To succeed in social media, set aside your marketing plan

Forget your marketing PLAN?  Have I gone MAD??

Every good social media plan STARTS with a solid marketing strategy but social media efforts are sub-optimized if a company is too wedded to long-term plans and can’t respond to sales opportunities happening RIGHT NOW in front of their noses. To succeed, let’s put the long-term plans aside for a moment and consider a new way to think about and organize around the social web called REACTIVE MARKETING.   Let’s look at some examples …

Where’s the beef? A large restaurant chain was frustrated that the only thing that generated Facebook traffic was coupons.  And why not?  They had conditioned their customers to expect discounts every week!  Wait a minute. They were giving the customers money. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

I showed them a way they could tune into conversations through a simple saved Twitter search.  Immediately, they found hundreds of real-time needs from people looking for recommendations, or the best pub in town, or a place to take a date.  The chain had been too worried about planning next month’s promotion schedule while ignoring the real money-making opportunities of listening and responding, listening and responding.

Un-clog your blog. A B2B company has a content marketing plan that extended out for the next three months. Meanwhile, they had ignored a major market shift caused by a regulatory change. Instead of grabbing this opportunity to establish a voice of authority and educate their customers on the implications of this ruling, they adhered to this traditional mindset of sticking to a marketing plan while the real world passed them by.

Bring the heat. A local heating and air service company discovered a significant opportunity when they saw a series of tweets complaining about their largest competitor.  Responding to complaints that their competitors ignored opened opportunities to create loyal new customers. They are thinking of reducing their newspaper ad budget since this customer acquisition strategy worked so well.

Listen to me NOW. I sent out a tweet mentioning that I was in the market for a video camera. Within 20 minutes I had three tweets back offering specials on cameras.  While that seems like a good example of reactive marketing, none of the companies followed up with me after the first tweet.  Nobody closed the deal.  These companies organized their marketing efforts around the real-time opportunities of the social web but didn’t provide employees with the authority to go out there and actually sell me something.

Foursquare is still Bore-square. I’m still messing around with Foursquare although after several months I have yet to find any concrete value as a consumer.  But some day, I am going to “check in” at a retail location, an employee is going to address me by name, shake my hand and offer me a special deal for just checking in.  This would represent “reactive” marketing right at the point of sale. The social connection is not between me and somebody in a corporate office, it’s between me and the college student who is the department manager at the local retail tore.

Can you begin to see the opportunities?  The chance for connecting with new customers on the social web is not coming through a strategy document you just prepared for your CEO. It’s in connecting with people who need you RIGHT NOW!  It’s all about being reactive!

This presents dramatic implications for a sales and marketing department.

1) There’s a need to develop a culture with a discipline to tune-in, stay tuned, and react to market shifts and new competitive opportunities.

2) Here’s the big one.  You need to drive the authority to sell and react to the people on the front lines and establish appropriate goals and rewards for their reactive marketing efforts.

3) Every successful marketing tactic starts with a good strategy. I’m not advocating tossing out a marketing strategy. I’m suggesting that you adjust your plans to adapt to the real-time sales opportunities of the social web.

The largest brands understand this but I think this is an enormous opportunity for small and medium-sized companies. What’s your take? Have you seen much reactive marketing in your part of the world?

A lesson from LinkedIn: Crowdsourcing your education

Check this LinkedIn screen capture out. Isn’t that cool?  Makes me think … maybe there is some value to this social networking stuff after all. : )

Bringing down the Twitter snobs

It seems that Mitch Joel and I are becoming the Social Media Odd Couple.  I like Mitch. He’s smart. It’s just that I think he is so frequently wrong.

Like in his latest post, “Being a Twitter Snob is a Good Thing” when he states “it annoys many people when they follow you on Twitter and you do not follow them back. Too bad. Don’t do it.”

Mitch lives the life of a Twitter snob, exclusively following only the most select and obviously interesting people. His reasons:

  • It is a way to de-clutter a cluttered social media world.
  • Having select Twitter followers reflects better on your taste in connections
  • Having an appearance of exclusivity adds to your credibility

Before I respectfully rip Mitch a new one, let me provide two points about my own Twitter strategy:

1) I absolutely block any obvious spammers, MLM marketers and list-builders from my Twitter stream because I do not advocate these business practices. So to that extent, I am not a person who follows everybody.

2) It is a free world and you should follow any Twitter strategy that makes sense to you, including Mitch’s.

Now, having said that, Mitch my dear friend — You.  Just.  Don’t.  Get. It.

Reza Malayeri is exactly the type of person Mitch would not follow.  He is an unassuming employee of a Veterans Administration Hospital in Seattle.  He has a 147 Twitter followers, none of them are “A-List” by Mitch’s standards.

A couple of months ago, Reza sent out a random, funny tweet that made me laugh out loud.  We had an exchange of corny comments and soon I was looking forward to seeing him in my Twitter stream.  Reza made a real effort to connect by following my blog, commenting and sending me jokes.

Last week I spoke to Reza for the first time.  I found out that he is a disabled U.S. Veteran.  He is an awesome parent.  He’s helping out his father by putting a family business online after working all day at the hospital.  And after connecting with another member of the {grow} community, Arminda Lindsay, he was inspired to develop, sponsor and promote a Breast Cancer Awareness charity event in his hometown.

Folks, this man is a hero.

He is an A-List human being and I am HONORED and HUMBLED to be following him.

So my first point — There is an amazing person behind every single Twitter picture. Every single one.  Who is Mitch Joel or anybody else to judge who is on the A-List?

Reza and I are now helping each other in a number of ways.  We are creating new business benefits.  How did it start?  With a random, corny tweet.

Second point — Here’s the rule of creating relationships and business benefits through Twitter: You just never know.

You never know who will connect with you, you never know how they will connect with you, and you never know where it will lead. So why would you exclude ANYBODY?

To the Twitter snobberati, I honor your freedom to follow whomever you want, but kindly suggest you are missing out on the greatest networking opportunity in the history of mankind.  And Reza too.

 

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Bill Piper has no clue what he’s doing in social media

I have this new habit. When I’m alone on a long car trip I will put out a tweet asking people to call me and keep me company. It has led to some serendipitous benefits, including meeting Bill Piper.

Bill called me seeking advice — lots of advice! He had begun a new marketing assignment and admitted that he was over his head.   I’ve followed his rapid progress and he has graciously offered this guest post on his learning adventures in social media.  By the way, he came up with the headline too!  Here’s Bill:

Several months ago, I was handed the reins to my company’s digital brand.

I didn’t know what I was doing.  At all.

I’m a young marketer and enjoy social media for myself, but the most I knew about digital B2B marketing was that I could really blow it.  I work for a cutting-edge IT company, so our ambition was to do social media in the same manner: on the cutting-edge, and with excellence.

Starting from square one, I knew that I needed a solid plan with executable tasks and guidance from someone who had been where I wanted to go.  So I took Mark’s social media marketing class and learned a sustainable process to drive our desired business benefits (revenue) over the long haul.

We started implementing our strategy earlier this year with blogging, SEO, and a few social media outlets.  We haven’t done it perfectly.  It hasn’t been impressive.  But the thing is – it has WORKED!

We’ve secured sales leads, generated revenue, and solidified our brand recognition through social media.

I’m not an expert but I’ve outlined a set of principles that have worked, even when I had to work above my experience level.

1.       Make humility work for you.

For most of us, an honest and objective look at ourselves should enable an attitude of humility.  The difficult part is that it’s not always easy.  To be successful, figure out the people smarter and better at their jobs than you are and ask them lots of questions.  Who is the Mark Schaefer in your community?  There are lots of gurus out there but who can you work with who really knows what he or she is doing?  We all want to look smart, but asking for help and assuming a humble attitude of learning can be your biggest asset in developing your skill sets.

2.       Focus. Develop your skills one by one.

Given the breadth of digital strategies, there’s a lot of knowledge and savvy that goes into successful marketing.  What are the top three marketing skill sets you need to develop? Pick one at a time, get really good at it and move on to the next.  Starting out, I learned proficiency in SEO first, then blogging, and then Twitter, etc. and, I’m going to keep learning, too.

3.       Be committed and decisive.

With inexperience and uncertainty it’s easy to over-think things.  When faced with uncertainty, I found it important to make the best decision I could at that specific time.  I acknowledged that I didn’t know all the variables at play but would move forward expecting to make adjustments.  I couldn’t commit to being perfect, but I could commit to constant forward motion.

Which expert are you more like in your career right now: the expert champ or the expert chump? If you’re a chump, it’s okay.  You don’t have to be perfect in your social media execution.  We’re all still learning, and there are probably things I should be doing that I haven’t even heard about yet.   At the end of the day, though, I’m content with my ignorance-expert status as long as we keep getting results.

What has your journey been like?  How are you learning and growing in your job?

Bill Piper works in business development and marketing for Claris Networks, an information technology firm in Knoxville, TN.   You can follow him on Twitter at @billpiper.

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