5 Ways Brands Influence Social Media Strategy

Amplify’d from gigaom.com

5 Ways Brands Influence Social Media Strategy

There’s a lot of talk of personal branding in social media, but when it comes to commercial brands, many of the questions that you or I might take for granted when setting up a social media presence become dilemmas.

It’s not just the way organizations engage through social media that matters: the portrayal of a business brand in this space is affected by a range of factors.

1. Networks and Tools

Many businesses feel a competitive obligation to set up Facebook pages, but it’s true that your brand’s presence — or absence — from a given social network reflects on your brand as far competitors, clients, and industry watchers are concerned.

If your brand is the first from its category to develop a presence on Facebook, that says something. What it says, and how well that fits with your branding and communications strategies, will likely determine whether you’re the organization that breaks that new ground.

The tools you use to manage your social media accounts may also, perhaps inadvertently, affect your brand. Do your brand values include approachability, friendliness and responsiveness? Then it would be better to manage your account through a tool that alerts you immediately when you receive a direct contact from your network, and allows you to closely monitor what users are saying about your brand.

2. Types of Engagement

Brand personality and positioning will also influence the types of engagement you champion, seek, and try to avoid.

Is your brand the type to initiate engagements with others? What sorts of engagements? And what sorts of contacts? Is it the type to provide resources to followers and fans, or to give advice and help?

Branding can influence the types of campaigns and involvements your organization runs through social media, the frequency of updates and engagements, the methods of brand, product, or service promotion you use, and the degree to which you engage with contacts around issues of corporate and social citizenship, among others.

Finally, these decisions may, of course, influence the choices you make around networks and tools.

3. Who’s Making the Updates?

Whether your organization chooses to centralize or decentralize — or outsource — its social media management may be affected by brand, since brand can imply certain priorities for various social media factors, and those priorities might necessitate a certain type of management.

One consumer-focused technology consultancy I worked with would never dream of outsourcing its social media. This decision was simple: if the company was to position its brand as an experienced social media innovator, it’d have to prove it could walk the talk. Social media expertise was a core value for this brand.

However, the decision to decentralize its social media management was impacted by another aspect of the brand, which championed the employment of skilled, experienced, mature, knowledgeable experts who clients could get to know and rely on, no matter where they fitted in the consultancy process. As a result, every member of this consultancy had access to the organization’s social media accounts, and was expected to engage through them regularly.

4. Degree of Integration With Other Offerings

How, and how seamlessly, your business integrates social media activity with other means of audience communication, research, and engagement can be impacted by brand values, and, in turn, impact your brand.

One of my clients timed tertiary student-focused social media advertising with on-campus orientation week presentations as an experiment with social media. A more experienced, social media-savvy organization might tie those on-campus presentations to, for example, a Facebook competition, the winner of which might have been announced at an industry event the following month.

It’s clear that these two approaches would have achieved different response rates, results and brand resonance within the student segment.

5. People Your Brand Follows, Friends and Fans

On entering the social media space, most organizations are focused wholly and solely on attracting followers, friends and fans: a solid contact base. Yet the amount of attention you pay to customers, competitors, pundits and peers within the social media sphere, and who your organization follows and friends, will reflect strongly on your brand.

Again, the organization can use its brand to direct an approach to these different types of engagement. A conservative organization, or one whose brand is tied to quality, best-practice performance, is unlikely to form social media alliances of any sort with brands that are known or found not to adhere to industry standards, for example.

An Evolving Approach

Whether the branding choices you make for your organization’s social media presence are made by internal brand custodians, your marketing team, advertising creatives, an external social media consultancy, or senior management, be warned: some of those decisions will likely be altered as the organization’s experience with social media, and its online audience relationships, deepen.

Each time the organization faces a new challenge within the realm of social media, an opportunity likely exists for the brand to help influence the response. Ignoring your commercial brand in making decisions for social media is as potentially harmful as an individual ignoring their personal brand in this space. The difference is that the social media audience may be more willing to forgive mistakes made by personal brands, given the innately human, personal nature of the medium. Commercial brands may have more to lose, and may lose it more swiftly, if their activities and interactions jar with the audience’s evolving perceptions of the brand.

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Grow Your Sales and Revenue Using 2D Codes

Amplify’d from mashable.com

By now, you’re probably already familiar with 2D codes. They’re the square boxes that are showing up on ads, posters and billboards that connect people to mobile sites for more product information. But if that’s the only thing 2D codes can do, then what’s the point?

Businesses that don’t understand how to use 2D codes think that they’re just a way to drive people through to a mobile landing page. But businesses that get it are using them in a variety of new and innovative ways — all of which lead to increased customer loyalty and greater revenue per customer.

Here’s a primer and some key examples of how top companies are using 2D codes to improve business.

How to Use 2D Codes for Business

The term “2D code” is used to describe the category in general, not any specific type of code. Some of the most common types of 2D codes include Datamatrix, EZ Code, Microsoft Tag, QR Code, SPARQCode and ScanLife, among others.

Even though 2D code usage is increasing, the average consumer hasn’t used one yet, so you’ll have to help them get started. Typically, this means putting a short caption underneath the 2D code that tells people where they can download a reader for their phones, and explains the process of scanning the code.

Speaking of which, are you looking for a good 2D Code reader? In my experience, some of the best 2D code readers come from BeeTagg.com, i-nigma.com and ScanLife.com. But don’t just take my advice. A search for “2D Code Reader” will bring up plenty of excellent sites where people can download them into their smartphones.

How the Fortune 500 Use 2D Codes

esquire imageCompanies ranging from American Airlines to Sports Illustrated have used 2D codes to promote their products or services. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the best examples:

  • American Airlines placed 2D codes on outdoor boards in major airports to provide an immediate link to information for travelers on the go. Consumers who scanned the codes got real-time flight status, gate information and access to a reservation portal.
  • BestBuy has added QR codes to their in-store fact tags to give consumers the opportunity to review information about their products. Consumers can also save the information to review at home later or to buy the product instantly via smartphone and have it delivered to their homes later.
  • Barnes & Noble uses 2D codes in the back of its brochures to drive people through to the Andriod and iPhone App pages, where they can download the Nook app directly to their phones.
  • Esquire Magazine used 2D codes to give readers more information about fashion items featured in their magazine. Users can scan the code to get more information as well as a link to the designer’s website to place an order.
  • Fox Broadcasting Company used QR codes to promote their TV show called Fringe. People who scanned the code were given a top-secret message that was available only to people who engaged with the show using their smartphones.
  • O, The Oprah Magazine incorporated ScanLife 2D codes into a feature highlighting multiple products. Readers who were interested in getting more information about the products were able to scan the codes and were driven to mobile web pages.
  • Sports Illustrated used a JAGTAG 2D code to allow readers of their annual swimsuit issue to watch bonus videos of some of their models directly on their smartphones.
  • The Weather Channel used a QR code on one of their weather reports to drive people through to a page where they could download The Weather Channel smartphone app.

In virtually all of these cases, the 2D codes did something more than just drive people through to a standard mobile webpage. Instead, they gave the user a reason to interact with the mobile site and, in many cases, come back for more.

How Can You Put 2D Codes to Work for Your Business?

hello image

There are a lot of innovative ways to use 2D codes for business, and new ones are being added every day. What follows is a list of 10 ways you can easily use 2D codes for your business:

  • “Hello, My Name Is” Tags: You know those big red and white tags people wear at events with their names on them? If you put a 2D code in place of your name, you’ll engage people and easily be able to strike up conversations.
  • Outdoor Billboards: Be one of the first businesses in your market to run a giant 2D code on a billboard for your business.
  • Websites: Add a 2D code to the “Contact Us” page on your website so that visitors can download your contact information to their smartphones.
  • Business Cards: Add a 2D code to the front or back of your card so that people can instantly download your contact information.
  • Books, Articles and eBooks: I included a 2D code on the back cover of my book that drives people through to a social media glossary. Our intent was to engage people with a social/mobile tool while they were in the bookstore so they’d be more likely to buy the book. So far, it’s worked well.
  • Webinars: Ready to make your webinars more engaging and fun? Simply include a 2D code as part of your presentation. It’s a terrific way to keep the audience engaged and involved.
  • LinkedIn and Facebook Pages: Adding a 2D code to your LinkedIn and Facebook pages is one of the best ways you can position yourself as a forward, innovative thinker.
  • T-Shirts: Ready to promote your product or service in an innovative way? Then add a 2D code to a T-shirt that you give away to customers and prospects.
  • In-Store Posters with Coupons: Want to provide instant coupons to people while they’re shopping? Add a 2D code that drives them through to a special discount that can be scanned at the register.
  • Dial a Phone Number: Want to encourage people to dial your number so they can order your product? Give them a 2D code to scan. If it’s set up properly, it can instantly dial their phone and connect them with your sales center.

A Final Word on 2D Codes

In the end, there are several things you should know about 2D codes:

  • They aren’t going away: In fact, 2D code usage quadrupled last year.
  • They aren’t just for landing pages: As you can see above, new and innovative uses of 2D codes are cropping up each day.
  • They aren’t just fun and games: The best use of 2D codes is to generate revenue, and that’s what we’re in business to do, right?
Read more at mashable.com
 

In Social Media, Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Brian Solis gives excellent insight into how planning and strategy are an integral part in achieving success in social media.

Amplify’d from www.briansolis.com
  • January 6, 2011

I’ve received a series of inbound requests for comments based on a report from Gartner, an IT analyst firm, that estimates as many as 70-percent of social media campaigns will fail in 2011. There are a series of discussions hitting the blogosphere and the Twitterverse exploring this very topic, some elementary and others on the right path. I contacted Gartner earlier this week and the problem is, that this data isn’t new at all. In fact, these discussions are fueled by information originally published in 2008 and in early 2010. Yet another example of the importance of fact-checking in the era of real-time reporting, yes, but, when I paused for a moment, I appreciated the timelessness of this discussion.

Are many of the social media programs in play yielding tangible results?

No…

Are they designed to impact the bottom line or are they tied to meaningful business outcomes?

No…

The truth is that you can’t fail in anything if success is never defined.

eMarketer recently published a report, “Social Media in the Marketing Mix: Budgeting for 2011,” that documents the increase in social media spend we knew was imminent. However, in addition to showing us that companies are actively investing in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social platforms and campaigns, eMarketer’s Debra Aho Williamson says that businesses are spending more money for all the wrong reasons.

Indeed, business are moving from experimentation or ready, aim, fire approaches to deeper phases of implementation.

Williamson shares a perspective long cautioned against here and in Engage, “many companies are expanding budgets for social media marketing not because they have been successful at it, but because they are relying on gut instinct—the feeling that ‘this is something important so I’m going to do it even if I don’t know why.’ Or worse, they have watched their competitors earn accolades in the press for their work in social media, and they are afraid of losing any more ground.”

#FAIL

Failing to plan is planning to fail and this is a lesson that strategists and practitioners will learn as they progress. If transparency and authenticity were prevailing maxims over the last several years, accountability, metrics, and outcomes serve as the foundation for social media success in the immediate years ahead. An effective social media plan must address business dynamics and it takes much more than a Facebook and Twitter presence. To keep things simple, social media are transformative…but essentially they’re channels, services, and networks used for intelligence, communication, and visibility.  If we introduced email to the organization today, would it focus solely on marketing or customer service? Of course not. Email is not owned by any one department. It extends the reach, voice, and capabilities of every person from the inside out and the outside in.

Viewed this way, we see that a social media strategy must gain attention from the very top of the organization and see its integration across relevant business teams. Activating processes and engagement in business units is not tied to one switch either. It takes time to learn, to visualize new processes and systems, to open doors between departments. But, doing so sets the foundation for the social business, for an adaptive business. Switches will get introduced as their needs are defined and the electricity is tied to each one in order to perform specific actions.

The lens in which businesses must view social media is through an integration aperture. Social extends and empowers every business facet that is affected by online activity. That includes marketing, communications, sales, CRM/sCRM, product development/R&D, HR, finance, legal, et al.

According to eMarketer’s report, integration is strongest in marketing and weakest in critical business functions. To envision the future of social media, we would see each of the grey bars slide from left to right, initially led by an internal team or business strategist to help with a change in culture, process, and overall goaling.

#WIN

Everything starts with defining the mission and purpose at the top so that respective business units can perform according to goals and tasks. By focusing only on one or two aspects of social media, we narrow an important view of the 3F’s (friends, fans and followers) and what the real needs and opportunities are that lie before us. The answers you seek are not limited to catch blog posts that promise “The Top 10 Ways to Master Social Media.” Your answers require research…not just listening.

Approach the search box of social networks or monitoring and research tools such as ReSearch.ly, Radian6, Spiral16, etc. as a blank slate. Fill in the blanks to enliven the 5W’s +H.E.

Who
What
When
Where
Why
How
To what extent

Then categorize the information you discover to make the case for each of the affected groups within your company. Success here requires more than one community manager or one team leading the social effort. It’s not an easy process. But then whoever said social media was easy…is wrong. Unearthing the intelligence that exists when we read between the lines, we become the experts in which we initially sought guidance and we open up individual career paths beyond the social media “help desk.”

Success is not a prescription. There isn’t one way to excel. That’s the point. Success requires definition based on intentions, goals, and mutual value…across the organization from the top down, bottom up, inside out and outside in. Success is defined departmentally and also at the brand level. There’s much to do…

We are not simply competing for the moment, we are competing for relevance now and in the future. The future of business is indeed social, but more importantly, it’s adaptive.

Read more at www.briansolis.com
 

First Google Chrome OS Devices to Ship in Mid-2011

Amplify’d from mashable.com

First Google Chrome OS Devices to Ship in Mid-2011

Google has announced that the first Chrome OS devices will make their debut in mid 2011.

Originally, the search giant wanted to launch the OS by the end of 2010. However, the company revealed during its press conference earlier today that Chrome OS is not yet ready for primetime. There are still bugs that plague the system and some of its key features, including Google Cloud Print, are not yet stable.

Thus, the first Chrome OS netbooks will go on sale during mid-2011. Acer and Samsung are Google’s first OEM partners for the launch of Chrome OS. The devices will be powered by Intel chips.

The browser-based operating system boasts a suite of unique features, including:

  • Cloud-based printing via Google Cloud Print
  • Short startup/boot time (it takes less than 60 seconds to launch Chrome OS for the very first time)
  • Profile sharing: A Chrome OS computer can be shared with others and accessed on other Chrome OS devices via guest profiles.
  • 3G access: All Chrome devices ship with 3G built-in. The 3G is powered by Verizon. There are no contracts or activation fees for Chrome OS.
  • More security: Chrome OS utilizes OS-level sandboxing and data encryption to keep the device secure. It also has the ability to detect malicious code and purge itself of the bad code.
See more at mashable.com
 

(R)evolution 10: CBSNews.com Editor-in-Chief Dan Farber on the Future of News

The evolution and future of news, and how we report it, receive it, and consume it.

Amplify’d from www.briansolis.com
  • November 24, 2010

Welcome to the (R)evolution, a new series that connects you to the people, trends, and ideas defining the future of business, marketing, and media.

In a world where news no longer breaks, it Tweets, information finds us, because we expect it to.

Dan Farber is someone whom I respect and admire and he’s also someone I have the privilege to call a friend. Farber is the Editor-in-Chief of CBSNews.com and is one of the brightest minds in journalism, possessing a firm grasp on the intersection of technology, human behavior, and the business of news.

He joins me on Episode 10 of (R)evolution to explore the real-time media landscape and the 3C’s of information commerce. He shares his vision on how the business of media must now reinvent the design and distribution of information to connect with people when, where, and how their attention is focused.

News media are desperately trying to close the gap between events, when they appear on Twitter (TNN) and when we start to see official reports. We are the architects of our own social experiences and the content that flows through our stream is defined by our connections. Even though our Social and Interest Graphs are unique, news still makes its way to our stream. I call this the information divide and the pursuit of fact-first news and social media reduce the gap and improve opportunities for leadership.

The emergence of social and interest graphs change everything and now have us competing not only for attention, but also for the moment. People are now an essential part of the dissemination of content and must be factored into every step of the news cycle.

Read more at www.briansolis.com
 

(R)evolution Number 9: Mark Burnett on the Art of Storytelling

"…..we must weave compelling and engaging storytelling to foster the convergence of media and the future of unscripted drama on the web."

Start telling YOUR story.

Amplify’d from www.briansolis.com

(R)evolution Number 9: Mark Burnett on the Art of Storytelling

  • November 12, 2010

Welcome to the (R)evolution, a new series that connects you to the people, trends, and ideas defining the future of business, marketing, and media.

During Blogworld Expo, I had the opportunity to share the stage with Mr. Mark Burnett, a groundbreaking television producer, perhaps best known for creating and producing industry-defining reality television shows such as Survivor and The Apprentice. On stage, we spent an action-packed hour discussing his experiences and how he transformed his ideas into successful realities.

Immediately following, he joined me for episode 9 of (R)evolution to explore the emerging era of “reality,” where we are the new stars of a very public, social “me”dia production. We discussed the challenges and opportunities facing individuals and organizations and how we can steer experiences to foster meaningful engagement, relationships, and impact. His perspective very much defines how we must weave compelling and engaging storytelling to foster the convergence of media and the future of unscripted drama on the web.

Read more at www.briansolis.com
 

The Three C’s of Social Networking: Consumption, Curation, Creation

"We are the architects of our own experiences and we are also the hubs of relevant content, resembling production foremen as we develop workflows and processes for consuming, curating, and creating content." - Brian Solis

Valuable insight from Brian Solis.

Amplify’d from www.briansolis.com

The Three C’s of Social Networking: Consumption, Curation, Creation

  • November 8, 2010

Over the years, social networks have lured us from the confines of our existing realities into a new genre of digital domains that not only captivated us, but fostered the creation of new realities. As George Bernard Shaw observed, “Life is not about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.” Such is true for social networks and the digital persona and resulting experiences we create and cultivate. It was the beginning of the shift in behavior toward an era of digital extroversion, self-defined by varying degrees of sharing, connections, and engagement.

On Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, et al., we were attracted by the promise of reigniting forgotten relationships and enamored by the sparking of new connections. These relationships evolved into our social graphs and ultimately our interest graphs and forever changing how we discover, share, and learn. We are now the architects of our own experiences, forever changing the information super highway and the paths for connecting people, information, and events. In doing so, we literally make the world a much smaller place.

With each new connection we wove, we were compelled to share details about ourselves that we might not have divulged in real life. And the more we exposed who we were, our aspirations, our hopes, and our challenges, the more we rewarded with responses and requests for new connections. The distance between what was, what is, and what will be, was then defined by what we share, who we know, and what we consume. In social media, we are measured by our actions and our words as well as who we know.

Our concerns of privacy or the lack thereof, now requires education. We shed the semblance of privacy in order to unlock a new sense of digital freedom. Indeed, we are the last generation to know privacy as it was and is now something that has to be taught in order to cast digital shadows that unlock opportunities rather than close doors.

The Social Genome

The activity that defines the social web is as diverse as its personalities of its inhabitants. We are driven for many reasons to share and interact online and the motivation for doing so, changes with circumstances, intentions, and experiences. I call this behaviorgraphics.

The social landscape is populated by individual presences, but charted by its connections and how in turn, they move information between them. These conduits represent the opportunities for brands and media to participate in and steer the sharing of useful and mutually beneficial content.  Much in the same way that people align through diverse behavior, Forrester research tracks how this behavior factors into the adoption of social technology.

Two and a half years ago, Forrester introduced Social Technographics. To this day, it’s widely regarded in its ability to help us understand the need to create targeted content designed for the groups of individuals who each process information differently. As social media moves across the adoption bell curve from the left to the right and also from the edge to the center, we see that individuals within each of the categories shift in usage, both up and down.

This year, we learn something new about the way individuals are embracing, using, and ignoring certain designs and intentions of social networks. Social networks, for the most part, are still on the rise with “Joiners,” those who maintain a profile on a social network, growing by 8% since the last Social Technographics report was published.

Contrary to this growth, content-based networks, those that require users to create content, has seen no substantial growth since last year.  In the U.S., only 10% of online consumers actually upload videos for example. These “creators” though, represent the elite group who power social content within these networks and it is their content that is consumed and shared within multiple networks. And, the audience for their content is only growing with 68% currently defining the “Spectator” group, 19% in the “Collector” category and 33% commenting their way to “Critics.” Most markets around the world saw an increase in “Spectators” and this is likely to continue.

The 3C’s, Consumption, Creation, and Curationz

Bucking the trend of growth in the “creator” category, Twitter, for instance, grew by 30 million users in the last few months.  Twitter isn’t so much driven by pure creation as it is rich with a combination of curation and consumption. And, while the services require its users to “create” content, doing so within 140 character doesn’t constitute creation in the same way a blog, YouTube, or Flickr account demand. It’s worth noting however, that creators still account for almost 41 million US online adults.

According to Forrester Consumer Insight Analyst Jackie Anderson, “The initial wave of consumers using social technologies in the US has halted. Companies will now need to devise strategies to extend social applications past the early mavens. This means that it’s necessary to understand how consumers in a target audience use social media.”

I recently conducted a survey with Vocus to understand the qualities that equate to influence and the characteristics that define an influencer. The number one reason we found that consumers follow or Like an individual or brand is the consistent creation of compelling content. I believe that it is the discovery and consumption of compelling content that helps individuals shift from consumption to assume a contributing role of curator…a meaningful step before creator. Curation drives a significant volume of Tweets and it is also curation that balances the art and science of engagement between creation and conversation.

Businesses must join the elite and integrate the creation of compelling content into the social marketing mix. Doing so gives consumers reason to share, expanding the role of curator within the 3C’s of Content and earning authority and influence in the process. I highly advise Forrester to introduce the Curator into the next version of its Social Technographics Ladder.

An Audience with an Audience with an Audience

According to Forrester Research, overall adoption of social technologies has effectively reached saturation. 80% of people in the US engage with social media, which is equal to the number of people who text via SMS or  equivalent to the ubiquity of those who own DVD players.

While it’s new, its value is not to be minimized. Social media users already number in the hundreds of millions, providing the reach of traditional media but also the precision of one-to-one service and attention. Forrester notes that just a handful of “Mass Connectors” will create 256 billion influence impressions in the US this year.

As our social graphs propagate, the information that passes within it also multiplies. Individuals are not only socializing, they are sharing information and creating content. In doing so, updates serve as social objects, becoming catalysts for increased interaction and overall reach. As a result, participants and their social presences are amplified within existing social graphs and now also extend across a rising category of nicheworks or interest graphs – social graphs united around common interests and themes.

We are the architects of our own experiences and we are also the hubs of relevant content, resembling production foremen as we develop workflows and processes for consuming, curating, and creating content.

As sociologist Robin Dunbar once theorized, we are limited to the number of meaningful relationships we can manage as human beings. That number is estimated between 130 – 150. The average number of friends maintained on Facebook today is 130. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The numbers are consistent across other social networks. Today, Myspace users connect with an average number of 107 individuals and on Twitter, the number is 77 (today). I believe these numbers are only going to grow.

I call this “Social Graph Theory.” There’s a reason why Twitter recommends people “like” you and Facebook also suggests “recommended friends.” The networks realize that as your networks both grow and contextualize, your presence increases exponentially in value and they can sell against it. Social Graph Theory suggests that the size of our social graph will grow year over year, leaving behind Dunbar’s number and establishing a new genre of relationships (strong ties), relations (purposeful ties) and associations (weak or temporary ties).

As you’re presented with like-minded individuals and at the same time, as your organic friend friend requests escalate as a result of everyday social networking, the size and shape of social and interest graphs will only expand. You will spend more time adding than subtracting…until you have to. With every new node that defines our social network, we increase value beyond just the host networks. Brands realize that by connecting with the right people, their presence and value proposition can also rise with the tide.

Forrester groups social catalysts in two categories…

Mass Connectors: Those who create a great number of impressions about brands and services in social networks such as Twitter and Facebook

Mass Mavens: Individuals who create and share content about products and services in other social channels such as YouTube, blogs, forums, or ratings and review sites.

Indeed, a minority of social media users, defined as the elite influencers, drive the majority of the conversations across the social Web.

For brands and businesses looking to engage in social media, a unique understanding of the “egosystem” is not open for discussion. The 5th P of the marketing mix is crystal clear. People account for everything here and businesses must recognize the channels for influence as well as identify the influential voices leading conversations and steering decisions. The next step is to develop engagement programs that activate the various roles of the social consumers and empower them with useful and beneficial content and incentives to convert conversations into clicks to action.

Read more at www.briansolis.com