Category Archives: Research

Do Consumers Trust Retailers More Than Social Networks?

Trust and private data

Trust and private data

Consumers are said to rely more on the advice of their peers and even social connections than on businesses themselves. However, this doesn’t mean they trust the social networks themselves when it comes down to sharing their data.

Recently, the e-tailing group and MyBuys released some findings from a survey stating that the surveyed consumers feel more comfortable sharing data with retailers than with social networks.

They do so even more when sharing data improves their shopping experience. I bet the same goes for other experiences as well. Most social networks suck at dealing with consumer data and don’t take into account what their users want in that regard. They dictate on how they will use these data, and it does take some time to find where to change settings or stay up-to-date with latest changes. Even as someone who follows the industry carefully, I often lose track. Continue reading

comScore: the Shopping and Customer Experiences Across Buying Stages

140x121xcomScore-ecommerce-online-shopping-experiencesExcellent customer experiences and relevant touchpoints, across all channels, are rapidly becoming the focal point for smart marketers. Customer satisfaction is not a goal anymore. It is – or should be – a basic component of your business DNA. All customer experiences must be optimized to move beyond the level of satisfaction.

Obviously, perfection is a goal and seldom a reality in business (or in life, for that matter). In the end, it’s about people. However, increasing customer satisfaction and raising it to the next level by striving towards perfect experiences is an ongoing task, whatever role you have in sales, marketing, management, support or any other function.

Shopping-related customer experiences are obviously crucial, before, during and – let’s not forget it – after the purchase. Continue reading

B2B Content Marketing: What is it & How are European Marketers Applying it?

B2B Content Marketing: How are European Marketers Applying it?

B2B Content Marketing: What is it & How are European Marketers Applying it?

Content marketing is one of those terms that are tossed around a lot today and not well understood by many marketers. To put it as simply as possible, content marketing is about providing valuable content to your prospects and customers via a variety of channels.

Content marketing is not a sales brochure or a spec sheet or anything of that sort. Content marketing is not just sterile data, but insight coming from expertise. You’re adding value to the product by showing people not what it does, but what people do with it.

You have to think more like an editor and ask yourself what serves the interests of customers and prospects. What’s going to get them talking about your brand or your product?  Take off the sales hat, don the editor’s hat and ask yourself if the content serves the reader. That’s a good baseline to start your content marketing strategy from . Continue reading

Marketer's Important Objectives for Social Media in 2011

Marketer’s Important Objectives for Social Media in 2011

Marketer's Important Objectives for Social Media in 2011

MarketingSherpa has posted an interesting chart derived from a survey of 3,300 marketers asked to indicate their most important social media marketing objectives they hope to achieve in 2011.

The question was: What are the most important objectives for your organization’s social marketing program to achieve in 2011?

Increasing website traffic via social media integration was number one at 56%, followed by improving brand awareness or reputation at 51%. Also top of mind at 51%, was the desire to develop an effective and methodical social marketing strategy.

Achieving measurable ROI from social was most important to half of those surveyed, while converting social media members, followers and the like to paying customers was the primary to 45%. Achieving or increasing measurable lead generation from social marketing came in at 40%.

Why is it that only half of those surveyed thought that achieving a measurable ROI from social media was important? Is this because the newness of social media hasn’t worn off quite yet and we don’t have a good grasp on how to do this? As Christopher Donald of Inbox Group pointed out to me: Would email marketing be all that if we only expected it to create brand awareness and influence reputation? Shouldn’t more marketers be concerned about this and pushing to see the same ROI measurability as email marketing?

The survey results had more than one surprise to offer. For example, only 20% of those surveyed thought that integrating social with CRM and other marketing solutions was a priority. Also, a paltry 12% thought it was most important to recruit departmental staff to perform social marketing activities.

Something else which really got my attention, no place in this chart (perhaps it comes up elsewhere in the chart source: MarketingSherpa 2011 Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report) did I see anything about developing a robust internal social media policy. Isn’t this the first step to developing any kind of social media success?

OK, we all jumped into social and started running, but that shouldn’t stop us from taking stock of where we are internally and developing a sound foundation for success in social media with solid internal policies and social oriented cultures.

If we want to be effective in any of these initiatives, shouldn’t we have robust social media policies in place as a foundation to build up from? If we don’t know what we expect from all our employees (and what they can expect) when it comes to social media, then it seems to me we are putting the cart before the horse.

A healthy and productive social media strategy really needs to be the out facing of a healthy and productive internal policy which supports not just objectives, but a social oriented culture where the focus is on the consumer being the centre of your universe.

I suppose you could say that this isn’t something for marketers to be dealing with, but I would disagree. First, the two most active departments in social media for many (if not all) corporations are marketing and customer service. Second, both these departments are primary customer contact points for an organization. So, how robust and healthy your internal social media policies are will affect how well your customers are served by it.

If your staff knows exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect from social media, then they’ll be confident in their dealings with your customers online. If you have a social oriented culture which puts the emphasis on information sharing, accessibility and empowers every employee to be a customer advocate and problem solver, your customers will be much happier and you’ll gain new ones from the power of social and word-of-mouth.

If you don’t have an internal policy in place for social media then it should be one of your priorities. Evaluate what you’ve accomplished with social and what you think you can do over the next year, but more importantly, take stock of your corporate culture and ask some hard questions about it.

Clear policies are always important to avoid potential disasters. This is especially true if those policies affect communications/relations with customers. You owe it to your staff and to your customers because if you just let the bulls run loose, it’s a good bet that at some point, one of them is going to break some very expensive china.

Understanding Smartphone Users

Google Survey Says Marketers Should be Ga-Ga for Smartphone Growth

Understanding Smartphone Users

Google has released a whitepaper with some interesting stats about smartphone users. They surveyed 5,013 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 who are smartphone users. While the survey is US based, I think there’s still some good insight to be had for European marketers.

People use smartphones just about everywhere. They travel with them from home to office to school and even at the doctor’s. In fact, 93% of respondents use one at home, while 87% have it with them on the go, be it commuting or just out for a walk. You’ll also be happy (but not likely surprised) that 77% have one with them when in a store (seeing images of fish in a barrel are you?). The power of the smartphone is that it’s as personal as any tech device can be and travels with us wherever we go. We don’t go to it. It comes with us.

The smartphone is a pocket PC which allows us to access the power of computer technology, but doesn’t tie us to a desk. When asked how they had used the smartphone in the past week (excluding calls), 81% had browsed the internet, 77% used a search engine, 68% had used an app and 48% had watched a video on the phone. Multiple channels being accessed from once platform and that platform travels with the consumer.

From walking the dog to taking a bath, the smartphone goes where we go. 59% of respondents use theirs while waiting in line (now there’s a captive audience), 39% won’t even put one down to use the bathroom and 8% are even on one when they’re taking a bath or shower. I don’t pretend to know how one would use a smartphone in the shower, but I won’t be surprised if some manufacturer offers a waterproof phone-on-a-rope model which lathers up, just to make that more practical.

How important are smartphones to us? Consider that 43% of respondents were willing to trade beer for internet usage on a smartphone. And when 34% of Americans state they’ll trade Superbowl tickets, well you know these things are pretty important to them!

The number one reason for using a smartphone was staying connected according to 89% of the respondents. How are they staying connected? There’s good news here for email marketers because email came in first with 82% while social networking sites were at 63%.

People are using their smartphones for information with search engine sites coming in number one at 77%, social networking sites second with 65% and 46% on retail sites.

Finally, one stat which should get your attention is that according to this survey, nine out of ten searchers have taken action as a result of a smartphone search.

Smartphones are shaking up online marketing. You’ve got a device which allows the marketer to reach people via multiple channels on one platform – a platform which travels with people and doesn’t insist that people come to it. That’s a tectonic shift in technology which has far reaching implications.

If you’re a marketer and you aren’t thinking about mobile and smartphones; you aren’t thinking smart.

Highlights from European Social Media and Email Marketing Study

Highlights from European Social Media and Email Marketing Study

Highlights from European Social Media and Email Marketing Study

I’ve just been reading The European Social Media and Email Marketing Study from eCircle and I thought I’d share some of the high level observations with you.

The survey was conducted online with just over one thousand participants.

When considering how people use email and social networks, eCircle reported that 73% of respondents have at least one social network account. The study also concluded that Facebook is the social net with the largest multiplier potential – regarding reach, number of friends and usage intensity.

Those seeking information on products and companies via social remains relatively low at just 28% and that seems consistent with other surveys.

Only 32% of those using social networks are fans or follow a company brand and half of those fan/followers are doing so because they are looking for discounts or special offers from the brand. Are you aware of this desire? Are you doing anything to meet it?

When it comes to advertising, not surprisingly, social network users regard their network as a private garden where they control who they communicate with. Again this study supports the conclusions of others surveys which revealed that advertising in email is generally more accepted than on social networks.

The survey found that 95% of people are checking their email at least once per day. One quarter of email users check their email daily from a mobile device. Even the social networkers still see email as relevant with 85% of them using their email accounts for ecommerce.

Share With Your Network (SWYN) doesn’t seem to be catching on too well with Europeans as only 8% of respondents reported using it. Yet when sharing does occur it can have a reasonably wide reach. 43% of social networkers have more than 100 friends or followers and on average, each shared message reaches 77 people.

Here’s the one bit of information that I loved from the high level findings of the survey: 13% of fans and followers of a company or brand want to be called upon to do something. That’s awesome! A pretty good percentage of people actually do want to get involved and participate with you. So, what are you doing to fulfill that desire? Are you allowing your fans and followers to participate and interact with you?

Report: Where Marketers Plan to Focus in Social Media

Report: Future Plans for Focus in Social Marketing

Report: Where Marketers Plan to Focus in Social Media

Yesterday I went over some numbers from the Social Media Marketing Report 2011, which showed how much time marketers invest in social media and how a number of things influenced the channels they focus on. Today, let’s look at where marketers plan to put their efforts in the future.

73% plan to increase usage of YouTube (videos), blogs, Facebook and Twitter while 86% stated they’ll reduce their efforts in MySpace. I’m sure you are utterly shocked about that MySpace percentage.

According to the study, YouTube came out on top as the channel where most marketers plan to increase their efforts. 77% stated they would be doing more on YouTube and/or video marketing. 82% of those companies with 1000 or more employees indicated this as a key growth area.

I’m not all that surprised by this. Video marketing isn’t as easy to jump into as other social channels and can be a little intimidating. So, its growth has been a bit slower, but as marketers witness the incredible power of videos for marketing, they can’t help but want to try their hand at it. They may also be hoping for that big win with a video going viral, but video as a consumer education and product showcase is also powerful.

When it comes to Facebook, 75% plan on an increase in efforts there. Just 3% of those responding stated they don’t plan to use this channel. 80% of B2C marketers will increase time spent here and 83% of large companies intend to do the same.

As the report points out, there seems to be a perception that Facebook can deliver strong results. Of course what you put into Facebook is going to determine what your ROI is. Setting up a Facebook page for your company won’t get you anything if you don’t use that channel to provide people with worth while and relevant content/information.

The hub of all your social media and content marketing efforts is your blog. So, it’s good to see that 75% of marketers surveyed, intend to increase their blogging. Although, this has dropped slightly from last year when 81% stated they would increase it.

Twitter comes in third with 73% intending to increase their efforts here. I love Twitter, but it doesn’t surprise me that marketers might not see it as valuable as other channels. Measurability and advertising opportunities are still developing here.

Next we have LinkedIn with 71% of B2B and only 52% of B2C reporting they plan to increase their efforts. No surprises here really, it’s pretty well accepted that LinkedIn is a focus for B2B more so than B2C.

Only 40% of companies plan to increase efforts in social bookmarking, while more than one in three doesn’t plan to use it at all. That’s a mistake in my opinion because social bookmarking definitely plays a role in Social Marketing Optimization (SMO). You’ve got to do everything you can to share your content on as many channels as possible.

Just 36% of businesses will increase their forum activities and 35% have no plans to use forums at all. Setting up your own forum may be too time consuming and too high maintenance for most and that’s understandable. However, using established forums to reach specific groups can be very effective. It really depends on who your products serve. Many forums sell advertising to support their communities and some offer non-traditional options such as brand Q&A sub forums. If you define your customers as “enthusiasts” then likely there are one or more forums out there where you can reach out to them.

30% of marketers are planning to increase their use of geolocation services such as Foursquare — larger companies are more likely to use it. This number is only going to go up as companies turn more and more to mobile. The combination of smartphones and geolocation can be extremely effective.

Only 19% of marketers will be increasing their use of such services as Groupon, with 25% of those marketers with 3 or more years of social media experience intending to increase their efforts here. People seem to have a lot of tolerance for this kind of marketing approach and I would expect even more players to join Groupon and others in this area which will provide even more options to marketers.

Overall what I find encouraging is the growing awareness among marketers of how important a multi-channel marketing strategy is. Put your blog at the centre of that plan and let all the other channels spoke out from that hub. That’s a sound strategy which has lots of success stories to back it up.

Report: Where Marketers are Focusing in Social Media

Report: Where Marketers are Focusing in Social Media

Report: Where Marketers are Focusing in Social Media

According to the Social Media Marketing Report 2011, a significant percentage of marketers are investing a good amount of time each week in social media. 58% reported they were using it for six hours or more each week. 15% reported that they spent more than 20 hours a week on social media. That’s a substantial investment of time for anyone and it’s rather interesting what factors influence the percentages.

The experience factor

How much experience you have with social seems to influence how much time you spend on it each week. 63% of people with three or more years of experience spend more than ten hours a week in social activities. While only 41% of those with one to three years of experience spend as much time.

The age factor

Not surprisingly, age also plays a role in how much time marketers spend on social media. The younger the marketer, the more time spent on social. 20 to 29 year olds spend the most time in comparison to other age groups with 41% spending 11 hours or more weekly. 37% of those in the 30 to 39 year old age group spent the same amount of time weekly on social media.

Tool preferences

What tools marketers use for social media also seem to be influenced by how much social media experience they have. Among those just starting out, Facebook was the number one choice with 84% and Twitter running second at 64%. The study authors note that Twitter actually dropped from 71% in their 2010 study. Facebook and Twitter are also the top two choices for those who’ve been using social media for 12 months or less. With both these groups, LinkedIn and blogs came third and fourth.

Again, Facebook and Twitter are one and two among those marketers with 1-3 years of experience. The percentages were higher with 95% citing Facebook as their number one tool and 91% Twitter. Again, LinkedIn and blogs came in third and forth.

When we look at the numbers for those who’ve been in the game for three or more years, things change a bit. Twitter is number one at 97% followed closely by Facebook at 95% while blogs move up to third (86%), LinkedIn is fourth (84%) and videos are higher in this group with 75% using them.

Types of business

The type of business also plays a role with B2C using Facebook and B2B more focused on LinkedIn and videos. B2B marketers are also investing more time in blogging.

My two cents

The only thing which really surprised me here is that a good number of marketers still don’t seem to see the blog as the hub for their social media activities. Perhaps they’ve established blogs and don’t think they need to put more time into them. Sure it takes more effort to manage a blog then it does to start up a Facebook page, but a blog and its content belong to you and you won’t ever find a competitor advertising on your blog as you might find on Facebook. A blog is the one thing (not including the debatable social channel email) in social media which you own outright and have complete control over. I think that’s something worth considering when planning your social strategy.

Future efforts

How will marketers apportion their social media time moving forward? I’ll take a look at those numbers in part two on Friday.

Western Europe to See Smartphone Usage Double by 2015

Western Europe to See Smartphone Usage Double by 2015

According to a new report from eMarketer, mobile web usage in Western Europe will double by 2015. There have certainly been a number of predictions the past few months hailing huge growth in the smartphone market around the world and the UK, France German, Italy and Spain are another fertile growth market according to eMarketer. Smartphone usage is booming.

According to eMarketer’s estimates, 58 million of the EU-5 population will access the internet from a mobile device this year. That’s a pretty large number and as those people fall in love with mobile access, they’ll spread the word to many others.

Western Europe to See Smartphone Usage Double by 2015

The report also states that Europeans in general are already fairly accepting of mobile marketing efforts. It claims consumers in Europe already have a willingness to interact with brands and have an appetite for perks such as coupons and special offer alerts. Continue reading

mobile internet

Mobile Internet: Does Your Content Travel Well?

Power users crave power and when they have power they crave more power. When they don’t get more power, they get angry, turn green, grow gigantic and break buildings. Well, OK, they don’t actually go “Hulk” and tear down cities, but they do get plenty frustrated. The power user has smartphones and discovers, consults, consumes and shares content over the mobile internet…

One of the most attractive things about smartphones is their ability to provide connectivity on the road – in fact, that’s the most attractive thing about them in my opinion. However, that use is still heaviest among the early adopters or “power users” and it’s not always smooth surfing and latte all around for them.

According to the “2011 Mobile Internet Attitudes Report” by Antenna Software, 20% of US mobile phone users access the web at least daily and usage is most frequent among those under 45. Men were 7% more likely to use the web on the go each day than women. I wouldn’t think that is a lead which is going to be maintained for long as smartphones gain more market penetration.

While the survey is US based, it still has some interesting insight for mobile marketers because it gives a view of what annoys users most about connecting with the mobile internet via their smartphones.

Adapting Content To The Mobile Internet User Experience

According to the survey, marketers and content producers are missing out on hooking more smartphone users simply because the content doesn’t travel well over the channels consumers use on the mobile Internet. In other words, if the content were tailored better for the display on mobile phones, the users would do more online via their phones.

For example:

  • 46% of those surveyed would use email more on their mobile devices and to interact via the mobile Internet.
  • 38% would use maps more and the same percentage would check for information via the mobile Internet more often.
  • When it comes to shopping the percentage that state they would do more of it via their mobile devices if the information was displayed better is 28%.
  • Even social networking has a high percentage of those who say the same at 27%.

See a pattern here? All the things you’d like people to do via mobile are hampered dramatically if the information/content does not display well on a mobile device and on the mobile Internet. We’ve all been there haven’t we? That meeting where you try to push for something such as a friendlier mobile website or email newsletter and some joker makes the point that there is not enough mobile Internet usage to justify the resources. Yet, as this survey seems to indicate and as common sense dictates, you won’t have anyone using mobile to visit your site or read your newsletter if it looks awful on their phone! This may be a classic example of the “Catch-22” for some marketers.

Online activities US mobile Internet users would perform more often via mobile internet

Online activities US mobile Internet users would perform more often via mobile internet

It doesn’t have to be so. The best path for someone in a situation such as the above may be to switch tactics and go for something a bit more basic. Perhaps what you should be trying to do is convince your team that it’s a multi-channel world out there now and your content has to be multi-channel too. People increasing search for content and interact via the mobile Internet and Interwebs. Certainly numbers from surveys such as the one I’ve quoted here should help by demonstrating that you are missing out if your content is not cross-channel friendly.

B2B Blogging Trends in 2011

Whitepaper: B2B Blogging Trends in 2011

B2B Blogging Trends in 2011

B2B blogging can be tricky, but rewarding all the same. The hardest question may well be whether you even want to start one in the first place. That’s one of the questions the folks from Aggregage posed to a number of B2B blogging thought leaders in a new whitepaper titled: B2B Blogging Trends in 2011.

It’s a 42 page snappy presentation of tips and insight which will help your organization make the right moves when it comes to blogging for business. And when you consider that only 50% of businesses out there have blogs, you can see the need for some thoughtful expert advice in this area. As well, it also means that opportunities to leverage blogging and establish your company as an authority abound in the coming year. Amazingly, with one of the most powerful marketing tools in existence today, you still have time to get in on the ground floor!

After reading this report with the wealth of insight from people such as Jay Baer, Tom Pick, Samir Balwani and Erik Qualman, you shouldn’t be asking if you should be blogging, but when.

The experts agree that blogging needs to be integrated with your marketing planning. It can’t be an afterthought or dropped on someone’s desk as one more thing to get around to when time permits.

Don’t start a blog if you can’t invest the resources to get it right. You don’t want it to get too bogged down in approval cycles and such, but you still need a plan, an editorial calendar (at least as a guide) and a gatekeeper (editor). It’s good to involve as many people as want to contribute, but you always have to have someone overseeing things.

There’s a lot of bad B2B blogs out there today and there will be more of them. In order to rise above that noise level, you must be good and to be good, one thing you have to be is relevant. To do that you need to indentify what your market wants to know. Social media monitoring and engagement is definitely one good way to find out. Another good way is to come right out and ask (often) what your market wants to know more about and then deliver it with some style and authority. As pointed out in the report: Listen first and move from a monologue to a dialog.

Content curation” is another topic which is mentioned in the report and that relates to something a lot of us have been talking up regarding B2B business blogging. There’s no doubt that producing new content for a blog can be resource intensive! However, there is a lot of great relevant content out there which you can “find and filter” for your market. Figuring out how to present content from other sources (including your partners) in an engaging way is a must.

B2B Blogging Trends in 2011 is an excellent place to start as you consider your online marketing strategy. Blogging is a very powerful tool in B2B marketing and not something you should dismiss lightly.

Download the whitepaper here!

Social Marketing : Social Gaming

Marketing And Branding in Social Gaming

Social Marketing : Social Gaming

My college programming professor always used to say that computer games were a complete waste of time and if you had spare moments, he expected you would use them to practice your coding. It was only after I graduated that I found out he was a big player of Sid Meyer’s Civilization. I wasn’t so much shocked as I was reassured that gaming is something even the most serious minded engage in.

I’m not surprised that social gaming has taken off as it has. Facebook games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars allow one to interact and gain status within a community governed by rules which everyone (well almost everyone) abides by. Games allow for interaction while reassuring us that everyone is being guided by the same rules as we are.

In the year of social media (2010) we also saw social gaming burst forth with huge numbers of people playing. Since the first online gaming networks came along in the late nineties, producers have struggled with revenue models. While subscription seemed to be the obvious way to go, some producers decided rather quickly that a free play model offering people the option to buy items was a better way. Many online RPGs (Role Playing Games) have adopted this kind of model.

eMarketer isn’t playing around when they predict that social gaming revenues will surpass $1 billion this year. When you notice that your local convenience store now carries FarmVille gift cards, you realize something is catching on.

According to eMarketer, 61.9 million people will play social games this year, representing 27% of US internet users and that will rise to 29% by 2012. Certainly the growth has been impressive, even staggering, but social gaming isn’t new. It has a history going back to the old BBS and IRC days. The difference today (aside from the graphics) is that you can generate revenue and use it as a marketing channel.

eMarketer is being understandably cautious in their growth predictions for social gaming in the next year. However, all it takes are a couple of great titles to bring more people into the gaming community on Facebook and other portals. As well, let’s not forget smartphone “augmented reality” games. For example, how would you like to battle Tie Fighters while zipping around actual buildings and such?  The branding potential here is right off the charts – did I hear someone mention AR billboards?

OK so AR games are not really social are they? Or are they? When social, smartphones and AR meet, there is going to be an explosion of these kinds of games. Who wants to play boring old tag anymore when you can have a real AR game of Pac Man in the park?

eMarketer makes several suggestions about how you can take advantage of social gaming with smart branding:

  • Integrate your brand into an existing game through virtual goods.
  • Use display ads or sponsorships in an existing game.
  • Create a hybrid campaign that combines elements of these branding approaches.
  • Develop your own game.
  • Participate in an offer wall.

eMarketer is offering a full report on social gaming titled: Social Gaming: Marketers Make Their Move

Twitteradvertisingrevenues eMarketer predictions featured

Will Twitter More Than Triple Revenues In 2011?

People may be all “a twitter” about Twitter, but can it make any money? That’s a question that comes up quite a bit regarding one of the leading social media platforms on the planet right now.

The buzz about Twitter is undeniable, but the discussion regarding it’s effectiveness as a marketing channel is also inescapable.

Generating some revenue growth certainly won’t hurt where credibility is concerned and eMarketer states that some of that cold hard credibility should be coming Twitter’s way this year.

eMarketer is predicting Twitter could earn $150 million in revenue in 2011. That’s a big boost considering they brought in about $45 million in 2010 – the first year they sold advertising.

It should keep getting better according to eMarketer, which is predicting Twitter revenues will grow to $250 million by 2012. But eMarketer cautions that Twitter must live up to the hype.

Twitter must continue to grow its user base and convince marketers it has value in social media marketing. 2010 may have been the year of social, but 2011 is the year Twitter has to work like crazy to cement a strong foundation in social marketing.

eMarketer predicts that Twitter monetization efforts will go into overdrive this year with their Promoted Products suite and upcoming launch of their self-serve ad platform.

Twitter advertising revenues: eMarketer predictions

More data on eMarketer.

facebook usage in Canada

How Canadians Use Facebook: The Generational Perspective

According to a poll of 1,362 Canadians conducted by Abacus Data of Ottawa, generations differ in how they use social media and how they view privacy online.

According to the Abacus Data results, just over 60% of those over 60 years old identify themselves as Facebook users. Usage increases gradually as age decreases: nearly 70% of 45-59 year olds, nearly 80% of 30-44 year olds, and 91% of millennials (those aged 18-29) have a Facebook account.

That’s a pretty hefty number of us who seem to be taking to Facebook and social media as would a duck to water. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the water in question is completely frozen over for a good part of the year.

I’ve always thought that our climate makes us prone to what I used to call the “cabin fever curve”, once summer roles around, internet usage drops faster than the US dollar compared to the Canadian. However, that’s just my own anecdotal evidence and not really based on figures.

Before you start sending me hate email, did I mention I’m Canadian?

It should be noted that this survey was conducted on line, which in this context is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. The fact that it was conducted online would explain why the survey found 73 percent of respondents identified themselves as using Facebook. So, that number is a bit misleading and we should look deeper for meaning here.

The insight in this report is not who uses Facebook more, but how they use it. It won’t come as a surprise that millennials spend more time on the social network, with 50% logging in at least multiple times per day, and over 80% checking at least once per day.

This drops with older generations, with 67% of 30-44 year olds, 58% of 45-59 year olds and 50% of those 60 and up checking in at least once per day.

Facebook use by age Abacus Canada

Another non-surprise is that millennials were less concerned about personal privacy online than other age groups. The older the age group, the less likely they were to share personal information online.

Half the millennials polled cited Facebook as the most likely way they would hear of noteworthy happenings, text came in second at 20%. Meanwhile phone accounted for only 13% for them. Over 50% of 45-59 year olds and those over 60 cited the phone as the most likely channel in this regard.

In my opinion, this kind of data can get a bit fuzzy depending on how you define “noteworthy events”. Those of us who number among the older generations in this survey probably do consider the phone to be a more direct and personal method of communication. That being the case, the perception of what is “noteworthy” varies – I sure wouldn’t want to hear about my sister getting married via email, but that’s just me perhaps.

There has been a misconception for some time now that older generations don’t get technology and this simply is not the case. They get it, but they simply don’t perceive it as does the millennial generation. As well, I don’t think they “need” it as much as younger generations do. They haven’t grown up relying on it as much. Millenials simply view Facebook as older generations do the phone. It’s become a natural extension for their communications.

digital channels spending forecast episerver

Survey Looks At ROI Of Web Site, Email, Mobile And Social: Comments And Context

According to a recent survey by EPiServer conducted at ad:Tech, nearly 60 percent of respondents realized the highest return from email marketing and their company website. Those same channels are top of the priority list for spending among 46 percent of respondents. So, do corporations just not get social and mobile or are these channels simply not effective?

“The survey results clearly illustrate what many in the marketing world already suspect, that while marketers are experimenting with social media, they are also struggling with the practicality and ROI of these channels and driving the bulk of investment to the more “traditional” digital channels, “ said Bob Egner, Vice President of Global Marketing at EPiServer. “The reality is that as marketers we’re still early in our understanding of how to best use social channels such as Facebook and Twitter and that clearly more work needs to be done to effectively connect social and mobile marketing to lead generation and revenue growth.”

Mr, Egner makes an obvious point and I would imagine that the toughest spot to be in at a management meeting is when the question is put forward about what if any ROI social and mobile are providing. The seat squirming likely intensifies if someone asks about the human resource costs involved since most companies are likely doing social and mobile by hand and on the fly.

Ad hoc strategies lead to inconsistency in both message and frequency, result in errors and are counterproductive. It’s not just the impact on your resources or the direct single-channel return but a mixed or disjointed message across multiple channels actually increases the chances of consumer disappointment and alienation from your brand.

ROI, excuses and innovation

However, the “ROI challenge” is also often an excuse to not start using the media and channels our customer use. There should be no more social media ROI excuse. And in fact, there should be no more discussions regarding the ROI of channels. Sure, what is “proven”, known (comfort zone) and used a lot in the eyes of marketers delivers high ROI. However, being innovative and taking some calculated risks (yes, once again, you can measure social media ROI), much higher ROI can be achieved raising average ROI of your marketing programs.

And it’s not (only) about the channels, it’s about the customer. ROI in marketing is by definition tied to the cross-channel picture. You cannot measure cross-channel ROI if you only look at individual channels because you miss all cross-fertilization effects and because you are not looking enough at what should be the center of your marketing universe: the customer!

There’s nothing wrong with testing the waters and doing a little experimentation, but it would be best to keep in mind that channels such as mobile, social and even email are live – that is to say that the only one who likely knows you are testing is you. The consumer doesn’t know and doesn’t care and if they see you have a presence in these channels they expect a satisfactory level of consistency and service. In fact, today the consumer expects that you will be there. You can’t zip in and out of these channels when it suits you – you must be there when it suits your customer.

Without a plan in place you may never come out of testing mode. If you don’t have an answer to the question of why you should be in social, mobile and other channels, then you are a like a sky diver who just leapt out of the airplane without checking to see if he chute was packed correctly.

It’s hard to really judge any ROI if from the beginning you weren’t sure of what the objectives were. There is strong ROI to be gained from multi-channel marketing if you plan your strategy and use the correct tools, processes and resources. You can carry on a conversation with consumers on their terms and be there when and where they want you if you start from step one by mapping out your route and have the right vehicle to get you where you want to go.

The future

Anyway, the “good news” is that, according to Mr, Egner  “In 2011, we expect to see more detailed analytics related to social behavior and sentiment that is closely coordinated and synchronized with the other online marketing metrics”.

And I like his conclusion best: “In order to drive greater investment by marketers in the social channels, we also encourage digital agencies to take an integral role in bridging the gap between marketers and technologists to drive greater understanding of social media, and to paint a clearer roadmap to conversion and ROI.”

Let me add to that: bridge the gaps within your business first and start speaking a common metrics language across all channels and divisions.

Some data about the priority list for spending below. More info here.

Changes in social networking site use by generation feature

Social Relationships: Why You Want Old Friends And Not Only Digital Natives

A report from Pew Internet: Generations 2010 is full of fascinating facts and insights regarding web usage demographics. In fact, the analysis is going to fill more than one post to be sure. Let’s start off with some figures which caught my eye right away.

The percentage of those Americans who do go online has remained relatively constant since 2006 at 79%. While most generation demos have an adoption rate of at least 70%, the report finds that this drops off after 65. Only 58% of adults between 65 and 73 and 30% of adults 74 and older go online. So, younger generations sill have a disproportionate representation on the web right now.

Social Network Adoption Rate Of ‘Older’ Generations Grows Faster

It won’t come as any surprise that younger generations are still more likely to use social network sites, but here’s an interesting tidbit for you: the fastest growth in this regard has come from internet users 74 and older (aka G.I Generation).  Their usage of social networking sites has quadrupled since 2008, from 4% to 16%. Other ‘older generations’ such as the boomers are doing well too.

16% may not sound like much, but that number is just going to increase. Not hard to predict that trend since we all age and social network usage is becoming mainstream. However, do we really get it? The fact that this is just going to grow with time is not really the main concern here. Are we considering the value of seniors online and relating to and engaging with them right now? I would say that in general the answer is no.

How readable are your email campaigns? Do you use tiny text or text/background combinations which make it harder for seniors to read? What about your messaging? Do you include seniors by seeking content relevant to them? When you get a complaint or comment from a senior (assuming you know they are a senior of course) do you make assumptions of how web savvy they are or their technical comfort level based on their age?

Pew and the use of internet by different generations

Old Friends Know Where You Have Been

Look, depending on what you sell, there may not be a need for you to have much focus where older generations are concerned, but if you are making assumptions that they are not potential influencers via social media and other channels, you are making a mistake.

Perhaps I am generalizing, but older people tend to know the value of relationships better than many younger people do. They understand the importance of communicating with their family and friends. They’ve had a lifetime to understand that there is nothing more important in this world than the relationships you build.

Is it any wonder that they would see the value of social media, when it is so effective at keeping them in touch?

To quote Stephen Chapin: “Old friends, they mean much more to me than a new friend. Because they can see where you are and they know where you’ve been.” I would say that any company or brand would be lucky to have such old friends.

The Digital Natives And Label Risk

In the mean time many agencies and marketers are looking mainly to younger generations when it comes to social media adoption. The ‘Digital Natives’ are key in their approach. In Belgium, where I live, there is even a 360° interactive agency that started to position itself as the Digital Native Agency. Risky if you ask me, knowing that the budgets they win are certainly not approved by those same natives. Recently I read a column by one of its founders claiming that the era of physical consumption is ending with the arrival of the natives. Come again?

Anyway, many people seem to forget that, Digital Native or not, every generation is different and every individual as well, whether we label them as Gen Y, Millennials, Boomers, Digital Natives or whatever. People evolve and are not defined by technology alone. We are still a more primitive species than we like to think and, again in response to the mentioned column, we don’t control our world and life from behind computers and dashboards. That’s the wishful thinking of people who confuse the possibilities technological innovations with narcissist divine control.

People have basic needs beyond their more ‘spiritual ones’, they also still experience basic emotions (they often tend to focus on the “good ones” and suppress the “bad ones”), they need to eat and drink and, yes, they need to have a sanitary break now and then.

All sarcasm apart, there are also facts and figures.

Another recent survey, this one by the Nielsen Norman Group, found that “marketers are misguided in assuming that social media is the best way to reach the college-age audience”, as MediaPost puts it.

Sure they use social a lot and many of them know and understand digital technology but they don’t want everything to be social and online. As MediaPost writes: “college students don’t necessarily live up to the stereotype of an especially tech-savvy, social media-obsessed segment of society”.

You can read more about what they really want here. And what will the “Facebook Natives, Mobile Natives, RFID Natives or Whatever Natives” want? We’ll know in a few years. But putting all your eggs in one basket has never been the wisest business strategy.

So, look beyond the obvious and think. There are more people out there than the stereotypes…

You can find the free Pew report here (PDF opens) and order the report from the Norman Nielsen Group here.

Changes in social networking site use by generation

vocus 2011 strategy

PR And Social Media Survey: Mixed Findings For 2011

Vocus has released their 2011 Planning Survey and there are some very interesting findings and stats highlighted in the report. This year Vocus teamed up with Deirdre Breakenridge to produce their PR planning report.

As Breakenridge points out, corporations are realizing that social conversations about their brand will happen with or without them (and as always, I have to stress that these conversations have been going on forever) so, it’s best to be a part of that conversation: “be where your customers are, remember?”.

She also observes that small social victories for organizations which dipped their feet into social this year will lead to more focus next year.

Vocus surveyed 508 professionals, with about half being PR and the rest a mix of social media specialists, advertisers and search marketing professionals.

23% of respondents said marketing is leading the social media charge with PR contributing and 22% said PR is leading their efforts with a variety of departments chipping in. Wrong, according to me. More department should be involved in a cross-channel customer world where everyone in your business should look in the same direction: people and value.

In general, respondents felt social media budgets would improve as compared to 2010. 42% expect budgets to “increase somewhat” or “increase significantly” while 29% responded the same last year. Also, 20% felt budgets would “decrease somewhat” or “decrease significantly” as opposed to 29% that indicated that in last year’s report. Of those surveyed, the most optimistic group was search professionals and advertisers.

How much of your relations and brand do you “own”?

Organizations certainly seem to think they are right in the thick of social media and participating. When asked about social media maturity, 67% responded that they are actively involved and contributing to social media.

Vocus survey PR social media maturity

Even so I have to wonder how public relations will truly find its place in social media. Is PR best placed for social media? PR people seem to wonder themselves since 60% said PR will be more challenging in 2011, amongst others due to social media. On top of that, there seems to be some consensus on marketing taking the lead and PR providing assistance. According to me, more divisions should be involved.

And anyway, customer relationships are, however you look at them, not only about “public” relations (and, yes, journalists, bloggers and media are your customers as well). How much can you manage these relations in the era of the “public”?

Companies don’t “own” conversations anymore (or better: they never have, they only owned broadcasting) so it follows that they can’t really expect to fully own their brand either. You are not pushing information out on your schedule anymore – that is being dictated by consumers with a core of influencers who carry a great deal of weight across multiple channels.

Take a good look at your corporate culture and consider if you really are an active participant in the social media channel and all the others which today’s cross-channel consumers thrive in.

Are you looking at new ways to do things to connect and interact with them or are you trying to shoe-horn the new consumer into what amounts to outdated processes and procedures?

The full survey results can be found (with registration) on the Vocus website.

spinning plates

Avoid Social Media Marketing Wobble Worry: Select

US-based agency R2i (short for R2 integrated), recently surveyed 296 marketing professionals on social media and came up with yet more evidence that companies are still struggling with social media strategies and tactics.

Nearly 42 percent responded that time and resources were the biggest hurdle preventing them from entry into the channel. 20.9 percent quoted skepticism of return, which basically boils down to ignorance and being incapable of having a goal and a plan, just like other barriers including “too many platforms to decide” or “not sure where to begin”. 38 percent of respondents responded that their big mistake was not allocating enough time and resources.

Greatest barriers to entry into social media

As the report notes, the problem may well be that companies are trying to be in too many places at once and simply have too many plates spinning (“too many platforms to decide”, “not sure where to begin”, “lack of time and resources”, which partially might mean “we want to be everywhere at the same time doing good stuff for everyone”).

Have you ever watched one of those plate spinning acts? I’m sure there’s a technique, but the only strategy seems to be to react as quickly as possible to whatever plate is wobbling – two seconds to get it spinning again and off to another wobble.

Wobble Worry Is Not An Efficient Strategy

Wobble worry may be an effective tactic, but it’s hardly an efficient or practical strategy. It’s certainly going to overwhelm you in the long term. You may have noticed that even the best Chinese acrobats have a limit of how many plates they can wobble worry over!

How many plates have you got spinning? How many are wobbling? Do you even know? It’s very possible that the first time you know something is wrong is when you hear the crash!

As the report mentions, social media presents a great deal of potential for lead generation, business development and brand monitoring. However, it’s also a great channel for customer service and support, if you have the resources to dedicate.

You can’t just run from one wobbling plate to the next and expect that to generate leads, help with business development or even brand monitoring. As well, if you try to conduct customer service this way, you will be cut to shreds by broken china. Select your goals and channels, depending on your business and customers.

The Multi-Channel Customer

Social media is just one channel the multi-channel consumer exists in. Imagine if you will that today’s consumer is that wobbling plate. If you don’t run over there fast enough to get the relationship spinning well again, the plate will fall and your relationship is broken. That is no way to run a business.

It might be a better idea to automate the spinning of your plates so that instead of running from wobble to wobble (channel to channel) you have a system set up which keeps those plates spinning at just the right RPM and when you need to give it a couple of extra pushes, you are there just in time and only have to use just the right amount of energy to get it spinning nice and smoothly.

PS: let the audience (your communities) decide on the spinning speed, the direction and even the plates.

More data from the survey – including all the graphs and forecast you love – here (PDF).

Digital Brands Expressions Survey Social Media In Businesses

Businesses Fail Incorporating Social Media Due To Lack Of Plan and Key Players Defining It

There are many reasons why businesses fail incorporating social media in their value creation chains, customer relationship programs and marketing mix. From corporate culture to overemphasizing message and medium to ignoring the listening priority to short-term tactics. And more. One of the reasons is obviously also a lack of strategy and planning which clearly came forward in a report by Digital Brand Expressions I blogged about before. And there is more.

The survey by the US-based company (published last Summer) shows that a lot of companies integrate social media into their strategy unprepared and without a clear plan. This is not the first time that a lack of goals, planning, cross-divisional cooperation, and even strategy regarding social media marketing shows up in a survey.

However, there is no reason to exclude social media marketing from a broader framework, and to approach it as an ‘island’ stripped of any form of strategy.

The fact that it does happen so often can be destructive for the company’s actions and reputation and it gives social media marketing in general a bad image as well.

Even more important: it often doesn’t provide any value whatsoever for the people using social media (and therefore, neither for the company).

Digital Brand Expression found that 78% of all participating companies practice social media marketing.

Yet a mere 41% of those actually have a strategic plan for their use of social media, in which is put down just what the goals are, which division is doing what, how the company involves its employers, etc.

Still, 88% of the companies without a social media plan finds it important to actually have one.

The conclusion is simple: a lot of companies aren’t ready for social media marketing because they don’t succeed in developing a coherent strategy as well as a clear plan that goes beyond the borders between different departments.

This silo-way of thinking, the walls between the various company divisions, a lack of coordination, and a bad insight into the possibilities of social media undoubtedly play a role in this.

Recent studies that fruitlessly debated on just who within the company is responsible for social media (PR, marketing, etc…) pointed this out already.

Several key players are left out of the social media plan and strategy

The survey also looked at who is responsible for creating, carrying out, and maintaining a strategic social media communications plan.

The marketing divisions takes the lead in this with 71%. The ‘corporate communications’ scored 29%, while sales and IT are both good for 10%. The management team only scored 16%, which is a shame, since drawing a social media marketing strategic plan demands the executive team’s cooperation, in the very least.

Which area of your company is responsible for the creation and maintenance of your strategic social media communications plan?

At the companies that have a social media marketing plan, it turns out that several divisions are barely included in it, if at all.

With an impressive 94%, marketing is almost always included. Public relations follows with 71%, while sales ended third with 55%.

Yet customer service is only included in 26% of all cases, and HR only in 16%. Management is barely included at all.

Which areas of your company are included in your strategic social media communications plan?

The fact that customer service is included so little, means that many companies don’t yet realize that the role of customer service is getting more and more important in these times in which customer satisfaction is so crucial.

The overwhelming presence of marketing and PR shows that a lot of companies overlook a large part of the essence of social media marketing. And the fact that HR (and therefore also the company’s employees) is included so sporadically, emphasizes this conclusion even more.

Obviously, these aren’t the only reasons why businesses still often fail in social media marketing but they sure are important ones.

You can download the report here and watch the slideshare below.

mobile email

Survey Reveals Mobile Email Trends: Where Is Your Subscriber?

We are on the go and so is our inbox, according to a new report from eROI. For some time now the focus of email marketers has been getting to the inbox and making sure that the message is compatible with whatever email client the subscriber is using.

While the personal computer has stabilized and standardized to a great degree and the email client wars have shrunk to only a few major combatants, what seems to have snuck up on the outside are new devices for accessing those inboxes. It’s no longer only a case of what client they are using, but what device and even where they are at which affects readability.

Now marketers have to contend with where their subscribers might be when they read the email. Are they at the office or on a train or at a football game? You just can’t be sure where anyone is these days and that complicates the issue. Where your subscriber is may well be as important as the day or time you send the email to them.

In other words, it’s 11 PM and do you know where your subscriber is? A key finding of the report is that there is no real universal case study for mobile subscribers. Your mobile messaging should be tailored to your specific subscriber base.

The report found that subscribers are more likely to be mobile from Thursday afternoon through the weekend. While that may not come as a surprise, it does mean that if you send your emails out in that range, you need to be even more mobile device friendly.

Mobile devices started out at a reasonably slow pace, but this is accelerating as would a sled on an icy slope. The technology is picking up speed and adoption is increasing at an exponential rate. Those who do not now take a good look at how their subscribers are interacting with their messages will find themselves left behind fast.

The report suggests marketers use a tool such as Litmus to determine what devices subscribers are using and when. Tracking this information over a 30-60 day period should show some trends and give you a deeper understanding of how to optimize your campaigns to suit your subscribers best. Knowing this will allow you to efficiently allocate the resources you have available.

As well, don’t forget using this data to optimize the content and landing pages you are driving subscribers to. If that content and those pages are not optimized for the preferred platforms, then your work is not done.

And while device detection is pretty much a non-starter for email clients, there is technology available to detect devices for your website and landing pages and you can then tailor that content accordingly.

As well, simply putting a “mobile friendly” version link in your emails can go a long way to smoothing the user experience for mobile users.

Technorati: State of the Blogosphere 2010: bloggers and brands

The Possibilities of Blogging and Blog Marketing Are Underused

In 2006 Debbie Weil’s successful “The Corporate Blogging Book” was published. Robert Scoble and Shel Israel published “Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers”, and everyone was talking about “conversations” and “blogging”.

I participated that year in the writing of a book on blogging for a local client and started a “blogging for business” service. The following year, the market was flooded with books on blogging, such as John Cass’s “Tools for Corporate Blogging” as well as dozens of others. But by then everybody was working on the “next big thing”.

Fast-forward to 2010. Despite the masses of books, blogs, articles and opinions on blog marketing, I find that many companies have no blogs. And this in a social media marketing reality in which blogs play a crucial role. Naturally, you can say that five years is not a long time. But in the fast-evolving digital world, five years is an eternity.

Several studies this year have shown that blogging is used less in the business world than we think. So, blogging is anything but “so 2007”.

Blog marketing statistics: missed inbound marketing, PR, SEO and conversation opportunities

A recent report from Econsultancy and Big Mouth Media,  the “Social Media and Online PR Report”, gives some figures (most of the respondents were from the UK, followed by other European countries and then the US).

The report found that 48% of the surveyed companies have a “corporate blog” or a “branded blog”. That is less than half and for the others it is a missed inbound marketing opportunity.

The report also found that 45% of companies use “blog relationships” as part of their online PR activities and that 43% started online conversations that made use of user-generated content or social media. That is also less than half.

Online PR tactics

The possibilities of blogging are definitely not being put to optimal use. A lot of companies have no blog. Almost no company has a blog that is more-or-less independent of its own brand, such as Adobe (Omniture) does with, and even the use of “blog relationships” has room for improvement. Weird since blogs are ideal for conversations but also for PR, SEO and so much more. Is the fear of comments or the lack of proven ROI still withholding us? Or is it a lack of strategy?

Moreover, Iit appears that companies that do blog could do it much better, including in terms of the consistency between their blogs and their market messages. According to a study by communications company Burson-Marteller (see slideshare below), almost three quarters of blog posts do not reflect the company message.

Naturally, it does not  always have to do so, but in branded and corporate blogs content consistency between blogs, social media, email, SEA, advertising and other forms of marketing is very relevant in these cross- and mult-channel times. The link between blogging, community marketing and other forms of marketing (SEO, email) is often neglected.

This is unfortunate because Number of blog readers in the US between 2008 and 2014 according to eMarketerblogs are real social media hubs and cornerstones of inbound marketing. But more importantly, blogs are read.

For example, eMarketer estimates that more than half of American Internet users read a blog at least once a month this year. By 2014 this figure will be 60%.

NB: that figure reflects the whole Internet population. It is clear that in several sectors, especially those where the client makes intensive use of online resources and interaction channels in his buying journey, blogs are consulted much more.

This is especially true in various B2B sectors like marketing, services and ICT. And let’s not forget that blogs are “read” more in specific demographic and other segments.

Obviously, blog marketing is not only about blogging but also about building relationships with bloggers and their communities. As you know, there are rules in this regard and it requires common sense but interacting with bloggers that talk about your brands is important.

And bloggers do talk about brands: according to Technorati’s latest State Of Blogosphere report (edition 2010, released earlier this month), 42% of respondents say they blog about brands they love or…hate.

Among the bloggers that use social media to follow brands, this percentage is even higher (50%) as you can see in the chart below (you can read the whole Technorati report starting here).

Technorati: State of the Blogosphere 2010: bloggers and brands

What’s your blog marketing strategy?

The blog marketing priority areas are mainly strategy and relevance. Without strategy and planning, any form of blog marketing is doomed to fail. The same goes for content, interaction and relevance, which, in the end, is what blogging for business is all about.

Some claim blogging is “dead” (yes, I know, it’s the same old story) due to the arrival of new publishing models, micro-blogging, some social media evolutions etc.

But, however you look at it, even in new publishing models and content strategies, someone will still have to write. And let’s not forget one thing: blogs are still social media hubs.

So: is blog (marketing) dead?

I think it’s just only growing up and that many businesses need advice on how to do it well: do you have a strategy yet?