Archive for April, 2010

Social Influence of Social Media

Monday, April 19th, 2010

In response to Joel’s social media blog entitled Is Anyone Out There?, I just have to put in my two cents. If the available social and psychological research is correct, it is possible to change behavior by purposefully doing – just about anything! Not just one time, but first trying something, and then trying again, and then again, and before you are aware, that thing you are doing is something that you DO! The next step we take from this new habit is to influence others and we do this unwittingly most of the time.

I recall in the late 1980’s, yes, I am that old, when my husband got his first cell phone (size – 8″x2″x3″). I mean the thing was HUGE! This was the offspring of the car phone that stayed in the car but didn’t have to be connected to a cord – ingenious. Of course I looked at it as a leash, so refused my own for several years. I finally accepted the inevitable leash when my friends started getting them and were so excited about the benefits. I am sure my husband said the same things, but coming from him was I going to listen?? Today, I can’t even imagine my life without my phone, and I email people to let them know that I don’t have it if for some reason I leave it plugged in at home when I leave for work…far cry from the leash I was afraid of 20 years ago.

This isn’t just the stuff of social media, this influence ability is prevalent on every level of our communication with others, and it passes from people we know to people we don’t know through our life stream. Something like – Susie talks to Francine about her friend who just started taking yoga at a local center. Francine has been thinking about taking yoga for a long time, and this information about Susie’s friend in this conversation triggers that desire in Francine who convinces her husband and they both finally start taking yoga classes. Then Francine’s husband, over the water cooler, talks about how great the yoga class was and how much harder it was then he thought it would be. His colleague takes this information home, and a few weeks later, that couple decides to try this out as something they can do together where they are both getting the benefit of exercise along with spending some much needed time together. On the surface from any other point of view, Francine has been thinking about this for a long time, and the actual taking of classes was inevitable, but actually the tie to Susie’s friend, the social influence, was the impetus to take the desire from a thought to an action. And the link to the colleague and spouse/partner behavior could also be traced to Susie’s friend. From an article in Science News Magazine, Rachel Zelkowitz reviews the research of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. They propose “it is possible that … even strangers may impact how you live, love and, yes, gain weight.”

So, if these assertions can be translated to the use of social media, as we use blogs, tweets, Facebook connections as informational and educational and conversational platforms, some number of our connections will do the same. In turn, their connections will do the same, and the seemingly small network will grow appendages beyond our current comprehension. Just think of it now, with my two offspring grown to college age individuals, I communicate with them through the year almost entirely by text and email, and most recently, they have both allowed me to be friends on Facebook. I follow blogs and download podcasts of my favorite NPR programs, I listen to MPR on my iPhone when I take my dogs for walks, I contact people on LinkedIn or Facebook regularly, and I am a member of UrbanSpoon, among other social based programs that offer information that may help others when traveling, etc. In short, I just can’t imagine my life without my social media, and my expectation of others, either through work or private life, is that they feel the same. If they don’t, you can bet I will talk it up and hook them in!

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404 Email Not Found

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

The Wife and I got fancy new Blackberry phones this week and I am in love. I told The Wife that I still loved her more than our new phones, but it’s close. This type of positive reinforcement nearly had me sleeping on the couch in the basement for a few days, but there’s a TV, a beer fridge, a PS3 and my Rock Band gear down there, so it’s cool. Why do I love my new Blackberry so much? Integration! I now have direct access to my Hotmail, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and text messaging accounts all from a device that is smaller than an iPad! I know, y’all are thinking, “welcome to 2008 Joel, I already have a Droid that contributes processing power to the SETI project when I am not doing advanced calculus.” I had the Pearl for the last two years, and really, it just felt like a fancy-pants phone and not an integrated mobile communication device. I now have enough technology to transmit instructions to the Mars Rover. Huzzah!

As always the next question is; what the heck does this have to do with direct marketing and what not? I know you love your geek toys but why should I care? It’s simple. I’ve been working with a whole slew (if that’s the appropriate collective noun) of email marketing gurus on some customer campaigns and we’ve talked quite a bit about development and deployment and how something appears correct on one platform but can be completely off on another. You might make excellent copy for Outlook that comes out blank on Hotmail even though they are both from the same company. You might have something that looks awesome on an iPhone but just doesn’t work for the Blackberry. I cannot stress how important it is to understand that people interact with communication technologies differently and that it is essential to be as agnostic as possible when using email as a marketing tool.

Right before the tax deadline, the Wife and I signed up for a Roth IRA for 2009. Although we were under the gun to get it completed for taxes, we set it up online in minutes. It was really slick. Minutes later my phone buzzed with my email confirmation from the company managing our account. Header information is there, but the body of each note (there were two of them) was completely blank. On the hotmail account all the necessary information was there—but on ye olde Blackberry not a scrap of text—or even an image. In this scenario it isn’t a problem, but if you want to market to someone that accesses their email on a phone, you could have huge problems.

If you are renting a list and running a campaign to potential new customers, you really only have one shot to market to me via email and that is when I check my inbox. If I am sitting on the couch Monday night watching Chuck (please renew this show, NBC) and an email comes in, I am going to check it immediately—unless something cool is going on and then I’ll wait until the commercials. If that message is from someone I don’t have an existing relationship with and it’s blank, I am going to select “delete on handheld & mailbox” and it’s gone. Let’s be honest, does anyone really think “oh, I am curious what this blank advertisement is for, I had better head right over to a computer and see what it says.” So while you have spent money on acquiring a list, money on developing an enticing message and creative offer, and money for deployment, if you don’t understand deliverability you are going to lose customers right off the bat. It would be like sending a postcard mailer and not running NCOALink® on a file before mailing. A bunch of your customers just won’t get the message.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta email this guy about a Nigerian wire transfer deal I just got on my phone.

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Is Anyone Out There?

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Someday soon someone will retweet one of my mildly coherent musings on Twitter and what an amazingly glorious day that will be. The birds will sing (and tweet ha-ha) and maybe even land on my shoulder as in a live-action Disney movie. I might even pop the top on that special bottle of Champagne (of beers) I’ve been saving for a very special occasion. It’s similar to the decibel breaking w00t I emit every time a real human being comments on the blog—there’s a call to action in that last statement people!

The other day I had a discussion with the boss about social media marketing, which stimulated my somewhat humbling comments above. Our talk focused the frustration business folks can feel with trying to implement a social media strategy for their organization and the perceived successes and failures of those actions. Be it a blog, Facebook. Twitter or LinkedIn, the expectation with Web 2.0 technology is that there should be an immediate response to information shared through these communication vehicles. The rub is that it takes time to build a community of followers and participants and, depending on how much time your organization wants to spend building that community, you’ll need to be patient as that online community develops. In other words, not only will your mileage vary with social media, the time it takes for people to start to interact with you can be lengthy as well.

Traditional direct marketing methods are well defined. Determine your market and develop your marketing contact list. Create a message with a specific offer and call to action. Mail your design piece and track the response and then measure your return on investment. If you got a 2% return rate on the mailing and it is profitable you can do a little happy dance before modifying your next campaign based on what worked and didn’t work with your current offer. In contrast, people are still trying to figure out how to measure ROI on social media. A company’s number of Facebook friends or hits to the blog doesn’t necessarily translate into hard factorable cash.

Let’s assume you have a blog. Weekly, you spend two hours putting together a post to share with your customers. Then when you post it, an undefined number of people read it. Nearly all of your readers won’t comment regardless of how compelling the writing or information is—that’s just the nature of blogs. However, if people are finding your blog and reading it, it is likely that it’s influencing them. Blogging or Tweeting is a lot more amorphous than using a promo code to track an offer, but it is likely you are having an impact. You just need time and focus to help build your community.

You also need time to build credibility. Just because some dude in business casual writes something and sticks it on the wide-wide-world-of-web does not make it gospel (I’m looking in a mirror right now), but over a period of time a collection of posts or tweets or rambling somewhat viable ideas can develop trust in your audience and/or customers. There’s an opportunity to prove yourself an expert through your body of work and allows you to develop a level of trust with current and potential customers. It isn’t a Field of Dreams, “if you post it, they will buy” scenario. You can’t just cut out a cornfield and expect new customers (but it would be pretty darn cool if you could). Instead it requires persistence and desire to be successful.

Personally, I’ll keep blogging until they pry the keyboard out of my rigid, firmly clutching fingers—or ask me nicely to stop. Eventually, I’ll reach that critical mass that illustrates there is a valuable return on investment. At some point, people will retweet my tweets (the fools!) and the time I’ve spent babbling will be worth it. My advice to any organization experiencing frustration while dipping their toes into the social media ocean is to hang in there. Measure the time investment you are putting into social media to see if what you are doing makes sense, adjust your commitments if necessary and understand that community building takes time. Now if you’ll excuse me while I go check my twitter account.

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