Thursday, August 13, 2015

Further Down the Rabbit Hole [Marketing Segmentation and Big Data]

An e-blast from Sidekick [an add-on from Hubspot] just landed in my inbox with a link to this blog post. The post discusses a method to “hack” [figure out] someone’s email address when you need to reach them and have lost their address.
Read the comments for even more suggestions of how to find email addresses!
A couple years ago, my then-current employer brought in a social media consultant. As we started talking about Facebook advertising, he explained how he had helped a realtor sell a very specific property [a horse ranch], by using the segmentation criteria Facebook offers to set up ads that would only show to individuals whom: had the financial stability/income range to buy the ranch, were interested in horses, were actively looking for property, and lived within 50 miles of this property. The resulting audience was only about 5 people. However, one of the 5 bought the ranch.
Some people may be currently deleting their Facebook accounts and cleaning the cookies off of their computers as they read this, [and the examples above may have sparked some marketers to plan their next big campaign push] but the fact is segmentation and big data are our reality today.
So, how comfortable are you with the data that is available online about you?

Pew Research Survey published last year shows that sentiments are mixed:
In the commercial context, consumers are skeptical about some of the benefits of personal data sharing, but are willing to make tradeoffs in certain circumstances when their sharing of information provides access to free services.
  • 61% of adults “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the statement: “I appreciate that online services are more efficient because of the increased access they have to my personal data.”
  • At the same time, 55% “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement: “I am willing to share some information about myself with companies in order to use online services for free.”
I’ve written before about segmentation and big data, that when used ethically, is a marketer’s gold mine.
And, I doubt anyone can contest that there is a cultural shift going on, with segmentation and big data theories just emerging as commonplace in the marketing realm. Although the concept of big data has been around for years, Steve Lohr through the New York Times called out 2012 as the year “Big Data” went mainstream - just 3 years ago.
So why is it still surprising to many of us, myself included, when a new way of cyber-stalking [my tongue-in-cheek term for this shift] comes to light? Why are we still shocked when we realize who has profiles on us and how easy it is to gain insights about us online?
Photo Credit: Jeshu John

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Do Marketers Sell Their Soul? [Online Data Mining]

Do Marketers Sell Their Soul?

Last year Chris Chan wrote an emotional article on his thoughts about Facebook’s privacy policies and selling data.
It stuck with me and even a year later, I wonder if marketers are selling our souls for data.
As digital marketers, we walk a fine line every day.
I will be the first to admit I want my private life private. But when your job is to reach an ideal audience, and you want to do it the most successful way, gathering data on people and profiling is necessary.

It used to be marketing was a one-way conversation.

Ads, billboards, radio and tv commercials talk at people, without a response. Then came the internet. Things started to get loud. I’ve talked before about howloud the conversation has become.
Brand ad exposures in the 60s and 70s were limited. 
That was before the internet.
CBS quoted Jay Walker-Smith as saying we’ve gone from 500 in the 70s to 5,000 today. So, where I once could have run a TV commercial and hit 70% of my audience, I now have hundreds of channels to compete with, and YouTube, and Netflix, and Amazon, and...
The marketing game has changed. Our audiences are more spread out, in their own little niche corner of the digital age.

Enter data profiling and mining.

Before Facebook went public, people wondered how Facebook made money. If you were a digital advertiser, you knew. Google, Facebook, and every online behemoth collects data, strips out your name and resells that data. Do you want to target ads to upper income families expecting a child soon within 25 miles of your storefront? Easy. Facebook tracks and buys that data on people, then uses it to target your paid ads.
Ever wonder why, after shopping on Amazon, you can get incredibly customized emails about related products? Or the next time you’re on a news site, an ad for those shoes you were craving [but didn’t buy] shows up? 5 million people aren’t seeing the same ad for those shoes.
Thanks to the buying, selling, sharing and tracking of your data, marketers can provide unique, personalized experiences for you.
If my job is to find you exactly where you are in the loud conversation and to provide you with something of value, simply put; the more data I have on you the better I can make your experience.

The fine line marketers walk.

Just like an ARM mortgage can sound like a steal...until rates jump, it is up to the person taking on the mortgage to read the fine print. In the digital world, it is up to the user to read the fine print, understand what information is being collected on them, and decide how much information they are willing to give out. By using social media and the internet as a whole, users are agreeing to these terms.

It’s time to take responsibility.

In my opinion, my soul is intact from my career choices [we can debate my personal life offline]. I don’t believe in spamming customers. I believe in double-opt-in choices for email lists. I believe in a clear privacy policy explaining what information a website is going to keep.
But as marketers, I believe if you ethically explain what you are going to track on someone, the responsibility lies with the users to read those terms, and either accept them or leave.
If you don’t like Walmart’s treatment of employees, it’s your choice not to shop there. If you don’t agree with Google’s terms of service, don’t use Gmail, Chrome, Google Search, etc. But if you decide to use it, you are accepting their terms. Google isn’t the devil simply because you want to use their services but not play by their rules.
What do other marketers think? With hundreds of thousands of pieces of data on your customers at your fingertips, do you “sell your soul” using the data?
Photo Credit: Jeshu John

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rock the Boat [Mitigating Risk in Social Media]

One of the scariest parts of social media is the backlash. People have made a living [think Food Babe] by using social media as a platform for or against theories, ingredients, processes and companies. 

Let’s face it, no company is perfect. Not Google, not Ford, not Campbell’s. Each company has their controversial topics, their less than pristine moments. But the best social media strategists out there are brutally honest with themselves - and plan to mitigate the risks of their companies. 

This week, Campbell’s Soup launched to do just that. This website, although not technically “social media” starts the conversation. It gives Campbell’s a platform to direct their social media efforts towards. And they openly discuss controversial topics. Campbell’s explains the what and why behind food ingredients like GMOs, artificial flavors and colors, and BPA in packaging. 

They are unapologetic for their products [honestly, apologizing for who you are just opens you to more attacks], but do explain that they are listening to consumers and working to make changes to their products to meet consumer demands. 

This is a brilliant case of pro-actively mitigating risk online. Why? 
  1. Campbell’s know what their weaknesses are and understand these will come under attack at some point. Instead of trying to sweep the issues under the rug until they are forced to deal with them, Campbell’s is strategizing for the long-term. Company viability is all about long-term planning, right? 
  2. They are mitigating the risk by taking control of the conversation instead of reacting to it. This is key in the digital world where everyone has a voice. Being reactionary in any conversation opens you up to spiral out of control. Taking control of a difficult conversation gives you exactly that: control of the conversation. Wartime strategies always want control. 
  3. Campbell’s is using those controversial moments as educational moments. One of the best things any company can do online is to turn “uh oh” moments into educational moments for all customers. Know that your orders always backlog in January due to union shut downs over the holidays? Start explaining why it’s so great that union employees get an extended holiday with their families. Better even is to redirect your audience to a blog post that explains the manufacturing process and how even a day of downtime can amply into late orders. It creates transparency and gives you a platform to explain why you do what you do. Simple fact: people complain less when they understand why. 
  4. The website creates a controlled environment for discussion and directs “Chicken Littles” out of the spotlight. As social media and digital marketing become mainstream communication, the haters of the world have found a way to voice their opinions loudly and publicly. It is one of the hardest things companies have to manage. A complaint that offers an educational moment for all? Great. See #3. A screaming customer that will never be happy, no matter the customer service? This platform allows this conversations to shift to non-public platforms [direct messages, emails, phone calls, private chat]. It provides a customer service venue without worries of the mob-mentality. 

It’s incredibly ulcer-inducing for a social media [or digital media] strategist to launch specific risk-mitigating campaigns. There is always a chance it goes horribly, horribly wrong. There are always evangelists waiting in the wings to try to take a company down. And there is often the chance a C-Suite, who doesn’t understand social media strategy, sees an evangelist blowing up and does the reactionary thing [rather than trusting the social media strategist to deal with it calmly for the least fallout]. 

The “what-ifs” often paralyze companies from tackling these risk-mitigating campaigns. But not planning and standing up to the challenges often has much much larger fallouts. 

I applaud Campbell’s for pro-actively opening the conversations, no matter how many bottles of Tums the digital team ate before the launch!


Download Lindsey's new ebook, The Vitality of Social Media in B2B Operations.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Giving Up the Reins [Hiring a Social Media Content Specialist]

Social media has revolutionized marketing. Everyone [or most] can agree with this. 
Marketing, that used to be a one-way conversation to potential customers [print ads, billboards, commercials] has turned into a loud family dinner with all the in-laws. There are so many conversations going on at once now, so many outlets to monitor, and constant technology changes. 
It’s big, it’s scary, it’s loud, it’s time-consuming, and worst of all: marketers no longer have the dominate control. 

On the bright side, social media is, well, social. The companies that do it well have a very specific voice to their content, and quick response times. They have built their social media as an extension of the company, building trust in their brand and an avenue to new revenue. 

But like all success, there is quite a time-commitment. Content must be continuously generated. Social media outlets must be monitored. Responses must be timely. Strategies must be revised. 

And, at some point, help may need to be hired or out-sourced. 

But if you do social media, and do it well, you have created an online personification of your company's brand. How do you turn this over to a contractor who doesn't know your specific business? Who might not have your voice? 

It’s a tough choice, but when the time comes, you’ll realize help is necessary. 

Like sending a child to school for the first time and trusting in the teacher, you have to trust your social media content specialist to take the reins. 

Trusting who you hire is the #1 rule to success. It’s not a job for an intern, nor simply the “cheapest help locally”. Trust your gut that you are hiring someone whom has a similar voice, and outlook on social media. If a prospective hire doesn't garner your trust, keep looking. 

Walk before you run. When my company hired a content specialist, I still provided the content for the first month or so. She simply scheduled the posts, and learned our style. To this day, we have a shared Google doc where she supplies content, channels and posting time frames, and I still approve the content before it goes live. We have had the same social media content writer for a year now, and 98% of our content I approved outright. However, there probably always will be that 2% of the time that there is a nuance to our industry she wasn’t familiar with, that needs to be corrected before it is posted. Don’t expect your freelance contractor to know the industry or your company as well as you do. It is still your job to help guide them. 

Spend time training and outline your goals. I spent hours with my content specialist initially, explaining our audiences, our culture, suggesting resources to glean content from, and giving feedback on voice. It took almost as much time as it previously took me to write the content, but in training my content specialist to our company voice and goals, she learned to take the training wheels off without falling much quicker. 

Implement internal sources for follow-up. Our social media specialists retweets, responds and likes other posts for us. However, social media is often the first-line for service and sales. That is outside the realm what a contractor should answer. Have internal sources implemented to respond quickly when needed with internal knowledge. 

Constantly review and tweak, together. Social media is an evolving field, and as such needs constant revision. We meet at least monthly to discuss strategy, to test new strategies, and to review successes. Our social media specialist is usually more on top of trends and new strategies than I am. She’s the expert, and I expect her to embrace her expertise. 

Hiring an outsider is a scary prospect. But with some oversight, guidance, and trust, hiring a content specialist to help improve your social media strategy might just be the best move you make.

Photo Credit: mkhmarketing on flickr

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Baby Steps [Incrementally Increasing Your Online Influence]

There are no magic pills to building your brand, audience and trust on social media. Anyone who offers a magic pill is an overpriced charlatan. Like click-backs of 5 years ago, you may increase traffic, but it’s the wrong kind of traffic. 

Beyond your business, it is also important to improve your personal brand, and online influence. If your personal brand shows off your expertise in your industry, it not only helps your influence and reputation, but that of your company as well. Your company gains trust by employing influencers and experts in the industry. 

But how do you build personal influence online? 

In 3 short months last year, I took a serious look at my online influence, and strategically decided to increase it. Call it a slightly-less-than-scientific experiment, with quantitative results. 

Below is what I did to drastically increase my influence: 
  1. Decide what is personal and what is professional. I did a review of all of my accounts online. I added accounts, and cognitively mapped out my personas. I allow overlap, but keep each account focused. For me, I keep Instagram and Facebook personal, while using my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts professionally. 
  2. Have a personality on your professional accounts. It gives you a leg up on the bots. No one can claim that I’m boring. Nerdy, yes. Boring, no. Although I kept my professional accounts focused on industry knowledge, you can still hear my snark and sarcasm. If you follow me, you learn a little about what it is like to work with me, and that is my goal. 
  3. Post. Post often, post consistent, post relevant. During my 3 month tenure, I posted 2 self-published articles on LinkedIn a week. Twitter, I posted on a minimum of twice a day. This article on how to time out your posts was useful and insightful. The best advice? Create enough content for a month in advance. ...I never got there. I simply got too impatient when I created content, but I worked on a 2 week rolling calendar for the 3 months and made it through most of it. A month of content is a great goal! 
  4. Actually stand behind what you post and whom you follow. There is tons of static noise and fluff out there. Often, people post 10 times a day just to sound good, and follow every person they can. It’s tempting to do. And easy with new content generating portions of apps like Klout, Hootsuite and Buffer. But I was trying to build influence and reputation. The only way to do that was to stand behind every interaction. I read every article I posted; I checked out the relevance of every profile before I followed. 
  5. Use lists/apps to sort. The noise on social media is profound. Using Twitter lists religiously, I could cut down on the noise. Every person I follow gets privately categorized. Then, if I’m looking for local content, I go to my “local” list. Leadership? Yeah, I have a list for that too. 
  6. Be generous. The people I follow on Twitter, I follow because they have something relevant to say. I retweet the gems. Same goes for LinkedIn articles. The best I read I reshare with attribute. First, this helped with the volume of content; I didn’t have to create it all myself. But more importantly, I built an army of peers with positivity. 
  7. Thank, tag, and give attribute to people. The best tweet I got during the experiment: @WendiMooreAgncy tweeted, “#mustfollow: @ltoriginals”. Seriously, that tweet made my day! Thank people for comments and resharing. Give attribute where necessary. People appreciate the thanks, and remember the snubs. [Someone posted one of my articles without giving attribute that same week. It made me sad that she didn’t understand the power of promoting others.] 
  8. Explain your pain, and ask for advice in your realm of influence. It’s okay to be mortal. In fact, I think it makes you more likable. There is a catch-22 to this, however. Everyone wants to be an expert, and everyone has an opinion. You’ll get responses quite often with less experience and differing opinions. But, you can also garner some gems. 8. Don’t follow everyone, and don’t make it too loud for yourself. Enough said. 
  9. Understand it takes time. A lot of time. My content social media writer [for my day job] and I compete on Klout, but she was shocked when I got more followers on Twitter during this experiment. I read every mention, I view every follower, I post #FF [Follow Fridays], I retweeted articles, and I gave a lot thanks. It was time consuming beyond content generation, but it worked. Where is the surprise there? 

My time commitment during this three month “experiment” was more. Since then, I have toned down the time commitment to my personal social media, and found my balance. But if I am serious about helping others improve their social media, I need to always improve my own. I will admit I’m still learning other uses of Twitter; I have a whopping 37 followers on Instagram; and I don’t have a personal YouTube channel [nor do I plan on it anytime soon]. But in 3 months of concentrated strategy, I gained hundreds of real and influential followers on Twitter. My contacts and followers on LinkedIn have more than doubled. A concentrated strategy to honestly increase my influence worked. 

Is this the formula for you? Maybe, maybe not. But find your formula. Understand the basic nature of people and social media: 
  • Your own name is the most important word in your language box, so when you call on others, you are giving them the gift of using their name. 
  • Praise people. 
  • And beyond that, provide relevant content; content others can reshare.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Our Selfie-ish Society [Cultural Shifts in Media]

Google started as a research project in 1996. It “officially” became synonymous with “online search” in 2006, a decade later as it joined the Merriam Webster dictionary. 

However, “selfie” has had a much quicker uprising. Although “self-portraits” have been around for hundreds of years, the actual term “selfie” started trending in 2012, according to Time Magazine. By 2014, a mere 2 years later, it was added to the Merriam Webster dictionary

Have we become a society that needs validation from the tribe to accept something as true? Do we need tribe validation to prove self-worth? Is that why a word based upon first-person views became a cultural norm so much quicker than a third-party term?