Social IMC. Give to Get.

This is the first of two blog articles on how to more effectively market your blog.  My students at Northwestern and my clients often create blogs and are publishing on a regular schedule…with little results.  These two blog articles will give you free tools and a template on how to best market your blog to maximize its impact in your readership base.  Enjoy and feel free to leave comments with tips and ideas to help each other improve our blogging results.

As a professor of social marketing in the Northwestern Medill IMC [Integrated Marketing Communications] program, I have my graduate and undergraduate students develop blog articles on topics relevant to a target market they want to attract.  They are on a wide range of marketing and social topics and can be seen by clicking here.  However, the purpose of this blog is not to discuss their work but what they do with these blogs after they are published.

You work hard to create your blog

In working with my students and clients on establishing a blog presence, most create and publish their blog article,  post it on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and – perhaps – tweet it once on Twitter and then they ……. hope.  They hope someone will see it, read it and comment on it.  But this is the exact wrong way to grow your blog readership.  You have worked hard to create an interesting and timely blog article.  Now you need to make your blog work harder for you to achieve your readership goals.

Meet Maslow

Maslow Hierarchy of NeedsIn 1943, Abraham Maslow published his hierarchy of needs.  Shown at the left, he identified that all individuals are concerned with dealing with five different levels of needs.  His Needs Hierarchy starts with our most basic needs at the bottom and more advanced, higher level needs at the top.  From bottom to top, they are:

  •  Physiological – these are our basic needs and we do not need to consider them for blogging
  • Safety – We want to be safe and healthy
  • Belonging – We want to be “with the crowd” and don’t want to be “left behind”
  • Esteem – Earning the respect of others because of our achievements
  • Self-actualization – Reaching our higher self or becoming all we can be

What does Maslow have to do with Blogging?

Actually, a great deal.  Whether you are blogging to consumers or business professionals, they respond to different types of messages and ignore others.  As a result, you need to test multiple messages to find the best way to connect with your desired readership.  In my Northwestern class, we call it Test & Learn.  If you test different messages in the marketplace, your markets will tell you want works.

Test & Learn is the way to grow!

This is the first of two articles so I am going to take on this Test & Learn methodology in two blogs.  When you write a blog article, you will finish and publish it.  Before you promote it, there are several steps you will need to take.  While we will discuss these steps in the next blog, what you want to focus on is the creation of different messages – based on the Maslow Hierarchy – that you can test to attract your readership.

For example, let’s say you write a blog article on gourmet egg cooking and you wanted to attract chefs interested in this high level of cooking.  If you wanted to attract them to your article using the Maslow levels [except physiological], what message might you test?  Let’s try some:

  • Safety/Security – Gourmet eggs are hot in the marketplace.  Learn how to cook exceptional eggs with my blog.
  • Belonging – Chefs across the country are raving about gourmet egg recipes,  see the best ones at my blog
  • Self-Esteem – When you cook a true gourmet egg, your customers will rave.  Learn how at my blog
  • Self-Actualization – The sign of a truly great chef is their gourmet egg cooking.  Learn how the best do it at my blog

While I’m sure it is apparent I know nothing about gourmet eggs, notice how the same article can be crafted and promoted using the Maslow Hierarchy?

Now you try it

I know for many of my students, it is difficult to get started without some assistance.  So I have some for you.  I have created a spreadsheet which takes you through the entire marketing process.  You can get it by clicking here.  Go to it and then download it to your computer.  You can then use it for every blog you publish.

To get started, take you last [or next] blog, go to the message tab and try to create a couple of messages using the Maslow Hierarchy.  It takes a few to get the hang of it but just try it.  I have given you an example from one of my best students – Megan Paniewski to show how it is done.  Don’t worry about the hash tags [#] or the bit.ly links.  That is in the next blog.  For now, have some fun and try to make different messages – targeted to your ideal readers – using all 4 of the top Maslow levels.  If you have time, take a look at the results tab as it shows it really works…but more on that in the next blog.

ENJOY and always have fun with blogging!  Let me know your comments and ideas on how you improve your blogging results! 

Randy Thumbnail 1Randy Hlavac is CEO and founder of Marketing Synergy Inc – an integrated and social marketing company located in Naperville IL.  Founded in 1990, Marketing Synergy works with companies to build measurable, highly profitable marketing programs and the database and analytical systems to drive them.  Randy works with B2B and B2C organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 firms.  In addition to Marketing Synergy, Randy has been a Lecturer Professor of Integrated and Social Marketing at Northwestern’s Medill IMC program for the last 21 years.  His graduate and undergraduate courses focus on the development of high impact Social IMC marketing programs and many of the course “graduates” work in social marketing today.  Dialog with Randy on Twitter @randyhlavac or discuss social issues with this hash tag #NUSocialIMC.  Randy can also be reached through Marketing Synergy website.

 

 

Nothing is worse than staring at a blank screen

In working with my graduate and undergraduate students in the Northwestern Medill IMC program where I teach social marketing, as well as with clients through Marketing Synergy, one of the most challenging problems business leaders have is how to approach blogging.  And it is a daunting challenge.  When most executives think about writing a blog, they envision their readers waiting breathlessly for their next brilliant insights and profound thoughts.  And the pressure of being profound is too much to even get started.

The problem is profound rarely happens

While this problem may seem daunting, there is a simple, proven way around it.  Don’t attempt to be profound.  Now, by saying that, I don’t mean you can just write anything; but, if you start by thinking about your potential readership, you will see they are not seeking profound…they are seeking something an expert they can trust.  And, once you realize this, it makes writing frequent blogs actually FUN and a great way to grow your expertise and your business.

 

Writer's Block

Writer’s Block can drive you crazy!

Your readers want expertise and insight…not profound

Regardless of your industry or your area of expertise, technology and new innovations are changing the way we do business.  The problem for your readers is this – they don’t have time to identify the things they should be watching and determining what they should do tomorrow in their business.  However, there are experts out there everyday who are writing blogs and articles or producing videos about specific subjects. You, as an expert in your area, can read these blogs and determine if they are worthwhile for your target readers to read.  Or you can write your own blog.  And, therein, lies your strength and “mission” as a blogger.

Filter & Focus is your blogging “mission”

When I teach aspiring bloggers at Northwestern or Marketing Synergy, rather than starting with a blank screen and trying to be profound, we use an easier and – surprisingly – more effective way to create a blog.  I call it Filter and Focus and it is easy to do.  Here are the steps we use:

  • Find Expert Articles – Find two articles you think are relevant and reputable on the same subject.These can be found through a Google search or from reading trade journals.  I find most of mine on Twitter from the experts I follow in social and integrated marketing.  The more current and timely…the better.
  • Find Their Relevance – Read the article and define its relevance for me – your target reader.  Develop what you like about each author’s approach and findings.  You will summarize them for the reader.
  • Create Actions for Me to Take – Finally – and most importantly – give me 3 actions to take from your analysis of these three articles.  Not 5, not 2 but 3.  Why 3?  Because it is enough to make reading your blog assessment worthwhile but not overwhelming.

Pretty simple and very effective.  It shows the reader you are an expert in an area of interest and your analysis and action items gives ideas on how to better their careers and their company.  You are helping them filter through the bewildering volume of media to focus them on something that will benefit them today.

See Filter and Focus in Action

Not sure it will work?  One of the requirements for my social marketing class is students must write a series of Filter and Focus blogs and then advertise them using social media.  While we will discuss the marketing aspect in other blog articles, go to our student blog site and see for yourself.  Each of the blogs is written from a template built around the Filter and Focus concept.   They are fast, focused, and really establish your expertise….AND WITHOUT BEING PROFOUND!  

Does it work?

If you look at some of the blogs on our class website, remember these are being written by students with little or no social clout.  They are just starting out on their careers.  However, from one blog, they often get hundreds if not thousands of readers.  And this is from a class assignment!

One of my students last year wanted to focus on attracting package goods C-level managers to her blog.  She wrote a blog on a new technology with huge advantages for packaged goods companies.  She used the Filter and Focus methodology, created great recommendations, and then marketed the blog to her target community.  In our next class, she excitedly related that her blog was read by 2 senior managers at P&G and she was contacted by one through Twitter with additional questions.  All from one blog.

In summary, don’t attempt to be profound.  As a blog reader, I don’t want profound but I want a way improve myself and my company.  Filter and find me some great articles and then tell me what to do with them.  Filter & Focus is the way to get my attention, my respect, and establish yourself as an expert I want to follow and use to build my business.  So, get going, find those 2 articles and get your first blog published and out by the end of this week!

Please feel free to comment on my blogs.  I am interested in hearing your thoughts on social marketing and social engagement.  Also, feel free to contact me on Twitter or LinkedIn.  Thanks for reading!

 

Randy Thumbnail 1Randy Hlavac is CEO and founder of Marketing Synergy Inc – an integrated and social marketing company located in Naperville IL.  Founded in 1990, Marketing Synergy works with companies to build measurable, highly profitable marketing programs and the database and analytical systems to drive them.  Randy works with B2B and B2C organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 firms.  In addition to Marketing Synergy, Randy has been a Lecturer Professor of Integrated and Social Marketing at Northwestern’s Medill IMC program for the last 21 years.  His graduate and undergraduate courses focus on the development of high impact Social IMC marketing programs and many of the course “graduates” work in social marketing today.  Dialog with Randy on Twitter @randyhlavac or discuss social issues with this hash tag #NUSocialIMC.  Randy can also be reached through Marketing Synergy website.

In the last blog article, I examined social media and the IMC [Integrated Marketing Communications] marketing model to make three important points.  1] Most companies are executing social strategies which do not provide any identifiable ROI to their company.  2] Successful marketers don’t focus on all markets but only on market segments which produce high returns for the company (high value markets).  3] Social media has three characteristics which makes it unique as a potential marketing channel.  These are:

  1. Social networks are different from social communities – Networks are for connecting with every one of your interests while communities are self-forming and focused on one particular passion or to address a key life trigger event.
  2. Social communities interact on many different types of social media – blogs, forums, video sites, aggregator sites, and many others.
  3. Private communities dwarf open communities – most communities require a log-in to become a members

These were emphasized in the first blog because they are critical to identifying the best social media strategy for your company.

Today, there are three strategies companies are developing and deploying using social media.  While I recommend you will use all three, it is important to understand the roles each of these strategies will play in growing your market share and in building stronger relationships with your current customers.  In this final article, we will examine each strategy and identify the roles, strengths and weaknesses associated with each one.

Strategy 1 – Social Networking Strategy

Most companies are using a social networking strategy.  As social media usage grew across all demographic groups, it just made sense to join in the conversation.  After all, it was easy to start.  Create a company Facebook page, same with Twitter and, perhaps, LinkedIn.  Customers and prospects will find you and, if you develop some content, you could engage them in a conversation.  Fast, simple and, if you did it right, you would soon have hundreds, if not thousands, of friends and re-tweeters. 

The strength of this strategy is that it is fast and easy to deploy.   Creating sites on the major social networks takes a couple of hours and you are in business.  Post occasional articles on your new products and services or key topics of interest to your customers and prospects and your friends will grow. 

But there are problems with this strategy.  The most critical is that the relationship between you and your visitors is, for the most part, anonymous.  While you will get to know some of the more active people from their names, companies cannot database them or measure key relationships.  Because we cannot link social networks to our marketing and sales systems, we can’t really tell if an individual is a prospect or a customer, the value of the relationship, or whether our social initiatives are creating new purchase activities.  In other words, we don’t have hard numbers to support whether our social networking investment is creating new revenues and profits for the company. 

Another problem with the social networking strategy is all of your best and worst markets are online at your site at the same time.  As a result, brand positioning and tailoring messages to each unique high value market is impossible.  Creating content or discussions with one segment might alienate another, more valuable, segment.  It is impossible to talk to everyone in a focused manner on Facebook or other social networks. 

As a result, social networking strategies are, for the most part, used by companies much like mass media was used in the past.  In a 2012 Social Habit survey conducted by Edison Research, the survey found most people follow brands on social networking site for sales, discounts, and coupons.  And this makes sense.   These types of offers and engagement devices are perfect for a marketing channel which cannot tailor to the needs of individuals or differentiated market segments.  With coupons, for example, you can place them on Facebook and the visitors can either use them if appropriate to them or ignore them if they are not.  Much like a mass marketed TV or magazine ad, either you are interested or you are not.  There is no targeting…that is left to the reader or the visitor.

One final note on developing a social networking strategy.  Keep in mind that the ease of building a social site you experienced also applies to everyone else.  This means while you have people visiting your official company site[s], they may also be visiting sites from your employees, disgruntled employees, external experts and others who will be talking about you, your products and your brands.   In fact, at 2012 study by the Altimeter group found most medium sized companies have 178 different social “facings” – some official and some not!  This makes it even more difficult to market using a social networking strategy.

Strategy 2 – Social IMC Strategy

The Social IMC marketing strategy is designed to achieve very different end goals.  It is designed to engage with communities of high value to your company, move them to a community site you develop to help them achieve their objectives, and acquire [database] them.  It is designed to link your social activities with your sales and marketing databases to track these high value individuals from first social interaction to final product purchase.  Companies deploying a Social IMC strategy are able to answer key questions like “What is the ROI of our social investment?”  “Are the individual attracted to our social programs customers or prospeccts?”  “What is the first product purchased and when does it occur?”  “What does each member like on our community site and how frequently do they visit it?” 

What is required to develop and deploy a Social IMC marketing strategy?  While it is complex to develop and requires a deep knowledge of social monitoring, social levels, and other social tools, it is easy to explain.  The Social IMC strategy requires companies develop the following components:

  1. Identify High Value communities – Identify the high value markets for your company and, using social monitoring tools, identify the communities they use to discuss their passions, needs, and wants.  In this phase, also identify the influencers and key “super connectors” at the center of each community
  2. Become Exceptional – Develop a plan to do something exceptional for community members.  Do this right and your concept will go viral
  3. Community support site – Create a private community support site requiring community members to register with you.  Use their registration event to learn about what they want from the community and also give them total control of your marketing process [opt-in].  Design ways to link their registration to your marketing database system.
  4. Create a viral marketing plan – Create a marketing plan to engage community members with the exceptional event to move them to the community support site
  5. Be there when they are ready to buy.

Want a quick example?  Look at the Members Project by American Express.  American Express wanted to sell cards and increase card usage in younger adults.  But selling through traditional channels is costly.  American Express looked at these individuals and found they were passionate about improving their local communities through environmental, educational, and social activism.  They used this knowledge to create the Members Project.

They created a site dedicated to helping the young activists achieve their goals…not selling cards.  It is a “think globally … act locally” site where you can recommend local causes and add them to the site.  You can then “vote” for your causes by donating dollars and time.  If you get an American Express card, you get additional votes.  Same if you use it.  The card is not the center of the strategy…just an enabler of community members to achieve their goal.  Does it work?  They got 1,7MM members in year one and it has been going since 2007. 

Strategy 3 – Big Data Strategy

Big Data is a very broad concept and is in its infancy in terms of its impact on marketing.  To a great extent, marketers today are awash in data.  We have data flowing in from our marketing database systems, our social activities, our website, our sales and CRM systems and even from social monitoring systems.  For the most part, these new marketing sources of data are real-time, non-integrated, and provide us with insights and opportunities we need to respond to NOW.  In many respects, marketing is moving from a look-back, lifetime value, predictive modeled look at market to a real-time interaction with people who are indicating they are ready to buy your product and service.  While we aren’t there yet, there are Big Data strategies being developed now that will impact marketing in the future.

Non-aggregated Marketing Systems

A major computer component manufacturer sells its products to businesses and consumers.  One of their major concerns is how to learn of manufacturing or service problems as soon as possible.  If they can address problems quickly, they can proactively address the situation before it becomes a major problem for their customers.

To accomplish this, they use the three non-integrated systems highlighted in the equation above.  They use social monitoring software to monitor social chatter for their specific products.  These social monitoring systems [which we develop at Marketing Synergy] use very focused social monitoring to identify changes in sentiment by product.  When they detect a shift from positive to negative sentiment, they quickly examine the social sources to determine the nature of the problem and if there is a specific geography affected.

When a sentiment shift is detected, they then begin scanning their customer service system to detect the problem.  They want to know when business or consumers begin calling in with the problem.  At the same time, they look at their manufacturing systems to see if the problem might be with the product – especially if there is a geographic skew – or if the problem is a customer support or application issue.

From these various sources, they quickly can pinpoint the problem and develop a response to it…before more than a few calls are received by customer service.  They proactively manage their markets using a combination of social, marketing, and other corporate systems.  Rather than react to problems, they can increase customer satisfaction by addressing problems before they become viral issues.

Now for the key question – Which strategy is for you?

The answer is simple – all of them.  Social networking is great for broad based discussions appropriate to all markets, addressing customer service issues, and distributing coupons and sales offers.  While it will – for the near future – be an investment and not a profit center for a company, it is necessary because of its wide use by your customers and prospects.  In addition, when you deploy a Social IMC strategy, social networking sites can “funnel” high value community members to your specially developed sites.

Social IMC is the way for marketers to do that they do best.  Build relationships with high value market segments, database and learn from them, and move them from prospect to customer.  The key is it must be done differently on social.  However, once you understand the process, it gives you the entire test and learn and analytics capabilities of all other marketing channels.  In fact, using Social IMC allows you to measure social like all of your other marketing channels.

Big Data is an area you need to monitor for the future.  Early applications have proven very successful for B2B and B2C marketing organizations.  As marketing managers and C-level executives, you need to begin moving from a marketplace where you control everything to a social world where you need to engage with your high value markets as they address their needs.

Thank you for reading this two part blog.  If you enjoyed it, send it to others and feel free to link to me to discuss any points of interest to you.

 

Randy Hlavac is CEO and founder of Marketing Synergy Inc – an integrated and social marketing company located in Naperville IL.  Founded in 1990, Marketing Synergy works with companies to build measurable, highly profitable marketing programs and the database and analytical systems to drive them.  Randy works with B2B and B2C organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 firms.  In addition to Marketing Synergy, Randy has been a Lecturer Professor of Integrated and Social Marketing at Northwestern’s Medill IMC program for the last 21 years.  His graduate and undergraduate courses focus on the development of high impact Social IMC marketing programs and many of the course “graduates” work in social marketing today.  Dialog with Randy on Twitter @randyhlavac or discuss social issues with this hash tag #NUSocialIMC.  Randy can also be reached through his company website.

This is my first of two blog articles.  This one will cover the misconceptions of social media and social marketing.  The next will discuss how to transform your social programs into measurable, testable & more successful marketing programs.

I teach social marketing in the graduate and undergraduate marketing programs in the Medill IMC College at Northwestern.  While there are thousands of pundits who recommend marketing on Facebook, Twitter, PInterest, LinkedIn or the thousands of other social sites, we have found this is the wrong way to go.   It’s not successful to focus on these social channels but to focus on marketing using social media.  In other words, it’s focusing on marketing – not media.

Most companies are “lost” in social media

In a 2011 survey by Marketing Sherpa, they surveyed over 3000 B2B and B2C marketing managers and found over 80% of them have no way of measuring the bottom line impact of their social marketing programs.  They can measure growth in friends, re-tweets, thumbs up or whatever, but they cannot show these activities are actually increasing the profits of the company.  They cannot determine if these social visitors are customers they already have, prospects they would like to develop, or just other low potential prospects.  Furthermore, if they are customers, they cannot tell if the social interactions strengthen the relationship and, if they do, by how much.  Social marketing today is primarily done on “faith and hope”…which is not a very good way to run a company.

Better understand what marketing is and you can create an effective social marketing strategy

 When I teach social marketing, I “force” the grad students to discuss – in great detail – the IMC marketing model.  While I will not make you do it, I use the model to establish the following points:

  • The IMC marketing model starts with a high value market –  For success, you must connect by targeting each market with the products, services, messages, and information they find important.  And each market has a different message.  If you don’t start with markets, you will not have success in your social [or any other] program.
  • Messages and Channels must be the ones preferred by the high value target market – These two elements must be selected and built to the desires and preferences of the high value target market.  Don’t offer the right product with the right message: forget it.  Offer it in a channel they don’t use [like direct mail for younger people]: forget it.  They must align.
  • Success occurs in the overlap of the 3 circles – This is where the ‘magic’ happens.  You must have all three synchronized [integrated?] to have a successful program.

In addition to having marketing programs which are built on the IMC marketing model, each of your marketing programs – including your social marketing programs – must meet several other criteria.  They must be:

  • Significant – they must produce significant bottom-line results for senior management to consider and fund them
  • Able to be replicated – our marketing programs must allow marketers to re-use the strategy to further grow market share
  • Testable – we need to be able to test and learn on every aspect of our marketing program
  • Customer-centric – they must acknowledge the customer relationship and grow it from first order to last.

Why is this important?  We must have social programs which meet these marketing essential criteria.  How do we do that?  We must not focus on Facebook or Twitter or whatever and focus on how to make social a marketing weapon for our company.  And, to do that, we need to better understand what social is…and it’s a lot more than Facebook and Twitter.

What makes social unique?

In my new book – Social IMC [to be published soon] – there are three concepts often misunderstood by marketers.  Better understand these three concepts and you can develop a strategy to build a social program with ROI [bottom-line impact]. 

1.      Social Networks are different than social communities

Social networks are sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others.  They consist of individuals who are discussing everything “under the sun”.  There are people talking about every topic, every company, and everything else.  Marketers often start with these social networking sites because it is intuitive potential markets are there and it is easy to get started.  You can create a Facebook site in minutes and be attracting followers a few minutes later.  Simple, easy, and wrong.

Social networks are great places to talk to everyone but not for marketing.  Because marketing requires you to give a targeted message it means you must 1] understand who they are, 2] have a way to address their needs, and 3] be able to talk with them in a controlled way.  NONE of these attributes is available on Facebook or other social networking sites.  As you meaningfully talk to one person, others with different interests “go away”.  You cannot make a sale here.  HOWEVER, you can use these social networks to segment and engage key high value markets…provided you take them somewhere where you can talk to them in a controlled conversation.

Social communities are PRIVATE sites [you must register with them] that are discussion specific topics.  These are generally self-formed by community members and are focused on key topics of interest to the community.  If you want to see some social communities, take a look at the American Express Members Project or Ridgid Tool’s plumbing forum.  This type of system – a private community – is a key to using social media successfully.  These types of community systems are places where people discuss their needs and wants and look for experts to help them address them.  If you become a trusted expert in a high value community, you can “be there” when they are ready to buy.

2.     Social Communities exist on many levels

  While many marketers focus their social strategies on Facebook and Twitter, these are very small sites when you look at social media worldwide.   The key is to understand EVERY social community engages on multiple levels.  They do cruise on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn to hook up with others like them.  They use News and Bookmarking sites to get more focused on their passions and needs.  Bloggers are often thought leaders and trusted experts within a community.  While communities to write articles, they also use video [and you should to] to present ideas and responses.  Finally, the biggest place they dwell is in private communities.  As you build a social marketing strategy, you need to engage your high value markets WHEREVER they are in the social “cloud”.

3.     Private Sites dwarf Social Networks

The most common misunderstanding is social networks are the “place to be” in social.  While you do need to be visible on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networks, these are to respond to questions and show different markets places where you are addressing their specific needs.  I think of social networks like an inbound telecenter.  The telecenter takes calls in the order they come in and attempts to address the questions of the caller.  The same is true for social networks.

Think marketing strategies not social sites strategies

This lays the foundation of what makes social marketing different from social media strategies.  Before the last ‘installment’ of this two part blog, think about the following questions:

  1. What are your high value markets?
  2. What types of non-social media do they read or consume?
  3. What type of social sites are they likely to use?

We will address the importance of these questions in the last ½ of this social marketing blog.

 

  Randy Hlavac is CEO and founder of Marketing Synergy Inc – an integrated and social marketing company located in Naperville IL.  Founded in 1990, Marketing Synergy works with companies to build measurable, highly profitable marketing programs and the database and analytical systems to drive them.  Randy works with B2B and B2C organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 firms.  In addition to Marketing Synergy, Randy has been a Lecturer Professor of Integrated and Social Marketing at Northwestern’s Medill IMC program for the last 21 years.  His graduate and undergraduate courses focus on the development of high impact Social IMC marketing programs and many of the course “graduates” work in social marketing today.  Dialog with Randy on Twitter @randyhlavac or discuss social issues with this hash tag #NUSocialIMC.  Randy can also be reached through his company website.


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