Finding your organizations voice

One of the hardest things to do in social media is to find the voice of the organization. If you’ve been following this blog you will notice the writing style and structure will change over time as we identify our voice. What level of complexity and detail are our readers looking for? How do we convince you that we can help you overcome the challenges we are discussing in our blog. Do we clearly identify the issue that we want to talk about? All of these things go into shaping the voice of our organization. Right now we only have one associate writing the blog. Should I be writing in the first person singular or first person plural? Since, I am representing the entire company I try to write in fist person plural. When in the future other team member start blogging how will we handle this. With multiple people generating content what rules will apply to make sure we don’t contradict each other?

All of this leads to one of the most important steps in the development of a social media strategy the development of the policy statement. Social media is a very personal form of communication. That is what creates the value for your organization. You want your associates to be free to express themselves in a genuine manner with customers but you need to establish guidelines.

Brian Solis goes into more detail in this blog post “The Social Media Style Guide: 8 Steps to Creating a Brand Persona” The main thing to remember is the voice of the organization should be the same regardless of the medium used.

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Spreading your message through social media

What could you do with thousands of customers eagerly waiting to hear about your latest product or service? That is what you have when you build a loyal following in social media. The next goal of social media is spreading. At first glance this may look similar to energizing and it is. With energizing you are encouraging your customers to evangelize for you with spreading you are developing the message and sending it out. This is the closest to traditional advertising’s push mentality as social media gets.

As much as we evangelize engagement with your customers there are times where you just want to send out a single message to the customers. If you have a loyal following they may pick up your message and spread it. For many marketers this is the most comfortable form of communicating with customers. This may make them think it is also the easiest and most effective.

That is where the problems start. Users are flooded with information on social media sites everyday if they are following you they expect you to add value to the stream. If all your company does is broadcast press releases you will lose your followers quicker than you can attract new ones. So you must provide content your followers find helpful and worth sharing. This is when if you’re lucky your message goes “viral”. But be careful a viral message by definition is spreading without your control. How people receive and interpret your message is important. Building on a core association the public has with your brand is important to convert a click to a sale. The spreading goal should be used sparingly and in conjunction with other social media goals to be most effective.

Maple Seed Marketing can help you determine when to push the message on your customers and when to allow them to pull the message from you.

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Is it really social?

By now you have probably seen the Old Spice Guy, Isaiah Mustafa, You Tube commercials. In a series of videos all shot in one day old spice responded to various posts and comments from a variety of social media sources. This video of the Old Spice Guy for Alyssa Milano is one of my favorites. It even spawned three follow ups from the Old Spice Guy and a response from Alyssa Milano. This campaign has gained Old Spice a lot of praise for a creative use of social media. Although the campaign was based on a social media tool kit was it really a social media campaign? I don’t think so.

It used name dropping of famous and not so famous people in creative ways allowing it to generate a massive amount of exposure but, it did not succeed in building a connection between the brand and the its customers. In many ways this is just an extension of classic marketing techniques. Now, look at it using the D.A.R.T framework from co-creation of value, which is what Maple Seed Marketing uses as its barometer for a social media campaign. Except for the Alyssa spots very little dialog really occurred in this campaign. No additional access was created. Risk for the consumer was not reduced and it was actually increased for Old Spice. Finally transparency was not increased no new insights were gained about how the product was developed or how the consumer uses the product. So what does that say? In my opinion this is not a social media marketing campaign. A creative and original campaign yes, a social media marketing no.

As a result the campaign has not been as effective as it could have been. This recent Yahoo News article shows that Old Spices sales have actually declined since the beginning of the Isaiah Mustafa campaign. Is this because the campaign isn’t social by our definition? Probably not but it is a good reminder that just because you generate a lot of buzz you may not actually increase your sales.

Earlier I mentioned that this campaign actually increased the risk to Old Spice. And in this case Old Spice got lucky, in her response to the Old Spice Guy; Alyssa Milano challenged him to make a $100,000 charitable contribution to gulf coast clean up. P&G the parent company of old spice has politely declined her challenge. P&G declined the challenge by having there PR firm contact Alyssa directly. I think this is a huge missed opportunity. Alyssa posted a very nice blog post on why they will not be making the donation. In their response P&G highlighted all of the charitable good they are already doing. Which is a legitimate reason no to rise to the challenge. But, what if instead of sending their PR firm behind closed doors to Alyssa to say no they had the Old Spice Guy respond? There are a lot of reasons not to do this as well but I think it would have been worth the risk. For the most part P&G will get past this without any damage to their reputation as the news cycle has already moved on, but what if Alyssa had decided to make an issue of their refusal to her 949,705 twitter followers?

UPDATE: July 29 2010
Advertising age has a nice article on the effectiveness of the Isaiah Mustafa campaign here. Although there is still a lot of questions surround this campaign my point still stands that it could have been better if it were truly social.

Posted in Co-Creation, DART, News, Social Media, twitter, youtube | Leave a comment

Only boring companies need advertising!

The title of this post is borrowed from somewhere but I can’t find the source right now. But that does not really matter right now; what matters is that for the most part the statement is true. The next goal of social media marketing, energizing your customers, shows why this true. If you have an energized customer base they will do you advertising for you. This does not mean you don’t have to do any advertising but you may be able to do more with less.

How many times have you asked your friends what or where to buy a product? With social media the number of people any one consumer can reach with this question is expanding every day. Customers that will advocate for you don’t just appear because you initiate a social media campaign. You still must provide the products and service to build loyal customers. However, continuing to engage your satisfied customers through social media will make them more likely to advocate your brand and more importantly using the information you provide.

Co-Creation of Value and Objectives

Typically it will be your most loyal fans that will follow you on a social media site. This gives you the ability to influence what these loyal fans are saying. If you let them know about a new product or service first they are going to be the ones to go out and share you message. So instead of develop in a new advertisement with a couple of quick posts you can unleash the power of your fans. Just remember you still have to cultivate a critical mass of loyal fans before this strategy can succeed.

Energizing your fans ties back to our favorite topic of co-creation of value and the D.A.R.T. framework. Energizing your customer base is primarily about reducing risk. The loyal customers who will become your advocates during an energizing campaign work to reduce the risk of other to purchase you products. By eliminating one more barrier in the customers mind you are more than likely to make a sale.

People will not advocate for things they find boring. Contact us and we can discuss how Maple Seed Marketing we can help you energize your fans!

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Does your company have a place at the table?

The next item on the objectives wheel is talking. The first step in engaging your customers is talking to them. You may talk to customers everyday on the phone, in the office or on the sales floor and at its heart this is what social media is all about interacting with customers. The difference is in the social media realm the conversation is recorded and available for all to see. This makes the conversations infinitely more useful for your customer and for you.If we return to our post “Hitting the bull’s eye with co-creation” and apply the D.A.R.T framework to talking we can begin to see the advantages for the customer. The first is clear talking to customers in a social media space creates dialog. Because this dialog is in an open environment the dialog does not have to be just between your organization and the customer but it can also be between your customers. This gives the customer greater access to information. Because they no longer have to listen only to you but can received feedback from other sources reducing their risk. This forces your organization to be more transparent because if you do not provide the information that the customer is looking for someone else will.

Co-Creation of Value and Objectives

Many organizations do not react to the pressure for increased transparency by talking to their customers they slip into the old media marketing mode and try to control the conversation. Just look at Apple’s response to a recent Consumer Reports article about reception issues with the iPhone 4. Now apple has a dedicated fan base and they believe they can continue to act in this manner. How long can Apple keep this approach up? Will they lose customers over time as a result? It would be much simpler to directly address the concerns of consumers than try and sweep them under the rug.  If instead of deleting the post Apple provided transparency into their efforts to fix the issue the engadget article would be much different and highlight Apple’s positive customer relation. By avoiding talking to its customers Apple comes of heavy handed.

It is very clear how powerful this conversation can be to enhance or degrade your company’s image.  How you manage them is critical because in the modern world these conversations are going to happen with or without you.  Maple Seed Marketing Can you help you find a place at the table and join the conversation.

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You need to listen to what your customers are saying.

There are many reasons to engage in social media. In a recent webinar on B2B sales using social media Forrester Research listed the following six objectives for Social Media Campaigns: listening, talking, energizing, spreading, supporting and embracing. We of course would add on co-creation which is a combination of all six. Each of these six objectives requires time and resources to achieve. All businesses have limited resources and the more of those resources you apply to a single objective the more successful you will be. Maple Seed Marketing is here to help you choose the right objective for your organization and then identify the resources required to be successful.

Co-Creation of Value and Objectives

Social Media Objectives

In a series of blog post we will discuss the value of each of these six goals. First we will highlight the value of listening to the social media stream generated by your customers. Social media is a constant flow of conversations between current and potential customers. By listening to this conversation you can gain insights into your organizations strength and weakness and identify opportunities to enhance your connection with customers.

While developing a project proposal for a potential client in the pet industry we performed a quick scan of insiderpages.com and came up with the following to reviews one for our client the other for a competitor. All names have been removed from the reviews.

Client:

“I was at #### to pick up some fish and supplies for my aquarium. It’s a small setup but they seem to have most fish you could possibly want. All their fish are really healthy, didn’t see a single unhealthy one In most OTHER pet stores I find at least a handful of fish with visible signs of Ick or other diseases.

All the staff are really friendly. ****** the owner was there the last couple of times – very helpful, honest and really knows his fish.”

Competitor:

“If you have ever heard horror stories about buying pets from pet stores they are TRUE! <><><> may seem like they are a reputable place but they are NOT! I bought a 4 month old Boston Terrier from <><><> and he was very sick. He had a congenial disease called mega esophagus which cause him to regurgatate after every meal. So my question is how did <><><> never notice in ALL the time they had [][][] never notice he threw up after every meal????? HORRIBLE!”

Both stores are about the same size.  Each store only had a few comments so a full picture can’t be obtain from one site. But insiderpages.com is one of the sites used by google when it displays customer reviews as part of a search result. Which review would you want for your business?

How can you use this type of information to improve your business? That is the real value of social media listening. The client now has an opportunity to promote what it is doing right or show why it is superior to the competitor in the care of its animals. Now this is information that can be obtained from talking to customer directly but with social media you receive and unfiltered opinion. Maple Seed Marketing can help you develop strategies for monitoring the social net and reacting to the knowledge gained.

Posted in Co-Creation, Social Media, Yellow Pages | Leave a comment

Your organization needs social media.

We’ve been thinking about this blog post for some time. The original title was “Does your organization need social media?” When we first thought about it we were going to write about how not every company needs to use social media. We know we are a social media marketing firm and we were going to write a whole post on why your business does not need to use social media. Probably not the best move but the thing is we want out partners to understand what social media and co-creation is and how it can help them. For many organizations the amount of time required to successfully participate in social media is not worth it. That was until the rise of @BPGlobalPR on twitter as a reaction to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

@BPlobalPR is a spoof account on twitter that makes snide comments while pretending to be a real BP PR representative. Last time we looked @BPGlobalPR had 151,945 follows. Now let’s compare this to the verified @BP_America account with 13,704. A fake account has 10 times as many followers as the real company. There are many reasons for this but one of the biggest is BP did not have a strong social media presence prior to the oil spill. BP’s last tweet was a month before for the oil spill. So like many companies BP had entered the social media space but had mostly abandoned it until the crisis.

This illustrates two important aspects of your social media presence. First you must build the goodwill and connections with your customers before something goes wrong. Second you must maintain that connection once it has been established.

Flower

Hopefully none of you will ever be in a situation where your organization is facing overwhelming negative press but if you have built these relationships ahead of time people will be more willing to support you. Building positive social capital with customers is not just helpful in crisis management it allows you to build loyal customers who will advocate for you brand. Maple Seed Marketing is here to help you develop a sustainable social media strategy that is easy for your organization to maintain and grow.

Update:Mashable has an interesting article on BP and twitters request to @BPGlobalPR to clarify that it is a parody site. BP and twitter to @BPGlobalPR:tell them you are a joke.

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Hitting the bull’s eye with co-creation

The focus of co-creation is the development of engagement platforms. So how do we develop the mindset of developing affective engagement platforms? A good acronym to keep in mind is D.A.R.T

DialogHitting the target
Accessibility
Risk
Transparency

Whenever you are looking at an engagement platform you ask the following questions.

Where / how can we improve Dialog?
Where / how can we increase Access to tools and information?
Where / how can we reduce Risk on engagement between both sides?
Where / how can we induce more Transparency?

The answers too many of these questions will overlap and enhance each other. The goal is generate new experiences, lower risk, and increase profits. By delivering products and services that better meet the needs of your customers. Using the co-creative mindset to engage with customers through social media will give your business an edge over the competition.

These first two post on co-creation are the core concepts that Maple Seed Marketing uses to integrate co-creation into social media marketing. To learn more about co-creation visit Experience Co-Creation Partnership.

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What is Co-Creation of Value?

Co-Creation of value is an organizational mindset. Although traditionally thought of as occurring between the organization and the customer co-creation of value can happen anywhere there is an interaction between people.

Before we go any further lets define co-creation of value. Dr. Venkat Ramaswamy of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan defines co-creation of value as follows.

Co-creation of value is the use of engagement platforms and an experience mindset to create mutual value.

There are two main ideas in this definition that need to be explored in more detail. The first question is what is an engagement platform? The engagement platform is the environment where the organization meets the customer. In the physical world this can be a retail store, a call center or anywhere two way communications can occur between the organization and the customer. In the digital world a similar definition applies anywhere your organization connects with its customers is an engagement platform. This could be your website, message, boards, cell phone application, blogs, email, facebook, and twitter just to name a few. A few large corporations like Nike with its Nike+ system have gone so far as to develop their own digital environments to collaborate with consumers. Co-creation is not only about developing the environment for the customer to interact with our organization but also developing and environment for customers to interact with each other.

The second question is, What do we mean by an experience mindset? An experience mindset starts with the voice of customer and takes it to the next level. By looking at the environment from the customer’s point of view but also from our employee’s point of view we can develop and engagement mindset. This mindset requires us to develop the user experience from all sides of the interaction to maximize engagement between the firm and the customer and almost as importantly the customer and the customer. This simple definition is the key to success with social media marketing. Historically marketing has focused on leveraging the core competency of the organization to craft a message and deliver a product to the consumer at a price that maximizes the economic benefit to the organization. This is still a valid goal of marketing but with the rise of social media, marketing can do so much more.

Dr. Ramaswamy work on co-creation which this post is based has had a major influence on the thinking of the Maple Seed marketing team. We highly recommend his book with C.K. Prahald, The Future of Competition where the idea of co-creation was first discussed.   In addition look for The Power of Co-Creation by Venkat Ramaswamy and Francis Gouillar to be released in October 2010 for great case study’s on the power of Co-creation.

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