It is rare that I meet with a brand that doesn't have some form of social media presence deployed. Whether it is a Facebook group, YouTube videos or a Twitter page, most brands seem to have taken the advice of the experts and jumped into the dialogue. (Kudos to you all!) However, it is equally rare that I meet with a brand who isn't in some way dissatisfied with their social media efforts. Some aren't seeing the consumer followings they'd anticipated, others are having difficulty keeping up and staffing up for the daily needs of maintaining their effort, and others are simply unsure of what they are and should be doing. (If any of this sounds familiar don't worry you are not alone!) If you are looking to optimize your social media efforts here is what we recommend. Take a macro view and get strategic before moving forward. Start by asking and answering the following questions: What do my consumers think of my activities in social media? What do they need and what do they want from my organization? How are my consumers using social media at large? What are my competitors doing in social media? What do the best in class social media programs look like outside of my industry? What benchmark of success are we looking for with our social media efforts? We guide our clients through this process with a Social Media Assessment & Strategy Development program that is designed to take what clients are currently doing and optimize it so they can move forward and see more results from their social media efforts. It's a fast and cost efficient way of taking the start of something in social and turning it into something amazing (that delivers!) in social.
In social media, traditional result measurement tools often leave holes and we are left with a set of quantitative metrics (such as impression numbers and advertising equivalency value) that help tell a story but often skirt around the main plot point. Such ROI metrics can fail to take into account the true value of social media ' the relationship value. We were recently challenged with such a case ' a campaign that heavily leveraged a group of bloggers, a particularly tightly-knit niche, with the goal of reaching this group and creating relationships between them and our client (a brand specializing in products that also fall into this niche category). Like all true relationships, this one took time to cultivate and grow. Through the course of many months filled with emails and exchanges we knew we met the goal and had successfully developed a group of brand advocates that would pay off with many years of loyalty, purchasing and recommendations to others. Now the next challenge: measuring the value of these relationships! Our traditional ROI model looked good ' indeed the campaign had impressive numbers on the quant side with total impressions, engagements and ad equivalency value all tallying strongly. But the heart of the matter was the story told in the emails from bloggers that raved about their newfound love for the brand, and the posts from their readers that confirmed these blogger/influencers were powerful advocates. To tell this story we had to use a ROR (return on relationship) model. To do so we turned to our new advocates, the bloggers, and asked them to complete a short survey on their brand perceptions before and after we made contact with them and on the likelihood of their advocacy down the road. While we expected favorable comments back, we couldn't have predicted how strong their response was! All confirmed that as a result of our relationship-building campaign they now felt they knew the brand well and would be much more likely to purchase it in the future. And as an added bonus: they had all told others about the brand - many others in fact, as many as several hundred word-of-mouth recommendations per blogger!! (And all this in addition to what they had written publicly on their blogs!) So what was our ROR? Well, we found that our outreach to these influencers had yielded several hundred positive brand mentions per blogger. And we also know that the recommendations of influencers (like friends, social network peers, and 'experts') are a powerful and direct driver in the purchase cycle. Measuring ROR isn't an exact science, it's an essential aspect of telling the full story about the performance of any social media campaign.
It's probably been a few years since you first heard the word 'blog' and thought to yourself, 'what an interesting idea!'? And even if you read blogs on a regular basis you've probably seen their coverage diminish in favor of things like the latest Twitter phenom or the newest viral video. Yes, the media honeymoon with blogs is over. But don't let the lack of headlines fool you: blogs matter more than ever and companies who engage with bloggers reap the benefits! So, why do blogs matter? '?¢ Bloggers are mainstream media The lines have been inextricably blurred and what were once fringe voices are now the norm. Over 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs, and large media outlets like Huffington Post, TMZ and Consumerist are still considered blogs. '?¢ Bloggers represent the interests of varied consumer groups It isn't just techies or mommies blogging now;, it is also dads talking about work-life balance, Latinos on politics, and foodies discussing coupons. For every topic, group, lifestyle and life stage there are numerous blogs dedicated to covering and musing upon the topics that matter the most. '?¢ Bloggers are accessible Bloggers have a constant need for content and a surprising willingness to engage with brands and their representatives. In fact, 90% of bloggers in Technorati's 2008 State of the Blogosphere survey said they post about the brands, music, movies and books that they love (or hate). My team has the pleasure of regularly engaging with bloggers on behalf of our clients and from the biggest to the smallest blogs one thing is true: they are all dedicated to sharing the most resonant information with their readers in the most genuine way. What we've learned over the years is this blogger passion can translate into major impact for a brand. When we reach out and encourage dialogue with a blogger, what often emerges is a vocal advocate, a brand ally or a thoughtful opinion. And brands who open the line of communication benefit by bringing another trusted voice into the conversation with consumers.
Last night at dinner, a client of mine mentioned she thought some companies shy away from PR because they either don't understand it in principle or haven't had any accidental success with it, so they don't realize the impact it can have on their business. She's right in her observation, and in this case, ignorance is not bliss. PR becomes a huge missed opportunity for these companies to do something truly powerful and also very cost effective. At its core, PR is about creating awareness and fostering communications with consumers. Simply put, it's a tool every brand needs to grow profits, reputation, and consumer loyalty. So what exactly should a company do to implement PR and effectively open the door for consumer awareness and interaction? God is in the details and nuance matters, which is why professionals like the talented folks on my team at AMP spend their days and nights keeping up with news and trends to anticipate what will work and what won't for certain brands. It boils down to a proven process that is thorough yet simple: 1) Research the target consumer by investigating what they read, see and hear, and we think about who and what influences them. 2) Find the delta point between the target consumers lifestyle and the attributes of the product or service we're representing. We land on salient communications topics whether it's moms who need a healthy alternative for dessert but don't want to skimp on taste, college students in search of something fun to do on campus, or boomers who love to be online and want to stay connected to their kids and grandkids. 3) Determine the best way to deliver that message to consumers. It may be a placement on a morning show, a Twitter sweepstakes, blogger sampling campaign or a push for product reviews in long lead glossy magazines. As long as people read, watch and listen to the media and influencers around them, there will always be a 'right' channel for us to communicate across and a 'perfect' tactic that hits home. What does success look like? For every client the answer is different, but it's always a measure of how well the campaign increased awareness and cultivated consumer communications. Some PR successes we've recently seen at AMP include: *Reaching over 4 million impressions with college media in one semester for a product line *Securing television, print and Web coverage over a six month period for an emerging national brand totaling over $1 million monthly in value *Getting a niche group buzzing online about a little known product component leading to positive raves and reviews Buzz words and lingo aside, weighing the benefits to PR is simple: there is always value in heightening awareness and fostering communications. Feeling shy about PR? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll put together an audience/opportunity snapshot and thought-starter recommendations to evaluate and see what PR can do for you.
I rarely make a shopping run to my local Trader Joe's grocery without trying their sample of the day. So last week when they offered me some Greek Tzatziki Sauce paired with my favorite pretzel slims it was a no-brainer. Yes, I bought a tub of it on the spot, devoured it at home and Tzatziki Sauce now owns a permanent spot on my grocery list. A perfect case in point of a brand using sampling to effectively create trial which in turn drives purchase and eventually advocacy. So what can we learn from Trader Joe's Tzatziki sampling tactic? And how could we even improve it? The biggest lesson here holds true for all sampling - find your people and get their attention! Seek out those who are pre-qualified and generally inclined to try your product and then be at the right place and right time to capture their interest. Tzatziki worked for me because it was paired with something I purchase already, it met my requirements at the time, and I was in a mind-set to try and purchase new foods. But what if I hadn't been in Trader Joe's that day, how could they have connected me to my new favorite Greek sauce? Like many folks, I spend a lot of time online. So is Tzatziki online too? Turns out it is. (Try a quick Google search and you'll find people talking about the sauce on sites and blogs.) This is a good start for getting the word out but not enough to reach a larger group ' and it wasn't enough to reach me. So how can a brand use the digital space to spread the word and reach even more consumers that fit their target profile? Simply by giving samples out and facilitating conversations! At its core 'Digital Influencer Sampling' is about finding your people and getting their attention. The people involved in this sampling method are bloggers, posters, contributors and editors. And the best way to get their attention ' and this should come as no surprise ' is to simply reach out to them. In a nutshell what holds true for offline sampling holds true for online sampling: step one, find your people, step two engage them, and step three give them your goodies for free to encourage trial. There is a lot of nuance at this point in the discussion that comes into play and ultimately makes the difference between a great digital sampling campaign and an ok one. From selecting your influencers to how you communicate through keeping the conversation alive. And the job of a great agency and smart brand is to properly facilitate all that with the aim at growing relationships past 'hello' and into the stages of brand advocacy. But once that dialog has begun most 'digital influencers' are like those consumers at Trader Joe's ' hungry to engage, try something new and willing to spread the word about what they like. And when all goes well, that small group of Tzatziki fans chatting online will grow into a larger one and soon they'll have reached me and other target consumers like me who are waiting for someone to connect the dots and get something new into their hands to try and fall in love with.