Check em out!

Back in the 1970’s, I enjoyed watching Hawaii Five-0.  Steve was the boss and he’d routinely ask Danno and Chin to “check em out” — investigate the person, company or organization. They had their sources. Can you imagine what tools they’d use today? They go right for the smartphone and social networks, quickly solving crimes in many cases.

The same could be said for purchasing managers. Their jobs’ requirements haven’t changed much from the 1970’s, but their tools sure have. The whole process has gone electronic and more direct, for sure. But how do you “check em out?” Would you believe social media is making an remarkable change there, too?

You better believe it. According to a survey presented by DemandGen Report,  the impact is very real:

The survey also showed the growing influence social media, blogs and other Web 2.0 tools are having on the BtoB buying process. A majority of respondents said Twitter and LinkedIn influenced their decisions during the “Solution Analysis” and “Problem Identification” phases. Nearly 90% indicated that blogs impacted their research during the “Solution Analysis” phase and 3 in 4 respondents said social bookmarking sites such as Digg and Delicious were utilized during the early Analysis phases.

“The early survey results validate what we have been seeing in our own business as well as through the results of our customers,” said Scott Mersy, VP of Marketing at Genius.com, the sponsors of the survey.  “There is a lot of research and conversations taking place outside of the traditional sales funnel and BtoB companies can realize greater revenue by reaching out and responding to these interested prospects.”

BtoB buyers are also increasingly interested in sharing their experiences after they have completed a purchase, with more than 60% of respondents indicating they shared the learnings from their research and buying process with others after the fact. One-on-one discussions were the most common platform for sharing insights, but blog postings and participating in discussion forums on LinkedIn and other social sites represented a growing area.

I believe it.

Let me give you an example. Say, for instance, you’re in Terre Haute, Indiana, and you’re asked to find a good source for truck parts. One of your colleagues suggests Andy at Illiana Truck Parts, so you “check em out” on the Internet. Google it and you get the usual, including the company’s site.  Oh, but the second link is to The Fastline Blog and a story on “The Cleanest Junkyard You’ve Ever Seen.”

Interesting post. Seems like a nice guy — somebody I’d buy from.

Andy Nickel, President of Illiana Truck Parts

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Real Social Media Research

Should you put up a Facebook page for your organization? Is it worth it? Well, that depends on a lot of factors, but the answer is YES.

Nielsen and Facebook presented a joint study at ad:tech San Francisco 2010, entitled “Advertising Effectiveness: Understanding the Value of a Social Media Impression.”

The study was based on opt-in polls of more than 800,000 users on Facebook pages, using Nielsen’s BrandLift research methodology to measure consumer attitudes on more than 125 ad campaigns. It found that ads with social media context, defined as “lightweight endorsements from friends displayed within the ad units,” increased ad recall by 1.6 times that of ads without the endorsements; increased brand awareness by 2.0 times; and increased purchase intent by an unspecified amount.

Get a copy of the report here.  It proves an integrated approach among all media — paid, earned and social — can work hand-in-hand in generating the kind of brand awareness we marketers strive for. The study has implications beyond Facebook.

Another study, released as a free eBook by Shabbir Imber Safdar and Shayna Englin, gets into real detail from a non-profit’s persepective. “Is Your Nonprofit Facebook Page Worth It?” uses a real world example, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

Nonprofits need to answer a few simple questions to justify the time and expense they’re investing into maintaining a presence on Facebook:

  1. How effective is the work I do on Facebook in producing bottom line results for the organization?
  2. What should I be doing differently on Facebook to improve my results?
  3. Should I take resources away from Facebook and devote them to something else?

Unless you can answer these questions, Facebook will become yet another unproven checklist task you must do without justification because “everybody else is there”.

Both are worth reading.

Oh, and the image at the top of this post was used to produce this spot for the Palm Pre last year…

The Drumbeat of Social Media

Bet you can’t help but hear the drums of social media. If you’re in marketing, you’d better get used to it.  The drumbeats are getting louder and louder.  Can you keep a beat?

Seems many are getting it, with “social networks/applications” a top priority for top marketers, according to a study released by the Society of Digital Agencies, released last month…

Social Media is propelling the rise of the Consumer:

“Rather than spending another misguided year trying to “engineer” viral campaigns that will propagate themselves, regardless of consumer intentions, it’s time to refocus our marketing efforts to align with the way that people actually behave.” – Ivan Askwith, Big Spaceship

“2010 will be the year that social media-fueled technology and behavior is responsible for more content consumption choices than ever before. As the media landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, marketers will need to become more nimble than ever, and start getting on the leading edge of trends, as opposed to waiting for them to emerge.” – Ian Schafer, Deep Focus

“The most effective digital platforms have shifted from “disruptive” to “productive” by providing a service or utility…[They] fundamentally change the approach from “how we reach our customers” to “how we make their lives better.” – Ken Martin, Chief Creative Officer, and Ivan Todorov, CEO & CTO, Blitz

81% of brand executives expect an increase in digital projects in 2010, so it’s no surprise words like “social media” are included in almost every communicator’s job description. If not, it should be.

Social media gives marketers an alternate,  better way to communicate and interact with their customers, prospects and various publics (employees, investors, vendors and communities where they operate). This has become the norm for many successful companies and organizations. Some are doing it right, while others start, for example, a Twitter feed or a Facebook page and fail to update it consistently.

Thousands more have yet to realize the benefits, so I’d say the outlook for us “drummers” is indeed very interesting and exciting. What does every good band need? A drummer!

Boom-boom-boom.

Do Your Research

The difference between good and great work in marketing is good research. Those that do it right, using honest techniques and good sampling — then properly interpretting their findings — are the ones who become more successful.

Today’s press release from a Sage-sponsored study found small businesses are using social media to further their business:

The survey indicates that connecting with peers and customers are the two main drivers for small businesses to engage in social media. Moreover, entrepreneurs regard social media as an online extension of traditional word-of-mouth marketing and believe social networking will improve their image among customers and business partners. In contrast, 52 percent of respondents said that online security continues to be a top concern preventing them from embracing new social media technologies.

The study revealed that the age of a company has an impact on the triggers and drivers of digital social media. Whereas younger companies (less than 5 years) are more driven to adopt social media by peers (68 percent), competitors (49 percent) and clients (65 percent), older companies (more than 5 years) are driven to using social media by a desire to promote the company and its products (44 percent). The survey also found that younger companies are more concerned with finding business services and getting advice on starting and managing their business as compared to their older counterparts.

Interesting? Yes, it is.  How about a little “Research 101” here:  you need a decent sample size, and 151 respondents will satisfy a college-level research project, but not real life (in my opinion). Thanks to B-to-B for catching that…

The study was based on an online survey of 151 small-business owners, conducted in March. It found that 51% use social media to acquire and retain customers.

Another puffed-up press release.

Oragutans and Social Media

Some of what I’ve seen from mainstream marketing is mostly “monkey see, monkey do” when it comes to social media. “What’s your social media strategy?” is the question they get from each other and outside consultants. I’m amazed at how many companies remain as clueless today as they did five years ago (that’s approximately 20 years in Internet time). I disagree: it is not a “strategy.” Social media is another tactic in a well-planned, integrated marketing communications plan.

Last week,  Unilever CMO Simon Clift  gave an excellent presentation at the Advertising Age Digital Conference (reported as “What Orangutans Taught Simon Clift About Social Media” by Ad Age):

Mr. Clift acknowledged that in social media, Unilever — past digital accolades or no — has fallen back at times on the same one-way-communications mind-set it’s long applied to traditional media, only to learn that one-way communications are impossible. “We may be ahead of some of our competitors,” Mr. Clift said. “But we’re most definitely behind consumers.”

Case in point was the hijacking of “Onslaught,” Dove’s follow-up to the massively viral “Evolution” video, by Greenpeace, which produced a parody, “Onslaught(er),” that skewered Dove and Unilever for their role in razing Indonesian rainforests through their purchases of palm oil. Mr. Clift became aware of the issue when he saw Greenpeace protesters in orangutan suits scaling the walls of the company’s Lever House headquarters in London last summer. Ultimately the parody got 705,000 views to the original’s 405,000 — and helped lead Unilever to talk with Greenpeace and adopt new targets for sustainable palm-oil sourcing.

“The speed of change really has far outpaced our ability to accompany it,” Mr. Clift said. “I, for one, am in awe of the new challenges that the media revolution poses. But … I believe it can force greater change on the conventional marketing model than most people in consumer package goods actually believe.”

Today’s Forbes interview with Mr. Clift touched on social media:

How is Unilever using social media?

We’re extending a toe into social networking. We realize that it’s not up to us to determine the conversations. The consumers will determine the conversations, and the best we can do is be transparent. We’re working with the Rainforest Alliance to certify that Lipton Tea is environmentally responsible. So we invited some American and Canadian journalists to come pick tea at our farm in Kenya. The trip got lots of good coverage. But we found one blogger who was really skeptical and took issue with the fact that Lipton paid for the trip. So the Lipton brand manager logged on as herself and responded to him. It was a bit scary. And consumers were surprised that a real person joined the conversation.

Here’s the Greepeace hijacking:

And here’s the Dove video that went viral last year…

…and one of many parodies…