If you had any doubt about the mainstream value of social media you should watch this…
From Jeremiah Owyang:
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With over 1.5 billion conversations stored, can you afford not to listen?
If you had any doubt about the mainstream value of social media you should watch this…
From Jeremiah Owyang:
One of the things we get asked frequently, from a business POV, is how big is the social media market? Before I tackle that elephant, let me define what the questioner is asking. We sell a tool used by social media marketers and researchers. That’s the market we’re sizing: How many potential customers are there for social media marketing vendors like Techrigy?
We know social media itself is huge and expanding like a nuclear reaction, literally. The early adopters of technology like ours tend to be agencies, particularly PR, communications and digital agencies (the ad people are still pretty far behind). So if we say there are 100,000 agencies (a made-up number) then our market seems to get capped at some fraction of that number (we won’t get all of them obviously). This is not the case because agencies don’t represent a single client or a single niche market. They represent brands, lots of brands. So the operative question is ‘How many brands are there?’ and the answer is millions.
So how big is the market for social media monitoring? Big. There millions of iterations of brands, localized versions, international variations by language and culture, sub brands like Swanson’s Chicken Broth, Swanson’s Canned Chicken, Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pies, etc., and things associated with brands like celebrities, executives, issues and influencers. It is a virtually unlimited market when you consider that all of these brands will be migrating some or all of their marketing to social media.
And this does not take into account the rapidly emerging concept of personal brands…more on that in another post!
There’s been a lot of discussion about reputation and reputation management in social media. It’s one of our most effective keywords in SEO/SEM and it’s a fairly recent phenomenon. However I think there is a far more important metric related to reputation, something I’m dubbing ‘Reputation Equity’. Reputation equity is the value of your reputation in the marketplace.
For those struggling to define the ROI for social media monitoring and marketing, the concept of reputation equity might be useful in showing more closely how managing your reputation can directly produce measurable affects on your company’s value. If we look at market caps, for example, that measurement of the total current value of all company stock at today’s price, we see some anomalies. Dell’s market cap today is about $33 billion while Apple’s is $110 billion. Dell has a lot more market share but the market sees Apple as nearly four times as large! A lot of this is profitability but a good share is reputation.
So aren’t we talking about brands here? Yes and no. A brand may be highly recognized but it can also become generic as it gains widespread acceptance. I’d argue that Dell, while just recognizable as Apple, is much more generic. Apple has a powerful reputation driven by an amazingly loyal group of owners and users, a group that is very active whether they are criticizing or praising the company. Dell, on the other hand, has loyal buyers but they’re otherwise not emotionally engaged with the company and it’s products. How many Dell- specific blogs are out there vs. the hundreds or thousands of Apple-focused sites?
Dell is pursuing an aggressive social media strategy but they’re hampered by this reputational issue: Boring and corporate. Apple does little or no engagement because they don’t have to: Their reputation for innovative design and usability has built an eco-system that does it for them. Most companies don’t have that option, however Seth Godin would tell you that cultivating a fanatical following might be the most powerful marketing tool available. Reputation Management is a big piece of that.
If the goal of management in most companies is increasing value to shareholders, then enhancing reputation should be an easily justifiable investment. A great reputation can help a company get through issues like those reported with recent iPhones. A boring or negative reputation can make even a minor glitch be magnified and drive value down. Social media, in both cases, is becoming a driving force in reputation management and for building reputation equity.
The Internet and traditional media are about information and solutions. Web sites enable both of these activities: Finding answers and associating buying decisions with those answers. Conventional push advertising, once relevance is established, can be an important aspect of the search for information and solutions. When advertising started moving to the web it had to change, to become less brand-focused and more intent-focused. However it still fit the broadcast or network model once intent and relevance were added as criteria for acceptance by users.
Social media is a completely different layer that has been added to the web, hence the web 2.0 moniker. Social media is about communication. It is an ongoing, fluid public conversation in which users exchange all kinds of information and experience, often as it takes place. This fluid nature means that attempting to take a traditional broadcast approach to advertising, even with relevance and intent, not only won’t work but can actually have a negative impact as users spread the word about what they don’t like about an ad or brand. If an ad interrupts a conversation it will make people mad.
Conventional media buying relies on reach or authority to determine where to buy ads because higher trafficked and/or respected sites will reach more users. Authority in social media is just one piece because any social media site can break a story, impugn a reputation or slam a brand experience and if the story is compelling it will get picked up and spread out, often in minutes. The challenge in social media is not to search out information, it is to monitor and listen to these conversations, identify opportunities to participate and then carefully engage. This can’t be done with an ad network or ‘push’ model.
Engagement is a new way to build a brand or reputation, a different marketing paradigm. It requires new roles for marketers (Community Managers), new means of listening and reaching out (Social media monitoring tools) and a shift in our understanding of marketing. When you engage in conversations in social media it may seem overly labor-intensive compared to launching an ad campaign. An individual effort is required to be taken seriously. The good news ids that there is an exponential effect: When you comment on a blog, connect with a Tweet or respond to a review, your response has the potential to be seen by thousands or even millions of others. As you build a reputation in social media your authority rises and your brand becomes highly valued. This is the new model emerging in marketing communications. Those who embrace it and refine it will be the market leaders of the future.
Alisa has an insightful post on how conversations in social media are streams rather than locations. This ilustrates a fundemental reason why a monitoring service like SM2 is very different from an indexing service like Google. In essence we are collecting all the information that people are assembling into streams and enabling users to follow streams as they develop- streams that include their brands and reputations. Ordinarily you could only follow a few select users or groups because of time and resource constraints. With SM2 you have a tool that helps track all the streams and analyzes their content, sources and impact in real time.
We also hold our collection effectively forever (that’s the plan) in its original instance. If you Tweet then delete that Tweet, we still have it and if you reference a keyword that one of our users is seeking we will serve up that piece of conversational history along with any available public meta-data you’ve volunteered, any associated data connected with your Tweet by others and we offer up a results page that tells our user quite a bit about you.
Social media is fluid, however SM2 is effectively taking constant snapshots of that flow and and making it possible to return to any given moment.
These questions are understandably common given that our pricing is based on total number of results in your account. I hear them everyday as I work with prospective customers who are doing proposals for social media monitoring (yes, I do help with developing your business model around SM2- shoot me a note if you’d like to know more).
Given that even a moderately well-known brand can generate large numbers of results, it is important to have some idea of what you’re getting into before you commit to a plan. We have developed a tool to help with this.
First let me define ’search results’ within SM2. Search results are any mention of your keyword(s) in social media. They might be a blog post, a Tweet, a comment on a wall, a forum post, a wiki entry, etc. However, a search result is much more than that. It is also a set of data points that we collect that are associated with that result. These include all kinds of things including any demographic info, tags and categories, Alexa, Technorati and PageRank data, geo-location, etc. Up to 35 fields depending on what’s available in publically accessible places (we don’t violate EULAs).
This is important because we use that data to build our analysis of your results.
Back to the estimator tool. When you’re planning a social media monitoring project you can contact us and we’ll run your keyword phrases through the tool (it’s internal) to get you a ballpark estimate of how many results we have in our ever-expanding database aka the ’social media warehouse’. This gives you, and your client or team, an idea of the expense required to accurately measure the full response in social media- before you commit to a plan.
Techrigy is a term for a posse of packrats who collect all kinds of stuff and keep it forever…
Since I started here I get asked about the name every time I tell someone what I do. I’ve never gotten an explanation from Aaron. As marketing guy I wanted to change it but don’t care now- it’s our company, our brand is SM2 which is building a life of its own…
As we start into fall and summer wanes the wave that has been building in social media is about to break and flood us all. To beat the metaphor, the flood is the realization that social media is a critically important business communication tool that isn’t going away. More and more senior marketing people are stating that social strategies are becoming mainstream marketing communications tools for brand development, PR, customer support and satisfaction, and community-building. Companies like Dell are making it central to their marketing efforts. The key word here is ‘central’. This is not a tactic to be delegated to the hinterlands, it is the next iteration of global business communications.
What does this mean?
It means that there is the beginning of a move out of the early adoption phase. In that famous bell curve detailed in Crossing the Chasm new ideas have to break out of the early adopter phase to begin growth into the mainstream. Social media started as something used by an elite few bloggers and nascent social networks created for students. In business the adoption was very slow to take root as many simply questioned the reasons for doing a corporate blog or building an online user-community.
It took some well-publicized PR disasters to wake up the first of the big mainstream businesses to dive into blogging. Dell had well-publicized customer support problems that spread around the blogosphere long before they realized they had a problem. Their response, though belated, was a real turnaround and they now are fully engaged with social media.
I suspect that the turning point is upon us based on my admittedly parochial view of things. 99% of Techrigy’s marketing is social and much of it has been taking place for the first time during this summer when our target markets are typically in vacation mode. Yet, I’m seeing a strong response that is growing as we swing back into fall work mode. Our free community users are increasingly coming to us for professional accounts and service. Agencies are building us into pitches and the brands we’re tracking are growing in stature. Our recent crossing of the half billion mark for results in our social media warehouse is another clue that there is a lot of activity out there.
May we live in interesting times…
While I’ve been a participant in social media for a long time including a personal blog over three years old, I only started thinking about it as a marketing tool when I did a product launch a few years ago- and found that reaching out to relevant blogs was the most effective activity I pursued, more effective than any of the traditional PR and advertising we did at the same time. It didn’t hurt that it was a software as a service product right at the onset of web 2.0.
Fast forward a few years and social media is my primary marketing tool but in ways that have evolved considerably. When I started working with Techrigy three months ago I was still in SEM/SEO mode. That went away fast though we do use these techniques quite effectively (please don’t send me SEO analyses of our sites- we’re quite aware of where they stand). I simply dove in to start learning about the wonderful world of social media monitoring and how people were trying to use it. I intentionally use the word ‘trying’ because it rapidly became apparent that we’re all in a continuous learning curve (and will be forever I think).
Those who dropped pre-conceptions the earliest have, IMHO, become the default thought leaders. I’ve gotten so I laugh when I read about social media ‘campaigns’, products to automate pushing messages out to social media and other broadcast mentality approaches to spreading the word or effecting change in social media. This is not the model, again IMHO!
The reason we constantly see and talk to people trying to retain this model is that the available alternatives are freaking them out:
” I’m supposed to read blogs and twitter all day and add-in stuff?”
“I don’t don’t have the time or the bandwidth for that!”
“What good is this stuff? What’s the ROI?”
With broadcast you reach millions of people, 99.999% of whom frankly don’t give a sh*t. You spend money to reach that fragment who do. With search you focus more but you’re still seeking true intent through relevant placement. A lot better.
In social media, if you do your job and participate and carefully build a reputation you become a member of the inner circle. This membership is precarious and precious but incredibly egalalitarian. An ambitious or enthusiastic intern or career-changer can join if they prove themselves and affect the positioning of their product or service in game-changing ways- because that inner circle is incredibly influential.
Why are they so powerful? Because of the network effect. It used to be said that an angry consumer would tell ten others about their negative experience while a happy one would only tell three. With social media both can reach hundreds or thousands who in turn can influence untold thousands more. So, IMHO (again), you cannot afford to ignore or minimalize social media as a marketing tool. It’s word of mouth on steroids.
That my lesson from three months of working to build awareness of a brand and product in social media. The potential is explosively more powerful than what came before.
And equally risk-laden for those venture away from 100% honesty and transparency. Why? Because it is self-regulated by those who you are marketing to. That’s another game-changing element in this new world.