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Social Media Optimization: SMO is the New SEO – Part 1

Monday, April 12th, 2010

For the sake of reading this post in context, SMO should be part of an overall SEO strategy (SEO + SMO = Amplified Findability in the traditional and social Web)

As a brand, publisher, designer, photographer, artist, or filmmaker, the social web is your new distribution channel as well as your portfolio for intellectual assets. Whether you’re in the business of creating, marketing, selling, or distributing media, the social Web is an incredible medium that can create a brand, establish visibility, and build demand, all without active promotion. It’s about letting your expertise or work market itself through the practice of a socialized form of inbound marketing that helps make content discoverable when people search.

This may sound a bit familiar to you; after all, this is the purpose of search engine optimization (SEO) right? We know that people use search engines like Google and Yahoo to find relevant content and as such, we optimize our work so that it is discovered in search engine result pages (SERPs).

However, the technicalities involved with wiring SEO are not the same processes required to boost visibility in social networks like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter. And it’s in social networks like these where people are increasingly spending time communicating, finding relevant and interesting content, and sharing it with their connections. So now, in addition to SEO, we have to implement and manage a Social Media Optimization (SMO) program around our content to increase visibility in these new environments.

A failure to do this could be an enormous loss. Everyday people are taking to social networks to discover new content in and around their social graph. According to a recent Nielsen study, social media sites such as Wikipedia, blogs, and social networks account for 18% of where searches begin, outperforming sites that are dedicated to publishing information specifically to help individuals find deeper analysis and details. This is a trend that’s only now gaining momentum; as Nielsen observes, “Social Media is becoming a core product research channel.”

This momentous shift in behavior represents an opportunity to connect your value and insight to those who can benefit from it.

I’m not a professional photographer, but you wouldn’t know that from where my images have appeared. Through the diligent posting of pictures on Flickr and Facebook, my pictures eventually earned the attention of Hollywood, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and event organizers. However, it wasn’t the unique quality of the pictures, the framing of each shot, the artistic views, or the dramatic compositions of my subjects that earned prominence. It was simply making the pictures findable by those looking for related content. The same is true for the many articles and papers I’ve written and published in content networks such as Scribd and Docstoc.

SMO is defined by the distribution of social objects and their ability to rise to the top of any related search query, where and when its performed.

At the center of any successful SMO program are social objects. Social objects represent the content we create in social media, including images, videos, blog posts, comments, status updates, wall posts, and all other social activity that sparks the potential for online conversations. As such, the goal of SMO is to boost the visibility of social objects as a means to connecting with individuals who are proactively seeking additional information and direction.

Serving as conversational hubs, these social objects are personified by the pictures we publish to Flickr, the videos we upload on YouTube, the events posted in, the wall posts shared in Facebook, the tweets that fly across Twitter, the links bookmarked in Delicious, the votes cast in Digg, the places we check into on Foursquare, the documents published in Docstoc, reviews posted in Yelp, communities built around themes in Ning, a thought shared in a blog post or a blog comment, etc. They are to social media what web objects, pages, and sites are to the traditional Web. As SEO helps increase the visibility of content in Google and Yahoo for example, SMO helps build the essential bridges between social objects and the individuals performing searches to find relevant content.

Social objects are also the catalysts for conversations and occurrences — online and in real life — and they affect behavior within their respective societies. Have you ever wondered how YouTube recommends related videos or how content within social networks is linked to the keywords you use in search? Search results in social media are defined by the elements ingrained in each social object, which is commonly referred to as Metadata. Essentially, metadata is the data that defines other data.

The Social Web relies on metadata, leveraging “the crowds” to classify and organize the volumes of user-generated content uploaded to social networks and blogs everywhere. In some ways, we became the web’s librarians by indexing the volumes of useful social objects to help others discover them quickly and easily.

At the very least, social objects are contextualized through keywords, titles, descriptions, and/or tags. Understanding these attributes of social objects, which is a topic I will discuss next month, is one of the most important aspects of a successful Social Media Optimization plan.

The Roles of Facebook and Twitter in Social Media Marketing

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Social Media marketing is rapidly earning a role in the integrated marketing mix of small and enterprise businesses and as such, it’s transforming every division from the inside out. What starts with one champion in any given division, be it customer service, marketing, public relations, advertising, interactive, et al, eventually inspires an entire organization to socialize. What starts with one, a domino effect usually ensues toppling each department, gaining momentum, and triggering a sense of urgency through its path. And, it also marks the beginning of our journey through the ten stages of social media integration.

But where do we start?

This is a recurring theme here as businesses typically jump into Social Media without crafting a strategic plan rooted in goals and objectives. Nor do companies weigh the impact of engagement on the brand itself as social media champions, depending on the department in which they reside, typically monitor and engage in conversations that typically would lie outside of its domain.

MarketingProfs conducted a survey of business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers and the results are worth revisiting as they typify a basic view of the opportunities rife within the social Web. Examining these numbers and more importantly, the social media programs currently employed, will help us innovate and evolve.

Successful Facebook Marketing Tactics

Created a survey of fans

B2B – 37.1%
B2C – 37.9%

Surveys are an effective way to garner feedback to continue to earn ongoing relevance. Surveys can range from satisfaction levels, behavior around the prospect or act of referrals, votes towards new policies and services or simply used for entertainment. At the very least, surveys inject variety into the Facebook stream to foster new opportunities for engagement and communication.

“Friending” recent customers with corporate Facebook profile

B2B – 34.4%
B2C – 26.3%

It should not go unsaid that this activity goes against Facebook’s Terms of Service. But with limited and hierarchical functionality of Fan Pages, creating a branded profile is one worthy of consideration. The interaction that fosters in profiles is radically different that those within Fan Pages. It’s the difference between peer-to-peer conversations and top-down broadcasting. Until Facebook realizes the value of commercial accounts, you must tread carefully. Facebook arbitrarily flags and deletes the branded profile accounts as they’re discovered.

Used Facebook user data to profile customers demographics or interests

B2B – 33.5%
B2C – 30.5%

In social media marketers experiment with programs that balance demographics, the categorization of people by age group, gender, education, income, etc, and psychographics, the grouping of people by interests, passions, and connections. Believe it or not, there are services that exist today that can mine data on Facebook to help marketers profile prospects. Outside of those services, many marketers also manually examine the individuals within their social graphs to garner insight into new initiatives and potential trends.

Created a Facebook application around the brand

B2B – 33.1%
B2C – 41.9%

Facebook applications are not guaranteed to earn an audience simply because they’re created. Users are overwhelmed with options for applications and their adoption of new apps are related more to the activity of their friends than to their allegiance to any particular brand. However, they are not ineffective either. According to the survey, MarketingProfs learned that applications were among the most “successful” tactic used by B2B and B2C companies.

Driving traffic to corporate materials through status updates

B2B – 29%
B2C – 28.4%

I’m a big believer in defining the experience. Eventually users engaged in social networks will click through to something, whether it’s something you shared or a social object they discovered. Where are we sending them? Chances are that they are landing on a message-rich, usually lifeless and generic web page or even worse, the company home page. Essentially we captivate people in a highly interactive and social environment and direct them to a static dead-end where they are left to define their next clicks without a renewed sense of creativity.

This tactic, I should mention, was reported as the most common tactic.

Buying targeted CPC ads

B2B – 24.5%
B2C – 27.1%

Targeted CPC (cost-per-click) ads on Facebook are only as effective as the intention and experience to which they’re tied. Many businesses use these ads to increase the number of fans on a fan page or also to promote corporate material. In my work, they have offered a minimum impact on increasing fans and delivered notable results in driving traffic to pre-defined experiences.

Marketers claimed that buying ads is among the least effective of the mix.

Successful Twitter Marketing Tactics

When we think of social media marketing, Facebook and Twitter usually go hand-in-hand.

Fan us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Like Facebook, marketers viewed Twitter as a primary source for generating traffic. As such, most marketers reported using Twitter to send users to marketing Web pages and they seemed to be pleased with the results.

Monitor Twitter for PR problems in real-time

B2B – 40.7%
B2C – 46.9%

1/2 of all B2C marketers polled reported using Twitter to unearth potential PR problems. As we saw with the now epic Motrin Moms example, a PR problem can materialize at any moment, with little warning. B2B marketers also reported monitoring twitter as part of a proactive crises communications program.

Created an in-person event using only Twitter invites

B2B – 37.4%
B2C – 36%

I smirked when I read this. The wording is a very specific and perhaps it doesn’t capture the true story behind the opportunity. Suddenly every brand wants to host a Tweetup. While businesses use Twitter-only invite services such as TWTVITE to promote a brand-related Tweetup, hitting only users on Twitter limits the scope of the potential audience. In my experience, I’ve learned that by extending the visibility of the event beyond Twitter to Facebook Events and also services such as and Eventful, we can appeal to not only a wider audience, but also trigger highly productive and effective social graphs in the process – perhaps more so than possible in Twitter. A question for you though, if a Tweetup is promoted on any other social network, is it still a Tweetup?

Contacting Twitter users tweeting negatively about the brand

B2B – 36.7%
B2C – 44%

While this is a shared tactic between PR and customer service, this is a program that requires some form of workflow and process tied to it. It’s very easy to confuse who should respond to which tweets and who already did versus which tweets require response.

As you venture deeper into the world of monitoring and responding to negative or hostile tweets, you should note that consumers are learning that taking to Twitter begets a response. And, with every response they earn from brands, they along with others, are encouraged, and as such, conditioned to increase their activity of voicing complaints in a public spotlight.

Driving traffic by linking to Web pages

B2B – 35.7%
B2C – 35.2%

Again, similar to Facebook, we need to redefine the experience. Sending prospects, customers, and influencers to Web 1.0 pages is not an extension of the Twitter culture nor the expectations that define it.

Provocative text to drive link clicks

B2B – 34.8%
B2C – 40.6%

I found this to be an interesting survey question. I suppose that if businesses are sharing content in a compelling wrapper that doesn’t employ sensationalism or the equivalent of marketing parlor tricks, then these numbers represent effectiveness. However, if Tweets are rich with gimmicks, then these numbers dictate an alarming trend. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” To earn attention nowadays requires a level of creativity that mirrors the methodologies of creative advertising and marketing fused with the grounding of strategic communications and marketing. Attention only continues to thin and therefore requires planning and editorial programming to ensure relevance and appeal.

Invite Twitter users who tweet positively about a brand to do…

B2B – 34%
B2C – 33.9%

There are many programs that are led by marketing, PR, and customer service that attempt to transform positive tweets into the basis for an advocacy or official ambassador program. As this tactic increases in ubiquity, consumers are getting wise to the power in social media. Like in the aspect of negative tweets, consumers are also learning that while money doesn’t grow on trees, it does grow on tweets. Meaning, consumers expect something for their loyalty. Consider this prior to engaging.

Increased Twitter followers using traditional media mention

B2B – 30.7%
B2C – 30.4%

Timing Tweets to maximize views

B2B – 26.9%
B2C – 30.5%

As attention spans thin, we realize that there’s an art and science to what we tweet and when. As documented by Dan Zarrella, there are various times and days that reveal when the attention aperture is open and people are amenable to hearing messages and clicking through to shared links.

This, my friends, is the true opportunity and challenge within Twitter. We become media programmers, and as such, our content as well as timing and promotion dictate the size of the audience and the resulting activity.

Driving sales by linking to promotional Web pages

B2B – 22.4%
B2C – 24.6%

Dell paved the way for this category and continues to do so. If you were to read the report, you might believe that they are the exception however. Most respondents claimed that this tactic was among the least effective. Perhaps that’s because many of the respondents didn’t anticipate the needs and drivers of their followers. Dell, among other companies, has learned that there are indeed triggers that engender responses in the form of commerce. What’s more important, consumers are reporting that they follow brands to learn of deals and special offers. And, 64% of consumers reported that they make a purchase from a brand because of a digital experience via a Website, microsite, mobile coupon, or e-mail.

In 2010, we are inspiring a new era of socialized marketing and engagement.

ROI: How to Measure Return on Investment in Social Media

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Over the years, Social Media experts attempted to redefine ROI for a new era of influence. While some introduced alternative philosophies for measuring the nuances tied to social media, others wondered aloud whether ROI simply wasn’t necessary as the tools and methodologies for analyzing yields didn’t yet exist. And furthermore, by focusing on justification and metrics, we were distracted from the primary objective of building relationships and cultivating dialogue.

The debate over ROI inspired certain brands to cannonball into popular social networks to join the proverbial conversation without a plan or strategic objectives defined. At the same time, the lack of ROI standards and established authorities unnerved many executives, preventing any form of experimentation until their questions and concerns were addressed.

But that was then and this is now.

In 2010, we enter into a new era of social media marketing, one based on information, rationalization, and resolve.

Business leaders simply need clarity in a time of abundant options and scarcity of experience and answers. As many of us can attest, we report to executives who have no desire to measure intangible credos rooted in transparency and authenticity. In the end, they simply want to calculate the return on investment and associate Social Media programs with real world business performance metrics.

Over the years, we explored ideas, driven by a passionate desire to find new meaning and vindication in uncharted domains. These discussions and the innovation they sparked, redefined the framework for traditional metrics, creating hybrids that would and will prove critical to modernizing business practices, improving products and services, and effectively competing for the future.

ROI: The Return on Ignorance

Where the “I” in ROI represents return on investment, marketers have also explored ancillary elements to address the socialization of media, marketing, and the resulting dynamics of engagement.

Adaptations included:

Return on engagement – the duration of time spent either in conversation or interacting with social objects, and in turn, what transpired that’s worthy of measurement.

Return on participation – the metric tied to measuring and valuing the time spent participating in social media through conversations or the creation of, social objects.

Return on involvement – similar to participation, marketers explored touchpoints for documenting states of interaction and tying metrics and potential return of each.

Return on attention – In the attention economy, we assess the means to seize attention, hold it and as such measure the responses activities that we engender.

Return on trust – A variant on measuring customer loyalty and the likelihood for referrals, a trust barometer establishes the state of trust earned in social media engagement and the prospect of generating advocacy and how it impacts future business.

But as we learn through experience, our views and techniques mature into more sophisticated strategies as we progress through the Ten Stages of Social Media Evolution.

For many businesses, the case for new metrics cannot arise until we have an intrinsic understanding of how social media engagement affects us at every level. To be quite honest, it is not as simple as counting an increase of subscribers, followers, fans, conversation volume, reach, and traffic. While the size of the corporate social graph is a reflection of our participation behavior, it is not symbolic of brand stature, resonance, loyalty, advocacy, nor is it an indicator for business performance.

ROI: Return on Investment

Sometimes we simply need ROI to signify a meaningful return on investment.

In 2010, Social Media endeavors are still funded as pilot programs to steer the brand towards perceived relevance in the hopes that they demonstrate momentum and as such, rewards materialize. Budgets are for the most part, borrowed from other divisions to fund the teams and programs lead by the internal champions who effectively make the case for experimentation. Where that money goes and from where it’s borrowed varies by department and by company usually tied to where champions reside internally today.

In many cases however, new programs are introduced without an integrated strategy. Money is allocated from existing programs, and if we’re going to take it away from something, we should therefore determine whether or not we’re justified in doing so.

According to a 2009 study performed by Mzinga and Babson Executive Education, 84 percent of professionals representing a variety of industries reported that they do not measure ROI.

Source: eMarketer

In 2010, executives are demanding scrutiny, evaluation, and interpretation. Even though new media is transforming organizations from the inside out, what is constant nevertheless, is the need to apply performance indicators to our work.

The Business of Social Media

The CFO, CEO, and CMO of any organization would be remiss if they did not account for spending and resource allocation, regardless of the allure and seduction of social media.

MarketingProfs recently published a study performed by Bazaarvoice and the CMO Club that revealed the true expectation of chief marketing officers. Bottom line, they want measurable results from social media.

Elusiveness continues to prevail however. The study found that the exact impact of social media tactics evade the grasp of CMOs.

- 53% are unsure about their return on Twitter

-50% are unable to assess the value of LinkedIn or industry blogs

More specifically however, roughly 15% believe there is no ROI associated with Twitter and just over 10% cannot glean ROI from LinkedIn or Facebook.

I believe this is the direct result of not tying activity to an end game, the ability to know what it is we want to measure before we engage. Doing so, allows us to define a strategy and a tactical plan to support activity that helps us reach our goals and objectives.

We first answer,

What is it we want to change, improve, accomplish, incite, etc.?

Doing so will allow us to establish goals and objectives that specifically tie activity to:

- Sales

- Registrations

- Referrals

- Links (the currency of the social web)

- Votes

- Reduction in costs and processes

- Decrease in customer issues

- Lead generation

- Conversion

- Reduced sale cycles

- Inbound activity

Customer Insight

Among the responses received from CMOs, customer ratings and reviews rose to the top of marketing activities that deliver tangible ROI insight. In 2009, 80% of respondents reported that customer stories and product suggestions shape products and services. As a result, brands earn the trust and loyalty of their customers for listening and responding – as long as they are made aware of their role and rewarded for it.

In 2010, CMOs will review opportunities for user-generated content sources to involve customers and advocates with many reporting…

- a 400% increase in use of Twitter comments to inform decisions about products and services

- a 59% increase in the use of customer ratings and reviews

- a 24% increase in use of social media for pre-sales Q&A

The Socialization of Monetization

Social media metrics will increasingly tie to revenue in 2010. To what extent seems to vary according to CMOs.

- 80% predict upwards of 5%

- 15% optimistically hope for 5-10%

In 2009, those companies that aligned social media investments with revenue estimate:

- 5% or less revenue tied to social in 2009 foresee an increase of an additional 5% in 2010

- 6-10% of revenue stemming from social is expected to increase more than 10%

- Those with greater revenues resulting from social engagement expect an escalation of revenue derived from social at 20%

Companies such as Dell are not only tracking the impact of Social Media on revenue, but expanding lessons learned across the entire organization. According to Dell’s Lionel Menchaca:

Our @DellOutlet is now close to 1.5 million followers on Twitter, and back in June we indicated that @DellOutlet earned $3 million in revenue from Twitter. Today it’s not just Dell Outlet having success connecting with customers on Twitter. In total, Dell’s global reach on Twitter has resulted in more than $6.5 million in revenue. In fact our Brazilian and Canadian accounts are growing rapidly too – and it was Canadian tweeters who asked to make sure Dell Canada came online to Twitter. Dell Canada responded because the team heard our customers. In less than a year, @DellnoBrasil has already generated nearly $800,000 in product revenues. Similarly, @DellHomeSalesCA has surpassed $150,000 and is increasing at notable pace.

The Forecast for Metrics in 2010

Earlier we mentioned generic forms of Social Media metrics. The survey revealed that indeed, many CMOs, 89%, tracked the impact of social media by traffic, pageviews, and the size of their social graph or communities. However, 2010 is the year that social media graduates from experimentation to strategic implementation with direct ties to specific measurable performance indicators.

In 2010, CMOs will seek to establish a connection between social media and P&L business goals. The study documents the adoption of three metrics:

- 333% surge in tracking revenue

- 174% escalation in monitoring conversion

- 150% increase in measuring average order value

A Call To Action

Among the most effective forms of any marketing initiative is the integration of a call to action. It is how I define influence as it gives us the ability to inspire activity and measure it – as designed. As stated earlier, revenue is only one form of metrics we can introduce, but defining the “R” in ROI is where we need to focus as it relates to our business goals and performance indicators specifically. Even though much of social media is free, we do know the cost of engagement as it relates to employees, time, equipment, and opportunity cost (what they’re not focusing on or accomplishing while engaging in social media). Tying those costs to the results will reveal a formula for assessing the “I” as investment.

When we truly grasp the ability to define action and measure it, we can expand the impact of new media beyond the P&L. We can adapt business processes, inspire ingenuity, and more effectively compete for the future.

The Brand Dashboard: Bringing Conversations to Life

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Perhaps the most difficult aspects of Social Media to embrace are the changes in our behavior and overall philosophy it necessitates in order to earn relevance and ultimately prominence in consumer hearts, minds, and markets.

Simply put, Social Media makes us vulnerable and officially ends an era of perceived control threaded by the illusion of invincibility.

Everything we thought we knew and valued is now in dire need of reassessment. We are entering into a time when we are affected by voiced sentiment in the public spotlight and backchannels of the social Web. What we hear, see and observe can and should touch us.

Businesses are now responsible for not only delivering beneficial products and services, but poignant, personalized, and aspirational experiences as well. This is true today and tomorrow as we compete for the future that is revealed through the actions and words of the people we wish to reach and inspire.

In Social Media, We are All Brand Managers

The process of evaluating, measuring, and defining brand stature was once relegated to a brand manager, expert, or team and shaped by a top-down process of activities designed to reinforce the message and personae. Now however, the brand is the direct responsibility of each person representing it, individually and collectively. When we listen to the activity that populates the statusphere and the blogosphere, we find that in addition to the overall brand, conversations map specifically to the individual departments that define the business foundation, which ultimately supports brand stature and resonance. In turn, these activities inspire immediate and long-term responses either directly through focused interaction or indirectly through product refinement, adaptation and overall messaging, targeting, and positioning.

Individual representatives indeed contribute to the collective repository of brand value and perception through distinct engagement and contributions while also assessing and embracing themes and trends to move the business in a more meaningful direction altogether.

No One Group Owns Social Media

Whether social media management and engagement is centralized, distributed or community powered, the sum is always greater than its parts. Individually and collectively, we contribute to the cycle of customer acquisition, retention, loyalty, and influence as dictated by market behavior and the direction that these influencers dictate implicitly or explicitly.

Among others, online dialogue connects consumers, influencers, and prospects to brand ambassadors representing…

- Sales
- Product
- Service/Support
- HR
- Partners (Value/Design Chain)
- Marketing
- Communications
- Finance

In many ways, we become social seismologists, monitoring and measuring the human seismograph as it triggers activity that affects us both positively and negatively. As actions speak louder than words, we must put our words into action. And, part of acting is reacting whether it’s through conversations, change and evolution, or a fusion of participation and modification. By engaging we learn how to diffuse situations, empower communities and more importantly, how to discover and embrace new ideas that beget prominence.

The Brand Dashboard

Much in the same way we compete for attention through the frequency and volume of appearances in the consumer attention dashboard, brand representatives track brand health, risks, and opportunities through a dedicated brand dashboard. And, almost every division will have a person or team dedicated to orchestration of their respective social activity. These socially-tuned tools allow for customized search, reporting, and analysis across multiple social properties, revealing market intelligence in real-time and charting our next steps to stay connected and relevant. These dashboards radically improve the rate in which each team within the organization learns, reacts, and adjusts, delivering pertinent solutions, information, and products/services in the process.

If we evaluated conversations on Twitter for example, we could examine activity through the lenses of distinct branches of the business (click the image for a larger version).

There are many solutions to consider including PRNewswire’s Social Media Metrics, Radian6, Techrigy, among many others. For the sake of this discussion, I’ll highlight free tools to maintain a balance while demonstrating possibilities. In this case, we’re tracking “iPad” in Twitter, but we could use the aforementioned services to track activity across the entire Web.

Using TweetDeck or Seesmic, for example, we can track the product/brand (column 1), which represents the information stream that benefits the community manager or the person responsible for trafficking conversations in an sCRM or SRM workflow. This column or columns will feature keywords that include the brand, products, market-related topics as well as competitors (column 2).  In addition to a community manager, column 1 is also important to customer service to identify potential issues and directly respond where applicable and also document discrete issues that can expedite fixes or resolution.

Column 1 also benefits the brand team as conversations allow for brand managers to analyze the composition and collection of important words used in conjunction with the brand to gauge success, failure, and areas for improvement (see below).

In addition, the combination of columns 1 and 2 impact marketing and communications (as well as IR/finance) professionals who can also benefit from the ability to assess influencer activity, facilitate rapid research to build target lists based on keywords, and dictate participation/response programs when and where necessary – all in real-time.

Columns #2, 3 and 4 are designed to monitor and measure potential or existing sales and the invaluable feedback that will define our immediate and future revenue landscape. This research allows us to materialize invaluable information tied to lead generation, loyalty, and revenue.

Here, we’re tracking our keywords in conjunction with other keywords that reveal the state of potential transactions. In this case, and really just for a simple example, you can see the dialogue around competition in addition to conversations that feature a combination of our keyword plus other verbs that surface intention, (iPad) + “buy” and  “thinking+about” + “buying.” When fused with word clouds, we can grasp a greater awareness for opportunities to shape sales activity.

If we hone in on keyword combinations that reflect referrals and recommendations, we can discover activity related to assessing the value of the Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer referrals, community advocacy, and word of mouth. In addition, we can also peel back the layers that historically prevented us from realizing emotion as shared with peers. Adding words to our fixed keyword searched such as “love,” “hate,” “sucks or sux,” “want,” and “fail” creates a bridge between impressions and the specific instances and people behind the words. This process is critical in the earning of empathy in order to champion meaningful responses and more importantly, change.

For example, from a recent discussion with Richard Binhammer of Dell while attending Le Web in Paris, Dell actively monitors for compatibility issues with other products to initiate fixes before they amass into critical issues en masse. This dramatically decreases the time to market from ID’ing the problem to offering a solution, many times, well in advance of the masses ever knowing a problem ever existed.

To What Extent…

Custom feeds stemming from keyword searches can represent much more than referral and loyalty value of our customers however. They can also paint a picture of experiences and sentiment to engender opportunities to ensure satisfaction. Exporting feeds or text from your dashboard into a system such as Wordle, we can see conversations and associated opinions in one cloud. Tip: Using Searchtastic, as one option, you can export tweets directly to Excel for review and organization.

Understanding sentiment and trends at a high level is important when understanding the state of consumer satisfaction online. We can review samples of reactions across multiple networks in order to identify communities of relevance and as such, prioritize our attention and activity – and to what extent. This real world and suggestive information also sparks ideation and hopefully innovation within to inspire significance outside.

Using one of the many available tools such as Twitter Sentiment and Trendistic, sentiment and trends anchored to keywords become visible. And, when combined with word clouds, doors representing new possibilities unlock.

For a deeper view into the conversations contributing to the sentiment outlines, solutions such as by PeopleBrowsr offer real-time dives into positive, neutral, and negative conversations in the form of management-ready reports.

For representatives across the organization, these reports (from PeopleBrowsr and other service providers) deliver the intelligence necessary to take action. And, therein lies one of the greater challenges facing social media champions today. Change is only possible where potential for improvement is recognized.

Organizations must have an infrastructure in place to support a clear and present path that channels insight from the outside to the center and back out again as we earn relevance, trust, and loyalty among influencers, customers, peers, and prospects. Defining a workflow that unites brand representatives to streamline the system for identification, prioritization, assignment, and follow up of important instances will ensure structure and organization around a formal process. A workflow also connects ideas and trends to change agents, product architects, and decision makers and those who can transform words into action. It’s how businesses will survive this ongoing (r)evolution of Social Darwinism.

Monitoring keywords across various departments is only part of the equation. Measuring activity that hits designated landing pages completes the chain of connectedness. All experiences must have a beginning and an end and if we’re not providing direction that leads to decisive action, then we essentially send our prospects from a very interactive and dynamic environment to a static dead-end. Read: If you think that sending people to your corporate website is a means to an end, think again. Chances are, your is in desperate need of focus; most likely a complete social makeover is overdue.

In the now web, it is our job to define the experience. Many brands find success in the implementation of dedicated landing pages that extend social engagement while still channeling visitors into a rich hub of information and action. If participation and engagement represent the point of introduction, then the landing page is the beginning of the end. And as one thing ends, something new begins.

However, without insight into the activity in and around the LP, we are blind in our direction.

Our influence lies in our ability to elicit action and in turn, measure it.

The social Web is an incredible conductor to fusing action and metrics to measure the cost per action (CPA).

Information is the concrete in which we build the foundations for interaction, service, direction, and commerce.

Integrating a mechanism for measuring activity on that landing page allows those responsible for defining experiences and engendering change, not necessarily the Web team or Web master. We’re empowered, and required, to analyze the results of our activity. Here, we can ascertain our top referrers, our highest converting words, as well as costs per action, click and overall cost of acquisition.

There’s what we say and then there’s what they say…which carries greater weight?

If we’re not listening, observing, and learning from the world around us, we lose touch with those who dictate the perception, reputation, and direction of our brand.

In the end, we earn the relationships we deserve.

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