ROI Of Social Media For Gen Y Audiences (And How To Convince Your Boss)

June 25, 2008 at 6:41 am | Posted in Blogging, Books, Communication, Facebook, Forrester, Generations, Li, Charlene and Josh Bernoff - Groundswell: Winning in, Marketing, MySpace, Net gens, Online marketing, ROI, Second Life, Social Media, Tweens, Twitter, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments
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Generation Y – roughly those aged 13-29 – are among the strongest consumers and influencers. And while social media like Facebook, delicious, and Flickr have garnered media attention, many businesses are still wary of dipping a toe in the social media water.

I argue that we can gauge return on investment (or influence) for Gen Y by looking at their buying power and online behavior and therefore that it is imperative that (most) businesses participate in social media. Plus, I will give you the research to back up these assertions so you can prove it to your boss.

Flashback: Ohio

Growing up in pre-internet Ohio, I spent a good chunk of my allowance and lawn-mowing money on comic books at the local pharmacy. If they were sold out of my usual books, I was SOL until the following month. Scarcity of goods required that I go where they were (and quickly!) or I would miss out.

Fast-Forward: Today

Now, post-internet, these stories sound quaint. Given a bank account, any kid can get any comic book from anywhere in the world. So what does this have to do with social media and Generation Y?: proximity to resources.

Today, consumers expect businesses to come to them. Long gone are the lazy summer bike rides to the pharmacy – today, young people expect to be able to spend their money just about anywhere. And where are they? Online, in general, and on social media, specifically.

Maybe this shift isn’t a surprise to you, but let me prove it with research (easily printable for timid bosses or humbugs).

Continue Reading ROI Of Social Media For Gen Y Audiences (And How To Convince Your Boss)…

Social Technographics: Forrester And The ROI Of Social Media

May 13, 2008 at 6:04 am | Posted in Communication, Facebook, Forrester, General, Generation X, Generations, Marketing, MySpace, Net gens, Online marketing, Research, ROI, Second Life, Social Media, Tagging, Tweens, Usability, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments
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Last week, a lot of you read my guest post about the ROI (return on investment) of social media. There is no doubt that social media is changing the ways people interact online and hence, the way companies communicate with their customers.

The thing that is still missing is quantifiable data about these interactions. We’re in a theory stage – we know what’s right because we have experienced it – but we are still waiting for proof in numbers. Forrester Research made a giant step in the right direction when they introduced social technographics.

Social technographics is an analysis of consumers’ approach to social media – not just which ones they use, but understanding how they use the medium in their daily life. You can download the full report on Forrester Research’s website (there is a fee) or read the book on the same topic published April 21, 2008: Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. (There is also a ton of free goodies at the Groundswell blog.)

I sat in on a webinar last week where Charlene and Josh expounded on their work. Josh summed up the goal of this work: “Think about what you want to accomplish, not the technology.” There is so much fascination about what technology can do that marketers often forget the question is what technology can do for you. The webinar came back again and again with the message to use this data to inform a strategy for your clients. (You can find the resulting Q&A published post-webinar here.)

How’s It Work?

Charlene and Josh categorize web users into six sections based on the level of their activity, from Creators to Inactives. I have not seen a clear but simple ranking system like this before and I certainly hope it is accepted as an industry standard. The real value, however, comes from their detailed analysis of each category’s activity.

Continue Reading Social Technographics: Forrester And The ROI Of Social Media…

4 Reasons Not To Rely On Market Research Alone

May 9, 2008 at 5:51 am | Posted in Advertising, Books, Communication, General, Gladwell, Malcolm - Blink, Marketing, Ogilvy, David - On Advertising, Online marketing, ROI, Usability, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments
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I was freezing my tush off a couple of weeks ago at Wrigley Field and inquired to my good friend why he had made the unlikely (in my mind, at least) switch from marketing to insurance. It seemed to me that he was turned off by the manipulative and predictive nature of old-school marketing – as though statistics and market research would tell exactly how someone would behave.

Then, just yesterday, I read both David Oglivy’s chapter “18 Miracles of Research” in On Advertising and Hank Williams’ post Who Needs Market Research. The stars seem aligned to answer a few questions about market research, including: Why can I not rely solely on market research and how can the online channel help?David Ogilvy

Sure, research is helpful to some extent. As Ogilvy said, “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals. (pg. 158)” But you are making a severe mistake if you expect focus groups, polls, and testing to divine your strategy like a Magic 8-ball.

Market research (especially customer-focused research) must be taken with a sizable grain of proverbial salt. Here are four reasons why:

1. While I think there is some use of market research, I agree with Hank Williams’ hypothesis that content and experience are much more important. People cannot articulate an experience they’ve never had. Focus on producing good content and a good experience – not whether people claim that they understand how they think they will respond to a hypothetical situation. And even if you have the product or advertisement, do you really think people will respond the same way to it during a focus group at the mall as they would in their own homes?

Continue Reading 4 Reasons Not To Rely On Market Research Alone…

Monthly Metric: Bounce Rate

February 21, 2008 at 6:32 am | Posted in Advertising, Communication, Decision making, General, Marketing, Online marketing, ROI, Search, SEM, SEO, Usability, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments
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Someone lied to you if they told you statistics were boring. Website metrics show just how your audience is using your site and you ignore this data at your own peril.

A bounce rate is when someone comes to your site and immediately leaves. They bounce off of your website for whatever reason. A bounce is undesirable – you want people to come and stay on your website! Bounce is the opposite of sticky.

Time vs. Pages

I had always understood bounce determined by time – that this figure was measured from people leaving a site in a certain increment (usually 2, 5, or 10 seconds). So I was surprised when I read in Website Magazine that they asserted that bounce rate “is calculated by dividing the number of total page visits by those visits that did not result in an additional page view.”

Continue Reading Monthly Metric: Bounce Rate…

Super Bowl Ads Fumble

February 7, 2008 at 6:40 am | Posted in Advertising, Anheuser-Busch, Communication, Companies, Decision making, Doritos, DTC, Facebook, General, Marketing, MySpace, Online marketing, ROI, Search, SEM, SEO, Social Media, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments
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Hey, remember the Super Bowl and all those cool ads? Yeah, me neither.

I could have bookmarked the URLs of company’s whose ads I enjoyed or told my friends about cool microsites I experienced, but I didn’t because the web was largely forgotten in this year’s ads. URLs were printed small and almost always at the end of the ad, there was only one example of user generated content, few (if any) microsites to continue the experience after the game, and generally poor use of search. What a waste of $2.7M.

Michael Estrin of iMedia Connection has a good wrap-up and several interviews of note. The question he pursues: where was the web? From Estrin’s article: “It was like we went backwards this year,” says Sean Cheyney, VP of marketing and business development at AccuQuote. “It’s like we’re moving back into silos. I was surprised that companies didn’t do more integration. The web was an afterthought for most of the ads.”

Beyond the 30-second Spot

AOL’s Annual Super Bowl Sunday Ad Poll ranked the Bud Light Dalmation-Clydesdale-Rocky ad was America’s favorite, yet it did not even have the requisite web address at the end. Here are a few quick ideas of ways you could have capitalized on this success (call me for more – my freelance rates are very reasonable):

  • Contest to name the Dalmatian and Clydesdale
  • Start a rivalry between Bud and Bud Light (represented by the dog and horse) similar to the Bud Bowls of the 90s
  • MySpace page wraps in spots (Dalmatian) and tough-guy horse stuff (Clydesdale)
  • Facebook app that allows you to send a Bud Light to a friend
  • Advertising tie-in with the new Rambo movie (I imagine there’s audience cross-over with Rocky)
  • Jab back at the new Miller Lite spot featuring…Dalmatians and Clydesdales
  • Create a site where you integrate this ad with other Bud Light Super Bowl ads (have the dog breathing fire, the horse flying, etc)

Budweiser, what do you pay these marketing guys? Hire me or any 15 year old and you’ll get more web marketing bang-for-your-buck.

Failure to Launch

Any marketer worth their snuff – nay, conscious in the last year or two – knows that search is an integral part of any campaign. So, why this MediaWeek report:

“70 percent of Super Bowl advertisers bought some paid search ads on either Google, Yahoo, MSN – up close to 20 percent versus last year. But just 6 percent of advertisers used their 30-second spots to direct viewers to the Web, and the vast majority (93 percent) failed to buy search ads for alternative terms that were related to their ads, such as their spokesperson’s names, slogans or taglines.”

MediaWeek is reporting on a Reprise Media scorecard that goes into more detail. I find it amazing that roughly 93 percent (of the 70 percent who bought ads) failed to think of these ads from the user’s perspective. Your uncle Jimmy had knocked back a six-pack and was in the grip of a food coma when he saw Naomi Campbell dancing with a bunch of lizards. When he stumbles to the computer, he is not going to search for SoBe Lifewater. He’s going to search for “hot model and dancing lizards.” Little surprise that SoBe also ranked as a “fumble” on Reprise Media’s scorecard.

I Get By With a Little Help From My…Oh, Forget It

Only Doritos had the cojones to use user generated content. Despite it being ranked near the bottom, I thought the ad was okay. Doritos had a nice intro to the commercial, but I would have loved to see it end with the singer crunching into a Dorito. Cheesy, perhaps, but so is the product. My message to Frito-Lay/PepsiCo (who own Doritos): Don’t be rash in firing your advertising company. It is better to work with someone willing to take the big risks and use the medium that appeals to your audience. These are the folks with the potential to blow people out of the water.

Also, not a single advertiser drove viewers to their MySpace or Facebook page – there was zero social networking involved. Believe me, this isn’t because people aren’t using Facebook anymore.

Fox did drive people to www.myspace.com/superbowlads though, which is a nice way of increasing the ads value with a measurable online component. Of course, for $2.7M, I’d be wanting a little something extra too.

No one is complaining about a game of two huge franchises in the largest media markets where one of the teams has the chance to have a perfect season (and finally shut up the ’72 Dolphins). But if you’re an advertiser and next year pits the Titans versus the Buccaneers (no offense guys, but come on), you might want to start thinking about your other options. Joe over at Junta42 has some great ideas for how to spend all that cash.

Chief Conversation Officer

February 4, 2008 at 6:03 am | Posted in Advertising, Books, Communication, Companies, Decision making, General, Jaffe, Joseph - Join The Conversation, Marketing, Online marketing, ROI, Social Media, Turow, Joseph - Niche Envy, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments
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Updated: Welcome Jaffe Juice readers! Note that my other posts regarding Join The Conversation are linked at the end of the first paragraph below. Also, if you like what you see, be sure to subscribe. Thanks! 

I just finished reading Joseph Jaffe’s Join The Conversation and highly recommend it. I’m a believer that the internet age largely only changed our medium of communication. We still function basically the same and this is a book that supports the need for conversation (more important that communication or dialogue) through the online channel. This sounds easy but Jaffe has many, many examples of companies that failed miserably in this regard. (You may remember Jaffe from when I mentioned his work here, here, and here.)

Conversation in business is like a fairy or Santa Claus – you want to believe in it, but when the rubber hits the road, you “know” there’s nothing in it. This couldn’t be further from the truth (Jaffe has examples to back up this notion too). But who would fill this function in the office? Conversation isn’t on the org chart.

Jaffe suggests a Chief Conversation Officer (CCO). (Sidenote: Joseph, I tried to join the conversation at http://www.jointheconversation.us/chief as instructed on page 102, but that page did not exist – for shame!) Here’s the gist of a CCO:

“Said CCO would report to the very top and thus bypass any blinkered or biased silos. The conversation department would be populated by true generalists with expertise across marketing, advertising, internal communications, corporate communications, customer service, government, analysis, and press relations. They would be responsible for monitoring and listening to conversations, understanding and contextualizing them, responding to and catalyzing existing conversations, and, ultimately, joining them. (Jaffe 101-102)”

Later in the book, Jaffe reiterates that this is someone with a mix of attributes, somewhere between PR people (more “social media”) and advertising/marketing folks (more “storytelling”). I imagine this multi-dimensional CCO would also be “somewhere in between…longing for the days of good old-fashioned storytelling, with a sprinkle of authenticity and a drizzle of ROI to boot. (Jaffe 180)”

Likewise, I would think this conversation department headed by the CCO would be something like the “black ops” team mentioned late in the book. They would be responsible for experimentation, a vital aspect of any business, and fit in to the CCO model in my opinion.

“Experimentation is best conducted by a separate team – a nimble, independent, empowered, and intense group of individuals who report straight to the top. Depending on your anticipated level of risk and your comfort level, this team could be assembled as a ‘Delta Force’ or ‘black ops’ group…unaccountable throughout but ready and prepared to pay the ultimate price upon failure. (Jaffe 252)”

Jaffe’s sentiments relate to Joseph Turow, who recently wrote a terrible screed bashing all marketers in Niche Envy: Marketing Discrimination in the Digital Age (and yes, it is intentional that I am not hyperlinking the title – don’t buy this book!).

Turow says “The adperson who is master of this particular form of ‘conversation’ [two-way contact with customers and potential customers] can expect a growing role in tomorrow’s marketing world. (Turow 69-70)” He only begrudgingly acknowledges the usefullness of a marketer in touch with his/her audience and throws sarcastic quotation marks around “conversation,” but the sentiment is the same. He later goes on to quote James Stengel, P&G’s marketing chief:

” ‘All marketing should be permission marketing,’ he said, and ‘all marketing should be so appealing that customers want us in their lives…and homes.’ To do that, he cautioned, required creative content and ‘connection points’ in a variety of media and environments. (Turow 87-8)” While Turow spends most of his book bashing all marketing and inciting paranoia about the information marketers have (Old Navy knows I like blue shirts, the horror!), he is correct that direct connection between the customer and company will only become more important in the near future. What better person to be responsible for this connection than the Chief Conversation Officer?

How Politics is the Perfect Training for Marketing

January 16, 2008 at 5:54 am | Posted in Advertising, Communication, Decision making, General, Jaffe, Joseph - Join The Conversation, Marketing, Online marketing, Politics, ROI | 1 Comment
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I never knew what I wanted to be when I was growing up, so I picked politics because at least that was something I was. And now that I’m in marketing it seems a perfect fit – it’s all about persuasive communication which is where I excelled in politics anyway. But I also feel like I missed out not having a background in marketing. I don’t speak the language (I’m not ashamed to admit that I didn’t know what ROI was until a few months ago).

Yet, as I begin to read Joseph Jaffe’s Join the Conversation, I am beginning to think that that lack might not be such a detriment after all. Jaffe cites the five (old) rules of content which are:

1) Content is created by corporations (“professionals”)…

2) Content is consumed by consumers…

3) And the two shall never meet.

4) Consumers will pay for content. (That’s not a belief – it’s an order!)

5) Content is an end unto itself.

I don’t care to speak to these point separately, but rather the entire gestalt at once. I am also thinking of politics in the way I experienced it – something of an idealized version, perhaps, but worth working towards. This post is essentially geared to a college kid who has strong skills and strong beliefs, but doesn’t know how to translate that into a career.

Persuasion through human contact

Cutting my teeth in politics (rather than marketing, say) meant that my “product” (the candidate) was required to connect with consumers/voters. A case could be made that this connection was on a shallow or expedient level, but the better the product, the better the connection. It was a rough and tumble game of persuasion. Imagine if the entry-level marketer had to figure out not how to push their message on people through established mediums, but rather had to persuade people to turn on the television in the first place.

It is the third of Jaffe’s points that is the most salient to me and in some way, it is a crux of his book. In politics, the content/product and consumer/voter engage all the time. Sure, I’m jaded too. I don’t believe that candidates always listen at those forums as much as they ought to. But I have been to enough town hall meetings and church lunches and rallies to know that those meetings do have an effect on the people, and likely an effect on the candidate (the better ones, at least).

An army of advocates

In addition, one cannot forget the mass of employees and volunteers out there advocating on behalf of the candidate. That is marketing in it’s purest form – person to person, heart to heart (if you’ll forgive the schmaltz). I went from knocking on doors, making phone calls, driving voters to the polls, and holding signs outside of polling places to eventually running a modest field campaign. While the candidate can and should be making personal connections, the vast armies behind them definitely have the human touch.

Career planning

So this is why politics was a good entry to marketing for me: because I spent time in the trenches. While I read polls, I was also talking to people in their driveways. While I watched focus groups, I was also training groups of volunteers. Politics offers a human perspective and an opportunity to listen to the consumer that (I sense) a background in traditional marketing does not. (Maybe I’m not so behind – marketing language be damned.) In this new media environment, I would venture that politics is the perfect way to start a marketing career.

Yeah right!

Then again, Jaffe says, “The heat of passion, mixed with diversity of opinion, makes for an original exchange of viewpoints, attitudes, and perspectives” (pg. 133). Are marketing and politics too different? Am I wrong about persuasion and communication commonalities? I would especially love to hear from anyone who went the opposite route: marketing first before switching to politics.

Is there a connection? What would you recommend to a college student trying to find a career path?

Good For Consumers (And Businesses): Social Media Gets A Glimpse Of Measurable ROI

December 19, 2007 at 5:51 am | Posted in Collective Responsibility, Communication, Decision making, Facebook, General, Marketing, Online marketing, ROI, Social Media, Usability, User generated content, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment
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We recently had one of the worst weeks ever. It included (but certainly wasn’t limited to) taking the car in to replace an insanely expensive hose, losing our heat during a Chicago winter, getting sideswiped by a Chicago trolley right after leaving the dealership, and the subsequent arguing with and lying from the trolley driver to the cop about how she was not involved. Needless to say, there were not a lot of bright spots in the week.

But when the dealership tried to squeeze another $470 from us for a CV boot, I did a little research. Yelp.com and a few other sites extolled the virtue of the mechanic right down the street. He did the job in a couple of hours for $188. Amazing.

What does this all have to do with online marketing? Well, I was not surprised when I read this study from comScore. Not only are 1 in 4 internet users consulting reviews before purchasing offline, but they are willing to pay more if the service is ranked as excellent. It seem that after the year of exuberance that was all about Facebook and twitter, business is finally getting around to answering the question of how social media effects ROI.

If you have been questioning this yourself, you are not alone. I have seen at least 5 webinars in the past week and a half on this question alone: How do we determine our ROI on social media? And there are two distinct undercurrents in this discussion: 1) a low-lying anxiety on the part of marketers regarding keeping up with current trends and 2) trouble convincing an old-school CEO or other higher-up that this is of value to the company. I am a victim of the former and may blog about it in the future, but relief for the latter is beginning to emerge.

Among the best of the webinars and white papers discussing social media ROI are those from TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony. Anyone who is trying to convince their fellow employees about the value of social media must read their white paper, Making the Case for a Social Media Strategy. (Just so you know, I’m not connected to the company at all – I just really do like their work.)

They begin by going through an evolution of digital communications and present research on what people are doing online. They then explain how social media is a blurring of communication and content (the two activities people do the most online) and give salient examples of how struggling industries (especially newspapers) are embracing social media and seeing profits skyrocket. Among the quantifiable ROIs:

  • momentum
  • influence
  • prototyping
  • direct conversion of buzz into sales
  • market feedback/testing
  • crowdsourcing
  • recommendations

And each of those quantifiable ROIs has at least one example from a major, dynamic company. Consider these:

  • Crowdsourcing: “Intuit created a community with discussion boards on their site so customers can help each other with questions…According to Business Week, this community now has over 100,000 members discussing topics across 50 subject areas.” CEO Steve Bennett’s 2005 annual report letter to shareholders stated, “positive word of mouth creates a durable advantage for Intuit that translates into sustained revenue and profit growth.”
  • Recommendations: “Analysis of [Petco’s] web traffic revealed that users that [sic] sort the list of products by customer ratings spend 41% more than users who search with other methods like popularity or price… Emails that feature customer review content receive 50% higher clickthrough rates.”

Helpfully, there are also cases where social media hurt companies, but a fair review notes that it was not the tool that caused the problem, but the poor PR skills of the company. Many are not adept at responding quickly, especially to a crisis situation. These examples serve as a good warning to be prepared for what you are about to take on.

In the end, social media is just a tool. But this study and others can give you the quick-and-dirty version (with stats) to help convince your more traditional bosses. It’s a scary new world but at least we’re all in it together.

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