Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Why we don’t see more cause marketing

April 6th, 2010

paulnewmanThis morning I read a Smartblogs article on Social Media and Cause Marketing.  It correctly points out that social media is an ideal platform for corporate cause marketing programs, and provides some useful tips for success.  Definitely worth a quick read!

I’m a huge fan of using social media for cause marketing, and I believe social media has probably been the single biggest contributor to the resurgence of cause marketing campaigns (no data, just a hunch).  But as I read the article, I reflected on numerous conversations I’ve had with big brand clients who love the idea of using social media as a platform for a brand-building, cause-marketing campaign, but are unable to pursue it.

One issue that often surfaces is that within large companies the online marketing, brand management and direct response groups are completely disconnected from community relations and corporate giving groups.  The wall that exists between corporate giving and marketing is often quite high.  Marketers are typically restricted from supporting charitable organizations (through a cause marketing campaign) that are not already approved and ordained as “causes we officially support.”  If they go to the corporate giving department with a social media marketing idea, they are often rebuffed with a “thanks but no thanks – we’ve got it covered” mentality.  If you can get past the empire building and actually get the departments to work together, you’ll still have to deal with a lot of red tape and slow progress.  With the increasing pressure to deliver compelling results in a timely manner, “lengthy approval process” usually means “pass!”.

So while social media is the ideal medium for promoting a cause marketing effort, unless it bubbles up inside of the community relations department, great marketing / giving opportunities often die on the whiteboard due to politics and organizational dysfunction. It’s quite a shame.

That said, there are still many examples of companies that are doing it well.  I just hope we start to see more of them!

Please feel free to COMMENT, SHARE with others and SUBSCRIBE to our blog. We look forward to your feedback!

Steve Latham (follow me on Twitter)

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Social Media and Customer Service: Panel Discussion Recap

September 22nd, 2009

Online surveys, email, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube all represent new ways for customers to express what they think and how they feel about your brand. In this increasingly digital age, new media is becoming mainstream, creating new challenges and opportunities for brands to communicate with their customers.  How are leading brands doing it today?

A few months ago I was asked by IQPC to put together a panel discussion on how brands can use social media to listen to customers.  I reached out to thought leaders from great companies and recruited Paula Berg, Manager of Emerging Media for Southwest Airlines and Andrew Knight, Director of e-Commerce for Case-Mate.  In the session I presented some stats to frame the discussion (see at end of this post!) and then conducted a Q&A with Andrew and Paula.  Here is a recap for your reading pleasure.  Please note I am going from notes and memory; the quotes are paraphrased and may not be 100% accurate.  But you should get the point.


How did your company come to embrace social media?

Paula: we had just wrapped up the fourth season of Airline! (SWA’s reality TV show) and we were thinking about new ways to engage our customers and provide a transparent view of our company.  The blog NutsAboutSouthwest evolved from this idea.  At the time it was pretty new and pretty risky.

Andrew: I saw how social media platforms could be used as brand-building platforms and customer engagement tool.  One day I proposed to our CEO that we create and manage a blog as well as accounts on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  I was fortunate in that I had a CEO who understood that social media was going to be very important.


How are you using social media to engage your customers?

Andrew: In my previous role at a cosmetic company, we used YouTube to showcase our products.  We were fortunate to have a relationship with Michelle Phan who built a following of women who wanted to learn how to apply makeup.  Each time she released a video on YouTube, we saw a spike in traffic to our site.  At Case-Mate, we have an active Blog and accounts on Twitter and Facebook.  We use the blog to profile customers, employees and products.  When we feature customers and employees, they tend to share it with their networks which creates more visibility and traffic for us. We used Twitter and Facebook to promote the content on our blog and engage our customers.

Paula: we focus on our Blog, Twitter and Facebook.  Our blog tends to skew to older males whereas our Facebook page skews towards younger females.  Twitter is all over the board. We have one person responsible for all Twitter updates and a team of 30 who contribute to our blog.  Since the blog evolved as a continuation of our reality tv show, our primary goal is to showcase the people and culture of Southwest.  We use each platform as a channel for engaging our customers and building our brand (vs. just selling plane tickets).


How do you handle negative comments?

Andrew: We allow negative comments on our blog, as long as they don’t contain inappropriate language.  I explained to our ceo early on that if we don’t allow the negative comments, our blog won’t have credibility.  And if you disallow feedback from someone who is already upset, you risk them taking even more drastic action.  If they are going to say something negative, I’d rather they do it on our site where we can participate in the discussion.  If I see a negative tweet about our brand, I follow the person and ask them to DM me to discuss.  I then try to move the conversation to email – there’s only so much you can write in 140 characters.

Paula: we allow negative comments unless they use profanity or are about a specific person.  We agree you have to be transparent and authentic.  We also seek to address any negative comments directly and let the customer know we are listening and that we care.

Steve: you are both very lucky that your c-level execs understand the importance of giving up control of your brand.  Unfortunately this isn’t the case in all companies.  In some companies, the person who allowed a negative comment to be posted on the site may lose their job over it.  It’s still a big problem for a lot of brands.

Paula: you definitely need an exec to champion the cause at the c-level.


How do you measure results and justify the ROI?

Paula: we measure traffic and other stats, but this isn’t a very important part of our program.  Every day we see the value in conversations with our customers.  We can’t calculate how many tickets were sold but we do know that word of mouth is critical and social media is a very important tool for building brand loyalty.

Andrew: our ceo also understands that the medium is very important, and that cost of not being there outweighs the cost of the time and energy invested.  We use free tools including Search.Twitter.com, Google Analytics and Google Alerts.

Steve:  again you are both fortunate that your management team doesn’t require you to directly attribute results to justify the investment. (sidenote: in such cases, we seek to measure impact by translating online activity to intent and measure the value of intent – see Social Media Business Case for details).

Regarding monitoring tools, we’ve done a lot of research in this arena.  There are free tools such as Collecta and Addictomatic that aggregate social media mentions across sites. On the paid side, Nielsen Buzz Metrics and Radian 6 are great tools.  SM2 from Techrigy allows you to report on up to 1,000 results for free, making it a great option for mid-size companies who want to monitor mentions of their brand.

How do you address legal issues?

Paula: We take a pretty relaxed approach and our legal department is not involved.  We have general guidelines but we don’t worry too much about legal risks.

Andrew: since I manage our posts and tweets, I don’t have to worry about someone saying something that could get us in trouble.  You have to use good judgment.

How do you see social media as a customer service platform?

Paula: we use social media to solicit feedback, respond to complaints, disperse rumors and announce news.  It’s the fastest way to get the word out when something happens.  We do virtual focus groups and we find that it’s great for search rankings.

Andrew: I think Twitter will become third method (along with phone and email) to contact customer support. We’ve seen companies like Comcast and Best Buy use Twitter for customer support.  Over time we think this will become the norm.

In Closing…
Social Media is a platform you can’t afford to ignore.  While the platforms may change, social media is quickly becoming a critical channel that all brands must master.  The social media stats I presented at the session are shown below.  As always, your comments are welcome and feel free to share with others!

Steve Latham
(follow me on Twitter)

Social Media: Shiny Object or Killer App?

July 28th, 2009

shiny objectWhile preparing for an interview I was reviewing questions I received from the journalist. One question was “how does your firm leverage social media?” It seems that social media is the latest shiny object that is on the wish list of most brand marketers.  Yet if you ask them why they need it, you’re likely to get a pithy, high level response such as “because we want to engage and interact with our customers.”  Ask how they plan to do that and you’ll often get blank stares.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of social media and I believe it is a killer app for many companies. This is especially true for professional services firms like mine.  At the same time, I frequently see a lack of planning, coordination and understanding of how to best use social media to achieve marketing objectives.  So now let’s go back to the opening question…

How do we use social media? We work in an industry where the cobblers kids (sans shoes) run rampant.  And for the most part this is fine; we can be great media planners and campaign managers, even if we don’t do a lot of advertising ourselves. However, when it comes to social media, I believe we have to lead by example.

If you are reading this, you may know that I blog, twitter, slideshare, facebook, link in, stumble, digg and tag things that are delicious.  Yes, it takes time, but I enjoy it. But above all, I do it because it creates value for my personal and agency brands. Through my investment in social media, I’ve expanded our network of partners, booked speaking opportunities, built awareness for our brand and generated several new client opportunities.

Social media can be a great platform for most businesses.  But as a professional services firm, social media offers some additional benefits that one could argue make it a killer app for marketing purposes.  In my world, the #1 benefit of social media is that it provides a platform for demonstrating thought leadership.

It’s important to remember that social media is a platform, not a message.  While awareness and visibility are great benefits of social media, they don’t build your brand.  You can get great visibility with a flurry of self-promoting posts and annoying solicitations for your services, but you aren’t building credibility.  You can use social media to connect with business acquaintances, recruit employees and show the world that you are a forward-thinking firm, but it probably won’t matter to clients. In my opinion, the true value of social media for professional service firms is the ability to demonstrate thought leadership on a large scale that gets even bigger if you have something unique and valuable to say.

Here’s another way to look at it: any firm can hire a web site copy writer to create a compelling message that says who you are, what you do, how you differentiate and why clients choose you.  While this used to be a key factor in engaging visitors, clients do not make decisions based on your home page. Case studies are great but we all know they present an air-brushed image of the results you produced for a client. On the other hand, a blog or tweet stream provides a relatively unfiltered view into how you think and how you act.  If you routinely produce strategic insights, unique perspectives and practical knowledge that are perceived to be of value to your clients, you can establish credibility and thought leadership in their eyes.  Clients hire consultants, agencies, bankers and lawyers because of their people.  Social media enables you to build your brand by showing off your greatest assets in a way that is much more transparent and authentic than it used to be.

In the past we relied on the static html, flash intros, polished copy and powerpoints to educate clients on who we are and how we can help them.  Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, LinkedIn and others now offer us a much more effective and efficient means for demonstrating thought leadership, regardless of your size, budget or location.  It’s not often that those of us in client services can point to a competitive advantage that we enjoy over other types of businesses.  But in a world where clients are seeking knowledge, insight and trusted advice, the social web gives us a unique opportunity to show them what we have to offer.

I’d love to hear from other service providers on this topic.  Comments are welcome!

Steve Latham
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Wordle is the Word!

July 17th, 2009

I recently learned about WORDLE which is a very cool tool that allows you to create word clouds for any body of text.  What’s a word cloud? Similar to a tag cloud, the word cloud is a graphical representation of a body of text.  Here is the Wordle word cloud for our Social Media Blog:

It’s a great way to describe a blog, whitepaper, report or email, and it rates very high on the eye-candy chart.  For the time being Wordle is free so go get your WORDLE on!

If you like this, feel free to share it with others!

Steve Latham
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Social Media Roundup (Interactive Musings 1.2)

June 29th, 2009

Last week I put together a summary of stories that I thought would be of interest to those who are in the interactive marketing industry.  Here are some other clips relating to Social Media that I think are interesting and informative.  Hope you enjoy.  Feel free to share and comment!

UniLever CMO Throws Down the Social Media Gauntlet
Takeaways from speech recently made by UniLever’s CMO about the importance of Social Media to brands. Includes his “5 New Rules of Marketing”. Great to see one of the world’s largest companies embracing social media.  I hope they can make it work!

Facebook Overtaking MySpace
Facebook is now the most trafficked global social network. Claiming 200 million users, it now reaches all demos and ages. Now it needs to figure out how to make money in a way that doesn’t infuriate its large and vocal community.

Facebook Grows Up Fast!
Glad to know that my group (26-44) accounts for 41% of all Facebook users. But surprised to find women over 55 are the fastest growing group on Facebook. Will being friended by your mom make you leave Facebook? Maybe… or maybe not. I think the new design is a bigger risk.

Teens on Social Networks
This just in: teens are heavy users of social networks! Okay you may know that. But did you know that 60% acknowledged that the things friends wrote in their profiles could harm their careers and that 38% said they regretted some of the items that had already appeared on their pages. Hopefully they will learn from public examples of how your personal views can blow up in your face… Like it did for this chucklehead!

Mommy Bloggers On the Rise! (AdWeek)
At the “Meet the 21st Century Mom” event, BabyCenter.com released results from a 25,000 person survey showing that 63% of women reported being active on social networks (vs. 11% in 2006).  Women with new babies cut back on media consumption by as much as three hours, with print taking the biggest hit. According to the report, 49 percent of respondents claim to read magazines less after giving birth, and 46 percent said the same about their newspapers.

How Edelman Manages Mommy Bloggers (AdAge)
Great interview with Edelman Chicago’s senior VP for consumer brands social media, Danielle Wiley on how they manage 2.0 digital (aka Social Media) practices and strategies for big name clients. I especially like their views on refusing to pay bloggers to write favorable reviews of their clients’ products.  I wish more agencies upheld the same standards.

Twitter Soars, but Does It Stick? (AdWeek)
Pop quiz – how many users will be on Twitter by 2010? Answer: a lot! The good folks at eMarketer report that 18 million of my closest friends (10% of Internet users) will be on Twitter by 2010 (read the article). If Ashton Kutcher has 1.5 million followers and Oprah is gaining ground with 700,000, the number may actually be higher. However… the jury is out as to how many will actually stay on Twitter. Nielsen recently reported that Twitter’s audience retention is only 40% – meaning more than 60% of its users fail to return the following month (read the article). So will Twitter last or is it a flash in the pan? I believe you can make a case for either outcome.

7 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid on Twitter
Good article by Rodney Rumford (hola So Cal!). Or you can eliminate the “don’ts” and learn 7 Tips for Succes on Twitter. Either way it’s a good way to learn how to use Twitter as a branding channel.

Be Careful What You Tweet!
You can’t help but laugh at the irony of this story. A social media consultant may have ruined his career with one errant tweet (if you haven’t heard about the FedEx / Memphis story, click the link above). The lesson: be careful what you tweet. Anything and everything you write is public, and it may be taken out of context.

All for now folks! Please share your thoughts, questions or comments. Just keep it clean and constructive. And if you like what you read, please share it with others!

Steve Latham
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Digital Success in Troubling Times

November 20th, 2008

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking at a luncheon hosted by AAF Houston and the Houston Interactive Marketing Association.  The theme was “what you need to know NOW”. These are challenging times for all businesses and now, more than ever, we need to focus our marketing efforts (and dollars) on those initiatives that produce the best results.

My presentation is below for your viewing pleasure.  The main takeaways are as follows:

1. Media consumption and media fragmentation are making digital channels more and more important for all companies.

2. As marketers we have to create content that consumers WANT to consume, and allow them to engage us when and how they choose.

3. There are numerous examples of savvy brands using digital media to reach and engage customers in a cost-effective way.

4. Despite a complex and overwhelming set of digital media options, there are some tried and true tactics that will provide the foundation for online marketing success.

5. Social media is becoming increasingly important, but you should have a plan before you dive in.

View my presentation on slideshare:

Digital Success in Troubling Times – Steve Latham – Spur Interactive

Thanks again to AAF and HiMA for allowing me to share my thoughts. If you have thoughts, comments or questions, I’d love to hear from you! Also feel free to Join me on facebook or Follow me on Twitter.

Thanks for reading my blog!

BarCamp and Video Blogging

August 15th, 2008

Last weekend I attended BarCamp Houston 3, which had more than 150 attendees including enterpreneurs, web developers, marketers and a few media folks.  All in all, it was a great experience with some interesting discussions around social media, Facebook apps, web design, marketing, a new visual search engine, and even biofuels.  One of the most interesting aspects was the Twittering that was taking place along the way.  At least half of the attendees were twittering, often making comments that were better left unsaid.  Yes, you can add “making fun of jerks” to the list of twitter uses.

At the event I was interviewed by local new media guy Mike McGuff who has a video blog site MikeMcGuff.com. Mike interviewed me on the topics of Social Media, our new brand and Lemonade Day.  Mike’s a pretty good video blogger and quite handy with his flip camera.  I didn’t have much notice but thought it turned out okay.  You can view the interview below. Yes, I know, it’s a very flattering title pic… (no worries Mike, I know YouTube doesn’t give you much of a choice).

I’m now wondering if I should add some video to my blog entries.  The answer is probably yes, but I don’t know what I’d shoot or how to edit it.  So I’ll stick w/ text for now, and take advantage of stuff I can find on youtube.

“Blogging for Business” Recap and Slides

July 26th, 2008

Yesterday I had the pleasure of participating on a social media panel at the Houston Technology Center along with Katie Laird and Kelsey Ruger. I didn’t see any glowsticks, cell phones or lighters swaying in the audience, but I heard good things and thought you might be interested in learning more.

After Kelsey spoke about social media from a sociological perspective, I presented the business case for Social Media and discussed why brands have to embrace it, and how they can measure the impact on their business. To learn more, you can view my presentation below or on slideshare. Katie then spoke about how to implement a social media program. You can view their presentations via the links above.

If you have thoughts, comments or questions regarding social media, I’d love to hear from you! Also feel free to Join me on facebook or Follow me on Twitter.