Thursday, January 12, 2012 | Posted by: Alex Connock
Categories: Media sector, Technology sector | Tags: business, Alex Connock, strategy, Twitter, social media, Facebook, Google, marketing, content, SEO, business drivers, social business, real-time, content marketing, search, GooglePlus
Like it or not, your company now has a permanent +1 in every customer interaction – via social media. How can you deal with that? Alex Connock reviews the 2012 social media, search and content marketing landscape and offers some advice for business leaders on how to navigate it…
This year is going to be the smash-hit year of social websites. Facebook could be the biggest flotation of all time. LinkedIn has cracked Asia. China’s Weibo – similar to Twitter – claims more than 400 million users. Use in Russia of Twitter tripled in 2010 alone, and they also have the huge social networking site Vkontakte. Social media spending was about 10-12% of total advertising budgets in 2011, according to an excellent Kantar Media report.
Most significant, the hitherto listless Google+, with some 450 million users, is starting to integrate +1 social into the main search through an option called Your World.
That means Google results will show what people say about your company to people they know. Customer feedback will be built into your search results. In consequence, I’ve already visited agencies selling +1 links right now over the counter, like sweets. They talk about the vintage of a Gmail account, with more mature ones carrying more weight in results.
What should a business do with all that? Such is the pace of evolution and industry analysis that you could literally pick a new answer every 10 seconds. So instead, here are some questions to ask.
1. Am I always on?
Traditional marketing was a cycle. Formulate the mission, review the position, research the plan, implement strategies. Then switch off for a bit, play golf, have a glass of Tio Pepe and watch the sales roll in (or not).
A social campaign is completely different. You get 20 million people to follow your fan page – and if you ever stop engaging with them or showing them fun stuff, they’ll take offence. “It’s like inviting people to a party, and then leaving early,” is how one Facebook exec puts it.
So is your company’s marketing light always on? Take a look at the stylish and cross-social-media job Peroni is doing using Tumblr and Facebook – and see if there is anything to borrow. Peroni is managing it in large part with barely a mention of the beer.
2. Am I listening?
KLM answers every customer Twitter message personally, within one hour, 24/7, in Dutch or English. Customers can ask anything about their travel and KLM will tell its followers the news.
In fact, ‘Chief Listening Officer’ is something a lot of big companies now plan, alongside the marketing boss. Some are even deploying the whole staff. BestBuy (an American electronics chain) apparently gives store workers BlackBerrys to respond instantly, night or day, to any customer query anywhere, via Twitter.
Dell even famously has, since late 2010, a NASA-style Social Media Listening Command Center. Apart from the oxymoronic combination of listening and command, it seems to be working. Average daily mentions of Dell on Twitter alone allegedly have a greater reach than the combined circulation of the top 12 daily newspapers in the United States. Said Michael Dell: “It represents the next broad step in our efforts to stay connected to our customers around the globe.”
3. Am I using the social bit?
Go to Amazon, click on your Amazon link above the search box, and use the Facebook Connect on the right-hand side. You get a personalised Amazon experience: your Facebook friends, what’s popular with them, and recommendations for movies and books based on your profile data. That’s smart. Can the same be done with any company’s website?
Or from a business point, look at the difference between a restaurant that engages with TripAdvisor, and one that doesn’t. Friendly commentary from the management on critical client appraisals, done within the hour, makes all the difference. It shows you care.
4. Is my content any good?
“It has been predicted,” by Forbes Magazine this week “that 2012 will be the year of content.” The piece urges content providers to cash in. It’s a very different take on monetising content than you would get from most miserable newspaper/magazine publishers, beaten up by the internet. I’ve covered the opportunity here before in my media trends forecast 2011-2020 but because of the need to engage with great content, PR and advertising agencies are rapidly becoming content producers.
Good content is subjective – but you know it when you see it, because it just works, in the classic showbusiness sense. Taste aside, Victoria’s Secret is in a league of its own for the impact of its branded online/TV. Diesel’s brilliant Skateistan was hard to beat. Red Bull is consistently strong.
So whether you are running a restaurant or a haulage company, what is the holistic journey that people are going on across all the iterations of your company online? Does it all mesh? Web agencies report global companies consolidating their web offers into single websites with single messages so as to wipe out content differences across sites.
5. Are staff on social media just wasting my time?
We all know managers who ban social media in the office on the basis that it is a ‘waste of time’. But is that position possible to maintain when social media is about the creation of a sales network?
The cause célèbre of PhoneDog sueing ex-employee Noah Kravitz for keeping the 17,000 Twitter followers he amassed while at the company points to the opposite analysis: social media is value generation. The company argues the followers are actually worth specifically $2.50 each. The ex-employee argues he did all the legwork and actually gained them. The fact of the case existing at all suggests agreement all round that networking online means sales opportunities.
6. Do I understand the power of search results replacement?
I’ve met several people recently who are making a black hat living out of – to all intents and purposes – the opposite of SEO (search engine optimisation).
They are de-optimising negative content in search results. It’s legal but pretty crafty: look at the key search terms that are featuring in a negative article (say a libellous one about a celebrity); replicate those same search terms in new article, only one that says the reverse (‘He was cleared of all charges’); optimise the hell out of that new article by pointing to dozens of sites, Yahoo! Answers, Google +1 accounts and so forth at it.
I’m not going to say you should do that but what comes up on the first page of Google results for your company is probably the most-used telling of your corporate story, so it had better be correct. And if you don’t like it, at least use the powerful platforms, such as YouTube and Vimeo, to put a video of you explaining the business properly there instead.
7. So do I take a +1 tonight?
Misanthropes rejoice: people are just not talking on the phone as much any more. The Economist reported that in 2002 the average Japanese mobile user spoke 181 minutes each month. By early 2009, it was down to 133 minutes. The difference? Social networking.
With that much going on, isn’t that a +1 you’d take?
Alex Connock is a visiting fellow at the Reuter’s Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, Entrepreneur in Residence at INSEAD and founder of digital content company Pretend.
Image adapted from: (CC) Magnet 4 Marketing dot Net/Flickr
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