//saara

Failure to plan is planning to fail in consumer engagement

Posted on | November 3, 2012 | No Comments


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It’s just _____ (<- insert a social network / community / any online space here), why’d you have to slow things down by spending time planning what you do and how you do it?

Social media posts used to be something that somebody in the marketing team would fire out to customers after hearing from an internal product expert what the unique selling point of the product in question was. In the past, general appreciation of social media’s power hardly ever translated into iterative strategies that lead to relevance at scale.

Clearly, things have changed. The era of social media as something spontaneous that reflects what we do and where we go in the real world is slowly coming to an end. Social business: a planned, organized, and integrated way of doing business in a social context is here.

To the outside world, it feels personal, spontaneous, fun and creative but in reality it combines all the aspects of business and it’s complexities within organizations to a clear messaging towards your customers and prospects. This is not easy.

Obviously, it has to be reactive as it happens too, but relying on a backbone of consistent strategy. This does not translate into turning quick, agile and spontaneous innovation to slow, uncreative and boring. It simply means being relevant shouldn’t be periodic. Maintaining relevance continuously as people move from one interaction point with the brand to the next is crucial.

A brand needs to to acquire contextual knowledge about consumers and apply it imaginatively to create compelling experiences wherever the consumer interacts with your brand. Scaling your relevancy across touch points will determine which brands win and which brands get lost when it comes to consumer attention.

Consumers are constantly bombarded with information and unlimited choices. Today, any marketer worthy of their pay knows that brand engagement, and ultimately your business goal, is driven by providing consumers precisely relevant experiences that attract and hold attention. This is what you have to get right every day, with every message, and every interaction.

Forget relevancy once – they’ll probably forgive you. Do it a couple of times more – they will start asking themselves why would they want to be exposed to this meaningless noise. Be consistently irrelevant – they will leave you and never come back.

One Way by streetobservations.com / John Fraissinet

How would you scale online customer service and engagement?

Posted on | September 17, 2011 | 1 Comment


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Wordle cloud from saarabergstrom.comI firmly believe in the “old” saying of Brian Solis from 2007: Customer service is the (new) marketing. New in parentheses because, it’s nothing new anymore that brands offer customer service though various social channels. I believe in listening to customers and fans. That often is the most valuable feedback you can get. I believe in making people happy.  Great customer service is great marketing.

Imagine a situation where you have a huge amount of fans and customers coming through all channels with feedback, questions, praise and criticism. Great! Means your fans are very passionate about your brand. But, imagine if the volumes are big, really big. How would you go about fan engagement and providing help with issues in a timely manner?

I’ve been trying to find good case examples of scaling community management operations and customer service online. I really haven’t found any tangible examples of companies who’ve solved this in a way that actually scales well.

If you can’t make it scalable, then what are the options? Treat everyone equally – Not do it at all and potentially your customers will think your brand is unfriendly and unresponsive? Do it a little, maybe talk to those who shout loudest and disappoint people who patiently wait for their issue to be fixed? Do it full-scale, hire a big community management team, which obviously comes with a cost. Nurture peer-to-peer communities where fans engage mostly with each other? Something else?

Many social strategists and social brand advocates speak about engagement, but I see an awful lot of one-directional communication and very few examples of companies who truly catch each and every question sent their way  let alone stepping outside their own domains and presences and reach out to people on their own domains.

So I have two questions I’d love to get new thoughts on:

  1. What do you think is the best or most creative example of a big brand that has resolved this in a way that makes sense for the business and makes the fans/customers happy too?
  2. Have you encountered popular FMCG or tech/services brands who choose not to jump onto the social bandwagon, but still seem to be loved by a lot of people? (Yes, I know Apple :-) )

Who speaks on behalf of a brand on the internet?

Posted on | August 28, 2011 | No Comments


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"discussion" by lanier67 http://www.flickr.com/photos/lanier67/4696015566/How a company is represented on the web is a complex question. As with most questions, I’ve appoached this through asking myself the four basic things: why, what, who and how.

Especially the question of who can and should represent a brand, seems to be a tough one to crack for a lot of companies. Some companies resolve that by forbidding all employees but the top management from commenting on company or work-related matters. Some companies are very open and encourage employees to talk about their work and the company they work for within certain limits.

Why.

There has to be a plan in place tightly interlinked to the overall company strategy. This is the “why” of how your business engages in discussions outside of it’s own domain, on social networks, communities, blogs or similar venues. To make sense of all this in a way, that results in a meaningful engagement between a brand and it’s fans or customers and has an established return on brand equity, requires research.

What.

What is it that your brand does in these spaces? This requires in-depth knowledge of both of the brand and the people in the communities your brand is present in. This requires countless rounds of testing and careful listening of how the community reacts to your activities as well as those of the others.

Who.

Who represents your company? A whole lot more difficult question now than 10 years ago, when the corporate communications department got to carefully screen official spokes people to go to events or talk to journalists. There is three levels to this. For simplicity’s sake let’s look at Twitter.

  1. The official, branded accounts on social networking services, such as NASA, Angry Birds or Redbull. These accounts are typically manned by multiple people from PR, marketing and customer support teams.
  2. On top of that there are are members of top management or other visible people within the company. Those people are always brand ambassadors no matter how they choose to build their online presence. Some companies have decided to create an official account naming policy for these important people, some go with their personal accounts. A good post to read on the pros and cons to both policies was published on the Wall Blog. The comments are worth reading too: “How the BBC lost 60,000 Twitter followers to ITV“. Obviously, if your company’s leaders are charismatic, people are usually more keen on following personalities than logos, so it makes sense for a brand to take advantage over that. Examples: Google’s Vic Gundotra, Best Buy’s Brian Dunn and Donald Trump. Three very different approaches: 1st “unbranded”, 2nd with a a clear corporate focus but mixed with personal, 3rd with newsfeed broadcast approach.
  3. Third comes your regular employees who just happen to be active on social networking sites and communities. They are a great resource for a brand. As different people within a company usually have a wide variety of interests, they really reach the long tail that an official presence never would. This certainly does not mean that a company forces employees to advertise their products on their personal accounts. It’s more complex than that and the basis of it is that your employees are excited and proud about their work they do every day. If your employees are happy, they will naturally be happy to talk about the comany they work for and recommend other people to apply to work for the company – a great help in recruiting good talent.

How.

The fourth point is “how”. In addition to having a robust plan on the what and why you will need clear internal communication about roles and responsibilities that come with it. If everyone within the company is aware of the branded presences, content strategy behind them, who’s responsible for them, as well as basic rules on how you as an employee should (and shouldn’t) disclose information on work-related topics publically, you are well off.

10 things to do to get your branded social presences right

Posted on | June 30, 2011 | 4 Comments


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Friends by Ross Pollack http://www.flickr.com/photos/rossap/3391883736Why is your business on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network or community? Depends on the business of course. Some of the most common answers I’ve heard would be: advertise our new products, talk about everything that’s exciting about our product, get new customers, get existing customers buy more, offer customer support, get some ideas for new products, make people feel they are part of our brand.

All of these are right but none of them work alone. If you are already thinking of all the above mentioned aspects, great. Then you are getting something right. Most businesses however do not understand that the social web is not only about selling your product to people. It’s about all the other aspects of your business too. Moreover, it’s a question of social value exchange between you and the people who have an emotional connection with your product.

A succesful social business is not easy to build or orchestrate, but when you get it right it can be the best thing ever happened to your business. You could treat the social web merely as a vehicle for your marketing, but as I wrote before that’s only a scratch on the surface and will not help you make the most out of it. Sounds pretty tough and time consuming job, right?

Here’s a checklist on where to start.

  1. Get your goals right. What do you want to achieve? Doubling the number of fans is not a proper goal. The bottom line goals need to be the same as your business goals. Doubling the fan number can be a part of the tactical plan which hopefully does not end there but also includes a practical conversion point. Tactics vary depending on the social space.
  2. Listen to people. Before you know how to get to your goals, please have a peek at what people are talking about your product. When you know a handful of things you absolutely should not do, it’s a lot easier to start testing what works.
  3. Always return more value to the community than what it gives you. Advertising your product and talking only about you does not add much value. What’s in it for the community?
  4. Have an editorial plan. Content is what keeps the social media machine fuelled. Make your editorial calendar flexible. Do not push X if the community is talking about Y. Tap into X instead. Make the most out of memes.
  5. Don’t be a logo. Who want’s to talk to a logo anyways? Make sure whatever you do as a business is personal to the level where the people within your community know who they are talking with.
  6. Know how the space you operate in works socially. When you choose to enter a community or a social network as a business you have to be sensitive to the fact that you are entering often a very personal space of the individuals in there. Each community is different and each individual’s social graph on social networks such as Facebook is different. This means you as a brand need to behave. You have to respect the unwritten rules of each of these spaces, which can be culturally very different.
  7. Know how the space you operate in works technically. Respect terms of services and other agreements. This prevents you from getting kicked out ;-) Know how to build things most efficiently. This really can be a huge cost saving especially if you use a third party for build and creative work.
  8. Be prepared. For everything. This is what happens if you aren’t. And remember that your social presences can be a very powerful crisis management tool too – and turn against you just as easily.
  9. Social rarely works on its own. Depending on the business of course, you will need traditional marketing tactics and bought media too. Integration is the key. Integrate your social presences to your websites, print and TV ads and products if possible. Use paid media to drive traffic to where the action happens. Do not create “dead end digital” – first flashy campaigns and then only dead silence afterwards.
  10. Measure it. Don’t just look at vanity numbers such as Twitter followers of Facebook likes. That does not tell you much about the effectiveness of your efforts. Return on investment can be calculated for sure, but looking at return on engagement can give you a more holistic picture of the effectiveness of your efforts. Some activities aim for wide reach, some deeper engagement. Know the diference between these two and remember that wide reach is nothing without conversion.

My thoughts and this list have most likely been influenced by talks with my friends Arto, DanJP and Tom during the years we’ve worked together. Don’t know in which order and where :-)

New challenges ahead!

Posted on | June 20, 2011 | 11 Comments


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The internet is made of people. People matter. This includes you. Stop trying to sell everything about yourself to everyone. Don’t just hammer away and repeat and talk at people—talk TO people. It’s organic. Make stuff for the internet that matters to you, even if it seems stupid. Do it because it’s good and feels important. Put up more cat pictures. Make more songs. Show your doodles. Give things away and take things that are free. Look at what other people are doing, not to compete, imitate, or compare . . . but because you enjoy looking at the things other people make. Don’t shove yourself into that tiny, airless box called a brand—tiny, airless boxes are for trinkets and dead people. – M. Johnston

The internet is all about people. That’s my philosophy towards the web quite neatly summarized so I figured that quote would be  great start for this post :-)

I love the web and am fascinated especially by looking at it from the sociological as well as social and cultural anthropology perspectives: How do we choose to belong to and how we behave in social groups and communities, what our social structures are and how we define them on the web, how we shape the web and how it in turns shapes our behaviour (or does it?), does it change the society or should we look at the web as a reflection of our society. At the same time of course not forgetting that not everyone is connected all the time.

How business plays together with all the above is an interesting question, and that’s what I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to work on for the past four years at Nokia. Yes, the web is made of people but so are companies and I’ve been very lucky to have been able to work with so many amazingly smart and talented people including brilliant agencies too. You people know who you are :-)

Learning is about work, work is about learning, and both are social. At Nokia, with my awesome team mates, I have learned more than what I could have in any other company in Finland – or perhaps in the world – and I am very happy to have had that opportunity. I can honestly say my four years with Nokia have been an awesome ride.

Anyways, there’s a time for everything and now it’s time for me to move on to new challenges. My next destination will be Rovio Mobile where I will be heading up social marketing and customer engagement as well as hopefully help make Angry Birds even greater (if possible ;-) ) engaging experience.

Exciting!

A community manager is a piñata

Posted on | June 13, 2011 | 3 Comments


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I posted earlier about what community managers really do, and came across this nice infographic on the role of a community manager on the Get Satisfaction Blog. It was posted back in January to celebrate the Community Manager Appreciation day.

All the points are great, we are gardeners, cheerleaders, traffic cops and generally very empathic people ;-) but I especially like the tongue-in-cheek part:

After being beaten with sticks, must still give out candy. Or. like a unicorn fart glitter and rainbows.

Many of my fellow community managers know this is very true and absolutely one of the most interesting and also rewarding aspects to the job. Navigating in between the first and foremost responsibility towards the company we work for, we also have the responsibility towards the community – we represent the community’s voice. Community managers in essence are advocates and ambassadors in one.

 

http://blog.getsatisfaction.com/2011/01/24/community-manager/?view=socialstudies

 

Misconceptions about own, bought and earned media

Posted on | March 26, 2011 | 6 Comments


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Own bought earnedThe semantics around own, bought and earned media definition and use is a topic that surfaces in discussions more and more often nowadays. An article on the later developments of the model is well worth a read too.

The basic model is very very clear and concise – if you use it right. However, over and over again I stumble upon situations where it is somewhat misunderstood.

I’ve found that the grid is most useful for content categorization. It is not all that useful for categorizing spaces, media outlets or “channels”, whatever you want to call them, even if that is what it is mostly used for. Take Facebook for example. If you look at it as a channel, you would have to look at it as one entity, right?

So in which box would you put it? Earned, would some say, others would say own and the guy responsible for your media buys would point out that there’s ads too in there. See the problem? It does not comfortably fit into any of these alone.

Facebook, like many other social networking services, encompasses all the three aspects. You have your own fan page, which is only partly your own though. You control the look & feel to some extent, you send out status updates and create campaigns and other engagement activities, but your fans write on your wall, upload photos and  either choose to participate or skip being engaged with your campaign activity.

Sponsored stories on Facebook is another interesting dimension. Not your traditional media buy activity is it, when you add the earned media aspect to it.

You could also look at companies like  Amazon and ask from their perspective if amazon.com is Amazon’s own media? You have Amazon’s infrastructure there for sure, but added on top of that are 3rd party sellers, ads, user reviews and whatnot.

Most times when I point this out in  a discussion involving categorizing your websites, social presences, campaign activities and other digital spaces according to the OBE model, the response is something along the lines of: “well we have to put them in some box, it’s just semantics.”

I disagree, as with this issue, it is not just semantics. By trying to fit Facebook or any other “media outlet” into any of these boxes shows that you have not understood the model and thus it becomes unusable. Obviously some spaces with a very clear and simple purpose may fit into just one of these categories, but increasingly the lines are becoming blurred in between these three.

If us marketeers fail to explain this to ourselves, how can we expect anyone around us understand what we are trying to achieve and how to construct your marketing ecosystem?

Is social media dead is not the right question to ask

Posted on | March 23, 2011 | 3 Comments


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Gisela Giardino: in your handsJonathan Salem Baskin asked yestarday on AdAge “Do Campaign Failures, High-Profile Firings Signal the End of Social Media?” At the same time this question is amusing and a bit alarming too as I think it really is not the right question to ask at all.

Me, I am actually really looking forward to the “death of social media”. I’m looking forward for the times when the hype is behind us and we can concentrate on the real things instead of gimmics. Fundamentally, I think social media as a term is somewhat misused, often used only to put this phenomena into a box, so its easier to understand for the people looking at it from afar.

What people call social media, but what I simply just call the web for the lack of a better term, is a set of disruptive advancements in technology, which enable building new means for us to interact with each other and construct our social network and therefore also our personal reality in new ways.

This fundamentally changes the way people behave and therefore shapes the grand scheme of things within our society, which in turn inspires smart developers develop new and even more innovative technologies and mechanics for us to live our lifes (and make money too). You could argue which drives the change, technological advancements or people – I think it goes hand in hand. Rather than a linear progress, I see it as a circular evolution.

So what should a business do in this context? A set of funny videos (an article well worth reading btw)? Hand out samples of your product for bloggers to try out and hope for a good review? Start a branded Twitter account for the company?

Maybe these too yes, but what a smart CMO does is team up with the rest of the leaders within the company, take the discussion to the next level and ask their management team a bigger strategic question: How does the current landscape, the web included, change our business environment and what should we do about it?

When you have an answer to this, you automatically realize “social media” does not culminate in viral videos or Facebook fan pages. This change is something that the whole company needs to embrace. Your marketing and PR teams can only scratch the surface if understanding how the internet works and affects your business does not go beyond these teams.

On activism and social media

Posted on | February 6, 2011 | 1 Comment


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I love the web by dullhunk http://www.flickr.com/photos/dullhunk/3930915541The political situation in Tunisia and Egypt has been unstable now for some time now and a peaceful democratic transition is still far from assured. People are using different social networks to organize and broadcast the protests in the streets of Cairo and Tunis and finding ways to bypass the internet blocks set up by the government in ways that we are witnessing now for the first time in the history.

The political upheaval has sparked quite a bit of discussion on activism and social media. The debate is not new of course, but was sparked about a year ago by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker and continued by others such as Sarah Kessler on Mashable of the opposite point of view.

Right now it’s impossible to tell yet which tools and social network services played the most important role in the events leading to Ben Ali’s and Mubarak’s exits, organizing the protests in the streets and keeping the rest of the world watching it from outside informed. However, I’m very happy to see that no one’s calling this a Twitter or Facebook revolution – a statement that greatly understates the role of the the web as a facilitator in the recent events.

Crediting social media trivializes the revolution and does a disservice to the deep rooted issues that caused it. We should not start from the technology and tools that were there at the time. The right starting point for the analysis to me would seem to start from the events and actions and work backwards to see what kind of role did the technology play in the equation.

Having said that it seems undeniable that social media did and still does play a vital role. Gladwell’s main point in his critique towards social media not being able to support “real activism” was that communities often form of weak ties where strong commitment does not form around a cause and results only in “slactivism“.

Perhaps it is in order to take a new perspective to this as a result of the case in Egypt and Tunisia. It seems that the weak ties can easily turn into strong ties if there is a compelling reason for people to gather around a cause. As a consequence people concentrate on those relationships that are important in a particular time and space. It would seem that the realations within an individual’s social network therefore are not as stable as previously thought.

A sociological perspective on social networks and brands

Posted on | January 27, 2011 | 93 Comments


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NetworkWhy do people join social networks online? I would argue that primarily to maintain their already existing connections. To keep in touch with their friends, not necessarily make new ones. In that sense, the term social networking site or service is not entirely accurate label for services, such as Facebook or LinkedIn.

In fact, “networking” i.e. making new connections does not occur nearly as much as you would think – we mostly want to socialize within the network we are used to.

Taking a sociological perspective on these observations gives the possibility to see broader social patterns in people’s behavior. Going beyond the individual and understanding how social forces shape individuals and their action in broader scope is something that every company should take an interest on.

Looking at the most commonly used social networks we can already tell that there are huge differences on how these networks function. The biggest implication on people’s behavior quite often is whether the service aims at reproducing our offline social network or not.

A service like Facebook for example is quite an efficient medium for spreading information. The reason spesifically is that it rather accurately resembles our offline social network. Facebook actually is working quite hard to reproduce our offline social networks. With our real-life friends we know what’s relevant and only pass on information we think is useful as well as filter out everything irrelevant. What’s even more important people inherently trust their “real” friends. Such services always emphasize the strong ties at the expense of weak ties.

On the other hand, services like Quora or Twitter have much more noise to them at first glance. The reason is that although Twitter for example has networking capability built in, there is no real effort to reproduce our offline social network. You could conclude that many of the relationships on Twitter aren’t “real” and therefore the information is not as trustworthy as on Facebook for example.

A great example on the effectiveness of spreading news and the role of Facebook vs Twitter in it on The Atlantic about the recent unrest in Tunisia.

…Facebook played a bigger role in this case, said Jillian York of the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society, who has been tracking the Tunisian situation closely. … Facebook allows for strong ties in a way that Twitter doesn’t. You’re not just conversing

One thing worth keeping in mind is the difference between a social network and a community. A social network is held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships between individuals. Communities consist of people with a common interest who necessarily do not have anything else in common. An individual is often a part of many different communities which can overlap and are often nested, but only have one social network that consists of many communities.

From business perspective this means that in order to harness the power of different social network sites and communities you really have to understand the inner workings of these services. You have to see which services are the ones where you mostly engage with your already existing customer base – the strong ties.

You’ll also have to identify the ones which are more ideal for building new relationships and capturing the weak ties. Understanding which spaces are communities and which ones are social networks helps a great deal on determining why  and where you should or should not participate.

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