Does Social Media Marketing Really Work?

John Hope-Johnstone

Does social media marketing really work? Fewer than 1 percent of Website visits come directly from a social media URL according to research just released by customer satisfaction analytics experts ForeSee Results.

That’s not terribly exciting news. However, 18% of people surveyed say that they are influenced to visit a brand’s Web site OR purchase that brand because of social media. So here is my answer to that very important question, “does social media really work?”

NO! Not by itself but as part of an integrated marketing program it becomes a major influencer and a can double or triple the results of a regular campaign. At HPR Internet and Social Media Marketing Seminars and Coaching we have proven time and again that as part of an integrated campaign social media is a powerful tool. Left by itself it is valuable for brand loyalty but is not a “force” marketing medium.

Social Media & Social Unrest

John Hope-Johnstone

First of all I want to say that I have no authority to write this blog except hours of watching YouTube videos of the Arab uprisings and now the U.K.
riots looking for trends. Notice the difference in terms (uprisings/riots). I do lecture on social media but I am
not an expert on terrorism.

What has happened in the Arab world is an uprising against unjust dictators. What is happening in the U.K is not an uprising it is a series of flash riots by hooligans.

What some people are now calling “The Arab Spring Syndrome”, seems to be an epidemic of social unrest whether legitimate (Arabs), or just drunken hoodies looking to fulfill voids in the emptiness of their lives (U.K.),  both have one thing in common…social media and mobile devices that speed up communications that can organize a flash riot.

If we watch the TV interviews and YouTube comments during the Arab
Spring, they seem very different in their demographics than the U.K rioters.
The first model (Egypt) were more educated, slightly older (although many young), and if not upper income, certainly more middle income.

In the U.K. the interviews have shown unemployed youths with no
particular agenda that they can articulate, other than the “fun” of
creating mayhem and getting back at “the man” and most importantly
robbing and looting.

Clapham Junction

While the term social media is being used extensively in this
debate, really the kind of flash riots seen in Great Britain are being
organized more through mobile texting than social media platforms such as facebook.

It has been reported that Blackberrie’s BBM (BlackBerry Messenger)
has been used (mainly from one picture of a rioter), which is a proprietary
Internet-based instant messenger application included on BlackBerry devices which allows messaging between BlackBerry users. It was developed by Research In Motion (RIM), maker of the BlackBerry device (Canada). Exchanging messages is being used in private discussion or chat groups, which allow multiple BlackBerry devices to communicate in a single session and can spread news instantly.

Twitter could possibly be used with the use of hashtags, but it is too easily followed by the authorities.

In early August 2011, a similar event took place in San Francisco, where government officials shut down four cell locations along the BART public
transportation system in response to chatter about anarchist groups organizing
to protest the fatal shooting of Charles Blair Hill by Bart Police on July 3rd.
The move effectively silenced the undergrounds’ subway cell service from 4 to 7
pm and the protest ultimately did not materialize. However, as retaliation the
group hacked the Bart database.

The question now is one of possible overreaction. Prime Minister David Cameron and British Members of Parliament have proposed possible new powers for police in terms of how they could limit or block social media from becoming a tool for organizing riots.

London the day after

However, the underground telegraph system has always been fast and nimble, from whispering to passing notes the word can spread like wildfire long
before cell phones, as I am sure Marie Antoinette found to her dismay.

Blanket shutting down of social media platforms or IM platforms, merely legitimizes those rioters that are just anti-everything and gives them credence about an Orwellian big brother Government.

Bringing in the troops, which has also been mentioned but smacks of
the very dictatorships we are against and how they handle political unrest.

Giving police the knowledge to beat the rioters at their own game of social media, by putting out disinformation to confuse their efforts via social media, would be far more effective.

Also giving the police the ability, with mobile black-out units, to create limited dead zones in certain areas where cell and Wi-Fi become unavailable is an option.

Basically, it is going to be a modern war of wits as to who can out tech the other, the hoodies or the authorities.

While all this is going on. Sociologists and researchers need to find out why in so many societies including America, have become so polarized.

After the last Congressional debacle over raising the debt ceiling. Congressmen and women went back to their constituents and according to reports,
(if they were accurate), where told to “fight harder for what your party
stands for” by their voters. This sounds like a country very divided and not in the mood for any kind of reconciliation.

In the U.K., good citizens are rising up to protect their property and their families. Even though sadly, three young men have been killed protecting
their community by thugs. This is the way a society shows that it is “we
the people” who govern a country not thugs.

Could it be the polarization of wealth into the hands of a few, after
the collapse of the Industrial era and the breaking apart of the middle class could be a root cause for all this polarization?

Your considered comments are, as always, appreciated.

Social Media Promotions

John Hope-Johnstone

One of the most successful tools in social media marketing are “promotions”.

So what differentiates a “promotion” to just brand awareness? A promotion has a beginning, middle and end. It is of a relatively short duration and it has a set of very well-defined objectives along with an overarching goal that closely aligns to the overall marketing plan.

Although I had been involved with social media marketing since 2005, I really burst onto the scene in 2008.

During that December a series of bad storms over the Holiday party season threatened to close some of our top restaurants who rely on such parties to carry them through the doldrums of January.

We created a promotion that utilized some well established email lists, several popular business facebook pages and a massive number of Tweets.

All of this promotion had one very clear-cut aim, to drive people to a special landing page that would explain the new promotion called “Corvallis Culinary Week”.  If they entered their first name and email they would receive a link to download a coupon for two that would allow them to have a dinner at one of our top restaurants for only $10.

Food prep for Culinary Week @ 101

1,600 people downloaded the coupons within two days. Reservations were required and waiting lists were established by the fourth day before the first week of the promotion even began.

An added benefit was the establishment of a “foodies” email list that could be used by our restaurant community to communicate with folks who like good dining.

The promotion still continues in January each year and with about the same results. The local Gazette Times newspaper stated at the beginning of the 2011 Corvallis Culinary Week, ” Corvallis Culinary Week makes its valiant return Jan. 17-23 for the third annual celebration of local fine dining, an event so glorious it’s as though it were touched by the hand of God.” Fine praise indeed.

Here’s the tip. While social media marketing was the main marketing tool, we didn’t rely on solely on social media. Like all good marketing we integrated it within all the appropriate tools available to us. However, the insert in the local newspaper and a very small TV campaign all pushed towards the special landing page. Total campaign spend (small market) was about $2,500.

For this campaign my staff were honored by being presented with the Governor’s Tourism Award for a Social Media Campaign.

Governor's Award

HPR Social Media has also created special social media marketing promotions for other types of organizations. A recent one was for a large upscale health club in Corvallis named the Timberhill Athletic Club.

The goal was to use social media to promote a two-week complimentary membership for anyone clicking through to a landing page entering first name and email and then receiving a special downloadable membership pass for two weeks. They had to take a tour and exchange the downloaded pass for a smaller more official one from membership services.

Our objective was 80 downloads for the campaign over a twelve month period. Club management put a hold on the campaign after the club received 61 down- loads and 51 club visitations after only two months.

So what is the moral of the story? Promotions work well for social media, either Public Relation or sales promotions. Management love the because they are highly targeted and it is easy to define an ROI from the marketing expenditures. While costly in staff time it is not costly in marketing dollars compared to returns. Lastly, it proves that social media really works!

Thanks for the read, please leave me a comment on any promotions that you have enjoyed with social media.

Why are Social Media Platforms so Popular?

John Hope-Johnstone

Although I have no empirical proof, I don’t believe social media would have been the phenom back in the 1950s as it is today, even if we had the technology.

The reason is simple, we were a different society back then. We were closer geographically to our families and friends. We were working more in manufacturing and most expected to stay with the same company for a long time.

Today 38% of Americans believe they are their own brand and hold no allegiance to any employer, as their employers have show little allegiance to them.

We have become a nation of small businesses, mostly service industry, and we have become our own personal brands. We search for that 15 minutes of fame to help promote our brand, and gossip seems to rule the day.

Steve Rubel, EVP of Edelman stated duruing a recent presentation at the Mashable Connect 2011 as reported by Erica Swallow, that we are entering an era on the Internet, where users are looking to find “validated” sources within the mist of the information overload that we all experience.

I agree with Mr Rubel. In our HPR Social Media Marketing Seminars we offer two sociological reasons why people respond to social media marketing:

1) Social Validation: Social Validation occurs when consumers do not have enough information to make independent opinions and so hunt for external clues such as; popularity, trust, rankings, etc.

2) Social Badging: Social Badging occurs when people validate their persona through the purchase of brands, or by the organizations with which they align. (40% of people who join a facebook business page do it for Social Badging. Exact Target and CoTweet Study 2010).

As Mr. Rubel stated in his speech: “The reality is, there’s too much content and not enough time.”  He related a startling fact “more content is created in one day in 2011 than existed in entirety prior to 2003. It’s no wonder that people are looking for “validation”.

Edelman publishes an annual “Trust Barometer” which gauges attitudes towards business, governement, NGOs and media across 23 countries.

In 2006 their study found that people trusted their peers the most when forming opinions about brands. Rubel points out the rise of social media to explain this finding.

In 2011, the Trust Barometer showed a dynamic shift, with academics, experts and technicians becoming the most trusted sources. The trust in comments by peers has declined by 4% since 2009.

This shift in authority Rubel proposes that people in 2011 are searching for validation or authority in content, through a cloverleaf of different media:

  1. Traditional media which encompass the big media companies that have survived and thrived in the digital era
  2. Tradigital Media, which include digitally native media companies that are often niche-focused blogs and have high social amplification.
  3. Owned Media, this is content created by the brand themselves.
  4. Social Media Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, driving increased engagement between consumers and brands and by pushing consumers to other trusted media spheres.

Rubel points out that there are five steps to using this new “validation” or “trust” clover leaf:

  1. Elevate your Experts: Those that have street-cred and have followers who respect their opinions already.
  2. Curate to Connect:  The word “curate,” lofty and once rarely spoken outside exhibition corridors or British parishes, has become a fashionable code word among the aesthetically minded, who seem to paste it onto any activity that involves culling and selecting. So in this aspect it means to search, obtain and code the most valid and important content in your field. Hence, becoming a trusted thought leader.
  3. Dazzle with Data: “People on the Internet do not read” Rubel says. They will read 20% of a Web page before moving on;  57% never come back to that page. “We are a blobal planet of fruit flies.” Data and informational must become more visually entertaining.
  4. Put Pubs on Hubs: Publish your company’s content where the fish are, rather than expecting the fish to find you.
  5. Ask & Answer: Be a thought leader, be a source of good information. Empower all of your staff to be thought leaders and encourage them to ask and answer as much as possible. It builds staff knowledge and respect.

Drowning in Data and Starving for Knowledge

John Hope-Johnstone

Hola, the Internet has provided marketers with a sea of data that has sent them into a happy dance that doesn’t stop. That is, until they realize that they really didn’t know what to do with it all, or what it all really means.

An entire industry has grown up around this “happy dance” whose own self interest is to perpetuate the dance as long as possible.

Like all new knowledge we tend to take it to extremes and create new languages around it that sound important but really tell the same old story.

The study of how we gain knowledge is called Epistemology. Epistemology is one of the core areas of philosophy. It is concerned with the nature, sources and limits to our knowledge.

It tells us that while our technology changes and diversifies, humans really don’t change in their core needs and how we learn to satisfy those basic needs.

While there are many steps in a consumers travel towards a purchase, it all begins with needs, wants and desires. Most marketers do not have a budget to create a need or a want or a desire but they do have budgets to tap into those that already exist.

While the purchase cycle can be as complex as seventeen steps or more, it really can be boiled down into three major steps:  1: Brand awareness (if they don’t know you exist it is unlikely that they are going to search you out). 2: Information fulfillment (you need to be able to explain why your product is better than the competitions). 3: Conversion (you need to give incentive to the consumer to buy your product now, and then you have to KNOW that they have purchased).

Yes, I know there are many marketers out there right now loading their flintlocks ready to take aim at me. I agree with them that the above paragraph is a massive oversimplification. However, if there is one word I want you to have as a take away from this blog post, it is “simplify”. It doesn’t need to be all that complicated.

I used to be a pilot a long time ago and we learned at flight school that there were primary instruments, secondary and down to tertiary. You need a primary dashboard to tell you that everything is flying along nicely. These were your airspeed, artificial horizon and rate of climb or descent. Of course, the compass was kinda cool as well. When something went wrong you went to your primary, then to your secondary instruments and then you had a check list to go down. You need to have the same in today’s marketing environment.

Take all the analytics that are pouring into your marketing pot and see if they legitimately fall under one of the three following steps: 1: Brand awareness. 2: Information fulfillment. 3: Conversion. You DON’T have to throw the rest of the metrics out, they certainly can provide good secondary information but they wont be a primary ones.

Next ask:  “If  we find that brand awareness, information demand, and conversion are slipping, what will we do with the metrics under each title to reverse that slide?” If the answer to one or more, is nothing, they should be relegated to being lower down on the information scale.

Next suggestion: “Don’t be a purist!” All the marketing data and information in the world is never going to exorcise the need for a good dose of intuition and yes, luck.

When I hear people say; “fans on facebook are not a good indicator of the growth of brand awareness because they might have blocked your posts from coming onto their profile page, or they might have died or left the country.” I laugh. It is true, they might have done one of the above but this has ALWAYS been true!

When we used to snail mail a brochure to a prospective consumer, we didn’t know if they had passed away in the interim, or had prospect regret and would chuck out the brochure without even reading it, or have moved. You cannot make a perfect marketing world. Keep your eyes on the consumer and not completely on the technology and platforms with which you communicate.

Oh, and lastly, don’t give up the “happy dance” just make it a happy dance that you have simplified all the data and feel that you are gaining good knowledge from it.

Thanks for reading this post, please give me your thoughts on the data that is pouring into your marketing bins. Please follow us on the following social media platforms:

Podcast with Social Media Leader Troy Thompson

On April 14th we recorded a special Podcast with social media leader Troy Thompson. Troy and I discussed the relevancy of QR Codes (quick response codes) such at this one that leads to a sign up page on my Web site for a Strategic Plan example:

QR code that leads to sign up for White Paper

We also discussed the future of Location Based Marketing with platforms such as Gowalla, Four Square and Yelp. Then the concept of adding Permission based Marketing to your marketing mix. Each of these are relatively new marketing platforms although QR codes have been used in Japan since the mid 1990s.
The discussion with Troy was exciting and I think that all of you in marketing and social media marketing will get a good glimpse of the potential that these platforms hold for creating conversion. I hope you enjoy the conversation:
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Mobile Marketing Can Change the World

John Hope-Johnstone

Although the title of this blog may seem grandiose, mobile marketing is changing the world one little step at a time.

In many respects, third world countries are leading the way with; mobile banking, mobile payments and mobile use in general. The reason is simple, land lines are rare, costly and unreliable.

In India it has revolutionized agrarian production by allowing field laborers who had rarely if ever entered their banks which are many miles away, to be paid electronically and through mobile banking see the money in their account, and in some instances be able to pay bills via the phone. This has increased farm productivity and workers motivation.

In the village of Karanehalli, a cluster of simple homes around an intersection of two dirt roads about 40 miles from India’s high-tech capital of Bangalore, Farmer K.T. Srinivasa doesn’t have a toilet for his home or a tractor for his field. But when a red and white cellular tower sprouted in his village, he splurged on a cellphone.

While the way his family threshes rice — crushing it with a massive stone roller — hasn’t changed for generations, his phone has changed the way he farms. He uses it to decide when to plant and harvest by calling other farmers, to get the best prices for his rice, coconuts and jasmine by calling wholesalers, and to save hours of time waiting on the road for deliveries and pickups that rarely come on time.

By 2012 we will be looking at our smart phones as our wallets, where payments to bricks and mortar stores, or wherever you are shopping will be made without having to swipe a credit card, just by codes on your smart phone.

Today, mobile coupons are beginning to catch on in the US. The Mobile Marketing Association strongly suggests that this must be an “opt in” arrangement and I agree. Depending on the phone plan, providers may charge coupon recipients for texts. Likewise, many cell phone users have placed themselves on a no-call list. Hence, opt-in is vital.

Permission based texting often uses the phone’s GPS  unit or a mobile “check in” from a location based marketing platform such as FourSquare, Yelp or GoWalla to locate the individual and then a coupon text is sent with a suggested offering, near by or at the present location.  A number or code is placed in the text. In other countries’ the use of a QR (quick response) code scanned by the coupon provider as part of the redeeming process, is fully in use.

Mobile coupons can also be delivered directly to your cell phone when you respond to a location based opt-in prompt that is part of a Bluetooth or WiFi broadcast, or is embedded in a billboard or display, as a QE code or infrared beam. The consumer will opt-in often by texting a keyword to a short code after being shown the option through other forms of marketing.

I was quite delighted while visiting Las Vegas to step off the plane turn on my phone and get a permission based welcome text from my Casino offering me a discount at one of their nicer restaurants for that evening. I had opted in when completed my reservation at the casino.

An excellent book to read on this subject, (no I didn’t write it sadly) is “Mobile Marketing, Finding Your Customers No Matter Where they Are” by Cindy Krum

Thank you for the read. I hope this tickles you to learn more about the upcoming revolution in mobile marketing. Please leave a comment and more information about mobile marketing.