Social Media best practices


Social web and new story-telling

Watch this video. It’s less than a minute long.

Would this story be told more effectively through

a traditional video of this couple?

a written story?

an audio podcast?

There is something about the way voice, type and movement make this a very effective way to tell a story.  Did you hear the girl gasp at the 10 second mark? It was almost more dramatic imagining her face instead of seeing it. Like a book.

Maybe something to think about. Are there ways to mash-up these social media technologies to tell your story in a new way? I wish I had time to play around with these ideas!

An interesting interview with SAP’s social media director

I pleased to present today an interview with William Robb, Director, Social Media Marketing for SAP.

SAP is the world’s largest provider of business software and the social media role is extremely complex. In addition to being a true B2B company, the many software users within these client companies act as consumers of the software and are essentially a B2C audience.  Although a global powerhouse, more than two-thirds of SAP customers are classified as small businesses and midsize enterprises (fewer than 2,500 employees).

If you want to see the social web serving communities in a powerful way, I’d encourage you to visit their site.  In my recent corporate blogging webinar, I cited SAP as best practice and the company is also a pioneer in user-driven training and support videos and the establishment of diverse and vibrant  user communities. Here’s Bill:

Bill, you hold a premier social media marketing position with one of the world’s largest companies. What’s your background and how did it prepare you for this role?

I worked at a full-service interactive agency for many years. We excelled in online direct marketing especially in B2B tech (Oracle & Sun were my main clients). I took a position at Cisco in 2005 in Global Demand Generation but while my colleagues were building traditional direct marketing programs, I was tasked with building the case that we could get greater return if our direct marketing was more customer-centric.

One of the guiding principles was to put our customers in control of our marketing. I built Relationship Email Marketing program that was more personalized, targeted, and often 20 times more effective than our traditional efforts.

With that guiding principle in mind, it’s not difficult to figure out how I ended up in social media marketing when a small team was assembled in 2007. Brand listening, crowdsourcing, etc. are all manifestations of that same idea. It didn’t hurt that personally I was a (relatively) early adopter and active participant in the social web. It’s much easier to understand your customers’ experiences when you’re familiar with the environment yourself.

You could connect to so many possible constituents through the social web. Customers, obviously, but also developers, partners, suppliers. How do you focus your efforts?

I sit in Marketing so end customers are the priority but “customers” at a company like SAP can comprise a variety of audiences (from CxO’s to developers). Depending on the product, audience, and objectives, we might focus efforts in technical forums for developers or build a thought leadership blog for a business audience.

The lame but honest answer is: it depends. Partners are also hugely important in B2B tech. Marketing’s role is typically in partner enablement, but at Cisco I developed a partner influencer program for a product group as a way to help amplify their launches.

Measurement is always a hot topic when it comes to social media. How are you held accountable for results at SAP?

We’re in Corporate so we’re responsible for the SAP brand in social. Our team is ultimately accountable for risk management so we’re doing our job well when there are 0 crises (i.e. detecting problems early and making sure they are addressed).

Otherwise, our objectives tend to be at the top of the funnel so we look at a variety of brand metrics such as competitive share of conversation in key solution areas and brand sentiment as a proxy for customer satisfaction.

At a more tactical level, our team manages the SAP brand social sites (e.g. www.facebook.com/SAPSoftware) where we track the typical interaction levels and drive-to-SAP metrics. On that front, we’re launching a pilot with a social media management tool (Sprinklr) that allows us to aggregate metrics for all SAP social sites and social media interactions. I envision this opening the door for some new measures that we’ll track.

Our bigger task is to measure more of the business impact of social and we are working on a unified view of measurement across three of the major groups engaged in SAP social strategy internally (Marketing, PR, and Communities). Stay tuned.

What has you most excited about your job right now?

Social CRM has some fascinating implications for marketing, sales, and service. As a social marketer, I enjoy thinking about how we need to organize and build processes to support it especially across departments. It’s a challenging but very rewarding part of my job. Working for a company that’s a player in the SCRM space adds yet another dimension to my interest.

You told me you really liked my recent post on busting social media myths. What myth would YOU like to bust?

It’s very popular for Social Media Directors at various companies to say this: “If we do this right, I won’t have a job in a year or so.”

OK, I can appreciate the idealism—social media is so important in so many areas of the business (internal and external) that it’s just going to be part of everyone’s job and having a social media “silo” is counter-productive to that end.  My career in marketing has shadowed the rise of the web and its offspring (email, search, social, mobile). These have fragmented the marketing mix to a level that requires deep specialization. And they evolve at such speed that it’s hard even for specialized practitioners to keep up.

Many marcoms still struggle with the complexity of online & email yet we’re expecting them to be social media strategists in 12-18 months too. I just don’t see it. You can build social DNA into every employee (and the business itself) yet still require a team of social media specialists who have deep expertise in the discipline — not to mention a more critical eye for bad behavior. I think roles like mine are going to be necessary for the foreseeable future.

Bill can be found on Twitter at @BillRobbSAP and on LinkedIn.

Can The Shirtless Old Spice Guy pull off a marketing miracle?

Unless you’ve been in a cave this week, it would have been hard to avoid the splendid, amazing and entertaining Old Spice media blitz, which includes brilliant ads and one of the best social media campaigns in the young history of the channel.

“Hello Ladies,” says the oh-so-manly Old Spice guy. “Does your man look like me?  No.  Can he smell like me? Yes.”

While the hilarious Old Spice ads have been an Internet hit on their own for months (5.5 million views), everything changed this week.

As TNW reports, the Old Spice social media team had secretly been collecting people’s – and especially celebrity – questions and responses across Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo Answers, and were preparing for this week’s all-day-video-shoot where Shirtless Old Spice Guy (Isaiah Mustafa) would provide video responses. This included providing a proxy wedding proposal (that was accepted!).

Literally, an over-night marketing legend was created (here’s a link to some of the stats).

I don’t need to re-hash the details of the campaign.  Instead I’d like to point out that this is an extremely rare example of a brand attempting to entirely re-invent itself.  To accomplish that, you need it all — vision, guts, brilliance, execution, and a lot of advertising money.

There have been plenty of others who have tried to go down this perilous path and failed (remember “it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile?”).  This drive to resuscitate Old Spice may go down as one of the most ballsy moves in marketing history.

Despite numerous attempts at an updated image, OldSpice was still languishing behind edgier brands like Axe. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been a fly on the wall when the ad agency (Wieden+Kennedy) made this pitch: “While the  historical Old Spice customer is an ulta-conservative white male in his mid-50s, we would like our new spokesperson to be a half-naked black man flaunting his manliness to women under 40.”  Sure, the social media is genius. But what I admire most is that they may have finally taken a quantum-leap toward achieving this:
Old Spice … the pungent, stinging stuff my DAD used to splash on his face each morning, is now a trending topic on Twitter, not to mention riding the top of Digg, Reddit and a ton of mainstream news stories. The story is all the more remarkable because of how awful Old Spice ads have been in recent years. Remember the “centaur” ad during the Super Bowl?

Another break-through aspect of this campaign is how a blue-chip brand truly integrated a multi-million-dollar mainstream advertising campaign with the social web.  Even recent successes like the wildly-successful Nike World Cup mini-movie seemed to occupy a special niche as a pure social media play.  Can you think of another high-profile example where the TV spokesperson is really interacting and responding to people on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube? This may be the start of real integration.

This social media campaign has built tremendous momentum in just a few days. Will this actually sell body wash?  What will happen to the brand’s core demographic?  Will we witness a true marketing miracle? Will the Old Spice Guy suffer from (ahem) over-exposure?

And now it appears that the social media onslaught has just as quickly some to an end. Today, the “Guy,” chainsaw in hand, says in a final tweet and video “like all great things this too must end.”  And then he catches a giant fish that falls from nowhere.

So what will happen next in this campaign? Some guesses:

  • Customer contributions to their own home-made shower commercials
  • Shirtless guy cameo appearances in real TV shows
  • Humorous , longer YouTube productions with how-to tips on how to be manly

What do you think?  I hope you’ll join me in appreciating this really special marketing campaign and tell me what you think about it in the comment section.

By the way, this blog post is dedicated to Arminda Lindsay (@AllArminda). Why?  Because she asked me to. You should know by now that I am basically the {grow} community’s personal blogger … kind of your word valet.   And Arminda wanted me to write about a half-naked black man.  So I did.

Why your company may not need social media

Let’s have some fun with my buns.  Cinnamon buns, that is.

One of the myths we recently discussed on {grow} was the claim that every business needs to use social media in its marketing strategy.

So what determines if the social web can be used effectively in any company?  One key is industry structure.

Marketers are actually quite limited in the number of options they have based on the competitive structure of their industry.  Social media is just one marketing channel, and its opportunity for use will be determined by the marketplace, not the hype you read on the Internet!

To illustrate this concept, let’s look at how four companies — with four very different competitive structures — may or may not use the social web to sell the very same product: cinnamon rolls.

Flat Rock Village Bakery, Flat Rock N.C.

The Flat Rock Village Bakery is a small, family-owned cafe that serves its customers wood-fired pizzas and artisan pastries. They have a single location in a tiny mountain town. Why would somebody buy a cinnamon roll from this bakery?

  • Convenience of central location amid relatively little competition
  • Ambiance of tree-lined community setting
  • Community involvement and reputation of the company
  • Consistent quality of artisan products
  • Appeal of non-chain, local ownership
  • Attentive Service

As a marketer, we want to increase sales by promoting these points of differentiation.  The social web can certainly enhance the reputation of the bakery but probably won’t significantly drive more traffic to this store — They essentially already have a captive audience. Their focus should be on increasing sales per customer at the actual point of purchase. What is their risk of NOT participating in the social web?  Low.

McKee Foods, Chattanooga, TN

Now compare that to a national bakery like McKee Foods whose Little Debbie brand is found in grocery and convenience stores throughout the country. Little Debbie will sell you a cinnamon roll based on

  • Low price, which is enabled by efficient operations and distribution
  • Large selection of products in a grocery store aisle
  • Coupons and promotions
  • Brand awareness
  • Consistent, but low-quality, product with a relatively long shelf life

Unlike the cozy competitive climate of the Flat Rock Bakery, competition in the grocery aisle is fierce and Little Debbie would ignore the social web to its peril.  The bakery giant can certainly use social media to:

  • Monitor customer conversations about its products
  • Build brand awareness cost-effectively
  • Coupons and promotions
  • Involve consumers in its brand
  • Create new products
  • Facilitate customer service
  • Monitor competitor activities

Can you begin to see how these dramatically different competitive structures influence marketing strategy?

Panera Bread, everywhere

Panera has built its successful business by establishing clean, bright stores that serve as community meeting places. You might drive to Panera to buy a cinnamon roll because:

  • It’s a spacious, convenient place to meet colleagues and friends
  • They have bakery-quality food at reasonable prices
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • A recognizable national brand with predictable quality

Panera faces a host of competitors offering similar value.  Compared to the first two examples, its business model is more easily duplicated, so finding ways to connect to customers is key.

There are lots of opportunities to do this through the social web, especially if it could master location-based apps like Foursquare that reward frequent visitors.

Cinnabon, a mall near you

Although Cinnabon also serves up cinnamon rolls — in fact that is basically ALL it sells — it represents a radically different competitive dynamic.

Cinnabon bases their competitive advantage on one thing — location — and the opportunity to sell you through an impulse buy. They are usually located in malls and airports so if you are hungering for a fresh-baked goodie, you really have no choice.

Their price point is set high, and they don’t need to use coupons or other promotions because they’ve got you right where they want you – captive.

They have a Facebook page and a Twitter account but is this where they should spend their primary marketing effort?  No.  As a marketer I would probably spend money on fans to blow the heavenly cinnamon smell out onto the airport concourse!

Putting this to use for your business

Obviously in the space of a short blog post I had to do a simplistic comparison to make a point. I realize the industry structures are more complex than what I present here.  Still, I think it’s a useful example illustrating the widely different dynamics in selling even a simple product like a pastry.

Where do you go with this as you make your decisions about social media?

  1. Begin with the fundamentals including market research, customer interviews and competitor analysis before jumping into any marketing initiative.  Spending money without knowing the competitive structure of your industry will create disastrous results.
  2. Use clear-eyed intellectual honesty when assessing the social media opportunities for your company. There is a natural tendency to want to climb onboard Facebook or YouTube because everyone else is … but take a hard look at what effort is going to be the most effective use of your resources.
  3. Look for channels that allow you to emphasize your competitive advantages and how they match customer needs.
  4. Measure every effort to constantly adjust your efforts to the changing marketplace.

What is the competitive structure of your business?  How many “stars” would you give your social media opportunity and why?

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