Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals

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Social Media – Beyond the Numbers Game

For too long, when brands have looked at their social media strategy they have been obsessed over their Facebook fan numbers or likes.  This is in part to prove their investment is worthwhile to their management teams or boards.  The other component to the equation is that of bragging rights.  I have sat in many meetings as an independent and heard many organisations talking Facebook and Instagram likes, albeit (I hope) by the way of banter, but it still adds weight to the value brands place on this as a measure of success.

Social Media Icons on a mobile

Social Media – Beyond the numbers

The key to social media success isn’t how many people like your page or posts.  A better success measure is how entrenched your social media activity becomes in your audiences every day life.  That may be through sharing, return visits, recommending or generating conversation.  For me social media can offer so much to both customers and brands, in fact the media half of the term is a little bit of a red herring.  Social Media is another digital channel, just as websites were when the web first gained momentum.

Of course, it isn’t just likes people talk about. A large number of brands will still obsessing over the number of fans, followers, friends or likers they have, now understand that they need people to interact.  With this in mind, they have started to measure what they deem engagement.  The standard ways most brands look at engagement is how many times a pic on Instagram has been liked.  How many retweets their post has had or how many shares their Facebook post has received.  All of which is interesting, but in essence, its not really engagement.  How many of us have personally, or have observed people just double tapping the insta post, without really reading or viewing the content properly.

For me, engagement isn’t even just about the buzz or sentiment we measure. It is about the genuine affinity our customers or social crowd feel towards us and/or their likelihood to recommend us.  This really can’t be measured through standard social metrics.  However, if we really do have a highly engaged Facebook page (for instance) then it goes without saying these people should eulogise about us, at least our content and hopefully also our brand.  With this in mind, our followings should increase on an organic basis.  So engagement in isolation isn’t enough.

However the crux of all of this text is, we need to start thinking beyond the numbers.  We need to care about them as we are targeted on them and often its what investment decisions are made of. But, we as profession, Marketing Professionals are increasingly worried about making marketing decisions without reams of data to support us.

Some things we need to do to help us grow, to accelerate growth is to make decisions that have no or little data.  If we only look back at data on what has happened, or compare ourselves to the success or failures of our peers we are instantly constraining our thinking and our ability to innovate.

If you as marketing people know your audience well enough, you should succeed.  If you as marketing professionals speak to your audience, they can help you succeed. If you as marketing professionals allow your audience to collaborate with you and help produce content, you will get what they want and they feel bought in. In theory that should bring even more success and a feeling from content providers they are part of your brand.

Remember one key thing for your social channels. Be credible.

Produce content that your audience will want to see. Engage and communicate with your audience to understand what they want. Work with your audience and they can help you produce what they want. With this in mind, I think we can look beyond the numbers of social media and produce better content, have better engagement and ultimately drive the numbers after all.

Love to hear your thoughts on this. Please feel free to challenge, critique argue or endorse by adding comments here or by tweeting my @richclarkmktg

 

 


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Worth A Comeback?

Worth A Comeback?

I haven’t been looking at this blog for quite some time now.  I have been concentrating on the successful launch of Music Eyz and helping others with their approach to their content and social media.

Its been over two years since my last post and the world has come a long way, both the real world and the digital world.  The economy has gone through a recession and appears to be out the other side.  London has hosted a “really successful” Olympic Games and Man Utd aren’t the best football team in the country any more.  (Before anybody says it, yes I know Spurs aren’t either).

The things is, whilst there has been a lot of change in the real world, the digital world has evolved at an alarming rate.  The mainstays of digital marketing PPC and affiliates, whilst still important, are being rivaled.  The world of content, on-site merchandising and social media are massive tools in every digital professionals armoury.

Image of Word content made of dice

Content is King

Whilst their can be many explanations for the rise in importance of the newer disciplines, the two key ones for me are Google and customers.

Either way, one of the reasons I stopped blogging was because, in my view, there was little value to be added to the discussions around the main digital acquisition channels.  Yes my experience is extensive and some people may have found the insight interesting or even useful, but you could get that from anywhere.  My inspiration for a comeback is that very few people have produced great content relating to content, merchandising and genuine views on the commercial aspects or quality of Social Media.

Now this post isn’t meant to be self-idulgent.  This post is genuinely to get my thoughts and potential direction of the blog on a screen.  Just to see if this makes sense and is “Worth A Comeback”  If you are reading this, I would love to hear your views.  Do you think I should kick this off again?  Do you agree about my sentiment around a lack of quality resource in this space? Am I wasting my time and yours?

I may just do it anyway, but would be great to hear from you all.

But in the words of LL Cool J, “Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years”

LL Cool J Mama Said Knock You Out

LL Cool J Mama Said Knock You Out

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What Happened to Foursquare?

Whilst considering approaches for our clients Social Media strategies, I was doing the usual thing of wondering what platforms would suit their customer base and of course the objectives of their activity.  At one point last year people were heralding the dawn on a new era.  Social Media was finally finding its feet and earning its commercial water wings. Not in a traditional digital marketing sense, but in a multi-channel sense.  What was driving this, the advent of Foursquare.

Foursquare Logo

Foursquare was the new thing we all needed to get excited about.  Taking people’s passions and love for social media and melding itwith their new found love with smartphones and a pinch of real-world and the ingredients were there for a winning combo.  Or so we thought.  This view was backed up by the decision in August 2010, at Facebook to launch their Foursquare killer, Facebook Places.

Easy to say it now, but I remember sitting in the offices at Best Buy and being quite cynical about the whole thing, while others were raving.  Whilst I didn’t doubt the concept of blurring social with real world, my belief was that this would have to be simplified to the extent the user wouldn’t have to do a thing and there was a sufficent reward for them doing so.

For a while I did doubt my own wisdom.  I signed up to Foursquare, after all, if you’re in the industry thats whay you do.  I had Google Wave, Google Buzz, Bebo, MySpace etc etc log-ins but no idea what they are now.  More and more contacts started popping up.  Note I used the word contacts.  It seemed to get quite noisy and then ther integration with Twitter came about and my timeline got loaded with people checking in to shops, sports grounds and fast food outlets.  Frankly it got a little annoying.  The point of the word contact was, most of the interactions were by people I knew in digital or technology, with a few friends who were early adopters.  None of my proper friends could be bothered.

The rewards on offer at the likes of Foursquare just aren’t interesting. Pretty juvenile really becoming the mayor of HMV in Oxford Street.  Apologies to all the various Foursquare mayors I have just offended.  I read with interest the fact that Facebook was closing its Places service, whilst it isn’t completely backing out of geo services it does show that its not the Xanadu some thought it would be.

Maybe Facebook just got it wrong and Foursquare demolished Facebook places.  Ironically the biggest boost Foursquare got to its numbers was when Facebook announced its Places service.  In terms of people looking for Foursquare on Google it would appear that the search volume has already peaked.  The August 2010 Facebook announcement got it mainstream and created the big boost, the numbers levelled but still at a higher than pre-announcement.  Foursquare also had a second boost around April this year when Amazon announced its servers had taken out both Foursquare and Reddit.

Google Trends view on Foursquare search volume

Google Trends view on Foursquare search volume

The light for Foursquare is that although things haven’t really sparked for them in the UK or Europe in general, they are big on technology advanced Asia and the population of Indonesia seem to be searching in their droves.  Some would say we need to treat Google data such as this with some scepticism.  Whilst I wouldn’t pass comment on that, even if you don’t believe the core numbers, the trend is still there.  Backed further by a quick search on Alexa.com where a similar story can be found.

Alexa ranking of Foursquare

The same pattern is true in terms of reach according to Alexa.  The April spike exists in April, but after that, the traffic drops back.  For me this demonstrates a lack of engagement with Foursquare.  Not complete lack of engagement, but low engagement on a relative base to the likes of Twitter and Facebook, its not to say it can’t happen.

My view is that there could still be a place for Foursquare or an equivalent service.  However they need to offer real value to users, something that makes users want to engage or embrace mobile technology to its fullest and minimise the engagement and actions needed in the physical world.  Foursquare and other services such as Gowalla still have a long way to go.  Once somebody has cracked it, the sector could ignite and present great currency for users and no-brainer commercial options for multichannel brands.

Remember the key to all of these platforms is mobile.  With this in mind we need to keep a watching eye on Google, with the rise of G+ and obviously the Android operating system gaining momentum, they could be in a good place to crack it.  If the minds at Google can work out what “it” is.


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Facebook Sponsored Stories How are they doing?

Back in the depths of winter Facebook announced that it was going to launch Facebook Sponsored Stories.  This sparked a lot of noise around intrusion of privacy, turning users/friends in to spammers and a number of other hysterical responses.  After the dust settled, the marketeers took to the web and initial views were quite positive, with many saying it was the natural evolution of Facebook Ads.  A recent review by industry mag NMA claim that Sponsored Stries are 46% more effctive than standard Facebook ads

Just in case you aren’t sure quite what Facebook Sponsored Stories are then here is my brief summary.  Sponsored stories are linked to friends timelines and they show a brand when that brand is mentioned by your friend on your news feed.  For example, if Starbucks were utilising sponsored stories and your friend mentioned Starbucks in their activity the ad (sponsored story) would appear.  The rule states that brands cannot control the story they can only associate with actions.  Here is an example unashamedly stolen from Mashable.  This news feed example is just that, advertisers can choose what actiosn they want to associate, e.g. specific actions in an app

Starbucks News Feed Story

How a story would look, followed by an example of a sponsored story

Starbucks Sponsored Story

As this demonstrates the sponsor (in this case) Starbucks doesn’t really interfere with the original message, which has meant user feedback to Facebook hasn’t been as negative as first feared.  The other positive behind Facebook Stories compared to Twitter‘s sponsored Tweets is that Stories is user-generated providing a lower feeling of intrusion, whereas Twitter’s version is Advertiser generated and in theory could and often has no relevance to the user.

The key point behind sponsored stories if you are considering them for your brand or clients is that they cannot link out of Facebook.  Consequently this isn’t a direct traffic driver to a latest offer you may have on your site.  However it can increase fans and engagement with your brand on Facebook.

The other benefit to page owners, is that not all your fans have the same privacy settings.  Just because somebody ‘Likes’ your page it doesn’t mean they will see all of your content.  Using the Starbucks example above if the user had put on their settings they didn’t want to see your photos, sponsored stories can associate those photos with that user, which means they will see them.

Perhaps the biggest issue users may have as more advertisers jump on Sponsored Stories is the fact that they can’t opt out and prevent their image being used.   The ony option is to click the X button and remvoe the story.

To clarify there are seven types of sponsored stories, we have detailed the type of Sponsored story – Story Content – Who sees the story:

1. Page Like – Somebody Likes Your Page – Friends of Your Fans

2. Page Post – Published a post from your page to your fans – Your Fans

3.  Page Post Like – One of your fans liked your post in last 7 days – Friends of the Fan who liked your post

4. App Used and Game Played – Somebody used your app or played your game twice in last month – User friends

5. App Shared – Somebody shared a story from your app in last 7 days – The sharers friends

6. Check-in – Somebody checked in and claimed a deal in last 7 days in your Facebook Places – The claimers friends

7. Domain – Somebody liked, shared or pasted a link to content on your site in past 7 days – The sharer’s friends

Based on the current reaction and the reported increase in effectiveness I would definitely consider using this as a tool.  Potentially at present to increase the Facebook following of a brand, however I’m sure as thigns evolve more options will present themselves.  This is obviously a personal view but it seems to be one that supports Facebook’s desire of not wanting to be seen purely as a DR advertising platform.  Their goal is to get their hands on some of that lucrative brand marketing cash that is still pretty much firmly locked in to established agencies and TV advertising.  Who knows this may help to break some of that stranglehold.


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Using Social Media in a B2B World

Without a doubt Social Media is a really important element of modern life.  Individuals use it to connect with friends, old acquaintances and even celebrities.  Organisations of all sizes are using the likes of Facebook to make contact with their customers.  This doesn’t appear to change, if anything Social Media is likely to play an increasingly prominent role, especially now that Google states it will use buzz as an influence in its ranking.

When I speak to friends who work in a B2B environment they often ask what can they use it for.  I am also asked the same question when I speak at conferences.

Despite the repeated questions on how should B2B organisations adopt Social Media a Bizreport study outlined some interesting and surprising statistics.  86% of B2B firms already have an active Social Media presence compared to only 82% of B2C companies.  However the same report suggests that those B2B firms aren’t making the most of their presence with 32% engaging with their base on a daily basis, compared to 52% of B2C companies.  This is backed up by the fact that 34% of B2B companies aren’t tracking their activity in any way either.

Gut instinct is the same as if I was in a B2C environment. Use the channels in the way they should be used and create approaches that are right and targeted to your audience. The key thing I would advise anybody to do first however is understand why your business should be in Social Media and what is your aim of being there?  Can you offer the audience something they can’t get elsewhere or provide them with a point of view they don’t easily get.

Once you have defined your sense of being (in Social Media terms) you should integrate it into both your overall business processes and your overall Marketing strategy.  The reason for doing this is to ensure it becomes a part of your everyday activity in your business, automatically enabling you to avoid the pitfall of engaging in the stats in the report.

Perhaps more importantly in B2B than in B2C you really need to define what each channel will be used for.  That being said this is still an important factor in B2C however there is also more of an overlap of channels for B2C.  Remember, just because all the buzz and scale is with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube you may decide that one or all of these channels are not suitable for your business.

A key part to any social media strategy is the reason for being.  Offer your customers something to engage with, provide a currency that will ensure they want to engage with your company. This will be different depending who your business is, what it does and your position in your sector and with your customers.

For example, if you are perceived as an expert in your field then your strategy will be completely different to if you are purely a distributor of kit.  We need to take one step back to the start of that sentence, the key part is how you are perceived by your customers, not how you perceive yourself.  You don’t need to undertake expensive brand studies just generally ask your customers some new questions, unless you already know the answers.

Obviously in a B2B environment customers are often as concerned by the commercial aspect so if you are in a position to offer something unique for those that engage with you via social media (voucher codes or free services) that could provide a boost to your numbers, however that alone will not necessarily help you achieve your goals unless its a continued programme of activity that provides real additional value.

The whole ethos of being an expert provides real social media gold.  What can you give to your customers that will help interaction and engagement.  A great example is to provide content they wouldn’t get elsewhere.  A builders merchant could provide HowTo guides for builders on ways to save money and time on specific projects such as building a conservatory.

A distributor of electrical components could provide a service to the end user but as an aid for their B2B customers.  The distributor could provide a mash-up of the UK map which is fully searchable and links to electricians in their area, with examples of their work and testimonials.  The distributor in theory could also create income from charging electricians to appear on their platform if scale was achieved.

IT training companies could really demonstrate their expertise by providing a community and forum on their own website where their trainers can answer delegates questions on site and in theory offer clinics at agreed dates to really give in-depth support to their delegates.  This would really add ongoing value to delegates and support them and their employers further in to the lifecycle.

These were just some basic ideas that could be adopted and across a number of sectors.  If you are in a B2B environment, feel free to make contact and I can see if I can devise something specific for you.  Also check out this B2B Social Media infographic


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Social Brands 100 – #sb100

Some time ago I was informed that Best Buy had been nominated to appear in the Social Brands 100 list for our social media efforts in the UK. This was a great honour as the nominations had been sourced from the public.  I personally feel this is a good endorsement for all the hard work myself and the team have put in to make the impact we have had as a new brand.  Special shout has to go to my Social Media Manager, Graeme Cole who is busy on a well earned sabbatical at the moment touring the southern hemisphere. He is back soon.

To find out a couple of weeks ago that we finished fifth was massive for us.  To beat the likes of ASOS and Zappos is a great feeling.  In addition to being the only player in our sector to feature in the Top 100 is a great achievement.

So why have we been placed so highly? For the official answers and scoring criteria see the #sb100 report here.  From a personal perspective I feel we have tried to cover all the basis within social media.

1 On-site

We have created a core community platform that provides forums for customers and/or general visitors to talk about tech or general tech and entertainment related subjects.  In addition we are very transparent with customer service questions and requests for expertise. We rarely moderate and try to do so on a fair basis.

We also have an active blog base which covers, tech, entertainment and updates from Best Buy. I have personally covered the likes of Gadget Show Live and interviewed Suzi Perry and Ortis Deley.  Other great content includes coverage from the Brits and BAFTA ceremonies.

2 Reviews

Reviews come from both the well known aggregator Reevoo but also our own panel of TechXperts. These guys review the latest kit from Energy Monitors to the latest 3D TV.  The platform is also open for members of the public to upload their own video.

3. Social Platforms

We are active on all the major platforms, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  On each of the platforms we tailor the activity to suit the audience.  However we often run competitions, upload photos from events and provide updates and offers for our base.  Perhaps most importantly we encourage customers to ask questions and if need be, give us feedback, no matter how difficult it may be.  We always try to respond quickly and as thoroughly as we can.  We also do it from a personal perspective rather than as a company.

4. Social Commerce

In addition, as reported in NMA we also have a Facebook store, which allows our fan base to check prices, look at the latest kit all from Facebook.

This is just the start for Best Buy in the UK.  We have driven this growth organically without any advertising or promotion to speak of.  We also have a couple more ideas up our sleeves that could help customers engage with us further so watch this space.

Would love to hear what you think of what we have done so far and of course any ideas for the future.  Also, do you think we deserved the lofty position?

Just a final point, I would personally like to thank anybody that nominated us and thank the guys Headstream and the panel for their views and feedback.  Now we just need to aim for higher next time!


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Internet Impact on Music

The trend of music being owned via the traditional model of labels dictating play has been under threat for some time.  This has been moved when Napster was first formed as an illegal file (music) share service, all the way through to the massive business of digital music on the likes of iTunes and to a lesser degree the legal Napster.

The model for established artists doesn’t end there, with internet radio stations shooting up and the likes of Spotify meaning more channels are now open for signed artists, even if it is less traditional.  Some of the traditional artists have suffered but others have grown their fan base as a result.

The likes of YouTube have presented both opportunities and threats to artists and now the commercial models are more established, YouTube provide a huge reach for music videos, bigger than any TV station.  YouTube still needs to work on protecting copyright if it is to become a channel of choice and one where only official videos are rated and viewed.

MySpace is also a well established channel for music.  However many users have moved away from the platform due to its overtly commercial nature.  One of the most well-known early cases of a UK act making it via the Internet has to be the rise of the Arctic Monkeys. They were one of the first to make it big due their profile on MySpace and the active promotion they took off that base.  Culminating in hit albums, tours and awards, including being recognised by the coveted Mercury Music Award.

All of this is a lovely background, but what does this mean for the industry at large?

There are two main shifts, one being the major labels are losing some of the control over their artists.  Due to the higher number of avenues open to artists, they can also utilise more routes to market.  A number of newer acts are actually starting to push their music via social channels rather than performing all over the pubs and clubs hoping to get noticed.

For me the acts that embrace the channels in their true way, stand a great chance of getting out there.  If the acts engage with their fans, followers or friends then they will get a massive following. Facebook the acts should share pics, videos and updates.  They should also respond to comments.  On Twitter the acts should Retweet (just not too much) they should also message their followers when asked a question, Professor Green does this well.  This will provide a massively loyal following.

On any channel, You Tube included, the acts should supply something unique, maybe snippets of forthcoming tracks or accoustic versions.  One of the acts that has done this successfully at present is Duchess, an up and coming girl band.

For the marketeers in this area there are great options. Targeting is very easy. With Facebook for instance you can target fans or potential fans on geo-demographic factors but more interestingly on what they like.  This is a great option in terms of picking people with interests in your genre or looking at people who like similar or rival acts.  Twitter is moving along these lines as well with the introduction of sponsored trends, tweets and profiles.

Sites such as LinkedIn allow people in the industry to connect to others, bringing managers, agents together with record industry people.  It also allows bands to secure contacts with corporates and gain input in to areas such as styling, image and coverage.