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Indifference rules OK

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What matters to customers isn’t what matters to brands. Consider this deck’s argument, and see if you agree. Funnily enough I said something similar in 140 characters along the lines of ‘where are the artists in social media?’ recently.

You’d think my talent in combining creativity and analytics would therefore be highly sellable, in this case using the synthesis of the two to be able to find out what customers want and convey this to the business. What I have tagged as #thinslicing. But it’s not always that easy..even though as it says in the slides below: “Because in the end it’s the case for why great creativity is absolutely essential”.

  

How to be a genius in a low status job

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‘How to be a genius in low status job’ was the cheeky title of a quick blog post I wrote in 2006 after working at Headshift (now part of the Dachis Group, who specialise in employee advocacy) and just before beginning work at a startup which I helped take to $15m value (well at least on paper:-). Here’s the post:

So you’re near the bottom of the corporate ladder; use this to your advantage in the following ways:

1. Find out what’s really going on.

2. Look up some clever ideas on what this really means.

3. Figure out how to incorporate these ideas with your own day to day activities.

4. Change the organisation from the inside out.

5. Write a blog about it, maybe.

6. Finally, stop dreaming, wake up and go to work!

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Update 13 Feb, 2013. This individual approach, systematically applied to improve innovation within the enterprise for example, is now titled ‘employee advocacy’ and measured with tools such as ‘eNPS’. A brand new tool to help make this happen, by giving all employees access to common content to publish on their social networks is called Addvocate:

Imagine you could join the conversation your employees are having about your brand, figure out who they are, and validate them for it. Addvocate makes it easy to track the social voices of your business, foster a sense of community, and empower that community to be heard.

It’s currently in ‘paid beta’ – as of 22nd January – launched by the former head of social at Salesforce, Marcus Nelson, with the added benefit that you choose how much you want to pay pay per user. And “Addvocate will honor that price for the next 6 months”. A similar platform (“Klout for employees of a brand”) is offered by Dachis. Called ‘Employee Insight’, it’s features include:

  • Profile, which showcases each employee’s brand-related social activity, including posts, followers, sentiment, and echoed signals.
  • Message Center, which helps brands mobilize their teams by featuring news, sharing best practices, and sending invites.
  • Leaderboard, which identifies and ranks top employee accounts, tracking signals, audience, conversation, and strength.
  • Portal, which mobilizes employee social efforts with best practices, social policies, program updates, invitations, and leader boards to accelerate participation.

I was just reminded about these employee advocacy services this morning in a discussion on the community manager forum e-mint about whether the good old days of community management were over. My reply was to the effect that far from over, the role of the ‘CM’ is expanding as a result of their supporting role with such expanding employee advocacy programmes:

The benefits of employee advocacy cannot be underestimated: Ramping community management up to the levels required to effectively engage millions of customers who are trying to interact with a company socially just can’t work. Using automated engagement tools instead actually kills the point (and much of the benefit) of being socially connected with the marketplace. And, as invaluable as community managers are, they have their own point of view that can’t possibly represent the entirety of the company. No, to accomplish this, employees themselves must be externally engaged in a proactive and strategic manner that maximizes the benefits of becoming a social business.

Apart from the value of such a programme to a ‘social business’ strategy it appears to me worth considering ways to start such an initiative with something more tactical, for example how that employee social content can benefit SEO. For this go no further for a good outline of the value of employee content to raising your site visibility than a recent e-book from Boston-based Catalyst:

While your content should live on your website, it should
also be shared across your social networks. Your set-up needs to identify who will share your content. While at least one person should be responsible for it, don’t overlook the potential to leverage employees in your content sharing efforts. This group is often overlooked for this purpose, yet these individuals are ideal because they care about your industry, have a vested interest in helping your company succeed, and are easily contacted. Try to have these folks share your content with their audience to help you get the viral ball rolling.

However, you have to be careful with tapping into
employees for this purpose. Not all employees will be
willing to share work-related content with their personal
networks. That is why a clear social media sharing policy
must be in place before your campaign starts.

So there are a number of cautionary notes to consider before undertaking employee advocacy. For instance, compare my 2006 post with this 2013 employee advocacy update. The former about ‘How to be a genius in a low status job’ is ‘bottom up’ in style, and the second clearly ‘top down’. Ideally, to have both ‘belt and braces’ you have the two approaches working in partnership. Otherwise, there’s always the risk the approach will back fire, create resentment and diminished performance, and end up on the scrap heap of failed ‘management/internal comms initiatives':

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So clearly before implementing such a potentially valuable initiative, even within a company with a very entrepreneurial-style culture like eBay, there are a few basic issues worth considering:

1. Is employee advocacy right for your company, are there ways to reach customers within more conventional means worth considering first so it’s an evolutionary process?

2. If you already have a well supported social media programme, and consider employee advocacy is the right next step have you got the necessary policies, and procedures in place?

For employee advocacy to stand the best chance of succeeding it’s my belief that a development approach which includes both senior management and employees would yield the the best results, and spot potential problems earlier rather than later. To what degree does your strategy have that approach built-in from the start? Be honest with yourself, are employees simply consulted about the advocacy initiative, or are they actually invited to participate in its design and build? After all, as Naz Madjm (pictured, below), of SoMazi points out in a recent e-consultancy post on advocacy through social media, “winning the confidence and social voices of your staff, while a complex and delicate undertaking, is one of paramount importance in our interconnected world”.

Disclaimer: I worked with Naz Madjm on an employee advocacy proposal for News Corps. in early 2013. 

The process of social analytics insight: thinslicing vs analysis paralysis

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I like the simple process outlined by Sony’s analytics agency Tempero on how they create actionable insights for clients:

Our process for insight is as follows:

  • Liaise with each client to create a clear brief and need for the data
  • Choose the most appropriate monitoring tool (different briefs need different tools)
  • Create and test the search queries
  • Review the data and manually clean it up (software tools are generally less than 60% accurate in terms of sentiment and classification)
  • Analyse for patterns, trends and useful information
  • Roundtable discussion with management team to assess the findings
  • Create the output as defined in the brief
  • Present to the client
  • Amend and add additional information as required and re-submit

I think that the issues of information overload are also worth considering when evaluating your own social analytics needs. Bear in mind you have social savvv customers who make decisions based on word of mouth. But what is that? Is a simple way to cut through all the marketing and advertising and help decide if it’s what you want, explains Brian Solis:

“Based on the work of Robert Cialdini, I analyzed six universal heuristics and the role they play in consumer decision making in social commerce. Referred to as “thinslicing,” consumers tend to ignore most information available and instead ‘slice off’ a few relevant information or behavioral cues that are often social to make intuitive decisions.”

So imaging how powerful a tool you would have if it was able to direct social marketing efforts based on thin slicing, for example with the movie industry?

While Radian6 can provide such a technical capability to gather sentiment and identify influencers, and an agency like Tempero can provide the actionable insights, as a client you still need to be able to look at the data and find what’s really valuable, to consider “investing in the value, productivity and efficiency of consumer decision making” to quote Solis once more.

You need to be able to work with the tools and your analytics resource whether in-house or agency to properly  tap into the hearts and minds of your customers, and get them engaging with your brand. As social media consultant Jeremiah Owyang says you need to: “Live in the same behaviors that customers and consumers are.” A thinslicing approach enables that to happen to optimise how you engage with the purchasing journey, as well as existing social analytics to track the ROI process from engagement to conversions.

You need to be able to overcome the ‘analysis paralysis’ and be able to ‘thinslice’.

 Myself, thinsliced by UCL's neurology dept:-)

How Lands’ End’s customers are changing the fashion industry

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Three short paragraphs I happened across today which highlights how Lands’ End customers are helping change the fashion industry:

“In November 2009, Lands’ End launched a new line called “Lands’ End Canvas,” which offers a more fashion-oriented selection of casual clothing for men and women. The line is doing very well, both in terms of sales and its social media mojo.

“In fact, Canvas’ social media successes have had a significant impact on Lands’ End as a whole. Social media is making everything about Lands’ End’s approach to business is tighter and leaner.

“Lands’ End is actively listening to its customers, which is creating tighter feedback loops between its customers and product development team, thereby enabling the company to move towards monthly product introductions versus the seasonal cadence that has dominated the fashion industry since its earliest days.”

Quote taken from Harry Joiner at EcommerceJobs.com’s online JD, for the position of VP of Digital Marketing at Lands’ End.

Business trivia: Lands’ End UK’s factory shop in rural Rutland is a stone’s throw from Rutland Electric Fencing; owned by Woodstream, the US company that sells the famous Victor mousetrap – as pictured below!

 

Essentials of social media strategy

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Talk Is CheapPhoto by Stuart Glendinning Hall

What are the essentials you need to get right in your social media strategy? It’s an easy question to ask, with plenty of gurus and consultants willing to give you 20% of the answer for free so long as you pay for the remaining 80%.

Lucky Seven EssentialsPhoto by Stuart Glendinning Hall

So let’s leapfrog over that and check out this useful video webinar provided by Radian6, with Christopher Barger, author of The Social Media Strategist. Why do I recommend it? Because he says upfront that it’s easy to say but hard to do, that internal issues can play a key part. And that aligns with my own experience; you need to possess a fair degree of resilience, to build bridges and create consensus, not to mention a great sense of humour both offline and online! Crucially, using metrics to demonstrate real results is a powerful tool to sell the value of social media internally (Slide 18; 42:07) which makes a lot of sense to me having been both a consultant and an internal social media & community practitioner.

OK, so on with the show..

How can you prove the value of your social media activities, from engagement to bottom line?

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I’ve landed myself a spot on a ‘brand expert panel’ at at the Future Digital Strategies Summit 2011 on 15 November…          

Expert panellists, from B2B and B2C, will address questions including:

  • What value can you put on brand building and customer satisfaction?
  • Can you measure the tangible impact of effective social media activity on customer service or advertising spend?
  • What metrics do CEOs want to see – what have you found to be most meaningful?
  • Which monetisation strategies really work?

Presentation below, based on the guiding idea of starting small (think less risk, test it out before scale up etc) with Facebook promotion, gamification, and blogger out-reach:

Facebook Page campaign with added PR oomph!

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Just wanted to share a brief 9 slide presentation of the 4 week Facebook Page campaign I ran at Shopping.com, which for a modest investment of less than £1K returned over 5.5K ‘Likes’ and over 1.3K survey respondents – earning great online and offline PR. A big thanks to PayPal UK and to Dinesh for helping make it happen.

The trick was combining the Apple iPhone 4 offer in a visually dynamic email which included the call to action to complete the fun social shopping survey. We did not make it mandatory to complete the survey in order to take part in the giveaway as is often the case, in order to keep that spirit of customer engagement strong!

View more presentations from Stuart Hall
BTW of course it really helps if you wear the right kind of cool shoes when creating a cool campaign. I went with Converse!