The Danger of Automatic Feeds in Social Media

January 31, 2012

Note: This is a guest post by Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North. See Brad’s bio at the end of the article.

Participating in social media is time consuming, so it’s only natural that people look for shortcuts. However, some shortcuts become disastrous detours, and this is often what happens when a company relies on automation for significant portions of its social updating.

Automatic feeds come in two flavors. Fully automatic feeds publish to a social media platform without any human intervention. An example of this is setting up your Twitter updates to automatically feed into your Facebook company page.  Semi-automatic feeds require intervention. For example, my HootSuite social media interface allows me to publish the same message simultaneously on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and soon, Google+.

Why to Avoid Automatic Feeds

The catch is, while automation is tempting for publishers, it is often annoying to readers. The following three consequences of overfeeding are why you should avoid automation, or at the very least use it judiciously.

1. Stream clogging. Automation encourages publishers to over communicate. If you overload any given platform with updates, your connections will either mentally tune you out, or physically tune you out by removing you from their stream (think Facebook) or disconnecting from you altogether (think Twitter). Most social platforms enable users to finely tune and personalize their incoming content, dooming any type of mass merchandising effort. And even though you can’t stop your mail to prevent junk mail, social media users can and do stop messaging they regard as spam.

2.Redundancy. Publishers sometimes lose sight of how many of their connections frequent multiple platforms. When I see the same update on three platforms, I remember it, but not in a good way. My assumption is the sender either doesn’t understand me or doesn’t mind bombarding me. Either way, the sender is not inspiring me to interact or do business.

3. Inappropriate style. The composition of a tweet, which is limited to 140 characters, does not lend itself to doubling as an effective Facebook post. Conversely, updates from other networks feeding into Twitter may be severely truncated, rendering them cryptic or entirely incomprehensible. Each platform has its own stylistic conventions that encourage conversation and action. Ignoring them only renders your social media activity less effective.

How to Avoid Automatic Feeds

Why do companies use this sort of indiscriminate messaging? Besides the convenience factor, I believe many companies simply don’t have a clear and distinct communication strategy for each social platforms on which they engage.

For example, a B2C firm might use …

  • Twitter to announce daily Twitter-only promotions
  • Facebook as a place for customers to upload photos of themselves using the product
  • LinkedIn for business updates relevant to employees and stakeholders

A B2B firm might use …

  • Twitter to distribute industry news and analysis highly relevant to its customer base
  • Facebook to provide in-depth information on its products and solicit feedback
  • LinkedIn as a recruiting channel

You’ll notice that each example necessitates targeting a particular audience segment and then theming the message to appeal to that segment.

Putting a purpose behind social communication not only eliminates the temptation to use automatic feeds, it allows companies to give audience segments a clear and persuasive reason to connect and much more important, stay connected and engaged. A constant barrage of thematically unconnected updates might accomplish the former, but never the latter.

Any business in social media for the long haul needs a strategy that employs something other than convenience as the linchpin.

 

About the author:

 Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, an Internet marketing, Chicago-based agency. They specialize in niche, middle market B2B industries such as flame resistant apparel and thermoplastic injection molding. Follow @bradshorr on Twitter for non-automated discussion of all things marketing.

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Reinventing Marketing at GE

July 7, 2011
General Electric Ecomagination Marketing Advertising

GE's Ecomagination Ad Campaign - Result of the Marketing Transformation Process

Who would have thought that General Electric (GE), one of the most admired companies in the world didn’t have a substantial marketing organization up until recently. And I’m not talking in number of people (they had 2,500 marketers a the time), but in its role related to strategic decisions, branding, and overall market direction.

In “Unleashing the Power of Marketing“, Harvard Business Review tells us an interesting tale of how GE transformed its marketing operations and gives us an interesting framework for applying to other businesses. The goal at GE was to transform marketing from a support function to an active player in driving revenue.

“Our framework centered on giving marketing a revenue-generating role in its own right.”

It’s a story worth reading, but since you may not have access to HBR (the article above requires subscription), here’s a summary.

Marketing as a Function

Building products that sell themselves is a neat idea and had worked well for GE for years. But, as the article points out, “The businesses were maturing, and like other companies, GE was learning that it could not win simply by launching increasingly sophisticated technologies or by taking existing technologies to new markets. Some of its best-thought-out new offerings were fast becoming commodities.”

GE then started to create a framework for its marketing group and came up with three core components:

1. Principles
After a thorough assessment of their expertise and functions, GE came up with eight disciplines organized into two groups, go-to-market activities, and commercial essentials. They became the core principles driving their marketing organization.

2. People
Their next step was to understand the roles marketing should play at GE. They came up with four roles: Instigators, Innovators, Integrators, and Implementers.

3. Process
Having identified what they wanted from marketing, GE then started putting together metrics for evaluation of the marketing teams and started a process called Maturity Evaluation.

Principles of Marketing at Work

It started from the top down, with Jeffrey Immelt (the CEO) pushing marketing to have a “line” role instead of the historical “staff” role it had at GE. Marketing started to be held responsible for critical operating mechanisms like pricing and quantifying customer value. Marketing started to play a role in determining not just what the customer needed but also in applying technology to better meet customer needs.

As marketing started to work in new innitiatives, expanding its role, more funding was provided and new offerings were created.

“In all these initiatives marketing gets into the game at the start, sizing “white space” opportunities, meshing unmet needs with new technologies, and moving our brand in new directions.”

A new Marketing Framework was created, comprised of eight disciplines:

  • Strat­egy and innovation
  • Brand­ing and communications
  • Sales force effectiveness
  • “New World” skills
  • Mar­ket knowledge
  • Seg­men­ta­tion and targeting
  • Value cre­ation and pricing
  • Com­mer­cial activation

Throughout the transformation process, this framework was refined and always referred to.

Key Marketing Roles

As they progressed with their marketing transformation, GE also identified a few key marketing roles that would become essential for transforming the organization:

The Instigator
Marketers have to challenge the status quo and look for new and better ways of doing things.

At GE some units had a tendency to develop products because they could, not because the market needed them. Marketing helped business leaders think outside their usual market and started to identify opportunities that weren’t even on the table previously. It’s more than market research, is looking outside and understanding the changes happening in the marketplace, in buying decisions, and in who your target market really is. Armed with data, marketing leaders could then discuss new directions with business leaders and show other approaches to growth.

The Innovator
Turning marketplace insights into untested products, services, or solutions.

While in the past marketing was relegated to simply passing information along to the groups responsible for innovation (R&D or engineering), the new marketing team started taking an active role in more than just advertising or market research expanding its reach beyond product features and functionality to include pricing, delivery, customer engagement, and new business models.

For example, in the Aviation market GE used to sell engines on the basis of thrust and other quantitative metrics and has since changed its approach to focus on operational efficiency and resource productivity.

“Innovative marketers use unique marketplace insights to come up with products, services, or solutions based on untested ideas.”

The Integrator
Building bridges across silos and functions and between the company and the market.

At GE it was recognized that marketers sometimes have to be translators. They have to speak product language with R&D and customer language to the sales force. But more than that, marketing has the capability of bringing disparate groups in the organization together to assess market dynamics and help the company cross-sell bundled products. During crisis (like the recent economic downturn), marketing can help bridge the gap between businesses and help them have an integrated view of distribution, pricing, sales, and more.

The Implementer
Executing on ideas.

“Getting things done” is probably the most critical skill of a marketer, even more at GE where those without direct P&L responsibility have a tough time getting resources and driving change.

“Marketing leaders have to build coalitions and persuade others, using functional expertise, insights, and teamwork rather than authority”

At GE, for example, marketing had to gain trust little by little. First, by giving business units competitive information, industry analysis, and the like. With time, and success in the early efforts, other units started to request help with specific projects.

Marketing Maturity and Knowledge Gap

Understanding what needs to be done is only half the battle, the other half is getting people to actually execute. GE started to hire marketers effectively doubling the marketing organization in size from 2,500 people in 2003 to 5,000 today. CMO’s were appointed for each GE business and also at the corporate level, tapping both internal staff as well as hiring from the outside.

They also conducted a Marketing Maturity Evaluation, to better understand what was missing from their marketing toolbox. This evaluation became an annual affair where CMO’s would convene their marketing teams and go through the survey for measuring specific skills, performance results, and understanding possible gaps.

The maturity evaluation surveys had a list of 35 skills and 140 definitions. Each capability had a description of what success looks like. The teams would score their units and review the assessments with business leaders, then they would roll up the score to eight capability areas and see if the scores were aligned across the organization. As marketing teams worked on these self-audits, they created a common language across all marketing staff regardless of business unit. With results in hand, CMOs and CEOs started to see areas that needed improvemeent and could work towards getting the right training or resources needed.

Transforming Your Marketing Organization

Think you have a tough time? Well, if GE can transform its marketing organization and reinvent itself in only a few years, think how much more you could do and how much faster!

Start by looking at what marketing capabilities you need in your team. Then, do a gap analysis (or maturity analysis like GE) and candidly assess where you and your team stand. Put a plan in place to either hire or train people to reach the level you require and also identify what roles marketing should play in your company.

Do you see marketing as Instigator, Innovator, Integrator, or Implementer? Maybe different situations require a different profile, but in that case be ready to get your team members up to speed on what each role requires.

If you have to get different results and don’t know how to start, I hope this story gave you some food for thought.

 

Further Reading

Additional resources related to General Electric’s marketing transformation:


12+ Tips for Trade Show Success

June 29, 2011

Trade Show pic by jeckman from FlickrMake Your Trade Shows Count

The old fashioned trade show may not be the hottest topic coming through your inbox these days but odds are that you may still be doing quite a few events and have trade shows as part of your marketing budget. So how do you make the most out of it?

A recent MarketingProfs article, Is Tradeshow Marketing Dead?, brings 12 tips for ensuring shows deliver the leads you expect. It’s a good basic list to get you pointed in the right direction (and I’ll add my two cents right after):

  1. Start planning early
  2. Make sure the audience is a good fit
  3. Get on the presentation agenda
  4. Establish a service level agreement with sales
  5. Negotiate for the full list of registrants
  6. Promote your participation to customers and prospects prior to the show
  7. Demand aggressive and professional performance from booth staff
  8. Capture detailed lead information
  9. Provide giveaways, raffles, and tchotchkes
  10. Enter all leads into a CRM system for Sales follow-up
  11. Continue post-show marketing with an appropriate offer
  12. Hold a post-mortem review with Sales and Marketing

A few more tips

As I said, a good list but I would also add the following:

A. Hold a pre-show meeting

  • Get everyone, especially sales, who will be attending the show to jump on a conference call (or conference room if everyone is in the same building) and go over the show plan. This includes reviewing show and expo dates, setup and tear down times, and working out a schedule for staffing the booth. Tell the sales reps what the giveaways are going to be, any details about lead capture devices, and other relevant information. The goal is to get everyone on the same page and be productive once the show starts.

B. Promote your session

  • If you’re presenting a session at the show (like item number 3 of the MarketingProfs list says), then try to promote the session at your booth. Print small reminder cards and give to people that stop by, and check with show organizers if you can do a prize drawing during your session (good for driving attendance).

C. Put marketers to work

  • Ideally at least one person from the marketing team should be at the show, even if for only one day. Marketing’s goal is to help out with sales efforts and interact with customers and prospects. That’s a great opportunity for marketers to get to know the target market better and listen first-hand to what customers have to say about the company, product, and competition. Talking about competition, marketing folks should walk around the expo floor and check out what the competition is doing. Take pictures of booths and stands that are interesting, make notes of cool giveaways. Everything at the show floor is good food for thought that can help improve your own presence at the next show.

D. Blog about the show

  • Use the tradeshow as an opportunity for content creation. Blog about the show attendance, take pictures of your customers and post them in your blog. Talk to other vendors about the industry or the show, and get them to also post comments in your blog. The event can generate a good couple of blog posts at least!

E. Take pictures

  • As in the previous suggestion, take lots of pictures. If you’re giving away a prize, take picture of the winner(s). As customers stop by to say hi, take pictures of them and their sales reps. Show organizers came over to check how things are going? Take a picture of them in front of your booth. Why? Everyone loves pictures, especially if they’re in the picture. As you send out post-show emails (thanking people for stopping by, etc.), place a link to the pictures you took. Pictures also make for good blog post after the show.

F. Provide content people want to read

  • Think “content marketing” and put your content marketer hat during the show. If you or anyone else from the marketing team can’t stay for the duration of the show, make a point to get help from sales or a business partner to jot down some notes about the sessions going on at the show. If after the event you can writeup a short blog post or email with “ten great lessons from the show”, you’ve got yourself a great content piece people will read and forward.

So there you have it, 12 plus 6 additional tips for making your tradeshow a successful event!


Content Marketing eBook and Infographics

June 23, 2011

A Content Marketing eBook

Content Marketing is all the rave, that’s part of what drove me to do some research on the history of content marketing and publish this free eBook, A Brief History of Content Marketing. I was curious to see how marketers of the past have used content marketing strategies to attract and engage customers before the Internet Age.

The result was a fun project, and many findings. Who would have thought giving away free recipe books could save a company? Or that Microsoft (of all companies) was the first of Fortune 500 corporations to have a corporate blog?

Download the eBook and let me know what you think.

Brief History Content Marketing eBook

The Rise of Marketing Infographics

Also interesting to me was the amount of Infographics, especially ones related to marketing, that I came across during my research and that have been released just now. Here are some great Content Marketing Infographics you may enjoy.

Content Marketing versus traditional marketing

Content Marketing Grid

The problem with content marketing infographic

The Rise of Content Marketing Infographic

Appetite for Content Infographic

Content Marketing Grid Infographic

 Did I miss a great Content Marketing Infographic? Let me know!


A Tough Road for Marketing Automation

June 20, 2011

Marketing Automation is a hot topic. News about multi-million dollar investments in the space has sparked not only interest from marketers but a multitude of competitors crowding an already jammed market. Is like driving down the highway only to see the traffic stopping right after you take the next curve. As the traffic is slowly moves, some cars faster than others, many drivers start wondering if they should take the next exit.

What’s Ahead for Marketing Automation Vendors

Continue reading my thoughts on what’s ahead for marketing automation vendors on a recently published article at the Marketing Automation Times website.


Email Adoption High But Lacking Best Practices

June 14, 2011

Email Marketing MailboxA Forrester Research “How US Maketers Use Email” Report sheds some light into the use of email by B2B and B2C companies. Author Sarah Glass states:

Email is the most mature and most widely used interactive marketing tool

According to the report, adoption of email marketing is high, with 88% of  B2C companies already using email and 10% planning to use before December 2011. In the B2B space, adoption at 71% is also very high but different from their B2C counterparts, 16% of B2B companies don’t plan on using it within the next 12 months.

Best Practices in Email Marketing

Maybe a surprising finding from the research is that despite high adoption, marketers at B2C and B2B companies still don’t use best email marketing practices such as cleaning the database, letting users select what products and services they want information about, and running welcome routines for newly registered users.

Despite email’s prevalent use, interactive marketers still don’t do all they can to get the full value out of their email efforts – Sarah Glass, Forrester Research

Marketing Budgets and Email Effectiveness

The report says email budgets will stay flat in 2011, but 43% of email marketers expect email effectiveness to increase over the next three years. Other channels are also expected to gain in terms of effectiveness, such as:

  • Social Media (blogs, podcasts, widgets, discussion forums)
  • Mobile (ads, applications, MMS, SMS)
  • Online Video

Getting More Out of Email

The report concludes with some advice for email marketers to get more out of their programs, suggesting them to:

  1. Invest in Analytics
  2. Clean Email Data
  3. Prioritize Relevance Over Rich Media
  4. Detect Devices Used to Access Email
  5. Embed Social Media Into Email Content

Download the Report

The Forrester Research Report can be downloaded for free thanks to Neolane.


When Leads Go Cold

June 9, 2011

Rusty Funnel by TMWeddle @ FlickrIt seems with all the systems we have today to generate, score, and nurture leads, it all comes down to sales. The amount of time it takes for a sales person to follow up with a lead can determine whether the deal is closed or not. At least, that’s what the recent HBR article “The Short Life of Online Sales Leads” states, saying that 24% of companies take more than 24 hours to respond to a lead, and 23% of companies never responded at all.

According to their research, the average response time, among companies that responded within 30 days, was 42 hours.

These results are especially shocking given how quickly online leads go cold – HBR

The article doesn’t go into much detail about whether the leads being followed up had been nurtured by a Marketing Automation system, or even a break down of industries but it does point a good possible flaw in the sales process of most companies.

What good is implementing a complex nurturing system if when the marketing qualified lead is sent to sales, the rep doesn’t follow up? Plugging this hole in the funnel takes more than software.


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