Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Social Integration with Digital Assets Key for 2011

Before I go there, let me again point out that social by definition is not a marketing campaign or a digital tactic. It can and is supported by tactics such as videos, online ads, landing pages, web pages, email blasts, blogger outreach, traditional media. But at its core, social is not a marketing campaign.

Social is about building relationships. Sustainable relationships between internal and external parties. Social is an all encompassing business approach. A social business is an organization which integrates its business goals and functional areas, with its customers and social technologies to exchange value. Social is about this value exchange between these relationships. And social and digital technologies enable this exchange.

From macro strategies to micro tactics, integration is the holy grail for 2011.

Two of David Armano’s Six Social Predications for 2011 focus on integration. At a macro business level, he writes: It's The Integration Economy, Stupid.“ From Ford, to Dell, to Starbucks (client), to Jet Blue, and a host of other companies who have pioneered early uses of social media for business, 2011 will be the year these companies take a serious look at integrating social media, not only regionally but globally...integrating social media into all facets of business from global marketing to crisis management and beyond."

At a more micro level, he further predicts: "Social Functionality Makes Websites Fashionable Again. After several years of being told to "fish where the fish are," businesses realize that users expect social integration to existing Websites…Websites will increasingly serve as "digital hubs" that integrate social activity from many platforms. They must integrate to be relevant in a socially connected world."

Jeremiah Owyang also forecasts integration as well in his social report “Social Business Forecast: 2011 The Year of Integration” Within the report he shares that 47% of the strategists surveyed stated their social focus for 2011 will be web site integration.

Integrating Social into Digital Assets: website, email, blogs, online advertisements and beyond
With that said, I’d like to focus at the micro level for a moment and examine ways to enhance digital marketing initiatives in 2011. While both Armano and Owyang mentioned website integration, I'd like to take it a step further and add all digital integration - such as rich media advertisements, landing pages, emails, blogs as well as websites.

Here are four key areas to think about when brainstorming how to integrate social with digital initiatives:
1/ Create Social Proof. Social proof means social influence which is when a person's thoughts, feelings and actions are influenced by another. At a psychological level, when people are in ambiguous situations and are unable to determine the correct behavior, they will assume that the behaviors of those around them are the appropriate actions and of those who have more information about the situation or decision at hand. From a social/digital perspective, putting people, faces,or voices of the consumer's real world into your digital assets can create powerful social proof. On the website, this may be providing photos and access to friends and followers of a page (think of Facebook and Twitter), or by allowing comments by others on your content or product pages. It may also be attained by allowing people to rate and review your products on your website, (which by the way could also become a social object and a shareable feature). Or it may be using video from community members or customers within the experience. Using social proof on your website or in digital properties can powerfully influence visitors to stick around, read your content, take an action, or share and tell their friends about your business. Its about allowing humans to be involved directly in your digital properties right alongside your brand.

2/ Create Social Objects: Social objects are the things we create to provide opportunities for people to share with others and to socialize around the object. Objects can be links, content, video, images, widgets or tools they are easily able to share. It doesn't have to be a huge viral campaign to be successful social object. Its important for companies to give something to its customers in this value exchange that they need, find helpful or are entertained by. This sharing of information – videos, coupons, articles, links, recommendations -amplifies a company's ability to scale its messaging to others. There are lots of opportunities to create social objects in all digital properties. Make it easy by including Sharing buttons next to these objects.

3/ Create Social Aggregation: Social Aggregation involves creating a hub of all your communities into one place. This is most often the web site wherein you provide your customers one central URL where they can obtain access to all of your social communities and properties. Think about your mobile site as well.

4/ Create Social Sign On: Common technologies enabling social sign on are OpenID and Facebook Connect. With these technologies, it enables users to move from site to site carrying their credentials with them. This is especially helpful when a user needs to register or sign up for something on your website and is especially appealing for mobile users who don't want to be burdened with long forms. With a simple one click, they are automatically registered. A big win here is optimizing conversions and hopefully seeing increases in same.

Have a Happy and Socially Integrated New Year!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Servant Leadership

Do you Serve Others or Are you Self-Serving? The phrase “Servant Leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970s. In that essay, he said:

"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first."

The 1984 Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu shares his thoughts on the quality of the greatest world leaders - servant leaders who serve others.

Read more at my new blog: Positively Leadership

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Social & Search Continue Evolution-Google Lags Behind

Back in 2007, Website Magazine asked me for my opinion on the future of the internet. Here is what I said:

“Personalized Search technologies, social media and user-generated content are putting consumers in the driver’s seat even faster and with great impact. Long gone will be the standard algorithms and one behemoth listing of results. Businesses will need to create even more personalized, on-demand experiences and ensure they provide relevant, highly targeted content. Knowing your customer (behaviors, needs, demographics, and lifestyle) will be even more important and listening to your consumer base vital. They are in charge!"

Sherri Maxson,Internet Marketing Consultant

I revisited the article tonight as I prepared my posted. Back in 2007 personalized search technologies consisted of Google’s innovation with its algorithm to show relevant results based on a user’s past search behavior. Search technologies continue to evolve, however, as search and social converge.

Search & Social Converge
On November 3rd, Bing announced the promise of more meaningful search results as it seeks out information from a user's social graph on Facebook. Now, using Bing search, your Facebook friends who Like content you are seeking appear first in the results. It's word of mouth on steroids powered by technology as friends show up in search results with their vote and recommendations for products and services they have “liked” and shared on the web.

Google Needs Innovation
Google’s search results listing is largely based on how important web content is deemed based on the amount of links to the site, the ‘authority’ of the site from which the link comes and the popularity or sheer amount of content/links. Google is also giving local businesses priority. There is no human interaction or relationship building in this model.

Google search results are deemed neither positive or negative. Thus a site with a negative reputation can easily be ranked #1 or appear on the first page of results, which is “the money page”. This was the premise of a recent New York Times article that appeared earlier this week. The story centered on an online businessman who treats customers poorly to provoke negative chatter about his company online to increase the content and links to his site. The more this chatter increases, the more content and links are generated about his company, the better his results in Google. This strategy has provided top search engine rankings for a number of key terms and he claims has increased his bank account significantly. The sad fact is how he is mistreating and harassing customers. If consumers dig deeper into their social networks or other sites to investigate, they’d see that most of the online conversations warn others not to do business with this company. However, for many they are not taking this next step.

All the more reason why social search has more relevancy. Human interaction and trust factor into search results for far more personalized and trusted results. As mentioned, Bing currently offers social search – using Facebooks’s social graph (network of friends and connections) to enable word of mouth search results and by far has the most robust offering. It’s integration with Facebook is huge.Blekko’s been around for a while and it too relies on community and humans to power its relevance (similar to a Wikipedia model). Google’s working on building their own social search/social graph with Google Hotpot. Neither Blekko nor HotPot have the momentum or the social graph of Facebook.

Building Social Search
Facebook “Likes” will now take precedent in search vs the sheer link building that Google evaluates. Trust and human interactions are the root of social search. Social graphs rule. Consumers will continue to seek out and place value on information from their communities and those they trust. There are many many ways to enhance search efforts, but two primary ways I’d like to touch on are Social Objects and Social Authority.

Create Social Objects
Create content and applications that your community wants and finds valuable. By doing so they consume, “like”, and share with others. In the past, content used to be created for the benefit of search engines (robots would read the content and index it accordingly as another dimension of the linking algorithm). Now, in social search, content consumed and shared by humans takes precendent. It has to have meaning and value.

Keywords still have relevancy. In the past, those performing SEO put a lot of focus on the keywords they were hoping to get searched on and embedded them in the pages of the site and as content in their link building strategy. This holds true today. Social objects and content still need definition for the search engines to rank them. They should be used for titles and within content for your users to share.

Create Social Authority
Page rank used to be the holy grail. Getting a link on an authority web site (for example a .edu site or one of the top 50 web sites, was considered a knock out to get your site ranked higher.) Now the goal is to build relationships with social authorities, those who others trust and who have a high volume of followers. If the social authority likes your content and passes along content authentically and sincerely, more people take notice.

Be Human,