How to Listen Over Social Media

The act of listening is defined as “Take notice of and act on what someone says; respond to advice or a request”. Knowing this definition is very important to social media as listening is one of the most important things you will do whilst being involved in social media. The value it gives you to truly listen is understated. We all want to be on these amazing platforms and talk about “interaction” when really a lot of marketers just consider it another way to get their message out.

Let’s turn the tables on that for a second and consider it from this angle – The platforms social media makes available allows consumers to get their message IN to companies. I am sure you can see the potential opportunities from this. A person would not bother to interact with your brand unless it already meant something to them, listening to them can offer valuable rewards and turn the most irate customer into a brand advocate if dealt with correctly.

It is very important that when you are preparing to use social media or setting up your social media division that you consider the types of interaction you will be getting over these platforms and prepare for them. Interaction that requires a response can be divided into three segments:

1 – Opportunities

2 – Customer Complaints

3 – General Enquiries

This segmentation allows you to manage your social media in an effective manner which reduces response times and the possibility of misinformation.

It is important to follow the 4 steps to effective listening:

1 – Listen

2 – Classify/Assign

3 – Compose

4 – Respond

Do not be overwhelmed by the amount of traffic within social media that could come your way. The key to managing it effectively is putting the right resources in the right places to enhance your social media abilities.

A team of people should be responsible for “listening” and “classifying/assigning” the conversations. This team should be comprised of people who are good traffic managers and know how to designate work to the correct people. Spotting opportunities should be a talent of theirs (a talent not everyone has) as they could bring you some great returns on your social media.

The team that actually deals with the communication back to consumers should be separated into the three segments stipulated above. They should make themselves visible over social media platforms and be knowledgeable in Public and Customer Relations. They have to know how to communicate over these platforms and over more personal face to face platforms. Do not be afraid to give them traditional tools like a telephone etc. to help them do their jobs. Just because a complaint comes in over social media it doesn’t mean all the gory details need to be splashed out over the same platform, as long as the resolution is posted, people will react positively. Keep the response times down and keep the customer informed as to when and how they will be contacted and they will be happy.

There are various tools you can use to help manage your social media requirements. With companies only answering about 5% of the questions posed on Facebook (click here for article) it is important to invest in taking this rate higher as the damage to your brand can be immeasurable when these questions are left unanswered. The Omllion Dashboard is an easy to use listening tool which covers your total brand mentions, sentiment analysis behind those mentions, allow you to classify and assign conversations as well as listing your top authors and sources. There are other abilities the dashboard has but for that you can go to their website and take a look. The point is there are always ways to make things work more efficiently, I have had word from Omllion that they will be introducing a new product soon to further enhance your owned media and some of the abilities are astounding.

In conclusion, when diving into social media, remember that it does not fall to the marketing division only but really to all divisions. Listening to what is happening out there allows a company to deliver what consumers expect from them (scary thought, I know) or allows a company to pick up on industry trends very quickly in the B2B area, whatever it is that you do, it never hurts to have your ear close to the ground. Remember the definition of listening is not the same as hearing.

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What Could Have Been – If Only We Decided to Monitor

Over the past couple of months we have seen the effect social media can have on various communities, Egypt, Libia and now, England to name a few. We have seen it affect business all over the world. Our reactions to these social media “explosions” vary, rejoice over liberation, sadness at rioters who seem too young to consider the repercussions of their actions, and anger at different business’ for not delivering to expected service standards. In each case I wonder, to myself quietly, are governments the world over keeping up with this ongoing cultural revolution or not. What worries me is when this form of the social media revolution hits South Africa will we honestly be ready for it, from a business and government point of view.

Business needs to keep tabs on their brands, ensure that they have their fingers on the pulse of the communities they create around themselves. From what I have heard South African breweries do it well, encouraging positive sentiment and often showing gratitude whilst engaging negative commentary and really listening to the community around them. Having an engaging and positive attitude towards social media can bring your brand great praise in the community that surrounds it. Social Media being viewed as a purely marketing tool is ineffectual and the hunt for ROI from social media is like chasing paper on a windy day. Effectively monitoring online mediums is the way forward in the South African market. Data is key in all we do online and monitoring sentiment, tracking conversations and who is speaking about you can help you gain valuable consumer insights and have a greater positive effect on your business than simply looking for ROI. Yes, with monitoring tools you can attempt to search for leads, and they will come up out of the humdrum of online conversation – treat them as a great opportunity to show people exactly how good your brand is, because you may get the sale, but if you slip up with that client they will go straight back to where you found them and let everyone know about your slip up.

From a government point of view, the losses that have occurred in the UK over the past week could have been anticipated and the effectiveness of the police greatly increased by accurate social media monitoring. Unfortunately the same could be said for the amazing revolutions that happened in Egypt, Libia and in Syria. Keeping current on the communities within your country should be absolutely vital to any country’s government, especially those who rule with consent of the ruled. Like so many things in life, social media is a two-edged sword and whilst the rioters are using it to do bad, some are using it to do good, have a positive attitude to the future and get moving forward – click here – which makes us aware of why social media has become the great, big driving tool it has over the last few years. It can be anything to all people.

As the youth within South Africa become more engaged, connected and opinionated one can easily foretell that we have to prepare for similar actions from our populace, hopefully not violent, but indeed a key influence in shaping the future of our country. For those who believe I have a gripe against certain political parties in South Africa, yes, I have a gripe against any government that over promises and under delivers, but that is government the world over.

Simply put, monitoring social media and engaging with the communities around you can easily forewarn you of impending danger and hopefully you can stop the snowball effect social media relies on, or redirect it. This is the case for government and business who should keep their fingers on the pulse of their communities to check their health. Listen, engage, interact and deliver – Four words to keep you going through social media and this age of hyper connectivity.

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Direct Marketing Q & A

Just a couple of quick questions related to traditional direct marketing and what we see happening in todays world, which were posed to me about two weeks ago.

Q:

Has traditional direct mail grown, decreased or remained static? What are your figures telling you? Are there any trends you can pick up on in terms of mail usage by industry sectors?

A:
Traditional direct mail is still very much a part of an integrated marketing strategy. What we do find though is that clients are getting more selective, narrowing their data to find the niche market for the mail rather than the large scale spray we have seen in the past. Whilst this has a positive effect on ROI, we still see clients not making use of all available resources, such as transpromotional mailings, which allow for even greater control over the message delivered and results in increased ROI from any mailing campaign. Financial and Insurance sectors are still very strong mailers and numbers have remained relatively static, whilst we have seen a decrease in other industries.

Q:

What has the uptake been in terms of e-mail and mobile marketing specifically in terms of your clients?

A:
E-mail marketing is on the rise in South Africa, the problem is that we do not see an increase in results and ROI from these campaigns, the most successful campaigns that we see do not use e-mail to initiate a sales response from the targeted client but rather a response for more information. Mobile marketing has also increased dramatically in South Africa, and with the rise of new technological platforms such as smart phones, this rate of adoption can be expected to increase, it is how we use it that really matters, bear in mind that mobile is extremely personal and we find cross-selling or up-selling to be the most effective use of the form of marketing, whereas acquisition of new clients is less successful.

Q:

There seems to be a surge in e-mail marketing and a serious drop off in SMS/MMS (certainly I have noticed this in terms of the frequency that I used to get promo SMS to now – it definitely has dropped off a lot). Companies tend to see e-mail marketing as cheap and quick – what are your views in terms of the effectiveness of it, response rates versus traditional mail, the need for a multi-channel approach and how this is timed in terms of the usage of each channel?

A:
Each channel compliments itself to different segments of South Africa’s market. Responses to SMS/MMS vary across these segments just as response to e-mail does. People who are not exposed to the blaze of marketing messages that some who live a more connected life are, have a higher response rate than highly connected individuals. The same can be said for e-mail. SMS/MMS is highly personal therefore needs to be highly relevant to the person being targeted. E-mail whilst still personal needs the relevance in order to stand out from all the clutter, it is not just cheap and quick but a fine art to get right. Both channels make us extremely aware that companies need to focus on a 360 degree direct marketing strategy. Planning around how these tools work for you and how they work for the consumers is essential.

Q:

Telemarketing – are its days numbered? Is it still an effective tool or does this depend on the product and the target market – if so when does it work best? Has the CPA had a marked impact on telemarketing, in fact e-mail and SMS as well.

A:
All tools are effective if you know how to use them. Telemarketing, just like any other direct marketing tool, needs to be a part of your overall marketing strategy. Clients are also looking at the different ways in which they can use these tools. A quick telemarketing response to a sales inquiry is sometimes better than having the customer sit around and wait for an e-mail back. Like all things in direct marketing the results come down to how you use the tool to communicate and adapting to customer trends is an essential part of direct marketing, we see clients talking to their customers in the way customers want to be spoken to not the way the company wants to speak and this has created some great campaigns yielding excellent ROI and proving that traditional direct marketing is not dead but an essential tool for marketing and branding.

Q:

Would you say that traditional direct mail is able to bypass many of the challenges posed by the CPA?

A:
I would not say it is able to bypass the challenges. By its very nature, direct mail is not very intrusive compared to mediums such as SMS or telemarketing therefore the public accepts direct mail easier than they do a telemarketing call. The easy acceptance of direct mail finds it to be the least blocked medium of direct marketing and a great proverbial “foot in the door” for the rest of the marketing plan to then step through. Yes the success of direct mail depends on a lot of factors, but it is still highly effective in todays technological world and definitely as a first contact point.

You can find more news and other info on direct marketing at www.facilities.co.za where I work and thus keep my finger on the pulse of what is actually happening by staying involved in every campaign we run.

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6 Simple Rules to Enhance Your Social Media Engagement

I have been following social media for some time now, passively at first and then deciding to get proactive and jump straight in once I thought I had observed enough. Over the past year and a bit of actively being involved in social media I have seen so many changes my mind has suppressed the memories of every time I have been astonished by something new in order to avoid a meltdown. Even though there have been all these changes I have marked out 6 key areas anyone can work on in order to become more effective and efficient in their social media campaigns whether personal or for a brand.

1. Relevance!

This has to be the most preached about rule in social media, ensure you stay relevant to your fans, followers, readers etc. Indeed this is very true, however there is always someone talking about something on the internet, every conceivable topic is right there at the click of the button, so it does not take a genius to figure out that there will always be an audience for what you are saying or broadcasting. This begs the question how do you find the audience you are looking for. The means by which you advertise or market your social media must be relevant to the people you wish to attract as well as the content.

2. Tools!

Which tools are you going to use, a Facebook page for small business to business operations makes no sense, whereas LinkedIn will probably work a whole lot better. Be aware of what you want to achieve and what the best way of achieving this is. With such a wide range of social media tools with each offering something different in different ways many brands are tempted to tramp themselves all over each and every one. This is not necessary, use the medium(s) that do the best for your business and suit its positioning and image. Social Media presence is not gained by having a page on every conceivable website.

3. Keep in the loop!

Stay up to date with what people are saying to you on your various platforms, it is necessary for you to know the general trend and feeling towards your brand. Once you have the grasp of what is coming to you directly start looking away from your little box that you have developed, if you think people talk to you a lot about what you do you should take a look at what they are saying outside of the box you have created for interaction and you will find a whole lot more there. The other side of keeping in the loop is paying attention to the new trends and different developments in the web space, try not to be playing catch up all the time.

4. Be Active!

Keep active in your social media space and start to branch outside of your box as said in rule 3, this is not a space where you sit back and wait for someone to come say hi. Have opinions about things, show people new things, tell people ways in which the brand is moving forward, though not all at once. Participate in other peoples conversations that are relevant to your industry and brand. Participation is key in the social media space and expands awareness of your brand, whilst allowing you to find out a whole lot more about what people think of your brand.

5. Get Personal!

Here is a wild idea, do not let all the commentary come from your brand, sometimes (most especially when there is a problem) we consumers like to speak to a person, let us know who is running the social media and let them comment back to us personally. People love the personal interaction when it is immediate and relevant to them, it is the reason why social media does so well. Having a person answer rather than just the brand gives that extra sense that someone inside that company cares about me. Please take a look at Mr. Delivery’s Facebook page. They have done it really well, the menu is interactive, the people themselves communicate with you and it just lends itself to an extra special experience for any person interacting with them.

6. Decide on why you are doing this!

Many people and brands have gone on about what their objectives are in social media and what goals they have set in relation to fans and ROI etc. However most of the time I see social media being used for customer service more than anything else. I believe it is multi-functional more than a singular marketing and sales tool… would you ask for a ROI report from your customer helpdesk? I wouldn’t but I would make sure that at all times they are focused on retaining customers, being helpful and advertising the brand in a positive manner. Most social media pages, accounts etc. do just this they are more of a helpdesk platform with added marketing and PR functions than marketing platforms with helpdesk functionality.

Final Thought

This is the age where there are no experts, social media requires adaptation and a keen eye for opportunity unlike any other form of marketing or CRM. Those who are involved in social media need to ensure that they have the full backing of the brand and should push for it to be taken out of the “dirty little dark office where nobody knows what is going on just make sure that we have it” mind frame and start showing and sharing great social media experiences with all those within the brand

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The Birthday Syndrome

Happy Birthday! All the best! Seemed about every message on my facebook profile on my birthday, some from people I haven’t actually heard from in 10 years and some from my closest friends. I tried to keep up and thank everyone in person but soon gave up and sent out the generic “thank you everyone for the birthday messages” status. The reaction I got from that status update was a little surprising as I had an old friend ring me up to tell me that he was not happy with my thanks as he is not just anyone but my best bud, rugby, beer and braai colleague.

The personal lesson for me is to read your wall posts properly. I rely heavily on my blackberry for all sorts of things including facebook and it was my downfall in this case as I had skipped over a few very nice messages in among the general gab of happy birthday messages that all look the same. This got me thinking how many of us actually end up doing the same on our business pages.

When a person posts on your page they are often looking for a bit of recognition from the brand. A simple “we are glad you enjoyed our product/service, you are welcome back anytime” goes a long way! That is often all they are looking for, that recognition from the brand (someone bigger than they could ever be) to say “you are important to us.” To me facebook fails in delivering this along with twitter and the other social networks as they suffer from what I would call “The Birthday Syndrome” and please some of the people some of the time but not most of the people most of the time (let’s face it, all the people all the time is a goal for those who have marketing hallucinations). This can lead to people becoming slightly disenamored with the brand, it will not necessarily turn them away from your brand but just like any other bit of rejection, the loyalty gets lost and the shine seems to get taken away.

So how can we fix this syndrome?

Your social media platforms should create a community around the brand, not be a helpdesk platform unless you have the sole objective of running it as a helpdesk. This is not a bad idea but avoid it if you are suffering from The Birthday Syndrome. Encourage conversations between members; don’t just punt your brand the entire time directly to the fans. Encourage conversations around your CSI’s and other key issues to your brand. If I can Liken Social Media to internal branding, except this is with your fans so keep the discussions going about important things in their lives as well as your brand and what your brand is doing. Encouraging this form of interaction will allow for your “brand ambassadors” amongst your fans to do some of the work for you. You want your fans to buy into your brand as much as your internal staff should. You are essentially bringing people into the brand, make sure they believe in it before they have to vote for the next t-shirt design.

Now what do we do about those complaints and those lovely thank you messages? There are many options out there to deal with this, from call centres to ignoring it completely but I am going to let you know how I think it can be done with the technologies available today. Form personalised websites, a place where people can purely interact with the brand. Allow them to theme the website, adding their favourite things about the brand with tools you supply them, therefore you really get to know them. Put questions up and make interaction easy. Everything on the website/mobile site must be about what the consumer can tell you, not about you telling the consumer. This will allow you to gather valuable data on your consumer and ensure that your marketing is personalised and relevant to your fans/customers. This platform that you lay can facilitate complaints, thanks and enquiries. Ensure you conduct research on this platform; it can become the most valuable data collection point for your business. Allow the profiles to be viewed by others who enjoy the brand and the engagement with the brand should be open to all, never let someone get the feeling that their messages are hidden. It is easier and simpler to build a CRM tool into the back-end of a website or mobile site than it would be to create an application for a page, also easier for users to use and the data is even more effective. You can really get intimate with a customer or fan on this level and ensure their activity and involvement with your brand.

Once your data gets better it improves the relevance of your marketing. Relevant marketing improves sales, which is then added to your data and so the circle continues. This is an important concept which many have forgotten, take charge of your data and what you want to know, find out what the consumer wants. Data is more than a name, address and telephone number. Do not fall prey to The Birthday Syndrome, it will be the downfall of social media if we are not careful.

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Thinking Mobile Exhibition

The Concept – have an exhibition with thought leaders giving talks and doing workshops with marketers in order to teach/show them the relevance of Mobile Marketing in the world today.

This is a very clear and solid concept on which to build a great exhibition. Thanks must go out to Alexander and Lauretta from MyMOBworld for organising such a great event and having the thought and care for the industry to organise an event where people can come and learn how to do things right.

Over the two days we heard from some very interesting speakers, some of whom I agree with and others who I do not, but they all had belief in what they were doing. The knowledge available to any marketer there was invaluable and I would highly recommend attending next year’s exhibition if you never got the chance this year.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak at the exhibition by Alexander on the integration of Mobile Marketing into your current campaigns and strategies, an interesting topic for me and hopefully for those who attended. The core of my message was that mobile provides an easy and adaptable platform for you to achieve your goals with, from data to sales and promotions.

Have a thought on what you are doing as a brand and how can you get to know who you are speaking to better. Are you doing the following:

• Making consumer data the main objective of your data?
• Opening up communication channels between yourself and consumer?
• Interacting with your consumer or target market in an authentic and easy manner?
• Ensuring all communication is relevant to the people you are speaking to?

If you aren’t doing these points and are just throwing money at marketing to “get your name out there” you may as well be pissing into the wind. Always ensure you get something back from your marketing and communications. Take your consumers through a journey and allow them to tell you all sorts of things that they like and how they like them. After all the man who chooses not to listen hears nothing and in this day and age, brands simply cannot afford not to listen.
So after the last week it will be interesting to see who chooses to listen and listening actually implements the plans following as I am sure there will be great success for those who do. Always remember that data is so much more than a name, address and telephone number.

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Online/Social Media

After a wonderful Social Media “Bootcamp” I realise that Social Media and Online marketing do indeed go hand in hand, one cannot manage without the other, especially in South Africa’s market. Often Social Media is too confined a space for a brands entire existence to be within it.

I have spoken before about the difference between drivers and platforms, stating that social media is a platform. I am now starting to rethink this idea, the more it evolves the more it sits as a jack of all trades for marketing though with limitations. Social Media can do wonderful and great things for your business, getting your word out virally, running different promotions etc. but the old question always pops up about measuring ROI over Social Media. How do we measure Return On Investment in social media… simple answer is we don’t. Response On Investment should be the ideal term for social media. The reason i say this is because of the monitoring of social interactions, how often your brand is mentioned, by whom it’s mentioned and to whom it’s mentioned. Your Social Media interactions should be much like pushing the bubble button in a Jacuzzi that turns the water from calm and placid to bubbling and frothy, often creating quite a stir as most of the bubbles you absolutely love but it’s just the odd one or two that are not what you wanted at all and require you to shift a bit.

Consider the Old Spice Campaign as shown in this video on a case study of the campaign by the agency who came up with the campaign.

From this I should hope it is clear the difference between Response On Investment and Return On Investment. The two different measurements can be linked; it is obvious from this case study that the one feeds the other. However you can be guaranteed that not all twitter followers and facebook fans etc. went out and brought the product, now if they are speaking to you already, wouldn’t you want to know? Why not run a personalised mobile site campaign where you take a picture of yourself holding your brand new Old Spice or a woman making her man hold the Old Spice like the man she wants her man to smell like? Alright, that last sentence took a lot out of me, but you get the picture.

To put it simply, we all love a clever campaign; the entertainment value in them can last a very long time, especially with something such as Old Spice. With that type of response to a campaign, you can bet they still have some unconverted people that they are speaking to daily who want so badly to be involved in the brand but do not want to share their wallet with it, not yet at least. Social Media, online and mobile gives us the opportunity to do lifetime campaigns and watch our consumers through their life cycle and communicate with them at different stages… what a great opportunity for the brands who bother to get to know their consumers, such as Old Spice.

The South African market though is slightly different, and unfortunately a response like that to a youtube campaign just is not going to happen as so much of social media’s applications and major benefits gets lost as soon as you go mobile and when you consider there are 15 million people roughly who rely exclusively on mobile to access the internet this is a conundrum to us marketers that needs to be solved. Make no mistake, I am not ditching social media, I have a very intense passion for it, I am just pointing out some of the draw backs.

South Africans have large ego’s hence the social media revolution has taken off in a fairly big way despite arriving slowly, after all we love having our ego’s stroked, even if we can bitch about something and tell our friends how cool it was that the brand listened. Due to this ego of ours I believe marketing needs to be even more personal. I would love a brand i care about to set up a personal site for me, offering me personal specials, ones that actually mean something to me, well mean more than burning paper at least. Social Media and the communities on there are great but sometimes it can feel like people get drowned out in the crowd and you can see this for yourself if you just scroll down a couple of brands pages, take a look at the ones who get disgruntled when they don’t get recognition after posting time and time again. So please brands of South Africa get into my psyche and allow me to talk to you and you talk to me in a significant meaningful manner, and no I do not want to phone a call centre.

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