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For months now there have been rumors floating around that 2012 would be the year of the Facebook IPO (initial public offering). While many users and would-be investors are chomping at the bit for their chance to own part of one of the largest social networks on the planet, others (me included) are a little skeptical. This hesitation or “wait and see” attitude is caused in large by the disappointing IPOs for other companies like Pandora, Zynga, and Groupon in 2011.
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.
Totally agree with Shel Holtz on a lot of his points. Don’t much see Google+ as a “Facebook Killer”… then again, it is still early. Biggest problem, I agree with is that there are over 750 million people using Facebook. I’m using Google+ because I work in the biz, but the idea of reestablishing social connections on another platform when I’ve already done it on Facebook (and manage connections with lists) is really tiresome and I don’t see casual users doing it…heck I don’t want to do it. Then again… it is stil early. So will it move beyond just a Internet Marketing/early adopter hang out? Time will tell.
PR and Communications Implications of Google+ (and Other Observations)
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.
CMOs need to discover new ways to do the old things that still matter: Offer products and services that someone truly needs, admitting that you want to sell stuff to them, and then properly serving them after they’ve given you their business. Sounds so easy as I type it but doing so has gotten so incomprehensibly complicated. Maybe the news coming out of Pepsi and Burger King is a wakeup call that we need to make all of this simpler, not harder. I think it starts with quitting the glib new rationales for avoiding these traditional and difficult challenges.
May silly social media R.I.P., and may smart social live to serve businesses better in the future.
I’m a child of the 80’s… well, to be specific, 1980. Being born that year puts me on the edge of two distinct groups. The first is Generation X and the second is Generation Y. Depending on who you talk to, I fit into one group or the other. Given that my personality and technology trends mirror more Gen Y, I personally think I fit in there. Other terms that are used to describe me is a ‘Millennial’ or ‘Echo Boomer’. Whatever label you decide to put on my age demographic though, if you’re going to try and sell me something, you better be able to use technology and meet me where I am.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, Millennials like me tend to be really handy with technology and use it almost every day. According to a Pew Research study published in February 2010, here are some data points for how Millennials use technology:
- 90% use the Internet to send and receive email
- 75% had a social networking profile
- 55% use social media every day
- 83% reported sleeping next to their cell phone
- 88% text on their cell phones
- 62% use wireless internet away from home or work
- 41% have a cellphone and no landline
- 74% think that new technology makes life easier
- 56% think that new technology allows people to use their time more efficiently
According to a study by Accenture Global Research, 52% of Millennials consider state-of-the-art technology as an important factor when selecting an employer.
“So what?”, you may be asking yourself. I know that this data may not shock a lot of people because it just proves that Millennials use a lot of technology – something most people already knew. The trick is that knowledge is the awareness and understanding of facts. Wisdom is knowing what to do with that knowledge.
Social media has been changing how the world does business in a lot of ways. The biggest is through how business are connecting with their customers. Millennials, as early adopters and avid users of social media, are growing accustom to engaging with not only friends and family on the various social sites, but also brands and businesses. On Facebook they can ‘like’ a company or get coupons for shopping. On Twitter they can complain about the last flight they were on and have a customer service rep reach out to them. Businesses who are, in my opinion, future focused are moving from selling to connecting and from ‘hard to reach’ to being available every where. Unfortunately though, social media adoption and even technology are still something that some businesses that refuse to use.
Working for myself, I have to pick up the cost of my own health insurance (yippee). I have a really great insurance guy. He’s a great guy and seems to always look out for the best deal. The biggest problem with him, the extent of technology he uses successfully is a telephone. Over the past few months as I’ve needed to make changes and add my wife, the process has become a nightmare. With my busy schedule between running client projects, phone conference calls, and teaching I don’t have time to go into an office and chat for 2 hours or sit on the phone for 45 minutes going over everything. But I do have time to read emails and other docs while I wait for conference calls to begin or when my ‘free time’ begins around 11:30pm. After pressing to get my agent to just email me the details he finally confessed that he barely knows how to use a computer let alone email. It is over this that I have just about gone elsewhere.
So what’s the moral of the story? If you’re going to do business with Millennials, get with the times. I’m not saying that you need to learn how to program websites, manage social media strategies, or talk to me via Twitter. What I’m saying is that you need to have the skills to service clients and function in the age of text messages, computers, and the Internet. If you don’t know how to type well… take a class and practice. If you don’t know how email works, find someone to teach you. If you want to learn how to use social networking, there are tons of resources out there to teach you the basics. We’re not expecting you to be experts, but to at least try.
Millennials have been and are now in the workforce. We’re buying homes, getting married, having kids, buying insurance, looking for services. We’re used to having access to companies online when we want it. We’re addicted to technology and use it all the time. If you’re content on ignoring this and unwilling to grow and/or change your own skills, I hope you’re satisfied turning your back on almost 70 million people in the US. Plus I hope you’re planning your retirement, because once Generation I (those born after 1994) hits this stage in life, you won’t be able to compete.
I still remember my dad’s video camera growing up. It was one of those RCA units where the camera was one piece and it connect to a separate VCR deck with a special cable. So if you wanted to record on the go, you’d be lugging a heavy camera, heavy tripod, and a boombox sized VCR deck with you. Talk about practical! As most consumer technology goes, the video camera has evolved drastically over the past 30-years to being faster, lighter, and smaller. The quality has also increased so much that many consumer-level cameras can rival pro-level equipment in the right hands.
It seems as time goes on, as well, that these small and good quality video cameras are also being placed into almost every consumer’s hand by being in highly portable devices like small digital still cameras, FlipCams, mobile phones, and even iPods. Some of these device makers, such as with the Kodak Zi8, create their software with the ability to upload directly to Facebook and YouTube. To take it even further some devices, such as the new iPhone 4 or Ion Audio’s Twin Video, are equipped with cameras on both sides of the devices that allow for recording video of both the user and their surroundings at the same time. This, coupled with editing software built in directly, as with the new iPhone 4, means that consumers have the ability to create engaging video content for the web at almost anytime.
So the question then becomes what are you doing with consumers’ ability to create, edit, and upload video at almost any point during their day? According to YouTube, every minute, 24 hours of video are uploaded to it’s site. How much of that video is talking about your products? Reviews about their experience in your store or restaurant? Impromptu commercials for a special contest you’re running? Stories about how they are using your product or service to better their lives?
What are you doing to turn these consumers with access to amazing video technology into your brand advocates?
I’d love to hear about how you are using this evolving technology in your Internet marketing. Comment below!
As a small business and even large business owner, it’s hard not to hear about Internet marketing and things like social media everyday. It seems like there are people and resources telling you all the time that you need to have a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, a blog, then a YouTube channel, plus some PPC, SEO, SEM, and ROS ads; all while watching your ROI, CPC, and CTR! Who knew you needed a translator to get into Internet marketing?!?
It can be a little intimidating to get started in Internet marketing, especially when you are a small business with limited budget. The good news is that a little can go a long way if you’re willing to commit the time and effort. Along the way, here are three pointers to help you make sure you avoid wasting your budget and time.
1. Know your customer
Just as with your products and traditional advertising, in my opinion, the number one thing is knowing who your current and future customers are. When thinking in terms of Internet marketing, though, this goes well beyond just knowing what types of products they are looking for. You’re looking for how, when, and why they use the Internet as well as where they go online. Now this may seem like a huge and very complicated task, especially if you’re not particularly web savvy. The good news is that finding this kind of data is fairly easy to do using tools like Google Analytics or Clicky on your website.
If the tech approach seems a little to hard to start, then there is nothing wrong with just asking questions to a good sample of your regular customers. For a recent freelance client, I did an online survey using Constant Contact’s survey system (super easy to setup and only $15 a month with no commitment), and the results were great. One of the questions asked if the user participated in Facebook and/or Twitter. While a very large number reported using Facebook, only 7% said they used Twitter on a daily basis. This means that while my freelance client should keep an eye on the changing use of Twitter, they are able to focus more of their time and budget towards Facebook.
2. Have a strategy
Just as you wouldn’t rush into product development, an ad campaign, or any other decision in your business without a strategy; Internet marketing is no different. Once you know who your target audience is, you need some kind of strategy on how to reach and engage them. I have seen quite a few times where businesses have just created a Facebook page or Twitter account because someone told them they needed to have it. I’m afraid to say that if you don’t have a strategy though, you’ll be wasting your time, your money, and even have the possibility of irreparably damaging your brand and reputation in the process. Here are a few questions to consider when developing your Internet marketing strategy:
- What are your goals? Engagement? Brand recognition development? High conversion rate?
- Knowing your customers, what tools will you use to meet your goals?
- How often will interaction take place using your selected tools?
- What type of content will you be displaying and what type of interactions will you be having?
- Who will manage the accounts and tools to be your voice online?
- How much money will you be spending and where will it be going?
- When bad messaging or PR appears how will it be handled and by who?
3. Combine your offline and online campaigns
According to a recent Forrester Interactive Advertising Model, online advertising is expected to grow to 21% by 2014. This is fantastic for Internet marketers, but it also still means that 79% of all advertising budgets will be spent offline. Looking at this, it is important that your online campaign play a direct role supporting your offline campaigns. As proof that this correlation helps, Marketing Experiments recently did a test where they took an existing online campaign created by a newspaper publisher and modified it to match the look and feel of the offline direct mail campaign. The result was an increase of conversion rates by 124% in just the first two weeks of the campaign.
The basic idea behind this is that a conversation started offline needs to continue with the user online. So how can this be done? Here are a few suggestions for combining your offline and online efforts:
- Landing pages, landing pages, landing pages – If you have an offline ad pointing online, create a specific URL and landing page that coincides with the offline ad. Without it, the user experiences an immediate disconnect as they search for the same info or deal
- Use similar fonts, colors, and images to help increase that connection of offline to online
- Place some components of your offline campaign on your website. A iProspect and Forrester study found that 44% of the people in the study searched for a company, product, service, or slogan after watching a television advertisement
Wrapping it up
While starting off an Internet marketing campaign can be a little intimidating at first, if you keep the three points above in mind, you’ll be off to a much better start. Always remember that it starts with knowing your customers, how they use the Internet, and having a great strategy for how you will implement everything.