Posts Tagged ‘trends’

Three Forces Driving Social Customer Support

We’ve discussed, many times, the importance of the ongoing trend towards the integration of various communications forms in social media – the fact that you can’t just put “social” in a bubble and expect it to perform without support from other media. Awareness of this is slowly growing as social media activities mature within organizations

In the same vein, this maturity will soon manifest in increased integration between business functions. Chief among them will be a growing realization that customer support is a key communications function online.

Marketing and public relations departments have taken the spotlight for many people (setting aside the Dells, Comcasts and Zapposes (fine, whatever, you try pluralizing Zappos) of the world).

Over the next couple of years, as we continue to see companies invest more and more into social media activities, we’re going to see three forces driving the adoption of social customer support – case studies; customer demand and crises.

Force #1: Watching other companies succeed at social support

The Dells and Comcasts have set the bar high, but we’re seeing a proliferation of companies supporting customers effectively through social media.

Rogers (a client of mine in my last job) engaged over 20,000 times with customers through a variety of social channels last year, and is able to measure the results of this engagement.  Freshbooks has built an army of advocates through its personable and responsive support team.

There are many other examples, and companies will increasingly look to replicate that success.

Force #2: Consumers demanding social support

While public relations drove an initial wave of social media adoption, and while ad agencies are getting into the game too, their activities will continue to inadvertently shine a spotlight on the need for online support.

Why?

Because they’re using two-way channels. And when you’re using two-way channels, people talk back… not just about what you want to talk about, but about what they want to talk about.

Nestle found this out the hard way, as did Etsy late last year (BTW, Etsy, removing posts “for negativity” is not a good issues management strategy).

So, the more companies engage in two-way channels (even if they want them to be one-way), the more people will demand responsiveness and interaction from those companies.

Force #3: Increased frequency of online issues

The Etsy case is just one example of an issue that blew up online and escalated into traditional media. I continue to see more and more, which leads to the third force driving social support – the desire to avoid becoming a crisis communications case study.

By listening and responding to issues online, companies can nip those issues in the bud. It’s important to remember, though, that if you want your online support to help you avoid issues then (a) you can’t pick and choose which issues you respond to (although there are a variety of ways to avoid having to respond to each and every person 1:1 – more on this tomorrow) and (b) if you don’t fix issues that people identify then listening isn’t enough.

So, there you have it – three forces that are driving the adoption of social customer support. Do you agree? Do you see other forces also at play? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Weekly Reads: Facebook, Marketing Trends and Social Media’s Effect on Stereotypes

Alongside my ongoing book reading challenge, I start off every day by reading the latest goings-on in the public relations, social  media and tech blogosphere. As part of my new approach to creating content, I’m going to begin curating the best for you.

Each Monday, I’ll kick-start your week’s reading by sharing some of the most interesting pieces I’ve read over the previous week. Facebook is at the centre this week – four of the seven articles incorporate the dominant social network – from conflict over Egypt, to UFC broadcasting fights, to creating an engagement guide for your organization. Also: interactive marketing trends and how social media may break down gender stereotypes.

Let me know about your favourite pieces from the last week in the comments below.

1. Betting on News, AOL Is Buying The Huffington Post

AOL’s spate of content-focused acquisitions continues – first TechCrunch, now the Huffington Post as the New York Times reports on its latest move.

AOL buys HuffPo

2. Brian Solis: Malcolm Gladwell, Your Slip Is Showing

Nowadays, you can almost guarantee that every time there’s a significant world event, Malcolm Gladwell will stick his head up and beat down a non-existent argument that social media is driving everything. In this piece, Brian Solis offers a counterpoint to Gladwell’s incessant focus on tools, and looks at the bigger picture.

Gladwell’s slipping point

3. Wired: Trolls Pounce on Facebook’s Tahrir Square

In a bit of a counterpoint to Gladwell’s perspective, Wired looks at how Egyptian President  Hosni Mubarak’s supporters are spreading propaganda and disinformation through social media.

Facebook as a battleground

4. Fast Company: UFC and Its Gang of 4.6 Million Facebook Friends Body Slam Sports Broadcasting

UFC – the hot sport of the moment – bypasses the mainstream media and takes to Facebook to broadcast some of its fights. Fast Company notes that “Experimenting with new web integration is a natural fit for the UFC, a business built on the strapping backs of its early, Internet-savvy fans.”

Ultimate Fightbook

5. Forrester: Actual Interactive Marketer Predictions For 2011

Following-up on my presentation on 20 social media trends for business in 2011, here are a few diverse predictions from an equally diverse group of interactive marketers:

  • Ad prices increase
  • Marketing will blend promotion and content
  • Targeting gets even bigger
  • Netflix pulls out of mail
  • Mobile commerce will bloom
  • 2012 will be a year of even more aggressive innovation

Interactive marketing predictions

6. Mashable: HOW TO: Create A Facebook Engagement Policy

Mashable isn’t usually a source to rely on for in-depth walk-throughs, but this piece on creating an engagement guide for Facebook does a decent job of outlining some key areas:

  1. Categorize posts
  2. Establish acceptable response times
  3. Develop guidelines for resolving issues
  4. Create a process for handling inquiries
  5. Set clear ground rules for fan posts
  6. Set the appropriate tone

Engaging on Facebook

7. TEDTalks: Johanna Blakley: Social media and the end of gender

Johanna Blakley talks about the demographic profiling used by traditional media and the advertising industry, and how online communities and social media may bring an end not only to false demographic targeting but also to gender stereotypes in mainstream media.

Social media and the end of gender

(Image: nkzs, via sxc.hu)

20 Social Media Trends for Business in 2011

One of the great things about working in the digital space right now is observing the many changes constantly occurring. This week, I had an opportunity to pull together some of the key social media trends I’m seeing for a presentation at an event in Waterloo.

Some of these trends are existing and ongoing; others are new. Some are practical; others are theoretical. Some are almost guaranteed; others may amount to momentary blips. Some ideas come from my head; others were curated by my colleagues Steve Rubel and David Armano.

Hopefully one or two of them will spark ideas for you.

I grouped the trends into five themes:

  1. Silo-busting
    • Trend #1: Integration
    • Trend #2: Social customer support
    • Trend #3: Social impact drives reputation
  2. Maturation of social media
    • Trend #4: Death of the campaign
    • Trend #5: Consolidation
    • Trend #6: ”Influence” matures
    • Trend #7: Democratization of voice
    • Trend #8: Return of websites
  3. Rise of the ‘less shiny object’
    • Trend #9: Digitally driven crises
    • Trend #10: Digital curation
    • Trend #11: Strategic search
    • Trend #12: Community management
    • Trend #13: Developer engagement
    • Trend #14: Measurement matures
    • Trend #15: Rise of the content strategist
  4. Communication accelerates
    • Trend #16: Listening becomes mandatory
    • Trend #17: Marketing in streams
    • Trend #18: Social media overload
  5. Ubiquitous mobile
    • Trend #19: Ubiquitous social
    • Trend #20: Location, location, Facebook

Bet you could add to this list. What do you think I’ve missed?

eBook on 2010 Content Marketing Trends and Predictions

Want to get some insights into what some of the smartest people in marketing are thinking 2010 holds in store?

Along with nearly 40 other smart folks including Radian6′s David Alston and Tipping Point Labs’ Andrew Davis I contributed my thoughts to this eBook of content marketing trends and predictions published by Marketo and ClickDocuments.

Check it out and let me know what you think! (my thoughts are on slide 36)

Five Communications Implications As Twitter Enters The Trough Of Disillusionment

gartner_hype_cycle09Earlier this week, Gartner released its latest Hype Cycle report showing the state of various technology trends.

Some of the trends on the rise at various stages of the cycle include augmented reality, Internet TV, Web 2.0 and corporate blogging.

One noticeable point, however: microblogging is about to cross into the trough of disillusionment. Of course, the dominant player in this field is Twitter.

Twitter is social media’s golden child right now. Recently, Twitter has sat at what Gartner calls the “peak of inflated expectations”:

“…a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations”

It’s hard to argue that Twitter hasn’t been over-hyped recently. We’re about to see that change. The next phase is characterised as:

“Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.”

What does thais mean from a communicator’s perspective? Here are five potential effects of Twitter’s transition into the trough of disillusionment:

  • Less breathless media coverage: corporate Twitter use won’t be enough to generate media coverage
  • Less snake oil: the field will thin as the opportunistic snake-oil salesmen move on to the next shiny tool
  • Maturing use by companies: smart communicators already know that Twitter isn’t a social media strategy unto itself. Twitter will become less of a focus of campaigns and more of an integrated tactic. In more cases we’ll see companies decide that this isn’t the right tactic for them
  • Maturing expectations of users: we’ve seen the growth of somewhat unrealistic expectations in terms of response levels and times by organizations. This should lessen, making issues management more… manageable
  • Increased focus on measurement: as Twitter moves into the trough, it will become all the more important to measure effectively and for communicators to tie Twitter use to business results and metrics

Make sense to you? What do you think?

Social Media Is Becoming A Commodity

Anyone can do media relations. Anyone can pitch a journalist. Some people can even do it well. However, no-one in their right mind is going to hire your firm because you pitched a straight media relations campaign to them because everyone is pitching it.

Oil barrel

Social media is fast becoming a commodity, just like media relations. A few firms used to differentiate themselves by being the ones who paid attention to social media. Now, anyone who can talk a good game and who knows slightly more than the client is able to pitch it and sound like an expert.

Basic business theory says that while first movers gain a temporary advantage, if they don’t create barriers to entry to others then that advantage can quickly be lost. 

As social media increasingly becomes a commodity, companies need to do more than just be there. Those who have enjoyed an advantage from being early to market need to work hard to separate themselves once again. 

Just ‘doing’ social media is no longer enough to win you business. Having done it for a little longer than everyone else does little to differentiate you, either. You might crow that you were doing it before other people, but potential clients probably don’t care.

What do clients care about?

  • Ideas - creative, strategic ideas that solve a problem and accomplish objectives
  • Integrated solutions – approaches that bring together disciplines into a strategic approach
  • Understanding – a clear knowledge and grasp of the issues that matter to them
  • Rounded team – a well-formed team that covers all the bases
  • Chemistry – a team that gels with the client-side team personally as well as professionally
  • Thought leadership – demonstrated leadership in the areas that matter
  • Success – documented case studies – the one area in which, for now, being a first mover gives the advantage.

So what if you have 25,000 Twitter followers? It takes a few weeks for unscrupulous types to game the system and gain that many if that’s what they’re after. Similarly, who cares if you’ve had a blog for six or seven years? It’s what you’ve done with it that matters.

If you’ve been around in social media for a few years, think: what have you done to separate yourself now that everyone else is just like you?

Forget The Statusphere. How About The Egosystem?

Earlier this year Brian Solis commented on the trend of people moving from participation on blogs to engagement through micromedia tools like Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and so on. The next day he posted a piece on TechCrunch:

With the popularity and pervasiveness of microblogging (a.k.a. micromedia) and activity streams and timelines, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and the like are competing for your attention and building a community around the statusphere – the state of publishing, reading, responding to, and sharing micro-sized updates.

He’s right. More and more people, especially in social media circles, seem to be shifting their conversations away from long-form blog content and towards tools like Twitter. They still read blogs, but more and more conversations happen in the cloud, not on destination sites. That’s why tools like BackType Connect are so helpful.

Until recently these tools have been populated largely by early-adopting, progressive types who are open to new ways of doing things. However, that’s evolving. Unlike some, I welcome the mainstream adoption. However, in the last six months we’ve seen a shift towards people applying the same old tactics (the ones that have led many people to loathe public relations and marketers) to these new tools.

As micromedia platforms grow in popularity, their ease of use and the ease with which they can be “gamed” has led to people playing the “follower” game, racking-up huge numbers of followers over a very short period of time. Sometimes it’s done through fame and personality (Oprah and Kutcher, anyone?); other times, often by black-hat marketers, through a more insidious tactic of rapid follower-gaining.

shout megaphoneOne common thread with many of these new people, whether celebrities or otherwise, is their use of these two-way tools as a one-way broadcast mechanism. These tools, whether they’re blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn or any other popular application, are just numbers games to these people, letting them shout ever louder and leading some smart people to wonder whether social media is losing the “social” part.

Forget the “statusphere.” We’re entering an egosystem where the masses judge value by the size of someone’s following and the volume of their voice, not the value of what they say. It’s a path back towards the mass media model – the one-way broadcast model that drove people to these new tools in the first place. It’s a dangerous path, and one that’s difficult to avoid as those with the loudest voices are the ones calling to entrench it.

Is this a ubiquitous trend? No. Some people develop followings through the value of their content. They’re at the peak of the pyramid, though, and as with any such peak they are but a few.

Fortunately, you have the power to control your own experiences in social media. So, if the egosystem turns you off as much as it does for me, you can avoid it. How?

  • Stop equating follower numbers, friends, etc with authority. Smart people, like Seth Godin, long ago started to shift away from looking at how many listen to you. Start thinking about who listens.
  • Consider two-way interaction as a major criteria when deciding who to listen to.
  • Offer advice to newbies who you see going astray. Some may adjust their approach. For those who don’t listen:
    • Unfriend those from whom you derive no value. Life’s too short to waste your time with them.
  • Set an example. Use Twitter the way you would like others to.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you noticed this trend? Does it concern you?

New Research Provides A Social Media Reality Check

CNW Group and Leger Marketing today announced the results of new research into social media use in Canada (disclosure: CNW Group is a client).

The research provides a useful insight into social media trends along with some of the challenges that social media faces, but also sheds an interesting light on the differing perspectives between practitioners and regular social media users.

The top-level results are available online now. The full results will be released in a webinar on April 29 (register through the site).

Some key findings:

  • 49 per cent of social media users use social media at least once per day
  • 31 per cent of users agree that social media is more credible than advertising
  • 61 per cent are researching products to purchase
  • 36 per cent depend on social media to help them with purchase decisions
  • 40 per cent are “talking” to or learning from specific organizations
  • About one-quarter of users feel better about an organization that is engaged in social media
  • 89 per cent of users say they use social media the same or more than they did last year.

Once you dig down into these top-level facts, though, it gets more interesting.

User/Practitioner Gap

Social media is highly influenced by practitioners. For example, 19 per cent of social media users say their opinions are influenced by social media outlets, while 53 per cent of practitioners said the same – a significant difference. Similar, though smaller, differences show through in responses to other questions.

The implication of this is that practitioners often think that other people find social media to be more credible than they do in reality. 

There’s a gap between social media practitioners’ perceptions and those of users. However, given the time that social media has been around, the proportion that are influenced by social media is a good start.

Measurement is uncommon

Practitioners are generally only using broad objectives – there is a lot of room for improvement.

As well, few practitioners using social media tools are measuring what they do, and even fewer are going beyond looking at traffic. Interestingly, few managers are asking for this at this point. You can differentiate yourself by proactively digging deeper.

Room for improvement

While practitioners have a higher awareness of social media and its uses, they still think they, and organizations could use it better.

  • Few practitioners have a dedicated budget for social media
  • Few are monitoring social media (which astonishes me – I see it as a foundational piece for social media engagement)
  • Few practitioners are using social media for community building – most use it for marketing (although the lines blur in my eyes

Interesting stuff.

Which points stand out for you?

Macro, Not Just Micro

In a digital world where more and more focus is (rightly) being placed on analytics and measurement, it can be all too easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Focus less on the trees – remember to think about the forest too.

Take this blog, for example. If I glance at the daily analytics for this site, I see this:

Micro

Up, down, all over the place. Useful to an extent, for reflecting on posts that resonated, but it doesn’t give me any real idea of what’s going on overall. Contrast this with the picture I get when I step back a little and look at trends over months:

Macro

With the exception of a dip during the holidays and a freakish StumbleUpon event a few months ago, there’s a consistent trend here. I can see that, overall, traffic is going up. That’s one of the metrics I look at to determine whether I’m going in the right direction with this post.

So, your client was featured in the Globe & Mail today, or you got them a hit in Engadget. That’s great, right? Actually, it could be irrelevant if it has no bearing on their goals, or if the tone of the piece wasn’t positive.

The point? Try not to focus purely on the little things.

Newspapers: A Growth Business?

Newspaper I just stumbled across an news release from last month entitled World Press Trends: Newspapers Are A Growth Business. With a headline like that, you bet I read it!

According to the World Association of Newspapers, newspaper circulations world-wide rose 2.57% in 2007 and 9.39% over the last five years. The source of this data, the association’s annual survey of World Press Trends, was released this June.

This stands in stark contrast to the state of the press in North America, where leading publications like the Toronto Star and the New York Times have resorted to significant layoffs in recent months. As a sign of where the association’s bias lies, the release tries to position that positively too:

“”And even in places where paid-for circulation is declining, notably the United States and some countries in western Europe, newspapers continue to extend their reach through a wide variety of free and niche publications and through their rapidly developing multi-media platforms,” he [Timothy Balding, Chief Executive Officer of the World Association of Newspapers] said.”

Some other interesting nuggets from the lengthy release, which provide a useful reminder that the newspaper industry is much bigger than the US and Canada:

  • Daily newspaper circulations were stable or up in 80% of the countries surveyed in 2007
  • 74 of the world’s 100 best selling dailies are published in Asia
  • The largest markets for paid dailies are China (107 million copies), India (99 million copies) and Japan (68 million copies). US circulation is about 51 million copies – 17 million lower than Japan

The release does acknowledge some of the problems the industry is facing, however:

  • Paid daily circulation in the EU dropped 2.37% in 2007. However, if you factor in the free dailies, circulation rose 2%
  • Most of the US decline came at the expense of evening papers, with a 10.08% drop compared to 2006 and a 25% drop over the last five years.

Of course, the World Association of Newspapers is far from unbiased. Among the association’s activities, it “represents the newspaper industry in all international discussions on media issues, to defend both press freedom and the professional and business interests of the press.”

I take these findings with a sizeable pinch of salt. Still, this remains an interesting reminder that even with the frequent reports of the decline of the traditional media in the western world, it isn’t the case everywhere.

(Image credit: somadjinn)