Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Executing Social Media with Jeanette Gibson

Thanks to Chris Heuer for recording and posting this presentation on Cisco's Social Media efforts that Jeanette Gibson presented last week at John Gerstner's workshop:

Also thanks to Michael Brito for bringing this to my attention!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Coffee's for Closers

Go viral or go home
Since 1996 Tim Draper of Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson has claimed he invented “viral” marketing when his portfolio company, Hotmail, included a line on the bottom of each email that said "Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com/."

Although viral marketing as we now know it was used by companies much earlier, the Hotmail example perfectly illustrates why marketers chase “viral” as if it were the cure to stopping spam. After getting the right message, the biggest challenges facing marketers are message distribution and authentication. If someone doesn’t see your message, you lose. If they don’t think it’s legitimate or don’t trust its source, you lose. Viral campaigns solve both those problems; accelerating propagation faster than we could ever do ourselves and authenticating the message by having it delivered by a trusted source. It’s marketing Nirvana. Forget visions of sugar plums dancing through my head - when I sleep I see social networks acting as Force Multipliers; delivering my carefully packaged message to receptive and qualified customers.

Easier said than done
But hey if it were that easy everybody would be doing it. There are many perils on the long winding road up the peak to Marketer’s Paradise not the least of which is crafting the perfect message. But let’s say you get through that, how on earth do you build a messaging vehicle that has the potential to go viral? And even after you do that what’s really the benefit of doing so? Is there any way to measure the effectiveness of viral effectiveness on buying decisions? I mean, even if the message is right and its delivered by a trusted source in a reasonable time frame is it more effective than a billboard in Times Square?

We’re still very early in our understanding of how effective social media and other 2.0ish technologies will be in helping plain Jane campaigns achieve “viral” status, but the returns so far are encouraging.

One thing that’s much harder to measure however is the effect of networks on individual behavioral (buying) decisions. We know that message reception and retention will be higher when coming from “the network”, but how influential is “the network” on decisions overall?

Viral messaging or networked buying?
New research out of Harvard Medical School indicates that social networks may have more to do with individual buying decisions than we thought. When coupled with Social Media Marketing campaigns this can be much more powerful than just a more effective message delivery campaign. Instead of just permeating an effective message, a “tuned” network could theoretically process a message and if followed up with positive product purchase experiences, directly influence the purchasing decisions of others in the network. This makes the “message spreading” potential of viral marketing seem downright anemic. Traditional viral marketing still relies on the effectiveness of my message to be effective. But if this research holds true for Social Media networks, then there might be a more compelling and cost effective way to harness “the network” in marketing campaigns that transcend traditional message delivery.

When thinking strategically, its easy to get caught up in thinking that marketing is about messaging and message delivery. But its not. Its about selling product. Too often I think we’re content with getting qualified buyers to the table. What if we could more directly influence actual buying?

Certain markets are already operating in this paradigm and as I consider new campaigns in the future I will certainly be looking closer at “network influence on buying behavior” campaigns rather than the traditional “network influence on message delivery” projects that have worked for us in the past.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Cisco Marketing Has Got Game

Some call it social media excellence some just say we've gone crazy...whatever you call it, it seems to be working.

As an extension to the social media efforts that we're leveraged for Cisco's ASR launch, Cisco announced a tournament around the EDGE QUEST game where they are offering $10,000 cash plus a Cisco ASR 1002 router to the sole winner. Not a bad deal for playing a game but the competition is stiff with a top score currently at 204,540.

I haven't exactly kept it a secret that I'm one of the marketers behind this campaign so of course I think it's cool but here are a few specific reasons why I think it’s working for us:
  1. We're reaching our target audience in a new, fun, and engaging way. Last year online gaming attracted 28 percent of the total worldwide online population -- almost 217 million people -- and according to CIMS, 24% of those were IT professionals! Us marketers are always trying to fish in a big pond but it helps when they’re all swimming in the same place.
  2. Low cost, high ROI. This program was an extension of an existing program. The EDGE QUEST game was created at launch so the cost of the tournament includes just the "carrot" of $10K plus the router. We also invested a small amount in changing the game a bit for the "money round" of the tournament but no budget went into promotion we focused solely on social media outlets. In return we've had an influx in PR and Blog pick-ups and a substatial increase in traffic to the game and product page. All of this activity of course is being measured and considered as part of the ROI of the campaign.
  3. It was just a blast to work on. Hey there's nothing wrong with that - it's fun for the people engaging with Cisco in a new way and it was fun to be part of the marketing team to develop and creatively promote the game and tournament leveraging social media tactics which included a social media release, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Del.icio.us, Digg and Flickr.

This particular campaign won't work for everyone but creating a social marketing campaign can get your customers engaged and extend your message far beyond traditional marketing.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Overcoming Social Media Objections

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”Howard Aiken

As Dr. Aiken discovered, knowing which direction to go doesn’t mean much if you can’t get your team to follow. Thankfully, unlike Dr. Aiken we don’t have to convince people to buy in on an idea as crazy as building a computer at a time when phones were considered state of the art. But knowing that doesn’t make our job any easier.

All marketing campaigns come down to getting time, money, or resources and to be done properly, your Social Media Marketing campaign will likely need a little of all three. For many of us, this means approval from one or more decision makers on a marketing campaign that may be fundamentally different from anything they’ve done before.

The people considering your idea are going to have a running list going of positives and negatives. If they’re like most humans, this list won’t be entirely rational and will likely end up coming down to one major factor either way. Whether choosing new cars, new houses, or even new presidential candidates – people can usually narrow down their decision making criteria to one or two factors, positive or negative.

There’s no way to know which factors will be most critical to the people in your audience but if they’re anything like the folks I’ve been working with, here’s a few that come up almost every time.

  • “The devil we know IS NOT SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING”. This is where many good ideas have gone to die. While it’s true that building a social media project likely won’t be as predictable as a more traditional campaign, there is a healthy amount of data out there already. Besides this blog, success stories and ROI can be found on sites such as Conversations Matter, WebGuild, Groundswell, The Social Organization, and Marshall Kirkpatrick.
  • “We’re already doing social media marketing. We have a website, and it has a “talk to a sales rep” button – what else is there?” There is a common misconception amongst the uninitiated that if a company is online, it’s “connected”. As much hype as Web 2.0 receives, there are still many people who don’t get what it is, what it’s for, and more importantly where it might help. The only way to correct this is with education. In addition to collaborating on Web 2.0 projects enterprise-wide, I drive adoption through educational blog posts, workshops and webinars. I’ve found that most people, especially in marketing, have a remarkable capacity to learn about the bleeding edge but if they’re making a go/no go decision on your new project, it might be too late. The way to beat this one is early and often.
  • “OK, even if we do it with social media, how would we know if it worked?” Unlike “direct response” or “click through” marketing, social media campaigns aren’t as easily measured. Oftentimes we’re counting things like “engagement” and “connections” that don’t have a correlation to existing marketing metrics programs. At first blush, this seems like a minor point that will get fixed in time. But if your team is compensated on traditional marketing MBO’s, they might not be as motivated to kick off a social media endeavor. Marketing runs on metrics, but somehow TV and print ads get approved every year – stick to your guns, metrics are important but there are other factors to consider.

These certainly are not the only objections that you’ll run up against in trying to get your social media campaign off the ground, but they seem to be pretty common. Feel free to share objections you’ve come up against and any ideas on how to work through them.