While in the midst of an interesting debate on whether social media has any use for B2B tech companies, I chanced upon this analysis during my morning’s browsings I found so apt and “linkedin” with the topic of contention!
For its special feature on CEO Guide to Sentiment analysis, Businessweek had asked Netbase, a company that analyzes online sentiment, to compare what users felt about leading tech companies. The results, complied through an analysis of conversations on facebook, tweets and product review forums, are mostly predictable, but did have some surprise element as well.
That Apple and Google are the most “loved” brands comes as no surprise. Likewise, Twitter and Apple are also among the most talked about brands. I however found it interesting that HP and Linkedin have managed to create a passionate fan following and move into the “love” quadrant- HP has managed this with its printers and laptops! I also found facebook’s position in the “hate” quadrant intriguing (given all the drama around it’s half a billion users) though not entirely unsurprising. That Microsoft is discussed far, far less than, say, a twitter or an Apple or a Google, did take me by surprise, though its positioning in the passion index map did not.
Another observation (related to my debate too) is that leading B2B brands including Cisco, Oracle and Intel feature in the “like” quadrant- though, of course, they are far less discussed than B2C players. Still, isn’t it worth monitoring what users say about their brands? Example- Cisco, a company that is currently doing some soul searching of its own, is the most liked brand- and the company would be happy to note that! It scores high on reliability and that is something the company would factor into its ongoing re-focusing exercise.
In conclusion, unsolicited opinions from end users are an important input for any company, big or small. They are probably more honest than formal efforts, at times and need to be judiciously interwoven into a company’s market tracking mechanisms. I believe that we are past the stage where we can ignore online conversations, whatever be the area your business operates in. Do you agree?
Netbase incidentally uses an NLP based engine to do sentiment analysis. Their site claims that its analysis is more than 80% accurate, which is a tall claim in an area which is still evolving. More on that in another post.
I was reading an article in the recent HBR on this subject and unsurprisingly, the author, a McKinsey consultant, talks about how the funnel metaphor (a buyer narrowing down systematically from many choices to one choice) is no longer applicable in the social media driven world. The buying process is more peer group driven – not a new insight, but what was interesting is how the consideration set may start small, expand (based on research , word of mouth and peer reviews) and then again narrow down and result in a purchase. Of course, post the purchase the buyer plays an active role as an influencer in the public domain by either endorsing the product/service or dissuading others from purchasing depending on his/her level of satisfaction.
In such a world of a less conventional buy cycle, as well as more power in the hands of the buyer as an influencer, the process of brand building a good re-look.
Brand managers need to look at how they can influence the multiple touch points and milestones in the buying process. This is again not an entirely new idea, but for companies used to “buying” mindshare by throwing big money behind paid media campaigns, this calls for a mindset change. In addition, social media give more power to the marketing manager as he/she can now “own” media and “earn” media. The former refers to publishing content while the latter refers to viral marketing (creating positive influencer-buyer above is how companies can earn media).
The moot point is however, how companies, both in the B2b and B2C spaces will take advantage of these opportunities.
One of the the key questions that our clients who are trying to stitch together a social media strategy have is, on deciding the tools they should include. It is not a surprising question given the seemingly infinite possibilities available. On one hand you have supposedly obvious choices like facebook and twitter which seem to have become akin to standards, on the other, every morning you hear of some new tool that appears really relevant to your situation! For instance, yesterday I read about this new blogging platform called Tumblr (yes!) which has 6.6 million users – this sets you thinking whether this is a tool for you to consider.
That said, in our view, rather than getting boggled with the choices, pick a few more established ones and get started. That is the key. Like in all branding exercises, your social media strategy will give results only over time, and if you are at it.
By spending too much time on fine tuning your strategy, including deciding on the number of kind of tools you want to make a part of your effort, you maybe losing valuable time.
It is always easy to add as you go along, so if you are debating this question right now, I hope this post has given you some food for thought………
Now, I have my own personal opinions about the Israel flotilla fiasco that occurred about a week ago – however that’s not really something I would want get into here. A point worth making though is how the Israeli Government has set off an intensive media campaign across Twitter, Facebook and other key social media platforms to help restore its reputation. Every few hours, there are new videos uploaded to YouTube and a regular stream of Twitter updates and blog posts – all demonstrating the ‘responsible’ behavior of the troops while portraying the people in the flotilla as hostile attackers. However the Government didn’t really bargain for the live streams and camera phones that have captured the true story – one that had been circulating around the social media platforms long before the ‘edited’ versions were released. The social media war had been instigated at the outset when the flotilla began its voyage – indeed armed with Facebook and Twitter profiles, and every detail Flickered and You-tubed, the flotilla got their message across to the world and how!
While the Governments efforts seem to have worked at home to some extent, there is no stopping the wave of condemnation pouring in from across the globe. What is really ironic is that Government is now in a much worse position than it was when the flotilla launched.
Ah, the power of technology and social media!
As a new entrant to the blogosphere, it’s only fitting that I reflect on why I am doing this. Blogging matters – to companies and people. We all like to be heard and some of us even have unique ideas and perspectives that others would like to know. Now we get a chance to hear them all.
Most of us have something that they absolutely need to get off their chests from a pet peeve to just about anything else – the good, bad and ugly. Imagine the stress relief that you get when you talk about stuff you actually care for. And the ego boost when people are like – I know what you are talking about and I feel the same way.
Blogging allows people to respond. When most people take their first baby steps toward blogging, it’s mostly in the form of comments and responses to other blogs you really like. This is a medium built for interaction and conversation.
Finally, blogging can set the record straight. If you are a company that needs to respond to rumors or news, blogging helps. If you are popular or important (lucky you!) and people need to know your version, write a blog about it.
Anyway, blogging gives you a face and makes you real. That in itself, should be a reason to start cracking and publish a blog.
In this age of social media, with marketing folks being assessed on new and innovative ideas, we sometimes do tend to overlook tried and tested vehicles of communication. In my view, the newsletter is one such. A well written and regular newsletter can be a great brand building tool. What’s more, we need not even do print versions anymore.
However, this suggestion is often met with skepticism by clients and prospects as 1. they feel there are too many newsletters floating around and 2. after a point, how can we sustain it?
To address the first concern, there is no such thing as a unique media vehicle- take ads- TV or print- they continue to be a very widely used medium with companies especially in the B2C space, continuing to spend huge dollars on ads. Is anyone saying, there are too many ads, so let me not do ads? No, instead, companies and agencies are vying with each other to make their ads more creative, and engaging. It is no different with newsletters. Just because a lot of companies have newsletters should not deter you from creating one. But it is important to make your really stand out.
And here is where compelling content and the right kind of content plays a role. Also, the editorial outline of a newsletter should be well thought through and tied in with your objectives. At Prayag, we launched our newsletter, Confluence in our first year, and we are happy to say, it has a growing readership and has helped in no small way to build our brand. (http://www.prayag.com/confluence_19/index.html)
Newsletters should ideally be used to communicate the company’s point of view and expertise. It is not a bad idea to involve external contributors, but it is important to have contributions from within. The reason I am underscoring this is some companies, in an effort to remain neutral, make their editorial outline so bland that the newsletter has nothing specific or interesting to offer to its readers. At the same time, it is also important not to make your newsletter sound like your company brochure. The temptation is very high to do this, but one must desist.
The other aspect of maintaining regularity is really related to discipline and focus rather than to a lack of enough to say, as many people we meet seem to think. Wherever Prayag works with clients to anchor newsletters, we have never been short of ideas for editorial content; we have many cases where the newsletter goes out, on the dot, month after month.
To sum up, I would like to underscore the importance of exploring tried and tested vehicles even while companies continue to experiment. Some of the social media platforms can actually be used to cross promote the newsletter.
It would be great if others could share their views on newsletters as a way to build and sustain a company’s brand.
Kodak’s CMO, Jeff Hayzlett, has managed to attract considerable attention to his company through his extensive use of various social media tools like Twitter, Facebook etc. The company was once a colossus in the photography industry, but missed the digital revolution boat and was left floundering. According to Hayzlett, the company has now reinvented itself as a B2B company and stays in touch with its customers via its social media strategy, Convergence Ripcurl. It has attracted a lot of attention through its consumer contest to name its HD video camera, and its blog “a Thousand Words” has won awards. One point I found interesting was that it has a ‘Chief Listening Officer’ to review all social media comments – shows that it is serious about listening to the market.
The brand strategy is paying off: Kodak has reduced its product-to-market cycle to five months, and 13 of their products rank #1, #2, or #3 in their respective categories, half of which didn’t exist two years ago. One product was launched solely using Twitter at a $70 higher price point and there’s a waiting list to purchase. (Brand Strategy – Reinventing Kodak, Nicolette Beard).
However, share prices are still falling, so it will be interesting to see if the new marketing strategy will help the company in the long run.
In continuation of the theme of how to use social media platforms, I will in this post talk about what a great tool linkedin is for professionals like you and me. I assume that everyone who reads this post is already on linkedin, if you are not, it should not take you more than a few minutes to create an account.
The power of linkedin, as its name indicates, is that it allows you to expand your professional network. One can invite colleagues, business partners, class mates from school and any other business associate to become a part of your network.
All updates you make to your profile now become visible to your network, and hence staying in touch becomes that much simpler. By linking with other social media platforms like twitter, you can redirect tweets; you can link your blogs; you can let people know what you are reading, and you can also track what others in your network are reading.
In addition, there are many other applications like slideshare which you can use to upload interesting presentations.
This apart, one reach out to one’s network for quick professional help – for example, obtaining some insights or validating an idea. However, it is not a good idea to “spam” with both requests for connections and leverage for help. Also, it is important to reciprocate too.
Further, through updates that come to you, keeping track of people you are connected to becomes easy.
The other interesting and useful feature of linked in is groups. There are any number of groups; you can join a group that makes professional sense. You can also start your own group. Prayag, for example, has started the techmarketing forum on linkedin.
Another useful aspect is posting questions and as a corollary you can become the “linkedin expert” by regularly providing answers for questions in your area of competence.
All of this just sitting at your desk and spending perhaps an hour or less every other day.
And so I am a big fan of linkedin and believe it is a great tool for a professional.
It would be great to hear of experiences of others with linkedin.
Last week, Prayag extended its social media presence – we now have a face book page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Prayag-Consulting/106956225995536?ref=ts
Check it out and become our fan! And watch out for more forays soon.
Ever since I came by this fascinating quote by Guy Kawasaki- if you have brains do in bound marketing and if you have money, try out bound marketing – I have been thinking about the advantages of in bound marketing.
In bound marketing is all about creating awareness for your brand/company/product or service so that your target customers/prospective employees find you and express an interest in knowing more about you and eventually engaging with you . Everyone recognizes that it is always smarter to have people call you and inquire about using your services or working for you, rather than the other way around. But the challenge was, how do you make it happen?
Today, with the internet and social media, one actually has a practical way to sustain an in bound marketing program. As those who have tried it successfully point out, the key ingredient for results through an in bound program is compelling content. The more means you have to create such content, which is useful to your audience, and not merely a sales pitch, the better your chances of creating an impact.
The other mechanism that you have with you today is social media tools. Social media tools provide you the vehicles to present your content to the right audiences (cost) effectively.
Though the importance of inbound marketing increased owing to the recession, I believe that this is the way to go, and companies are unlikely to switch back if they have seen the payoffs.
So, whether you are an individual professional trying to build your brand, a small business with limited resources or a large corporation thinking about sustaining your brand, in bound marketing is the answer.