale-of-the-tape/ 

One of the class posts I really like is Anthony’s Week 3 post on Marshall McLuhan.  http://depinaam.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/week-3-marshall-mcluhan/  The post is clear and concise, but it doesn’t leave anything out, either.  I especially appreciate the way he explains the Tetrad in relation to social media.  I think it’s a very effective analysis.

Anthony’s blog has the additional advantage of presenting a clean and uncluttered appearance.  His use of color, typography and whitespace is skillful. The total effect is attractive and visually inviting, and allows his message to stand out.

The other post I selected for this week’s assignment is Amanda M.’s, also about McLuhan, Marshall McLuhan Takes A Look Into the Future.  http://socialmedia1111.blogspot.com/2011/09/marshal-mcluhan-takes-look-into-future.html.  While one of Anthony’s posts key strengths is its straightforward objectivity, the thing that appeals to me about Amanda’s post is the personal insight she offers.  She draws you in, wondering what effects social media will have on our lives, and what will be next?  Amanda relates how, although she had previously not known about McLuhan and his work, she realizes now that she’s seen and lived many of the changes that he predicted.  Plus, Amanda found a really excellent audio video montage on McLuhan and his ideas, and included it at the top of her post.  The montage is a wonderful creative accent that speaks volumes, and it’s a great find.

Brian Solis:  Defining the Convergence of Media & Influence   http://www.briansolis.com/

One of the reason’s I selected this blog is that it showed up in first place on the Social Media Examiner’s Top Ten Social Media Blog’s of 2011.  Brian Solis has a lot of credibilty – he’s widely recognized as one of the leading authorities on Social Media.  Plus, Solis consistently makes the top ranks of Ad Age Digital’s Power 150, a daily ranking of international marketing blogs.  The Power 150 is a massive list, at more than 1,000 blogs, it’s a little overwhelming.

Solis’s blog has exceptionally thought-provoking posts.  It’s hard to read more than one, and retain even half of it.  His content is layered, interesting, and really good food-for-thought.  His posts’ contain multiple embedded links to some of his previous posts, guest posts by others, videos, items in the news, etc.  It’s kind of hard to choose just the best two.  But here is one that I think presents a really good take on one of the aspects of social media that hasn’t gotten much attention yet (at least not as far as marketing focused social media is concerned).

The Human Cost of Social Connectivity   http://www.briansolis.com/2011/09/the-human-cost-of-social-connectivity/

This blog examines what social media is doing to its users, and by users, Solis means all of us:  Marketers, businesses, audiences and customers.  He uses this blog to question our level of technological tolerance.  He notes that many, if not most of us, have already reached, and maybe passed, the point of saturation.

Solis observes that one of the most cherished values of modern civilization, privacy, no longer really exists anymore; at least, not in the way that it used to.  Solis argues that in the realm of social media, the price for participation, the cost of connectivity, is privacy.

The other most valuable, and limited asset that we must relinquish as a cost for connectivity, is time.

Solis suggests that the speed and breadth of social media’s evolution is making it increasingly difficult to keep up.  We’re so connected, it’s practically a full-time job, with plenty of overtime, just to stay current.  We’re running as fast as we can, and we’re just barely managing not to lose ground – forget about gaining any.  We’re pulled in all directions from our technological choices, and at the end of the day, we’re exhausted.

Of course, it’s not really an option just to disconnect, and walk away.

So, what do you do?  Well, Solis’ answers to this problem, and I think it’s a very difficult one, aren’t exactly a panacea.  Still, I think his response is realistic, even if it presents its own set of difficulties.  I think the essence of his response leads to the next post I selected from his blog:

The Number One Least Asked Question in Social Media … Why?   http://www.briansolis.com/2011/07/the-number-one-least-asked-question-in-social-media-why/

Even if your social marketing efforts are so good that you manage to use all the available platforms to their maximum benefit, masterfully exploiting the unique advantages of each one, are your marketing efforts really succeeding?  Is your voice, your company’s message, really being heard?  Does your brand matter?

Well, this post suggests that if you have any doubts (and you probably should), it may be because we aren’t asking the right questions.

Are you listening?  Are you really listening?  Your customers, your audience, needs to know.

Business needs to ask ‘Why’?  Why would my customers want to engage with my company in social media?  Why should they?

Truth be told, we can’t have meaningful discussions about becoming a social business if we don’t know why doing so is advantageous to customers and ultimately to the business itself. – Brian Solis

Solis showcases a well known venn-like diagram in this post, illustrating the balanced relationships between marketing’s “Four P’s”.  But the diagram is re-interpreted by the addition of a fifth element, a fifth ‘P’:  people.  Solis floats this “Fifth ’P’” right in the middle of the diagram; right at the single point where all four ‘P’s’ converge.

The reinterpreted diagram is meant to illustrate the answer to ‘Why?’

It’s all about the user experience.  Brand preference happens if your social media marketing, (and almost by definition, your product/service) consistently keeps the user experience in focus.

Truly understanding why your customer should bother to spare his/her time engaging with your company matters.  It matters because it’s the key to your company’s ability to move forward in an increasingly challenging digital realm and technological reign.  It’s the key to having, and keeping, social relevance.

It seems like such a simple thing.  It’s not about technology.  It’s not about digital expertise.  It’s about people.  It’s about the human experience.  I think Solis correctly identifies the most elusive quality in the world of business:  empathy.  It’s HUMAN, not digital, and it has currency.

Without genuinely acknowledging the value of your customer’s experience, you’re not really valuing your customer.  Your company shouldn’t, therefore, expect to be valued in return.  Your customer won’t bother with your website/blogposts/tweets/YouTube videos/whatever if you don’t make it worth their while.  Why should they?

If you want to capitalize on the value of social media for its marketing potential, you need to cultivate your customer, and that takes a world of commitment.  In return, there is the very real potential for a rich harvest of information  – information your company needs to stay one step ahead of its competitors.  And that, by the way, is the subject of one of Solis’s most recent posts, (also an excellent read):  Digital Darwinism:  Who’s Next?  http://www.briansolis.com/2011/09/end-of-business/ If you have the time, it’s definitely worth a look.

For a blog to be an effective marketing tool your primary focus is to build trust, credibility and a perception of expertise.  To truly connect with your audience, and keep its attention above all the din and clatter of the 21st century, your blog must offer content that matters.  As if that wasn’t a hard enough problem to solve, the way that content is presented also matters.  The content is the ‘what’, the presentation, the ‘how’.  How easy is your blog to read?  Is it intuitive to navigate?  Is it cluttered, or attractive?  Does it give a good first impression?

Here are a few other things, based on things I’ve learned from this class, from my classmates’ posts, from interviews of other ‘experts’, and from some of my own research, that I think might be considered in determining what makes an effective blog for marketing:

  • Content – is it relevant?  Is it fresh? Interactive?  Incentivized?
  • Timeliness of the posts is important
  • Does it include links to other related sites or media platforms, news, happenings, events, etc.?
  • Is it authentic?  Is it transparent?
  • Is it easy for people to respond to?  Can they quickly find where to post a comment?
  • Is it visually appealing?  Navigable?
  • Are the comment responses, prompt, considerate and valid?
  • Give the readers something of value

The above list is not all inclusive, but for me, they are among what I think the primary concerns should be.  For the most part, they are qualitative concerns, and so, in a way, subjective.

There are other key things a good marketing blog should do, but they are more objective.  They’re more like technological checkpoints to tick off.

  • Does your blog include key words for search engine optimization?
  • Has your blog submitted its URL to blog directories?  Does it have an option for an RSS subscription?
  • Are you using other social media channels to make them aware of your presence?

I know the list could be expanded, but, for me, the issues above make a good start at defining the outlines of an effective marketing blog.

For this week’s assignment, the three marketing blogs that I’ve chosen to evaluate are:  Whole Story,  http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/  ( Whole Foods Market),  The Perch,  http://magblog.audubon.org/  (Audubon’s Blog) and REI Blog http://findout.rei.com/blogs/.

The Perch  (Grade:  A)

The Perch (blog for the National Audubon Society) has timely updates, easy access to archives and many links that their audience would enjoy.  The Perch makes it easy to add comments, accompanied by an introductory short set of Comment Posting Rules.

The blog’s layout is clean, easy to read, and easy to navigate.  Bloggers are clearly listed, and the reader has quick access to biographical information with one click.

The Perch has plenty of inviting content.  I think the quality of the content alone provides a great take-away for the audience, and reason enough for them to return.

REI  (Grade:  B)

REI’s Blog has content that is fresh, relevant, and well-targeted to their audience.  Bloggers bios and their company relationships are easy and intuitive to find. The blog itself though, seems a little narrowly focused, but that might be because other adjacent tabs available on the company’s website thoroughly cover related items of interest.

The REI Blog layout is graphically pleasing, and that helps make it easy to read.  Most navigation within the sight is straightforward, although with some pages/links,  it takes longer than it should to get back to the blog homepage.  Comments can only be made if a reader first registers before logging in.  I think this is an obstacle that may not be completely necessary for site security, and is perhaps only a ploy to obtain the reader’s personal information.

No hard-sell here, but easy access to the company’s offerings should the customer be so inclined, is available.   Based upon REI’s audiences’ likely range of interests, there is a lot that they can take away from this blog, and they will be back again.

Whole Story  (Grade:  A)

The Whole Story is Whole Foods’ blog.  It’s directed primarily to foodie groups – those who like foods of all kinds, recipes, nutrition and all things natural and organic.  The blog makes available in a prominent location their video and podcast library.

Bloggers are identified, but clicking on the name takes you to the whole archive of the individual author.  To find the complete listing of blog contributors, you instead need to find the ‘Meet Our Contributors’ link, shoved way off into the top right corner of the page.  Not intuitive!  (It seemed backwards to me.)

The blog accepts comments without requiring registering or logging in, but there are still posting guidelines to be mindful of.

Visually, in spite of a somewhat dark background and light text, the layout is still easy to read, and carries through on the Whole Foods identity with its green theme.  For readers whose hunger is piqued by the food news and recipes, access to the Whole Foods webpage is easy enough with one click.  Nonetheless, there isn’t really any obvious selling happening within the blog itself.

In arriving at the grades that I assigned, I used the checklists at the top of this blog section, and then reviewed each blog against the checklist.  I did not include the last three bulleted items in the checklists, only the ‘qualitative’ items were included.

During this week’s research and review of supplied materials, two things became clear to me:

  1. That planning is absolutely necessary.  If you don’t know where you’re going, and why you’re setting out in the first place, what chance to you have to succeed?
  2. There was broad agreement between Mike’s posted materials and most of the presentations that I viewed on SlideShare.

Among those that I viewed, the one that I found most interesting, was posted about a year ago by communications consultant Stephen Davies of the British firm 3W PR (http://stedavies.com/).  The presentation was titled, inventively, “Social Media Marketing“.

Some of the materials I viewed recommended the use of traditional media in addition to, and in support of social media.  For the most effective campaign, their use should be interwoven, and their implementation should be planned together.  In the “Social Media Marketing” presentation, Davies shows how traditional print and news journalism amplified a Twitter campaign in support of the UK’s National Health Service.  “Social Media Marketing“, slides 55 through 64.

In the SlideShare presentation “You Don’t Need A Social Media Strategy” that Mike linked us to, the range of slides from 21 to 34 told the story of “Salty”, the unloved saltshaker.  It was a great campaign for food product maker Knorr’s SideKicks line, showing how well-planned traditional and social media campaigns can build and complement each other.  Not only did the campaigns succeed in significantly extending market share for Knorr’s product line, but they also succeeded in energizing the product line by building a fun, engaging, nearly irresistible narrative.  ROI was realized in not only in monetary terms, but also in terms of social capital.

Using traditional media in conjunction with social media to run a persuasive campaign is also mentioned in a book that Mike introduced at the beginning of class, Social Media Marketing:  An Hour a Day,  The book is by Dave Evans, an “expert” in social media marketing.  On page 234, the author states ” . . .social components are intended to complement not replace traditional media.” (Italics are mine).

Another point that was revealed in some of the material, is that one of the primary goals of social media marketing should be to drive the target audience to the client’s website.  To me this is critically important, in that after the audience’s interest has been caught, and their trust has been won, their action is needed – but, the place for that action isn’t in any of the social media venues, it’s the client’s website.

What are the strategies to use for getting the customer to that essential point of action?  The student campaign against a bank’s unfair interest rates targeted to new graduates in Social Media Marketing, showed how social media was used to inform, then motivate, then achieve a specified end, with the students’ very effectively getting the bank to capitulate to their request.

Another great example showcased in Social Media Marketing can be found in slides 65 through 72.  They feature the story of ‘Aleksandr’, the Meerkat.  The irresistible Aleksandr was created for an auto insurance company, CompareTheMarket.com, and was provided with his own, proxy, tongue-in-cheek website, CompareTheMeerkat.com.  The ‘Aleksandr’ campaign was wildly successful, increasing online conversation from 15% to 55%, tripling market share for CompareTheMarket.com, and increasing traffic to their website by 100%.