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Monetizing Social Media

Boosting Your Sales Efforts With The “F” Factor- How Friends, Fans and Followers Impact Today’s Sales Teams

Here's an article I wrote for Tech Bubbles:

The structure of today’s sales force looks quite different than it did 10 years ago, and in another 10 years we can expect it to look different than it does today. There are some trends that we should pay attention to that will lead companies to evaluate the needs of the current “inside sales”/”outside sales” structure.

Inside sales teams are growing at rate of 15% each year and many of these folks are young, new to the work force, social media proficient, and inexpensive alternatives to the traditional two man sales team. It is expected that 85% of buyer-seller interactions will happen online through social media and video. Customers will not need a field salesperson to come on-site for a face to face, meaning that action items will be delivered digitally and/or virtually. The average cost of an outside B2B sales call is $215-$400 per call. An inside call, on the other hand, averages only $25-$75.

Also, will we have a need for a global workforce? Thomas Friedman told us…. The World Is Shrinking! Sales teams will not need to be set up by region anymore thanks to the ease of being able to work virtually and socially. Right now, Skype, web conferencing, and video are quickly catching on as a good alternative to traditional meetings.

Sales teams already maintain contact with prospects and customers through traditional channels such as phone and email, it just makes sense that social media will be weaved in. As business managers decide how to best leverage sales people for social media objectives, here are a few ideas on tactics to consider implemeting:

  • Monitor the social web for comments and conversations that indicate opportunities. IBM’s “Listen for Leads” program has uncovered millions of dollars in sales by monitoring social media sites for keywords that indicate prospects with questions or in the search phase. More and more consumers and B2B buyers will participate on the social web during the discovery and consideration phases of the buying cycle, and companies should be looking to tap into this powerful network.

 

  • Look for leads on the social web from posters who say, “I’ve got a guy.” Word-of-mouth is the most prized referral that sales teams strive for. Research shows a referred customer is a better customer. 65% of new business comes from referrals. And referred customers have a 25% higher profit margin than non-referred customers. Additionally, referred customers spend 33% more than new customers per purchases and are 18% less likely to abandon a brand within the first 2 years of the relationship. Don’t overlook the opportunity for scoring referrals from the social web.

 

  • Create a unique destination for social participation to serve as the hub for a salesperson’s social media activity. This is where social content is published, aggregated and curated. It’s also where calls to action, offers and invitations to engage on a more business level can be posted. This personalized platform can serve as a destination for other publishers and bloggers to link to and appear within search results. Facebook, LinkedIn, or Tumblr are great places to start. Also, Nimble, which describes itself as a way to combine CRM features with sales teams’ social networks so they can leverage their influence for business growth, looks to be attempting to bridge this gap, as the tool of choice, from the more traditional sales rep to this new hybrid.



  • Create company best practices on the most effective uses of social media and networking sites for your sales teams. Companies can provide sales teams with templates, processes, and training plus regular internal networking opportunities to share best practices to help them succeed. It’s also important to provide ongoing education so salespeople know what it looks like to be too aggressive or forward with their social participation efforts (a subtlety that is often only learned the hard way). Continuously improved processes, new social tool evaluations and tactics evolution can improve sales force social media effectiveness and overall ability to create value and engage prospects.


As with all social media sales and marketing efforts, success measurement varies according to the target audience, industry, resources, and sales teams capabilities. There’s no doubt that strategy alone doesn’t sustain long-term social media marketing success. To help the sale force of yesterday become the sales force of NOW (and tomorrow), training and feedback will be essential.

Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 9:53 AM
Categories: social media, social media marketing, followers, trends

4 Tips to Better Understand Pinterest’s Potential

Here's an article I wrote for Multichannel Merchant:

It seems that everywhere you turn these days, the number one topic is Pinterest. Sure you’ve seen and heard all about the postives it has to offer, but here we’re going to talk about some key strategies that you may be missing out on.

Lately, the recommendations for using Pinterest that I’ve been reading seem to be very vague. It makes me wonder, are the people providing recommendations actually using Pinterest themselves? Do they have accounts, and are they frequently pinning to their boards?

I’m in Pinterest’s target market, being 25, female, recently married and a homeowner, and I would like to create the label for myself as a very active “Pinterester.” I’ve got a few recommendations that I would LOVE to see from companies on my most favorite social media channel.

These four tips and strategies mentioned hopefully have given you a better understanding of what Pinterest really has to offer, from a marketing strategist and avid Pinterester’s perspective.

If you've got a brand that is well suited for Pinterest's visual medium, here’s what you need to know:

Make sure your social media team knows everything about Pinterest
First, if you haven’t already, assign a social media team or hire the appropriate talent to establish relationships, monitor, and promote your brand on Pinterest. Having them pin products on Pinterest multiple times throughout the day will help gain visibility, reach and ultimately drive revenue to your brand in the end.

You also want your team to be actively engaging with the social media channels your company is using. Make sure your team knows the ins and outs of how Pinterest works and has their own personal account that they use on a regular basis. You want your talent to fully understand the social channels that you’re using, so you can be up to speed on what’s current.

It may seem pretty basic, but if you are not personally engaging with the social channel you’re using, you’ll never fully understand the capabilities it has to offer.

Marketing to Pinterest equals marketing to Facebook and Twitter, too
In order to create a Pinterest account, the user first needs to link their account to Facebook or Twitter to help find friends to follow their pins. They can also turn on a feature to share all of their boards to anyone on Pinterest, not just the people following them.

While Pinterest users do have the option to turn this feature “off,” most users do not. And, every time they log in through the Pinterest website, they are asked to sign in with their Facebook or Twitter account.

So, what does this mean? It means that the reach for a pin is not just limited to Pinterest. It means that Pinterest has found a seamless way to create multichannel reach with one medium.

If the Pinterester’s account is linked to their Facebook or Twitter account, every time they pin or repin something, it automatically appears on their Facebook wall. And, it appears on the newsfeed in Facebook and/or Twitter. So your brand’s pins are being seen by everyone that the Pinterester is friends with/follows them on Facebook or Twitter. In addition, their friends and follows on Facebook or Twitter can click the pinned/repinned image and go to your brand’s page.

No one is talking about the amazing reach capabilities and potential here, and I believe this is the most important thing your company needs to know. This is why your company’s pins need to be flawless.

Your captions do not matter
Do not spend too much time in developing what your captions say. If you start off with a great caption, guess what? It can be changed as soon as someone repins it.

Let’s say you’re a clothing retailer. If you start off with an image of a great dress with the caption, “$25.99 [at x store],” someone will repin that and change the caption to, “I LOVE this. Must own.” So, then your company is left with just an image of a great dress floating around. But don’t worry, there’s help on the way.

Your landing page is most-important
Captions may not matter, and images certainly matter a lot, but it’s the landing page that matters most. So, let’s walk you through it. The image of your dress gets pinned, your caption gets changed to, “I LOVE this. Must own,” and then the Pinterester clicks on the pinned image of your fabulous dress to find…?

Have you thought this far? If you are a fantastic Pinterester, you’ll want to find a landing page that opens to reveal the dress with an option to add to cart and purchase immediately.

Some companies like Jewlr.com have this process down. I went on their page, Jewrl.com gives the option to pin this ring, and when I click on my pinned ring from Jewlr.com in Pinterest, it goes directly to their purchase page every time.

Some retailers are pinning on Pinterest, but not giving users the ability to pin items on their website, and they should. That’s because your pin can stay on that Pinterester’s board forever (or until they delete it, but who deletes their pins?), and that Pinterester can easily go back and click to purchase that item at any time.

Think of Pinterest as a big wishlist of things they dream of purchasing. Now, go out there and link your product images/pins to your purchase page, please.

Posted by: Brittany Landenberger at 4:14 PM
Categories: social media, pinterest, social media marketing, social

Putting Out Facebook Fires - 3 Quick Tips

Here's an article I wrote for The eTail Blog:

Recently, brands like Oreo have been faced with public outcries on their Facebook pages. On Monday, the Kraft Foods brand posted a status update with a rainbow-hued version of its cookie with the caption, “Proudly support love!” and “June 25/Pride.” The update got a big response from the brand’s 26 million fans. While thousands of positive responses took note on Oreo’s page, the negative posts were astounding. Many people were threatening to never buy Oreo’s again.

When a brand gains thousands and, in some cases, millions of friends, it’s an accomplishment to be proud of. But, what happens if your public suddenly revolts on social media? What should your organization do if you “make a mistake?” And how do you know if it was, in fact a mistake, or if the positive reactions outweighed the negative?

In the unlikely, unwelcome event of a Facebook crisis, take note:

1. Plan Ahead.
Planning is everything, as they (whoever they is) say. Establish a company-wide social media policy. Outline rules for responsible administration. Appoint a Social Media Manager, team, department, or hire appropriate talent to be proactive about promoting your brand and reactive toward customer service issues. Have these individuals monitor all actions taking place on your page daily, and make it clear who should get involved should a fast reaction be necessary. If your organization is being proactive and knows the strategy for combating an issue, you’re already a step ahead.

2. Act FAST!
The faster you respond with a thoughtful, strategic response on handling the issue, the faster your negative comments will be pushed further down on your wall and out of view. If it’s a large enough crisis, (like in Oreo’s case) millions of people are reading/hearing/tweeting about the issue, then you need to act quickly. Assess the damage, because you’re not going to change policies over complaints. But, by stating that you respect their opinion and loyalty in an immediate matter, you show customers that their comments have been received and understood. It’s not always necessary to have an answer to each negative post. However, it’s important that your fan base know your company will have a resolution to the matter at hand.

3. Respond Publicly.
The worst thing you can do with your Facebook fans is make them feel like they’re engaged in a one-way conversation. Always respond to individuals publicly on your page. A private response makes your organization look like it has something to hide. A fan made a public post on your Facebook page, and you should respond with a public post back. Brands need to understand what their fans’ expectations are and be prepared to deal with any problems that arise. When you respond publicly, thousands of fans see that it was addressed, and it demonstrates that you care about your customers and appreciate their loyalty.

By taking these three precautions, your organization will be able to effectively and efficiently manage a problem, if a Facebook crisis ever should arise.

Posted by: Brittany Landenberger at 3:17 PM
Categories: social media, facebook, social media marketing, social

Pin down Pinterest's value

Here's an article I wrote for Direct Marketing News:

Every big social media platform that's attracted the eye of numerous businesses has a moment where it crosses the threshold from being something that companies sign on to out of curiosity, to a channel that becomes part of their overall business strategy. Is this Pinterest's moment? Certainly from all the buzz you would think so.

Pinterest is an easy-to-use platform that enables users to capture images from around the Web, or upload their own, and “pin” them to “boards” as a way of visually telling their community what they are doing and thinking about. Users can also follow the activity of fellow “pinners” and comment, “like,” tweet, and share pins in various ways across the social Web. But as we've seen from the failure of Facebook stores to gain much traction, engagement doesn't always translate into purchases. And even if they did, right now users can't purchase directly from Pinterest.

Currently, Pinterest has more than 20 million users, an impressive milestone given that it only had 1 million users in July 2011. In fact, it surpassed the 10 million mark faster than any other social platform to date. Interestingly, 83% of its domestic users are women, with 3% reporting an income above $100,000 annually. Specifically, Pinterest's sweet spot appears to be women ages 18 to 34, living in households with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000 per year. But while this may be where Pinterest is best at driving engagement and sharing, the platform does not yet have an e-commerce component on the site.

This is in contrast to another social competitor, The Fancy, which has taken a major step towards fusing and curating social media and commerce. The Fancy allows users to  purchase directly from the site, and it just recently announced that it will reward users whose recommendations result in purchases. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, as Pinterest already has something valuable in the social universe: millions of users.

I've looked at brands currently leveraging Pinterest, and two immediately caught my eye: Bergdorf Goodman and HGTV. Pins from the former are a mixture of products from bergdorfgoodman.com, as well as Web images chosen to appeal to its customer base. Images for the latter subscribe to HGTV's self-described pinning strategy of “creating a team atmosphere and being inspirational.”

Both brands seem to understand the importance of a coordinated cross-channel approach to retail that includes social platforms, and also that building brand affinity leads to intent to purchase. This is a good reason why businesses (especially those that have visually distinct products) should consider setting up a Pinterest account and getting involved at the entry level.

But, as I've said earlier, engagement and even intent to purchase doesn't always lead to a completed sale. The final piece of the puzzle that Bergdorf Goodman, HGTV, and others need to solve is: “How do we entice consumers to buy what they pin?” When that question does get answered, Pinterest could indeed prove to be an extremely valuable social channel.

Posted by: Dan Opallo at 2:55 PM
Categories: social media, pinterest, social media marketing

Pinterest: do we have room for another social network in our lives?

Here's an article I wrote for Fresh Business Thinking:

Pinterest: What is it?

Pinterest is a hot topic of conversation these days. In April, it became the third most popular social network, behind Facebook and Twitter. But what is it, and do we have room for another social network in our lives?

Pinterest is picking up speed like a locomotive. Most insiders have already signed up. Probably because they are afraid to miss the next big thing. Those who have not, are probably afraid to ask the "what is Pinterest?" question aloud.

Pinterest is ultimately a virtual pin board where consumers can grab images from their web surfing activity and ‘pin’ them up on categorical boards that allow them to share and revisit the information as necessary. It is a channel that is visual in nature, currently draws a largely female audience, resonates topically with the home, fashion and food (amongst others) and is leveraged heavily for planning.

Facebook’s response to Pinterest - Mistakes that Facebook has made

A recent TechCrunch article looks at how a new Facebook app called 'Pinvolve' allows users and brands to add a Pinterest-style page to their Facebook presence. The app essentially pulls in all photo posts, along with any comments or likes. And the crazy thing is that the company that designed it, Bazaart, has been able to increase re-pins on its Facebook page by 150% - and so have many of the 1,000 users who have downloaded it.

Typically, when Facebook sees a new social platform as a viable threat to the amount of time people spend on their platform, they do one of two things: buy the startup, or quickly recreate the experience within Facebook before the challenger grows too big.

By supporting the Pinvolve app, it's clear that Facebook recognises the threat Pinterest poses for stealing audience time away from their platform, which it will if their users cannot get the same experience within Facebook. Interestingly, Google+ also seems to recognise this shortcoming in Facebook's default experience, as they have been recently positioning themselves in the media as a social platform for sharing images.

Pinterest for business/The disappearance of Facebook stores

As we see the gradual disappearance of more and more Facebook stores, and brands still struggle with figuring out how to tie engagement to purchase, that has to be the next logical question, right? In a recent survey of businesses that described themselves as "active" in the social space, when asked: Is your business using Pinterest?
They responded in the following manner:

•    No, and we’re not considering it - 40.38%
•    Yes - 30.77%
•    No, but we’re considering it - 28.85%

Currently, Pinterest has over 20 million users, which is an impressive milestone given that they only had 1 million users in July 2011. In fact, it surpassed the 10 million mark faster than any other social platform to date. Of those, domestically 83% are women and 3% report an income above 100K. Specifically, Pinterest’s sweet spot appears to be women aged 18 to 34.

The site has a very feminine look and feel about it. The opening page is predominantly wallpapered with images of women's outfits, DIY craft projects, recipes and wedding dresses. This is where the platform is strong at driving engagement and sharing; brands need to understand the importance of a coordinated cross-channel approach for retail within social and also understand that building brand affinity leads to intent to purchase. But a final piece of the puzzle needs to be solved: "Why should I buy what I Pin?"

The business angle

How should brands be using Pinterest right now? That depends on what their overall business objectives are. And while most brands may not admit to it, at the end of the day, social media platforms are a means to an end for them. That “end” is most likely Sales or Acquisition. What Pinterest and most social platforms do well for them though is personalising their brand and warming up sentiment, which should lead to earning the trust of consumers, and eventually opt-ins and transactions.

The unique capabilities of Pinterest allows it to achieve this in several ways:

your audience

Your audience is literally showing you what they Like! And what they Like will usually be what they want more of. So give it to them…

Brands can provide content that users will naturally share and be proud of

…Give it to them in the form of images that will evoke their emotions and prompt them to tell you how much they Like it and want to Share it. If they are passionate about your brand or product, and you’ve done a good job earning their trust along the way, they will be proud to tell the members of their social graph about you. And as we all know, there is NOTHING better for a marketer than a word-of-mouth referral.

But also, once you have identified these brand advocates as the potential loyal customers that they are ready to become, give it to them in the form of information and offers on how/where to acquire real world examples (product) of this imagery that they are so passionate about.

Join your community

This is Social Media for Brands 101. But it seems like some of you have forgotten. Users will join you on Pinterest because they want to look at visually appealing and inspiring images from you. However, think of the higher level of loyalty and advocacy that can be achieved by one of their favourite brands Liking, Sharing, or Commenting on one of their own photos.

Again, it personalises your brand and provides yet another unique touch point for your customers.

Convey a sense of urgency

Social media users need to have their behaviour conditioned, and Pinterest is no different. If you Pin something once per week, Followers will learn that they only need to check in with you once per week. If you Pin daily…. well you get the idea.

But don’t just always Pin for the sake of Pinning. A few ideas:

•Tie Pins to limited time offers.

•Brand different days of the week to have Pins that tap into different segments of your audiences’ passions (e.g. baking, golf, sailing, etc.).

•Pin “sneak peaks” of a new product. This will communicate to your Followers that you truly believe they are your best customers and are being rewarded.

In conclusion, as you may have suspected, most brands should not be ignoring Pinterest any longer. And if your brand has a large female demographic and/or offers a product or service that is visually appealing or aspirational you, CAN NOT be ignoring Pinterest. Right now, Pinterest has its flag in the ground and is making a strong case to own the “visual social platform” space. If your customers are there… be there with them!

Posted by: Dan Opallo at 9:28 AM
Categories: social media, pinterest, social media marketing

Top 10 Social Media Marketing Takeaways from MediaPost's Social Media Insider Summit

Earlier this month, StrongView sponsored and spoke at MediaPost's Social Media Insider Summit in Lake Tahoe, NV. The conference producers put together another fantastic program, featuring innovations from great social brands like Coca-Cola, Dell and American Express. Over the course of three days, there were a number of great presentations, panels and roundtables that provided valuable insight for any brand looking to advance their use of social media as a marketing channel.  Following are just some of our key social media marketing takeaways from the event:

1. The Economy is in Bad Shape… but Social Media Continues to Grow. According to Jordan Rohan, Managing Director of the Internet and Digital Media practice for Stifel Nicolaus, most of the world is still digesting the fact that the US GDP is growing around 1% and Europe is flat. China’s growth is also slowing because it is so dependent on US consumers, whose spending has dipped dramatically. We are entering a bear economy, but social media is one of the few sectors that will continue to grow in the coming years. In fact, Forrester Research predicts that social media will rev at a 26% CAGR over the next five years to become a $4.4 billion industry by 2016. (Source: US Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2011 To 2016)

2. Facebook Rules Social Media. Facebook currently has 50% of the U.S. population as active members, and the average Facebook user visits Facebook 38 times per day. These are astounding metrics, and yet many brands are still struggling with their monetization strategies on Facebook. Most experts agree that you need to build a strategy around the fact that engagement takes place in the news stream – not on the brand fan page. In fact, Starbucks is currently generating 156 impressions in the news feed for every 1 visit to their brand page.

3. Twitter is One to Watch. 92% of US Consumers have heard of Twitter, but only 8% use it. There is huge growth potential for Twitter and marketers should keep an eye on them as they begin to monetize their traffic. Some analysts think that a Google acquisition of Twitter could pose a significant challenge to Facebook’s market dominance. As for your marketing strategy, keep in mind that Twitter is all about breaking news. Therefore it’s important to keep your content strategy fresh. The #1 reason that people stop following a brand on Twitter is because the content became repetitive over time.

4. Google+ Has Built It… But Will They Come? Google+ is suffering from a chicken-and-the-egg syndrome. While they’re adding new members at the rate of 1 million a day, many of those people aren’t actively using it. Meanwhile brands are taking a “wait and see” approach because they’re concerned that Google+ might go the way of Google Wave. Part of the problem lies in the fact that Google launched its viral go-to-market strategy with a fickle group of technologists, whereas Facebook spread virally via college students at Harvard. If Google wants to drive adoption as quickly as possible, they need to go straight to the consumer. One way to do this would be to give brands the ability to send Google+ invites to their email lists and enable consumers to easily connect with the corresponding brand pages (when available).

5. Build Facebook Apps to Grow Your Database. Facebook currently has 50% of all social market share, according to Justin Kistner of WebTrends. That is a massive amount of data that is waiting to be tapped. American Express built an application called “Link, Like, Love” that delivers deals, access and experiences based on card member “Likes” and interests on Facebook. Users of the app can get rebates at checkout, access location based offers via mobile check-ins, and share offers with other friends. The app has been so popular, that the site crashed on July 19 from too much traffic. But the real genius of this program is that, as the creators of the app, American Express gets access to Facebook’s rich social data profiles for anyone who uses the app, which they can append to their cardholder database.

6. Use Facebook’s Self-Service Ad Marketplace. If you’re going to buy Facebook Ads, here’s a tip… don’t call their ad sales department. You will pay a $10 CPM if you buy directly from Facebook’s Ad Sales and only a $.70 CPM if you buy ads through their self-service marketplace. And when creating your ad targeting strategy, don’t forget to target your fans. You'll see a .35% CTR instead of a .1% CTR.

7. Tap Social Media for Customer Acquisition. Only 18% of people believe paid advertising; however, 80% of people believe word-of-mouth. Harnessing word-of-mouth for new customer acquisition can be an extremely powerful tactic. Discover Card presented a great case study on how they’ve integrated social referrals into their transactional process for registering new cardholders. Each card member is offered $50 for referring a friend who is approved for a new card, and the new applicant also receives $50. The program has been so successful that Discover is looking to expand its multi-channel acquisition program into additional channels such as mobile.

8. Humanity is More Important than Being Perfect. Authenticity is the key to a successful social media marketing strategy. Keep it human and get your message out on time before getting it perfect. When you’re crafting your creative, you should also keep in mind that people are 5X more likely to click on an image if it has a human face on it.

9. Social Media Marketing is Taking a Page from Email Marketing’s Playbook. Many of the social media marketing best practices shared during the summit could have easily been plucked from an email marketing conference. The many guidelines and tips about how to reach the right influencer with the right message at the right time, communication frequency and the best day to post sounded all too familiar. The good news is that responsibility for social media appears to be moving out of the house of PR and into the hands of marketers where it can be monetized.

10. Old School Marketers Still Have the Best Advice. There were many great sound bites floated during this conference, but the best had to be a timeless quote from David Ogilvy: “The consumer is not a moron… she’s your wife.” If you can effectively grasp that, you’ll go far in any marketing field. 

For a detailed recap of what transpired at the event, check out the #mpsmis Twitter Stream or follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kristinhersant.

And tune into our blog to stay up to speed on the newest social media marketing trends.

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 11:49 AM
Categories: social media insider summit, social media, social media marketing, google+, facebook, twitter

Discover Acquires New Cardmembers with StrongView Influencer Social Referral Marketing Campaign - Forrester Groundswell Award Entry

By partnering with StrongView and using its Influencer referral marketing solution, Discover has been able to generate quality new accounts and a ton of social media buzz.  The details and results are detailed in the following award submission for Forrester Research's annual Groundswell Awards.  You can check out and rate our official entry under the B2C Energizing category.

Discover Financial Services & StrongView Entry for Forrester Groundswell Awards

Company: Discover Financial Services
Type: B2C
Category: Energizing

The ObjectiveDiscover Cashback Referral Program

Discover Card's New Cardmember Acquisition department was tasked with launching a simple, cost-efficient, effective refer-a-friend marketing program that would facilitate cardmember brand advocacy to enhance its brand and drive new cardmember acquisition.  In order to achieve this objective, Discover partnered with StrongView to leverage its Influencer word-of-mouth acquisition solution. Working together, they identified the goals, designed the campaign and proceeded with a soft launch in May 2011.

The highly effective social-media powered referral marketing campaign offered cardmembers $50 Cashback Bonus for each friend that they could entice to become a cardmember via a reciprocal $50 Cashback Bonus. The offer is introduced via an online ad to cardmembers logged into the Account Center or recently redeemed.  Once they click, the Influencer experience enables them to share the offer via email, Twitter, Facebook and other social channels. Since launch, they have realized a 25% click rate with 3X and 10X sharing multiple through social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter respectively. Through this program Cardmembers have referred those within their social graph.

The Challenge

Discover Financial Services was looking to drive new cardmember acquisition in a way that attracted quality applicants as well as strengthened its brand. While traditional refer-a-friend programs are fairly common within the financial services industry, Discover Card wanted take a more innovative approach that allowed them to carefully target who would receive the offer and then leverage the power of social media to facilitate the referral. Equally important, Discover wanted to generate this brand advocacy with a cost-efficient and effective program that could be launched in a relatively short time-frame. It also wanted a way to identify their biggest social influencers and brand advocates, so they could leverage and nurture this community more effectively.

The Solution

In order to achieve its objectives, Discover turned to StrongView's Influencer word-of-mouth acquisition solution and its accompanying social media marketing services.  Working together, Discover and StrongView developed a compelling, social-media-powered refer-a-friend program that carefully targeted cardmembers during relevant online experiences. 

By offering a Cashback bonus to both the cardmember and the referred cardmember, Discover was able to effectively tap two powerful motivators: self-benefit and altruism. While rewards are important, Discover understood that ease-of-participation was also essential for success.  Using Influencer, Discover made it possible for the account holder to easily refer friends via a range of social channels, including Facebook, Twitter and email.  Without leaving the Discover Account Center, they could share to social networks or access email addresses via their webmail accounts to send personalized invites.

Further motivating participants, Influencer sends participants regular updates on the success of their sharing activity, including who has signed up for accounts, who has only clicked, and who has yet to respond.  By providing this information, the account holder is able to remind individuals to participate, or invite more friends to increase their reward potential.

Discover also benefits from being able to identify their biggest brand advocates by volume of sharing activity and the number of new accounts that activity generated. Using Influencer, Discover can drill down on the sharing activity of each referrer, including the reach achieved through multi-generation sharing, as those referred turned into brand advocates. With this data, Discover is able to gauge the influence of its customer base to drive new accounts, as well as develop programs to nurture relationships with its brand advocates.

The Results

Discover was able to successfully energize its best customers to share the referral offer with their friends, and the results have been impressive. The program been successful in generating new accounts and has become very popular, generating a 25% click rate among the targeted users who see the online offer.  The program has also succeeded in generating social media activity around their brand, as Discover has seen a 3X and 10X sharing increase on Facebook and Twitter since its launch.  Finally, the program met their budget and timing goals, moving from concept to reality within 3 months.

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 5:19 PM
Categories: awards, forrester research, social CRM, social media marketing

Social CRM: Castrol and StrongView - Forrester Groundswell Award Entry

StrongView has played (and continues to play) an instrumental role in the success of Castrol's social CRM program, which led to the development of its Liquid Engineering Crew loyalty website and other supporting and complementary social communities.  The details and results are detailed in the following award submission for Forrester Research's annual Groundswell Awards.  You can check out and rate our official entry under the B2C Energizing category

Castrol & StrongView Entry for Forrester Groundswell Awards

Company: StrongView
Type: B2C
Category: Energizing

StrategyCastrol Social Communities

Taking care of automobiles and maximizing car performance is what Castrol knows and does exceptionally well with leading-edge technology and a careful attention to quality. 

But what Castrol really wanted to know was to how to build an ongoing conversation and ultimately loyalty with key influencers – car and racing enthusiasts. 

Our strategy was put together with the following in mind:

  • Create a unique brand experience that drives participation across multiple social and user communities
  • Develop unique personas with social technographics overlay
  • Building a targeted email communications program that encourages sharing, engagement and purchasing

StrongView helped Castrol not only learn more about their customers’ needs, interests and behaviors but also developed an innovative communications and community strategy that rewarded participation and drove loyalty, sales and brand advocacy.

Castrol’s “Liquid Engineering Crew” (LEC) loyalty website (www.castrolcrew.com) was developed to ignite conversations, cultivate relationships and drive commerce across the social internet. 

Execution and Use of Media

Working closely with Castrol’s research team, StrongView surveyed existing subscribers and customers to better understand their interests, needs and behaviors including what they do online – their social media profiles

StrongView built a robust content and communications program that included the development of several unique social communities (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr) and an innovative loyalty website that integrated these communities to create a unique experience for key influencers.  The free membership loyalty website encourages users to participate by accumulating “Castrol Credits," which can be redeemed for Castrol merchandise, racing memorabilia and tickets to racing and sporting events.  Credits are accrued through participating in forum discussions, signing up for racing alerts and LEC newsletter emails and signing up for Castrol’s Engine Warranty Program.

The aim of the integrated marketing program is to nudge customers beyond discussions about “motor oil” and toward a conversation around their true passion – cars and racing. 

With more than 2.1 million auto-related conversations taking place online each month, a twenty-five year relationship with John Force Racing and a recently announced partnership with Major League Soccer and the NFL, Castrol has quickly expanded their presence beyond traditional car and racing enthusiasts.

Through our joint efforts, the program was not only able to align to corporate objectives and consumer needs, but has also been successful in driving participation, sharing, advocacy and sales.

Results ROI

LEC users’ engagement is evaluated through quarterly reviews, focused on increased performance in targeted criteria including:

  • Number of registered users and fans across social media profiles.
  • Number of forum posts and comments.
  • Number of monthly Castrol blog views and comments.
  • Overall increase in delivery, open and click rates of monthly LEC newsletter email.

Through this program, Castrol has seen large increases in activity across all areas of the LEC, including membership, traffic engagement and participation.  As the most active user areas, discussion forums and Castrol blogs each saw an increase of 400% between Q2 and Q4 2010, with activity continuing to increase daily. Castrol sweepstakes and product promotions have seen an increase as well, with LEC banners and buttons typically contributing anywhere from between 8% to 21% of the total clicks and entries to a typical promotion.

In addition, Castrol’s social communities grew an astonishing 2,000% in just nine months and received 5 out of 5 stars for post quality from Facebook.  The Facebook rating compares engagement across similar fan pages of similar size.  Perhaps most significantly, Castrol’s email and social media effort now leads all other media in conversation and represents one of its most successful channels for driving rebate conversations and, ultimately, purchases.

Since implementing the LEC, Castrol has taken over discussions.  Our monthly reports have shown that Castrol has since gone from being on par with competitors in terms of discussion mentions, to consistently leading all competitors in discussion mentions in mainstream media, online forums, Facebook and Twitter.

In conclusion, with StrongView’s help, Castrol took the time to understand its customers, built a strategy that supported corporate objectives and leveraged the right tools, technologies and techniques to facilitate participation and purchasing. This concentrated effort has resulted in steady increases across all of Castrol’s social profiles as well as increases in participation and activity on Castrol’s LEC website.

Creative Samples

Liquid Engineering Crew loyalty website
http://www.castrolcrew.com

Castrol USA Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/castrolusa

Castrol USA Twitter
http://twitter.com/castrolusa

Castrol USA Flickr
http://www.flickr.com/castrolusa

Castrol USA YouTube
http://www.youtube.com/castrolusa

Posted by: Kristin Hersant at 4:28 PM
Categories: awards, forrester research, social CRM, social media marketing

Socialized Email Marketing Goes Mainstream

Ever since people started flocking to Facebook and Twitter, marketers have been trying to find ways to leverage social media channels to acquire new customers and convince existing ones to buy more. The charge was led by giants in the retail space like Best Buy, Dell and Starbucks, offering up exclusive coupons on Twitter and Facebook.  Soon, every major company had a Facebook page and Twitter feed, and email marketers began adding share links to their emails.

It has become common place for consumers to Like and Follow popular brands in search of offers and other information to tighten the consumer-brand relationship. And now brands are looking at ways to tap the social networks of their biggest fans to acquire new customers.  This has played out most obviously in the daily deal sector, with companies like Groupon, LivingSocial and HauteLook offering to reward their members for successful attempts at converting friends in their social networks into fellow customers. As a result, the member base for these companies has grown like wildfire.  However, convincing a friend to join a company that can get them 70% off their favorite brand doesn't seem like such a difficult proposition.  The real question is how this strategy plays out with more traditional companies without a sexy business model or the promise of deep discounts.

When asked to describe their favorite brands, it's not very often that consumers offer up their bank, credit card company or broker – and even less so after the financial bailout.  So, how successful could an established financial institution be at leveraging its customers to acquire new customers? The answer, it turns out, is "very."  Last month, Discover Card launched a social-media powered referral marketing campaign that offered card holders $50 for each friend that they could entice to become a card member via a reciprocal $50 incentive.  The targeted online ad is introduced to cardholders when they are redeeming their points.  The friend can deliver the offer via email, as well as their Twitter and Facebook pages.  Discover seems to have gotten Refer-A-Friend right.  They are introducing the offer within the positive context of getting value from using the credit card, and they are allowing the customer a choice in sharing methods.

In case you're thinking that one successful example doesn't validate the power of referral marketing for financial services (and other vertical markets in general), how about two case studies?  Zecco Trading, a popular online investing site, also sought to motivate its members to recruit new ones. They were smart and realized that their most passionate and loyal customers were likely hanging out in the customer community that they set up for members to ask questions and exchange information with each.  After testing a number of incentives, they standardized their offer on $75 cash back for every friend who opened and funded a new Zecco Trading account.  As a result, they saw a 14% increase in new account acquisition. Even better, 9% of those who reviewed the campaign became influencers, resulting in 1 new member for every 2.2 referrers.

The point is that if Financial Services firms can be successful with word-of-mouth customer acquisition, then nearly any company with a subset up of passionate customers can take advantage of this powerful tactic. The trick is to target the right audience and offer the right incentive.  When done right, customers will respond.  And while social media channels like Twitter and Facebook are important for getting the word out to your customers – and for empowering them to share – email also plays a critical role.

Email should not be overlooked when executing a word-of-mouth referral marketing campaign.  While announcing your new referral program on banners or a purchase or form confirmation page is a good way to get the attention of an engaged user, welcome emails can also be an effective way to target new customers and clearly explain the benefits of your program. It should also be noted that when people do reach out to their friends, they choose to share the offer via email 80% of the time. 

Social is not killing email. They are not natural foes, but rather complimentary channels with their own strengths.  Email allows marketers to more specifically target loyal customers at the right time, including those not currently active on social networks.  Giving targeted recipients the opportunity to share via email also allows them to be more targeted, rather than extending a referral marketing offer to every one of their friends on Facebook.  Social media has made us all more connected, and with the right incentive, you can motivate your brand advocates to tap their social networks to acquire new customers in a way that makes both parties look good – regardless of what business you're in.

Posted by: Tal Nathan at 7:24 AM
Categories: social media, social media marketing, financial services, referral marketing

Social Media Marketing 101: Nine Best Practices

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Social media marketing can improve company visibility and customer relations, but if it’s not done well, it will cause confusion and turn customers off. Here are 9 common social media marketing best practices that help companies and customers alike.

1) Have a clear, measurable goal. This doesn’t have to be something related to money – in fact, brands are still struggling with how to best quantify social media marketing in ROI terms. All of the following are reasonable social media marketing goals, and can be measured:
   • Improved SEO
   • Prospect list growth
   • Increased contact with existing customers

2. Be consistent in your communications. This takes more work than you might think. Decide what your tone will be. Know what should and shouldn’t be emphasized online. Also be sure to have a quality check for tone and messaging before anything is published in a social media channel.

3. Be conversational. And brief. People expect online communications to be informal and short. Link to longer material like a web page or a whitepaper.

4. Go where your customers are. Search for topics related to your business on LinkedIn and Facebook. Or search for your business on Yelp or Insider Pages and other such resources to see how people are talking about your company. Your customers will likely be willing to share their social behaviors, so don’t forget to ask them.

5. Make it easy to find more information about your company. That’s the point of all marketing, isn’t it? It’s perfectly acceptable to include links back to your site in social media communications. Just remember the goal is to participate in conversations and not simply self promote.

6. Share relevant links. Social media is popular because it enables people to find and share information that they value. By all means, link to your company’s whitepapers, but also show that you’re engaged in a wider conversation by sharing:
• Blogs
• News Stories
• Other relevant information

And always, always link to sources. There are few social media no-no’s bigger than not acknowledging a source of information.

7. Listen and respond. The “social” part of social media is its greatest – and most often unexplored – potential. Not too long ago, most marketing was about talking to your potential customer. Most people these days rightly expect that you will talk with them. If you don’t, you’ll be perceived as, well, unsocial.

8. Be active. There is no hard-and-fast rule about too much or too little social media communication. It depends on the setting, the industry, and others involved in the conversation. Be prepared to participate daily, even if that just means responding to comments or adding to a conversation.

9. Don’t give up. Go back to #1 above. If you’re not getting the results you want, try new ways to engage your intended audience. The web makes it easy to reinvent your message and try new social media marketing strategies.

Learn more from our website about email marketing and social media marketing. You can also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Posted by: Ryan Deutsch at 10:29 AM
Categories: social media, social media marketing, social media practices, social media strategies