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Monitoring & Analyzing Social Media

With over 1.5 billion conversations stored, can you afford not to listen?

Category: Business Development

Dec 15, 2008 0 Comments

Wall Street Journal on Social Media/web 2.0 Marketing

They actually really get it right. Based on interviews with 30 marketers. No subscription required at the time of this posting.

There’s a sea change going on!

Dec 1, 2008 0 Comments

Accelerate your social activity during a recession

Perhaps the worst thing a business or agency can do during a severe downturn is to pull back on marketing activity, even if writing the checks is exceptionally painful. The reason is something known as the ’sales cycle’. Salespeople know what this is: the average time it takes to close a sale from prospecting to a check in the mailbox. For a lot of products and services this can be quite a long process and it lengthens as money gets tight.

However, as money gets more accessible, sales cycles get shorter because there is pent-up need. This brings us to the marketing quandary. If you stop or curtail marketing activity, you cripple your ability to bounce back when the economy gets better. Your customers don’t stop thinking about buying, they just hold off until they can afford it. If you stop marketing and participating in the conversation you won’t be on their radar when they’re ready. Your sales cycle starts with marketing.

So what does this have to do with social media? Everything. Social media participation is extremely cost effective, especially if you target intent, in other words, those conversations that are fine-tuned to your product or service. Any number of keyword tracking services, including ours, can help you find that intent.

There is another compelling reason to dive headfirst into social media: Timing. We are at that proverbial tipping point where a group of ideas, tools and smart people converge and the world changes. Waiting until the economy turns upwards to embrace social media means you’ll be far behind the curve. We saw it with the belated advertising agency reaction to search marketing. They didn’t embrace this new model and a whole new style of marketing agencies took the business out from under them. This, in my view, is taking place right now with social media.

Are you on the brand-owner side but not successfully selling social media participation to upper management? It’s time to go guerilla. Start monitoring with free services like ours, tracking Twitter keywords, blogging product mentions, etc. Become a power-user and you’ll eventually get your chance to make your case. Chances are that when the realization sets in among those managers that your brand is being discussed, there will be a ‘why aren’t we doing this moment?’ And you can say, ‘actually we have been’.

It’s not just the listening side. Start building knowledge around platforms for social media interaction. Things like Ning, Yammer, WordPress. They’re free and you can learn them quickly. Again, when times get better you’ll have a jump on your competition.

Nov 10, 2008 0 Comments

B-B Lead Generation in Social Media

Leads are the lifeblood of any business and generating them is the ultimate goal of any marketing. I’ve been in companies where we rented leads in bulk (total waste of money) and others where we acquired them by networking at events (good but labor-intensive). You can fish for them with SEO and PPC (better because you’ve defined intent on the part of the prospect) but you’re dependent on the search engines and the quality of your site. Finally, you can generate leads through freemium versions of your service or product. This works well if you’re marketing a professional service and you’re providing enough value for a user to trade you contact info in exchange for their freebie. This freemium model is a piece of our lead generation strategy for SM2. However you still have to get to your site to sign up. That’s where social media fits into lead generation

Adding in Return On Investment (ROI) for Social Media Lead Generation

With a tool like SM2 you could find everyone talking about the keywords associated with your product, extract their addresses and/or URLs and try blasting them with some kind of offer. This may sound good if you’re used to the old media broadcast model- but it is a really terrible idea in social media because there can easily be a backlash from participants who don’t like being spammed (which is what you’d be doing- they never asked for your offer). So how do you generate leads in social media?

Try a variation on this process:

  • Use SM2 to monitor conversations that contain your keywords, then refine those keyword to more closely target sources. This helps qualify your leads.
  • Look at the Author Tags cloud in SM2 to find ways social media results authors are organizing their conversations. You can find clues to additional keywords.
  • Build an offering that focuses on those keywords. We offer a free version of our service, others offer discounts, white papers, webinars, etc.
  • Create a landing page that focuses on your keywords and the specific interests of your prospects. This is not your home page, it is a page dedicated to gathering information in exchange for your offering. Keep it simple, don’t ask for too much, etc. We only require an email address but we ask for Name, Company, Title and Where They Heard of Us. About 50% offer this info which is high but we don’t make them do a demo or talk to a salesperson, the free version is fully functional and we have an additional goal of building an active user-community.
  • Start delving into the conversations you find with SM2 and become a participant. Don’t pitch, participate: respond to relevant Tweets, comment on blogs, join networks. Be transparent about who you are (I often define my user-name as Martin Edic (Techrigy), making it clear that I’m from a company). You’re not selling here, you’re building a reputation.
  • Have the link you provide in your Profile or Comments be a direct link to the landing page you built. Many will click to find out who you represent if they find you’ve added value to the conversation.
  • Offer up your offer if it adds value to the conversation with a URL in your response.
  • Don’t use canned responses.

I realize this sounds kind of labor intensive because it is. Many companies are hiring Community Managers to do this.

So where does the ROI come in? First, social media is exponential. Your comments and tweets may be found and read by hundreds or even thousands of readers, readers who are qualified leads, otherwise they would not be there. Second, people in social media like to spread the word so your efforts go even further. And your conversations usually don’t go away- they have a shelf life and keep on giving.

Many people in marketing are not used to valuing leads. This is incredibly important to determining ROI. A qualified lead is one for which you a minimum required amount of information. Another qualification is the source of the lead. The rented lead has a suspect source, the lead that followed a process to get to you is very well qualified. One might cost $.15, the other $150.00. You determine how much a lead is worth by working backwards. First you know how profitable an average sale is, then you determine how much of that profit you’ll expend to get that sale. You need to know how many leads turn into a sale. It might be one out of ten, in which case you need to generate ten leads to make one sale. Do the math and you can determine how much a lead is worth. Run that against the required investment to generate that lead and you’re much closer to an ROI calculation.

Aug 29, 2008 0 Comments

How many results will there be? How big an account do I need?

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.

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Jul 31, 2008 1 Comment

Three months in the social

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?”

Etc.

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.

Jul 8, 2008 0 Comments

ROI for Social Media Engagement: B-B Lead Generation

The subject of social media engagement for marketing purposes is a touchy one, especially with B-C marketing where consumers are very likely to be angered by any kind of pitching in social media. However, for B-B marketing it’s a whole different story- I know because it’s Techrigy’s primary marketing channel and may become the primary channel for B-B lead generation period. But can you measure it?

You can if you plan a campaign, not a campaign like an ad campaign, a campaign designed to turn your engagement into measurable results. You start by hiring or assigning a Community Manager to a product or service within your agency or marketing group. This person’s job is to reach out to social media via a service like ours (overt plug!) and participate in conversations. That’s all well and good but how do you justify the overhead involved?

You start by understanding how people respond to you. If you’re adding value to the conversation via blogging, comments, Twitters, etc. make sure there is a link associated with your name at all times. If people like you response they are quite likely to click on your name/link to find out what your story is. Where that link takes them is critical to creating and measuring conversions.

Let’s look at an example from my world. There are a lot of blogs and conversations out there about social media and brands. It’s a huge subject with a lot of unknowns because we’re creating a whole new world here. This means people are hungry for knowledge and shared experience. We’re a B-B (business to business) company so my real marketing goal is the generation of highly qualified leads. That’s the end game for me. My target market is all of the people out there trying to figure out social monitoring and engagement.

So my message when I comment is always related to helping my peers, who happen to be my prospects, understand what we’re trying to do and how. Because I stay relevant to the thread I’m in and I only pitch when there is a direct request for information, people are clicking my name/link. That link takes them directly to the free sign-up page for SM2 where they can fill out a simple form to get a free account. Those that do are considered conversions.

Very quickly, the formula for ROI is # of leads that sales can close X average value of sale. Say you turn 5% of sign-ups to paying customers (these are made-up numbers) and your average sale is $5000. That makes a lead worth $250 (5000/20=250).

So how do you measure conversions? You can use unique URLs for your link but that doesn’t take into account word of mouth (WOM) which is an exponential factor in social media. You can ask people in your form how they found you but only a few will offer that info. You can use site Analytics to track referring pages but that has limited effectiveness in SM.

The fact is that there is no totally accurate way to measure the exact ROI for your social media engagement, however it is far more measurable than virtually any form of traditional brand advertising. How are you measuring engagement?

BTW, I’m experimenting with Zemanta in this post, a WordPress plugin that adds links and images it thinks are relevant. Not sure what I think yet…

Zemanta Pixie

Jun 10, 2008 0 Comments

White Paper: Getting Started in Social Media Marketing

Aaron Newman, our commander-in-chief here at Techrigy, just posted a new white paper on engagement in social media. It lays out a complete approach to listening, analyzing and participating in conversations across the social space including several links to resources, advice on how to avoid being viewed as a spammer and how to build a positive reputation.

Recommended.

No registration required…

Jun 6, 2008 0 Comments

Building a global business in social media

Every morning I wake up and look forward to seeing who joined the SM2 Freemium community overnight. This morning included folks from Denmark, Belgium, Australia and India, not to mention the US and Canada. The concept behind offering a free version of our software as a service is more than a marketing gimmick, much more. We’re building a global business around a global community of users many of which will likely never pay for our services (however, there are quite a few who will- fortunately!). For a small but growing company based in beautiful Rochester, NY, going global is not only exciting but imperative- social media knows no boundaries. Offering a free version opens markets to us that a business our size could only dream about a few years ago.

And we offer a live demo to every SM2 Freemium user so if you’ve signed up and want to learn more contact us at info at techrigy dot com.

Update: Jerry from Zambia just joined our social network. That means we’ve heard from every continent in the last 24 hours!

Jun 2, 2008 0 Comments

Why offer a free version of our social media service, SM2?

Giving anything away for free is basically a loss-leader strategy from a marketing point of view- or used to be. We offer a free version of our tool so anyone can try it, use it and hopefully upgrade to one of the Professional versions. But that’s only one part of our thinking. The other part is a bigger idea, the idea of building in community features into SM2, features that any user, free or paid can decide to participate in (or not). By building a large base of users and then adding community features we think we’re going to build brand equity and loyalty.

So what do I mean by ‘community features’? Let’s say you build an intelligent set of folder rules (which is a means of categorizing results in SM2). In the community you could share that set of rules with other users, saving time and building the capabilities of the application in ways that are based on actual use. Another example might be a request for a list of influential blogs in Portugal. This request might get posted in a Community area and if there’s a user out there who already had such a list they could share a folder. When you go global in social media, having users share their local expertise with each other would be pretty cool. We don’t have these things yet but they’re in the pipeline and sooner rather than later.

Social media is a collaborative media so we’re building a collaborative application. To do this you almost have to have a freely available version that is not crippled in functionality or shelf life. Our SM2 Freemium is fully functional and does not expire. You are limited to 5 keywords and 1000 search results (unless you blog about us in which case we’ll double that) but you can clear results to run a new search. Think of something like Gmail which keeps adding capacity and features. It probably doesn’t generate a lot of money from ad revenues but it has accomplished something infinitely more valuable: it is moving users into acceptance of online applications as a mainstream tool, moving them past competitors like Microsoft and Yahoo.

More on our community features coming soon.

May 30, 2008 0 Comments

“Big will not beat small anymore. It will be fast beating slow”; quote from Rupert Murdoch

I joined Techrigy about 4 weeks ago and things are moving really fast here but the fastest thing for me has been how quickly our developers are able to incorporate feature requests from customers. There have been two updates since I started and they were not insignificant.

Aaron Newman, our CEO, and I were doing a demo yesterday with a market research firm. Their input and questions were very sophisticated and their interests were more focused on the ability to extract data out of SM2 so they could apply their own analysis tools to it in addition to the extensive reporting and analysis options the application offers. Several of their feature requests were already in the pipeline and the timeline for the most complex was only two months.

As noted in the title of this post moving quickly is not an option, it’s a necessity, especially in social media where speed is intrinsic to the environment.

Thanks to ReadWriteWeb and Tom Duterme of Google for the Murdoch quote.