It’s always great to have really intelligent and thought-provoking conversations with clients, and I recently had one. The client is looking to re-launch a website and we were talking through some of the basics. One of the questions that they brought up—that I was so glad to hear—was regarded hosting. Now hosting, of course, is where your website is going to live. As marketers, I believe that we can just right in and start thinking about the design, conversion funnels, and other marketing related items all while forgetting about some of the basics—like where is the site going to live. Sometimes it’s out of our hands as we’re working with IT departments or other agencies. Every now and then, though, we have the opportunity to pick everything from the ground up. Sometimes that responsibility can be daunting, because you may know everything there is to know about content marketing, but nothing about servers, server architecture, etc. If you turn to the almighty Google, it can be mind blowing just how many options there are. So it comes down to the question of knowing which one to pick.
Six weeks ago, my wife and I welcomed into the world our third son. Having a new baby has thrown me back into a now familiar routine of subscribing to different resources — such as coupon programs for baby items — and it is still clear that marketers for baby products still do not know how to talk to modern dads.
Whether good or bad, one of the things I hate doing in stores is asking technical questions of customer service people… especially in “big box” stores. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t saying that all of them don’t know the answer. I have just found that more often than not, they have a similar understanding that I do. This is why I LOVE the idea of social media customer service. Connecting to a person who has the entire Internet in-front of them as well as any number of technical service manuals or other helpful tools to answer my question at a moments notice. This past week in a few different interactions I was reminded of how far social media customer service has come as well as how far it has to go.
In case you have been hiding under a rock, you most likely heard that Apple released the new iPhone 4S yesterday. To some it is a huge announcement, to others that were expecting the release of the iPhone 5 it was disappointing. To me, a long time Sprint and Mac customer, it was amazing news as for the first time the iPhone is now available on the network. The most shocking part about it, is that one of the biggest announcements for Sprint in 2011 but if you look at Sprint’s digital platforms, you’d never know it. Talk about a HUGE missed marketing opportunity.
As of about 36 hours after the media announcement, all that Sprint’s digital platforms had to offer were a couple of tweets from the @sprint account promising that information was coming soon.
As a Sprint customer for over 10 years (with a one year break while working outside the US) and a die-hard Mac “fanboy” since 1999, this was the announcement that I was waiting for. The second it was announced in the Apple media event, I was loading up Sprint.com…. nothing. Went back an hour later with “early upgrade” money burning a hole in my pocket… nothing. Checked today (over 24 hours later)… nothing. Now being that every computer and media device I own is made by Apple and I’m not ditching Sprint, chances are whenever they finally get around to releasing the info, I’ll eventually upgrade. But what about all the customers they’ll need to conquest to meet their contractual obligations with Apple? Chances are many of them already have iPhones and both Verizon and AT&T are already talking about the new phone and offering pre-orders. Sprint’s marketing team… big time #fail.
Product development, Public Relations, Corporate Communications, and Marketing need to collaborate
I have worked for and with several large companies throughout my career and one thing that I find most often is that communicating internally across these four critical tiers is one of the most dysfunctional processes these companies have. In the end though, all marketing (especially digital) will only be successful when these areas are synced up. Imagine if Sprint’s digital marketing team had product pages and upgrade information ready to roll out the second Apple announced the partnership? Well I’d have my iPhone 4S pre-ordered and I’m sure there are a lot of other customers that would have done the same. In the end, there should have at least been some kind of messaging placed up digitally say in the event there were web technical issues. Twitter, while unreliable, is still up and so is Facebook and PR Newswire.
Sprint, I truly hope you find a way to generate some real excitement as, from what I understand, you’ve “bet the farm” on this deal and I’d really hate to see a rollout fluke like this bring the demise of my favorite wireless company.
It seems one of the fastest growing type of website on the Internet is a deal/coupon service. The biggest of these so far is Groupon but there is also Living Social, Homerun, and about 1,000 other variations. Heck even one newspaper here in Detroit is doing it.
In case you’re not familiar with Groupon and the like, they are basically websites that offer a super discounted service or product from a business local to the user for a limited time. Groupon is only one day, but other sites like Living Social, AppSumo, Zulily extended their offers for a week or more. For example, today’s deal on Groupon for Ann Arbor, MI is 62% off a round of golf for 2 with cart.
Jumping on the bandwagon of this, probably after Groupon rejected Google’s purchase offer of $6-billion, is Facebook. In April, Facebook revealed Facebook Deals. Now it is running in a few testing markets (all you lucky people in CA) and setup as pretty much a Groupon clone.
Now you might ask, if Groupon is so huge, how is Facebook going to compete? Well I honestly think they’ll hold their own and stand a chance of beating Groupon outright for a couple reasons. The biggest is that they are hitting users where they are. For Groupon, users must either navigate to the site daily or open the daily email from Groupon. With Facebook Deals, the deal is show in the user’s news feed. Before the end of the summer, Facebook will most likely roll over 700 million users worldwide. That is a lot of eyeballs to place on Facebook Deals content verse the 35 million Groupon users reported in January.
The second main reason I think Facebook Deals will beat Groupon is that sharing is automatic and very easy and obvious. For Groupon, there is a small sharing section on each deal. While it is there, it isn’t integral. Plus users will have to connect Groupon to their Facebook profile to enable sharing.
Facebook Deals, on the other hand, has sharing front and center. In addition, depending on the user’s privacy settings, if they purchase a deal, it is automatically shared out to their friends to see.
As mentioned, Facebook Deals is currently only running in a few test areas in California, Texas, and Georgia. But I believe that if/when they roll it out, Groupon is going to have some serious competition for the top “local deal of the day” website.
Social media, when you think about it, is inherently a selfish medium. Users post statuses talking about what they are doing that day. I find videos on YouTube that make me laugh, so I post them so my friends can see how obviously funny I am since I found the funny video. I write notes telling people my opinions. At the core, social media is me sharing things I personally find interesting and broadcasting information about me…since everyone wants to hear about that, right?
For people, we give grace and just assume that is how social media works. For businesses, though, we don’t extend the same courtesy. If a business is on Facebook and only talks about their brand or their products, people will hide them from feeds, unlike, or unfollow them. An ExactTarget study showed that 43% of people unliking a brand on Facebook was because of too much marketing messages.
Social media users are there to connect with friends and family, not a business. So if a business is invading into this personal world, how do they get users to connect and listen to them? Think back to what social media is… a selfish medium. If a business is to connect and engage with a user, they need to give them something. They need to provide value.
A few studies have been done over the past year in regards to this and all point to the fact that users primarily connect with businesses in social media to get something. ExactTarget, in their Social Break Up study, showed that 26% of users reporting liking a business page to take advantage of a one time offer and 24% reported unliking a page because it didn’t offer enough deals. In a social check-in study done by digital agency Beyond, they found across the surveyed early adopters and current non-using consumers that almost 50% of them would check-in to a business to receive a coupon or discount. On top of that, 99% of them do not view getting a badge or becoming the mayor (Foursquare) a good enough reason to check-in. Users want to get something and that something needs to be valuable.
What does “providing value” mean to businesses in social media? In reality, that is something for each individual business to decide. Four of the main ways, in my opinion, are:
- Entertainment – This includes great conversation, videos, audio, podcasts, etc
- Sweepstakes and drawings – The trick is that these don’t have to be huge
- Coupons and discounts – These should be a good discount not available anywhere else
- Provide rewards for actions – Use a service like SCVNGR to give things to users for challenges completed all while promoting your brand
Does this mean that every car dealership out there needs to giveaway a free car to get fans and followers? It would help, but no they don’t. Do restaurants need to giveaway free lunches all the time? It would help, but no they don’t. Businesses simply need to take a look at what they do best and figure out ways to feature that while providing a hook to social media users. The car dealer might have a car wash, so have a drawing for free car washes for the summer. The restaurant may have a free dessert birthday club, so have them sign-up on Facebook.
In the end, it doesn’t need to be super complicated or even a high-cost investment, it just needs to be something to hook a user so they will allow the business to enter their personal, selfish, social media world.
This is an infographic provided by OneForty that gives a lot of good information after surveying 150 social media professionals about the monitoring tools they use. Covering items like average cost and making suggestions as to which tool to use for individual situations, this is a great place for someone to start their research into the quickly growing world of social media monitoring tools. You can download the full PDF from OneForty by clicking here.
As I work with clients on developing their digital marketing plans, one of the most common questions I receive is “how many ‘likes’ should I have on my Facebook page?” I always find this question a good opportunity to take clients through the importance of targeting in social media. It isn’t the number of fans, likes, or followers you have, it’s where they are and what you’re doing with them.
On Facebook, there are some great companies to look at and follow especially when a business is looking to get started. The problem, though, is I think sometimes examples like Ford, Oreos, Skittles, and Coke, builds delusions of grandeur or unrealistic expectations for businesses. Let’s face it, unless you have a multi-million dollar marketing budget and a nationally recognized brand, you are probably not going to have hundreds of thousands of Facebook Likes. To help put numbers into perspective a bit, here are some stats from a study the Sysomos did in November 2009:
- 4% of pages have more than 10,000 fans
- 0.76% of pages have more than 100,000 fans
- 77% of pages have less than 1,000 fans
- 35% of pages have less than 100 fans
You wouldn’t purchase a TV ad in another state…
After setting some expectations for total likes on Facebook based on research into the client’s customers and Internet users around their target sales areas and demographics, I am sometimes presented with examples from the client’s competitors who use some other services available who have thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of likes on Facebook. While initially this seems like a great thing, I typically start digging a bit to show them where these likes come from. Many times a significant amount of the likes are from users in different states or countries.
An example of this comes from a client’s competitor that is using a service that uses various social games and giveaways to increase the number of likes to the page. When looking at their latest contest, the top three players were from Malaysia, Florida, and Minnesota. The client is a local car dealer in Connecticut! Granted, having a large number of fans might make a page more appealing to gain future fans, how is having users to communicate with all over the country going to help the local dealer sell more product? The dealer would never pay for a television or newspaper ad in another country, so why market to them on Facebook?
When 5 Facebook Likes are Better Than 5,000
So when does having 5 Facebook likes matter more than 5,000 likes? It is when those 5 users are part of your target demographic. Is it hard to get those targeted fans? It can be but if you have proper listening as part of your digital marketing strategy, you’ll be able to find these customers and successfully reach them without worrying about the other semi-irrelevant 4,995.
I love novelty t-shirts. Always have. Always will. Whether it has some kind of clever text, funny image, logo from an old video game… I love ’em. For someone like me having websites like shirt.woot.com, bustedtees.com, and snorgtees.com readily available with some amazing designs is awesome. As I’m always on the lookout for another great design, I happen to notice a lot of display advertising for various shirts. This is why Threadless.com‘s display ads drive me crazy.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like Threadless and think their designs rank right up there with the others. I especially like that the designs are community submitted like shirt.woot. Makes me feel like I’m helping out the “little guy” a bit. The problem is that Threadless’ display ads don’t follow a basic rule for display advertising: “Make the ad content directly relate to the landing page content.” Simply put, the shirt design that you see in a Threadless display ad doesn’t show up when the ad is clicked on. You’re taken directly to the sites’ main page. This = #fail. If it was a one time occurrence, I’d write it off as a mistake. As it has happened several times, it’s now a problem. Here’s an example:
I was on Facebook last week and saw this display ad for Threadless and, being the Star Wars geek I am, loved it.
No where on the page is the shirt design from the ad. Not to be deterred, I searched around a little bit and still came up empty handed… even after a word search for things like “toilet”, “drink”, “Star Wars”, and “AT-AT”. Needless to say, I put a little more time and effort into the search than most users probably would and after a few minutes gave up. Just like that, Threadless missed a sale of at least $15. By itself, not a lot. But if other users are having the same problem, this could mean thousands of dollars in lost sales all while Threadless is paying for each one of those clicks.
Of course, this problem could be easily solved by doing one of two things. The first would be to have the ad take the user directly to the same design in the ad. This makes sense since they clicked on the ad because they probably liked the design. The second option, since this was part of a larger campaign, would be to take the user to a specific landing page that had all the “Ta-ta 2010 Clearance” shirts with the one featured in the ad being one of the first shirts shown.
Some usability and case studies have shown that after 8-seconds, almost 50% of a landing page’s visitors will have bounced for various reasons. This means that setting display ads up in such a way that a user is not taken directly to a landing page that relates to the ad is driving pointless traffic to your site as chances are they will bounce and not convert.
So moral of the story, when running a display ad campaign, make sure that your ads match up with your landing page to maximize conversions. Otherwise you’re wasting your money on an ineffective CPC campaign and you’re wasting your users time which, in the end, could cause them to ignore your ads in the future.
There are some pretty amazing tools available on the Internet. One of the great things about them are many come completely free. This includes services like Google Docs, instant messenger, WordPress hosted blogs, and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Of course, one of the biggest problems with these services is they are free…which means you have no control.
I was recently reminded of this when Facebook quietly removed a very simple feature they were beta testing. The feature was the ‘unsubscribe’ button that allowed a user to choose a point in a conversation on Facebook to stop receiving notifications when there was further action. Nothing super life changing and the change won’t make me stop using Facebook. It did remind me, though, that in the end I have no real power to fight back against the decision. If I was a paying customer, I could always file a complaint or request a refund. Since Facebook is free, technically they can change anything they want, whenever they want, without notifying you or even asking your permission. They technically could get bored with the idea and just stop Facebook.
Now I’m not suggesting that one day Facebook will close and shut off their service, but they could. Imagine if Google decided they wanted to charge $2 per year for people to use their service? With other search engines lacking in results performance and the cost only being $2, they would make a fortune. Or what if they decided that it wasn’t in the company’s interest to host documents for free via Google Docs anymore? How many documents do you or your business have on there? How much do you rely on Google Docs for your business to function?
I have people ask me every now and then why I don’t use Google Calendar. It’s not because I think Google is going to steal all of my appointment information (though I suppose they could), it’s because I don’t want to come to rely on a service that might go away, be changed into something I don’t want, or a charged service without my permission, input, or a refund. My calendar is stored on my personal computer and I sync it across all of my devices using software that I paid for. My blog is hosted on my own web server that I pay for (granted it is on The WordPress CMS – technically open source, so that is my justification). My email comes from my own domain.
Does this mean I’ll make my own Facebook or Twitter program? No. I love using them to connect with interesting people. I’ll probably use the next really cool free Internet tool that comes out as well. For things like file and photo storage, Internet VoIP service, website hosting, email, and backup, I feel much safer knowing that when it comes to changing the features, privacy policies, or access to the service, it happens when and how I want.
Don’t take free services for granted, because one day, they very well could be gone.