What is your Google + circle strategy?

Over the last month there have been a flood of opinions and articles about Google +.

Mike Troaino reported early on that its Google + vs. Twitter, not Facebook, Jeremiah Owyang later agreed and provided 5 Ways Google + Can become Mainstream, only to be outdone by 6 Ways Google + is Winning and Losing. Then, only a month after launch we learn that Google + hit 25 million visitors, at which point we acknowledge having Social Media Fatigue or maybe just Circle Fatigue.

The core differentiator and value proposition of Google + is circles. The idea is that I don’t want to talk or listen to everyone in my social network at once, just specific circles of individuals at a time.

It sounds easy right, make some circles put the right people in the right circles and you are ready for “real life sharing.” Not so fast.

If you have ever participated or better yet led the Information Architecture (IA) phase of a website redesign project, you will understand that defining what content goes where today is difficult. Planning for tomorrow, requires professionals. Taking from those experiences, here are a few ways to think about circles:

  • add new circles as new things come along does not require any planning but will eventually result in dozens of redundant and overlapping circles. Google already responded to this problem by adding a new feature.
  • create a circle for each of the groups in you life is easy to align to the real world today; work, friends, family, etc., but managing the overlap of the individuals within these groups will be difficult going forward.
  • create a circle for each type of content you want to share is a better approach because it is less important that I play soccer with a group, than it is that I want to share “personal” content with some individuals and “soccer” content with others.
  • limit Google + to a specific group or content type is the most common approach I have heard, probably because we have all been trained by bad Facebook experiences. It will keep things tidy, but using Google + for just a specific group or content misses the point.

There is no question that leading with circles is a big idea, but only time will tell if Google + is a revolutionary platform or just another social network.

How are you managing your Google + circles? Share your tips above.


Why 5 Big Brand Marketing Campaigns are Betting Big on Social Gaming

The answer: Because their agency partner convinced them to buy a shiny new social game.

In a recent article by Mashable author Brian Anthony Hernandez titled Why 5 Big Brand Marketing Campaigns are Betting Big on Social Gaming, Brian attempts to tout the big wins coming from social gaming. To be completely transparent, I am a social gaming skeptic, but was eager to understand how brands were successfully leveraging this buzzing tactic. Upon reading this article I am more skeptical than ever.

The reason is in the results, or lack thereof. Here are the “results” that marketers and their agency partners point to:

  • “92% of We City players have incorporated Century 21-branded structures into their virtual cities”
  • Martercard game got “30,000 Likes and gets more than 80% of visits from returning visitors. On average, gamers spend 45 minutes on the game page each visit.”
  • “After the launch, users’ time on the Psych website increased from an average of 14 minutes to 22 minutes…”

The only thing this proves is that people like to play games and if you put a game on your site people will play it. Unless the objective was to have someone play games on your site, I don’t see the brand benefit.

All marketers should reserve 10% of their budget each quarter to test and trial new ideas and tactics like social gaming. However, until there are tangible ROMOs from these trials, let’s agree that its just for fun.

Fourzam (AKA IntoNow)

Shazam is an amazing music discovery engine. It allows you to identify, buy and share any song that is playing. Just hold your phone to the speaker and shazam!

Foursquare, Gowalla and a few others allow you to share your location with friends. The promise is that you can find friends nearby and explore new places.

Put these two concepts together and you get IntoNow. It allows you to connect with your friends around the TV you love. Just hold your phone up to the TV, IntoNow identifies the show or commercial, and shares this with your friends.

What I find interesting about this integration of tools and technologies. These mashups are not just for MIT grads with some startup cash, Marketers should take the time to understand what is possible with their own tools and technologies.

Here is an example of how marketers are using this: Tag a TV Ad, Get a Free Pepsi

Krispy Kreme’s New CMO understands Social Media

In a recent Ad Age article interview by Maureen Morrison, Dwayne Chambers, the new Krispy Kreme CMO, provides his perspective on marketing the resurgent doughnut brand.

In a time when social media feels very much like the .com hype in 2000, I am thrilled to see that Mr. Chambers understand how companies can better leverage the power of social media. Mr. Chambers describes the opportunity that we are all enamored with: “Today, if you have 1,000 who love your brand, they could immediately tell 100,000 people who could tell 100,000.”

However, his primary focus is not making iPhone apps, augmented reality tools, or build your own doughnut contests. His focus is with the primary customer touch-point and epicenter of word of mouth, employees. “The ability for us to connect with our team members and guests in the store is important. We’re going to continue to spend as much as 50% of time and effort internally turning every team member we have into a brand marketer.”

If we believe the power of social media is true, 1,000 turns into 100,000, then we should all be scrambling to get our house in order to drive employee brand advocacy before we start chasing the latest shiny toys.

Measuring what matters… in real-time

A new blog post and report from Forrester Analyst, Nate Elliott, Social Media Marketing Metrics That Matter, defines a framework for social media measurement. There is some great thinking here. This image provides an overview of his framework:

The core idea is around segmenting social metrics by audience role: social strategist, marketer, executive. And while Nate correctly states, “if you’re focusing on fans and followers then you’re almost certainly doing it wrong” he goes on to suggest that social strategist should focus on just that.

Here is my problem with this approach:

The assumption is that there is a correlation between social activity (fans, followers, etc.) and real business objectives. Only if organizations are able to make that correlation, which will change over time, should they continue to track and measure social activity metrics and even then it minimizes the value of the social strategist role.

Secondly, this framework suggests real business value metrics are only evaluated on a quarterly or annual basis when senior management is involved. The benefit of social, or any interactive medium, is the ability monitor and adjust real-time. Only by empowering social strategist with real business metrics can they make the adjustments necessary to optimize your programs to maximize revenue, not retweets.

Segmentation makes sense, but all marketers need to take advantage of interactive mediums by measuring what matters and doing so in real-time.

How to Add Email Lists in Facebook for Page Promotion

Great tip for those trying to grow their Facebook audience:

How to Add Email Lists in Facebook for Page Promotion.

Budgeting for Content Marketing

At yesterday’s MITX event, Grow Your Customer Relationships With Branded Content, Carissa Caramanis O’Brien, President at Red Box Communications, Eric Oliver, Director of Digital Brand Communications at Converse, and Matt Drinkwater, Senior Director at Yahoo!, discussed various aspects of content marketing. They all shared some great examples, which lead to the obvious questions: how much does it cost and how can I increase my budget YOY?

Before trying to duplicate their tips and tricks in your organization, Marketers must recognize that successful content marketing requires a mental shift, including how you think of budgeting. For example, in order to be successful in this new world, Marketers must think in terms of:

  • Ongoing programs, not campaigns.
  • Objectively valuable content, not copy.
  • A content strategy, not channels like Facebook or Twitter.
  • MPDs, not budget dollars.

MPDs are the number of minutes per day that stakeholders are investing or participating in content marketing. Ironically, many Marketers are solely focused externally on their customers’ “engagement” while internally they only think in terms of a budget number.

Marketers should instead think in terms of MPDs because changing behavior is both the most difficult part of any new process, and the key to long-term success. I have found that stakeholders investing as few as 15 MPDs can create a successful content marketing program. While securing a budget for the next year will ensure activity, a mental and behavioral shift is required to:

  • Take advantage of expertise across the organization.
  • Infuse your culture with the external reality.
  • Make content marketing a core competency.

The best part about using MPDs as currency in your organization is that as stakeholders get more comfortable participating, they will deliver more content, interactions, and value in that same amount of time. This allows your program to grow without asking for more.

Leave the budget conversations for the media buyers; success in content marketing is measured in MPDs.

Charmin hopes toilet paper can be sexy too!

I have always held the notion that social media is not for everyone. There are obvious candidates who benefit from social technologies because their audience is online and already talking about their brand, for example Dell tapping into the active tech community with product ideas through IdeaStorm.com. Other brands can create interest based programs by focusing on their customers’ problems or related interests that can then be associated to the brand, for example P&Gs beinggirl.com talking adolescence to sell feminine products. And then we have things like toilet paper… until now.

Charmin recently launched a search to find five super-fun, enthusiastic people to work at the Charmin Restrooms in Times Square this holiday season. Their new micro-site, EnjoytheGo.com, explains the program in detail. The job description is simple: Greet and entertain bathroom guests and then blog about the experience, and the payout is big: $10,000 for 1 month.

Before we focus in on the logistics around potty blogging, I want to highlight two key qualifiers that every organization should ask before even dabbling in sexy social technologies:

• Does my target audience use social technologies?
• Does my target audience use social technologies to talk about my brand, industry or a related interest?

While some or most of Charmin’s target audience might be active users, I find it hard to believe that their audience is using social technologies to learn about the brand, or toilet paper or a stranger’s bathroom experience.

This doesn’t pass my sniff test, how about you?

The Important Evolution of Engagement From Marketing Fluff to Metric to KPI

There has been a lot of discussion around the topic of engagement; what is it, why does it matter and how do I measure it, and is it marketing fluff or the new standard for measurement. From my research I see a valuable concept being poorly interpreted and executed by some marketers, vendors and agencies.

What is it? To start with a definition, most analysts and bloggers agree on two basic components. The interactions can be either individual or company led, and they are ongoing across every point of contact. These are all the brand interactions with the product, other individuals, customer service, marketing messages, applications, etc. over time, which requires a comprehensive cross-channel measurement algorithm to evaluate.

Engagement is not the “time spent” with your online video or the “number of posts” on your social media site; these metrics are only part of the equation. I agree with the critics who dismiss these “engagement” metrics, but the problem is not with the concept it’s with the current execution of measuring what’s available as opposed to what matters. Which leads us to our second point.

Why does it matter? Technology has exponentially increased the points of contact individuals have with your brand and social technologies have exponentially increased the reach and influence individuals have on each other. We also have the added benefit of being able to track and measure most of these new technology enabled interactions, and improve customer insight by measuring individual’s behavior.

Marketing leverages both quantitative/hard metrics like sales that are generally based on behavior, and qualitative/soft metrics like satisfaction that are generally based on surveys to determine success. Engagement is a new qualitative/soft metric, but is unique in that it is behavior based not survey based, which may deliver a more accurate indication of marketing and business success. If you have any question about the inaccuracies of self-reported survey responses, check out Martin Lindstrom’s new book Buyology, which uses brain scan technology to separate the truths from the lies about why we buy. In addition, the more “social” marketing becomes, the higher degree soft metrics will be needed to generate hard results. Which leads us to our third point.

How do I measure it? A metric is anything that can be consistently measured, like CTRs and time spent, where a KPI is an indicator, agreed upon with your partners that will determine whether you are attaining business success. As a result, engagement measurement cannot be a one-size fits-all because the number and type of interactions varies for every company and the relative weighting or value associated with each interaction in an algorithm will also differ.

Start by identifying all the points of contact individuals can have with your brand before, during and after the buying process. Next identify what measurement mechanisms exist across these points of contact to expose potential data gaps. Third, prioritize the points of contact lacking any measurement mechanisms and create a simple 2X2 matrix based on their value vs. their cost to acquire. Finally, work with your partners to define an algorithm that weights the values of each interaction, measure to define a benchmark, and evaluate your model as an indicator of business success. By discovering specific patterns of behavior across interactions, marketers can measure for their occurrence and proactively drive those indicator actions to occur.

Engagement is not a replacement of but another valuable tool that focuses on the individual’s new and growing number of interactions with a brand to help marketers assess and better influence their buying process. While the road to measurement may be long and hard, the time for action is now.