Friday, August 17, 2012

Social Media Marketing Transforming Business


Digital and social media marketing continues to grow and evolve as the technology companies at the top end of the enterprise pyramid joust for position, affecting the way we communicate. Essentially lead by Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, changes to the technology that we use in our personal lives is now affecting the approach business need to take to grab the attention of a society distracted away from traditional broadcast marketing platforms.


Some marketing gurus including Bill Lee, who is President of Lee Consulting Group and Executive Director of the Summit on Customer Engagement, argues that broadcast advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications is dead, as these forms of communication do not engage customers in the buying cycle.

Along with Lee, Australia's own Geoff De Weaver, CEO of Touchpoint Digital and Author of "What is a Social Business" argues that traditional brand marketing is being replaced with social media communications because being social is intrinsically wired within the psyche of the human race - communicating with each other is the connecting tissue of our existence - and that information served up from people you know and trust is more likely to convert your way of thinking. 

It seems that Google agrees. Despite their domination of search engine indexing services, Google has changed their business model to build social media into their algorithm, with the following innovations:
  • Google+ Launch: A social sharing platform integrated with their search engine.
  • The +1 button: Think of it as a “like” for search results, website landing pages and Google+ posts. It all adds to your search quality score.
  • Google+ Pages: Keeping your business top of mind with posts every 72 hours, helps to keep your keyword phrases top of the search index results too.
  • Google+ Local: A social media extension to Google Places.
  • Google Analytics Updates: New features include social media statistics, daily dashboard reporting and A/B testing for content experiments.

Clearly, the direction Google is taking is towards a social media integrated space, providing an online engagement platform that maintains timely updates to the rank results index.

Being “top of mind” in a digital environment is predicated on engaging an audience with information that provides an answer to the most basic question “Why?” as in, “Why should I trust you, believe you, interact with you, buy from you?” It is therefore the job of every digital business to conduct inbound marketing in a way that stimulates interaction, with a soft sell solution presented within the answer to this question.

The take out here is: Don’t talk about the great job you did, talk about why it was such a great job to do. Give the lesson behind the experience. Teach with your stories and solve problems.

As a global leader in the social media space, Facebook has also made changes to their business model, recently launching the “Timeline” while making changes to the Open Graph developer’s platform. The resulting shift in strategy has led to these changes:
  • “Like” gates have been abolished: Without “Like” gates, the best way to attain more “likes” is to advertise on Facebook or (with varying degrees of success) get your audience to share your content on their wall and with their friends.
  • “Promote” your posts: New forms of advertising to the people that “like” your page. Have your content appear on the Home page stream, for longer. This encourages engagement.
  • New Facebook Insights, Includes “Reach”: The Reach of your content measures how far it is spread on the Facebook platform. Posts that are Shared, Promoted and Commented on have the greatest Reach.
  • The new “Ticker” waterfall on your profile page: Displays live updates including comments, likes, photo uploads and status updates in real time from your friends, encouraging interaction while on your profile page.
  • Pre-made Open Graph Applications: New Page tab applications to drive the outcomes your business needs. Sign-up for newsletters, add your YouTube channel, Nominate Your Fan of the Week etc.
  • Custom Open Graph Applications: Engagement and Commerce. Reward your customers for interacting with and sharing your content with badges, coupons and exclusive deals. Sell products, services and tickets with f-Commerce.
  • Hash tags now create rich snippets in the Facebook Open Graph: Use verbs to create buzz #listening #shopping #saving #cooking #watching.

Engagement is the new mode of operation on Facebook. The most successful and rewarding experiences for Facebook users are emotionally based conversations on topics that speak to the heart and that elicit passionate responses. Successful viral campaigns are built on emotional issues.

In a recent study conducted on Facebook, it was discovered that video is the most successful form of content shared and links (such as those to websites and blogs) are the least shared form of content. Photography receives the most number of “likes” and comments. Plain text status updates are generally not as popular as photographs for engagement, with a note that emotionally charged status updates are the exception.  

With the changes to the Open Graph, Facebook wants to become a hub for Apps developers. Multilevel games of skill are the most used Facebook Apps but the inquisitive will try something new if the promise of a benefit to them is perceived or offered. The issue that Games developers now face is how to transform simple Games of Skill to a deeper strategic game, to keep audiences engaged.

The key to Facebook marketing can be summed up as: Engage your audience, listen to what they want, interact with them in a human way; reward them for sharing and for providing you with insights and give them something unexpected in return to deepen the relationship.

Social Business through social networks

From a business to business perspective, content marketing works in exactly the same way. Empowering your audience with information that is relevant to their business, which solves the problems their business faces, drives traffic (if delivered in a public forum such as on Twitter and YouTube) and understanding (if in a closed user group, such as LinkedIn).

Throughout 2011, social media usage and platform services reached an all time high. The current figures for Australian users of social media networks are:


May 2012 Active Australian Social Media Users
Facebook
10,968,000
Number doesn't include multiple logins
YouTube
11,000,000
Unique Australian views, (not logins)
Blogger
4,030,000
Increased 30,000 in one month
Google+
2,208,000
User Accounts (not logins)
LinkedIn
2,200,000
Actively logged in
Twitter
1,800,000
Active users
WordPress
1,600,000
Down 200,000 in one month, update issues
Tumblr
1,200,000
Steady
Flickr
840,000
Down 80,000 in one month
Pinterest
560,000
Up 90,000 in one month
Instagram
423,000
Up 171,000 in one month due to Facebook
            Source: socialmedianews.com.au

It should be noted that there are some new players coming up the ranks in the social media market. If “content was king” before now, photos are truly the king of kings! The US$1Bn sale of the photo sharing social media application Instagram to Facebook has given rise to the total active subscribers of the application, in the largest rise in one month of any social media platform in the last twelve months.

Pinterest is also a noteworthy rising star – especially good at facilitating recommendations for high end products and services through the connectivity it creates with the hosting website, generating targeted leads. The average sale of a Pinterest lead is said to be twice as much as the sale from a Facebook one.



And finally, here’s the secret sauce that every marketing person can't live without. It's a little known Social Media measurement platform that assists with building up and engaging a network of highly influential brand advocates. It’s called Klout.

Think of Klout as the social media score card system, in the same way that the Google Quality Score works for SEO but applied at an individual level, based on campaigns conducted over the major social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Now you can see just how well connected someone in your social media network is at performing campaigns based on their topics. Klout scores each person on their ability to influence people within their network, with daily score updates provided in a public domain. 

Klout offers savvy marketers an opportunity to meet and connect with highly influential brand advocates whose topics of conversation match their brand values. Recent updates to Klout help businesses identify and score the success of social media campaigns across seven major social media platforms. It's a great tool for rewarding your influence network too. If you haven't already, check out Klout.com and start adding influencers into your network and encourage them to engage with you by giving +K points on their main topics.  

Social media may be transforming the way we conduct our marketing activity but innovation in technology is the real catalyst for business transformation. Should your business need a marketing review, start a discussion with Markham Lane. Call +61414446660 and connect with me via my social media profiles - adding @MarkhamImages as an influencer on Klout will always get my immediate attention.