Friday, January 6, 2012

7 Top Trends in Social Media

7 Top Trends in Social Media

Looking into the future is always fun and science fiction writers have had their creative ideas on robots, mobile communications and other seemingly magical devices often turn into reality.

In fact, even cartoonists have predicted the future with Dick Tracy’s phone watch becoming a real device.

Watching technology weave its magic is summed up in the quote by the science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic“.

Who would have thought that social gaming would become a multi-billion dollar business in just two years with Zygna (the creators of Farmville and Mafia Wars on Facebook) now the most valuable games company in the world with annual revenues set to pass $1 billion next year. Zygna has filed for an IPO this year with its value estimated at between $15 billion and $20 billion.

One of the major drivers of changes to society and technology is the evolution of the mobile phone from a dumb device that just makes calls and texts to a web connected “smart phone”.

Trend One:  Social Mobile

The invention and evolution of the computer in your hand, the “smart phone” that is connected to high speed broadband Internet is revolutionizing our communications and society. Facebook and Twitter apps are enabling people to take their social networks with them. The latest change to this ongoing trend is that Twitter is now embedded in the Apple iOS5 mobile operating system at the menu layer. Twitter has seen user acquisition increase by 300% since the launch.

Does this signal the end of the humble simple “text”?

Social Mobile Twitter and Apple

Trend Two: Socialization of Search

Google’s search results are determined by complex algorithms designed and developed  by hundreds of clever mathematicians wearing white lab coats and calculated by computers in dark humming data centers.

Google has started rolling out its “+1″  button that they are starting to indicate will be the start of the rise of  ”social signals” that will be used to determine what content is being voted on as valuable by humans rather than just machines.

Google and Bing have increased the visibility and priority of social networks in search results. You may have noticed over the last 12 months that YouTube videos, Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles and other social media are ranking higher in search results when conducting an online search.

Socialization of Search plus one Button and Google

Trend Three: Geo-Targeting of Social Media Marketing

The rise of FourSquare and Google “Places” has made checking in for specials in your local area a reality…. again driven by the “smart phone”. The mobile web will continue to make a major impact over the next 5 years as the worlds more than 5 billion phones become “Smart”.

Another part of this local social marketing trend is the new development of post code targeting capability in social media marketing on Facebook which is being rolled out in the USA.

The self serve paid Facebook marketing platform is now starting to include postcodes along with the other demographic data that Facebook has in its database about you.

GeoTargeting of Social Media Marketing

Trend Four: Social Commerce

E-Commerce has been with us for nearly 15 years and is now producing a major negative impact on “bricks and mortar” stores that are not also online. It is predicted that 20% of total retail sales will be online over the next few years.

Over the last 12 months technology has emerged that allows you to take your shop (via “Apps”) to the Facebook “network” so that users do not have to leave the Facebook eco-system to buy their favourite brands. In fact many of the worlds top bands and musicians have their own Facebook store on their “Fan Page”

Commerce is now becoming “Omni Commerce

Social Commerce and Facebook Commerce

Trend Five: Social Gaming

Games used to be played on a field or park, around a board in the middle of a table or with a deck of cards. Gaming has been redefined with the evolution of “Social Gaming” enabled by rich multi-media and easy to use social networks.

Zygna (which was only founded in 2007) has usurped traditional gaming companies by developing Farmville and Mafia Wars that is currently played by 230 million Facebook users every month. In 2010 Facebook and Zygna signed a 5 year agreement on the use of Facebook credits which returns 30% of all games revenues to Facebook.  Revenues will exceed $1 billion in 2012 which is achieved through the sales of “virtual” products.

Social Gaming Farmville

Trend Six: Global Magazine Super Blogs

Publishing is transforming rapidly from offline print to online platforms with the rise of global blogs that attract tens of millions of readers every month.

Huffington Post which started as a political blog was recently sold to AOL for $315 million. Traffic to these these blogs are driven by social networks and the Huffington Post handles over 1 million comments every month from more than 35.6 million unique visitors. In fact in June, 2010, traffic to the Huffington Post passed the doyen of traditional media, The New York Times.

Blogs on various topics from social media (Mashable) politics, food and technology  are attracting millions of global readers every month.

Global Magazine Super Blogs Huffington Post

Trend Seven: Global Micro Niche Business

Niche industries were in the past restricted by geography, technology and the tyranny of distance. Now they are able to become multi-million dollar enterprises with the global reach of social media that is not restricted by place, time and poor logistics.

Examples of this include “AussieBum” (sells mens underwear globally) and “AquaBumps” (which sells digital photography around the world focusing on water, surfing and beach images).

It is not only the revenue of these social network enabled businesses that surpasses the previously location bound industries but the speed at which they scale which is due to the virality of social networks including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

By the way ladies you do have to admire the “WonderJock”!
Global Micro Niche Business
Social networks and media accelerate the speed and the leverage of the global reach of businesses that have not been seen before in the history of commerce.

The other driver that is essential to these changes is the rise of the mobile enabled “smart phone”.

Expect to continue to see more traditional industries disrupted by young technology upstarts that are social media savvy!

What other social media trends do you think are important and worth watching?

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Mobile search rose in final months of 2011

Market research firm comScore recently released its latest MobiLens analysis and found that mobile web browsing increased between September and November of 2011.

According to the report, 42.1 percent of smartphone users accessed their mobile web browser in the three-month period ending in August. In the following three months, this figure rose to 44.4 percent. While the 2.3 percent jump is modest, the increase, paired with the influx of new smartphone users following the holidays, places an especially large focus on mobile SEO and local search for 2012.

As businesses rely more heavily on search marketing, targeting mobile searchers as well as desktop users is critical for success.

Similarly, social media access on mobile devices increased in the measured time frame, demonstrating a 2.1 percent gain. The same study measuring mobile access from June through August found 30.9 percent of smartphone users check social media on their handsets, compared to 33 percent during the three months ending in November. The most recent poll found one-third of those with iPhones, Android-powered devices and other smartphone access social media. Additionally, blogs were factored into this portion of the study, placing an emphasis on corporate blogging as a means of reaching smartphone users.

Brafton reported in October that businesses relying on SEO and social media marketing would likely broaden their reach by optimizing their campaigns for mobile audiences. More than 60 percent of smartphone users say they frequently access the websites of businesses they patronize.


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Mobile Predictions for 2012

We asked CMOs of 15 top consumer brands to predict how digital media and technology will impact brand marketing in 2012. The feedback we received ranges from proving that mobile and social are no longer just hype to confirming that content can still be King. Regardless of their point of view on which electronic medium is preferred, the consensus from each CMO is that digital is critical to the survival and success of their brand. In this first series, marketing chiefs from Dominos, Motorola, Progressive and RadioShack explain why mobile is a priority.

It’s not very surprising that Eduardo Conrado, SVP & CMO of Motorola Solutions, is bullish about the effectiveness of mobile. That being said, Conrado feels that 2012 will be the rise of the purpose driving brands. Technology will become critical in sales enablement, bringing marketing and sales even closer in developing customer relationships. “Marketers will move from a focus on ‘product’ to a focus on ‘solutions’ – enabling key experiences for customers,” said Conrado. And mobile is a key enabler.

In just two years, smartphone adoption in the United States has skyrocketed from 18% to 44% and shows no signs of slowing. This represents a significant opportunity to engage consumers at their point of decision, on their terms. Phones are no longer the third screen of interaction – behind televisions and PCs. Increasingly, they are the first screen. Consumers are utilizing cameras, sophisticated apps and other wireless capabilities, including mobile commerce, to guide their purchase decisions in real time.


Lee Applbaum, EVP & CMO at RadioShack, explained to us the brand’s strong heritage in mobile innovation, having sold more than 72 million cellphones since 1986. As smartphones and tablets are becoming the preferred devices shoppers use to research and locate products and services, Applbuam and his team plan to leverage the products they sell as a medium to connect with our customers. “For RadioShack, it is more than a just a commerce opportunity, but actually a brand imperative,” stated Applbaum.

Russell Weiner, CMO of Dominos, is in full agreement that mobile will be imperative this year. “In my opinion, 2012 will become the year where ‘mobile’ moves to the other side of the ampersand in every marketer’s ‘Internet & Mobile strategy’. Mobile will start to lead, not follow a brand’s technical priorities.” According to Weiner, companies have historically thought of web first with regard to their marketing programs. Even at Domino’s, Weiner explains that their web ordering site online has been leading and then followed by iPhone and iPad apps. “So in the past it was, what do we do online and then how do we adapt it for mobile? With many of our new projects, we are now thinking mobile first.”

At Progressive Insurance, their CMO, Jeff Charney, and his team have always been focused on innovation and digital technology, which is proven by their multitude of apps, games and other industry-first mobile technology. “We want bold results. Period. In this uber-competitive marketplace, you don’t get bold results by staying in your comfort zone. Lots of marketers overuse the phrase, ‘be everywhere.’ If you say you’re going to ‘be everywhere’ you’d better really… be everywhere,” stressed Charney. And now that it’s the first screen, mobile is clearly everywhere.

Charney warned that brands can’t just decide one day to just go mobile or digital: “It’s got to be in your bloodstream as a marketer, your DNA, your MO, ingrained in your culture, like it is in ours. The bold, breakthrough brands that have embraced this years ago will be the ones to be reckoned with – putting up bold, breakthrough numbers – while those brands choosing the more traditional routes might have to settle for results that remain…traditional.”

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

5 Hot Marketing Trends

For marketers, a new year is about opportunities. It's another chance to roll out better campaigns and gain further insight into what customers want, as well as find new ways to engage those customers. More than ever, it's also about staying on top of technology developments and trends. CRM magazine asked marketers, analysts, and thought leaders about the top five technology trends that excite them for 2012. Here's what they said.

Mobile Marketing | It's Going to Be Huge
More people are turning to smartphones for entertainment and to manage their daily lives as these mobile devices become increasingly sophisticated and affordable. In 2010, Morgan Stanley Research predicted that smartphone sales would exceed PC sales in 2012. And according to a report from Gartner research group, by 2015, tablet computers will outsell PCs by 60 percent.

"Smartphones and tablets are taking over," says GMR Marketing's senior vice president, Bryan Rasch. "As we get past more than fifty percent of people having smartphones, we're getting into the meat of consumerism, in which people will have a device that allows them to have a richer engagement with content. This presents lots of opportunities for retailers to introduce a full-blown mobile program."

In addition, the best mobile campaigns are those that are integrated with other channels, Rasch notes. "The perfect trifecta is mobile combined with local and social engagement," he says. "That's how to get consumers to start feeling connected with your brand."

Companies have already started to test the waters with creative mobile campaigns that are embedded in an app, a Facebook link, a quick response (QR) code, or even a combination of all three.  In taking mobile campaigns to the next level, Robert Brosnan, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, points to geolocation tools as an increasingly popular way to give consumers more tailored information about a company's products.

"Anyone carrying a modern smartphone brings with them a far more accurate geolocation service than anything Foursquare, Gowalla, or Google could provide via the Web," Brosnan says. "Most smartphone apps from retailers, say BestBuy or Amazon, already access location information [even though] they must ask for permission first. Expect this feature to move from relatively simple check-ins—i.e., where is the user when the app is activated?—to actively triggering marketing programs and offers in real time. You can easily imagine BestBuy deploying different offers and content when the user is casually investigating products at home, versus scanning products at a rival consumer electronics retailer, say at Target down the street."

Analysts also expect location-based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla, which both offer users online badges and other rewards for checking in on their site, to gain further traction as more people switch to smartphones.

"Foursquare shows a lot of business potential," says Brent Leary, managing partner of CRM Essentials. "Location is a key feature of marketing. It's harder to convince people to get into their car and drive to your store. Using Foursquare or something like it to show nearby customers that your store is just across the street makes a compelling argument to get them to come to you."

According to a study by Google and OTX research firm, the most popular mobile shopping activity is locating the nearest retailer. When consumers find local information, 88 percent take action within a day; of this number, 61 percent call a retailer and 59 percent visit a store.

Combining localized information with enticing offers makes businesses even more compelling, says Jeff Ernst, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, who experienced the value of a location-based service firsthand. "I was visiting San Francisco and I used Foursquare to find out what was around me. I found a tavern, and when I checked in, a deal popped up for two-for-one beers. That deal enticed me to go back the following night with two friends, and I told more people about it," Ernst says. "Restaurants and retailers are starting to use Foursquare actively, but it's still underutilized. From a marketing perspective, rewarding frequent customers with special offers is a great way to build customer loyalty, but it's still at the experimentation stage."

Some businesses are more excited about using Foursquare as a branding tool than as a lead generator. Kaysha Kalkofen, a co-owner of tSunela, a digital marketing agency with locations in St. Louis, Mo., and Portland, Ore., notes that her clients use Foursquare mainly to interact with their customers.

"A lot of our clients have tried Foursquare but haven't had much success with the deals," she says. "They've had more success in using it for social interactions. They like the check-ins and having customers post comments. It's free, and all they have to do is make sure it's linked to their Web site and that their [Foursquare] page is accurate."

QR Codes | Expect More Creativity
QR codes have been touted by early adopters as a fast way to get information to customers. These square bar codes can be scanned with a smartphone to display text or contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a Web page in the phone's browser.

Over the past year, businesses have slapped QR codes on magazines, business cards, bus stop ads—anywhere consumers can easily utilize mobile devices to get product information.

The uptake has been slow, however. Educating consumers on how to access the codes and understand their benefits have been the biggest challenges to using this technology.

Some companies, such as Macy's and The Home Depot, made an effort to ensure they were not leaving their customers in the dark when they launched their QR code programs last year.

Recognizing that not everyone is tech-savvy, Macy's released a YouTube video explaining how the program works ( Macy's also made sure that customers who didn't have a smartphone could still participate in the program by texting.

On a similar note, when The Home Depot launched its QR code program, it also ensured that customers could access the program by texting, as well as by scanning the code with a smartphone.

In June 2011, 14 million people in the United States used a QR code, representing 6.2 percent of the total U.S. mobile audience, according to comScore. Kalkofen is confident that the use of the codes will continue to increase.

"I think we'll see a big influx of QR codes as businesses get more creative about using them," Kalkofen says. "More businesses are starting to use codes as coupons or ways to get more info. I was at a car dealer and they had a QR code on the cars, so if I went back, I could show them the car I had looked at. It's all about providing information that a consumer would want."

"What's even more interesting than standard QR codes is a branded dial code," says Ernst.
Branded dial codes—QR codes that consumers can access with a keypad—are gaining in popularity. "The NFL ran a TV ad where you could dial **NFL and get a free app," Ernst says. "More companies are using this as a way to connect offline with customers. Dial codes are a good alternative to snapping a photo [of the code], since not everyone has a camera on their phone, but everyone has a keypad."


Social Media Monitoring Tools | Look for VOC Integration
As the use of social media networks has grown, so have systems for tracking what customers are saying about companies through sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Social media monitoring systems will continue to become more sophisticated, say analysts, and more systems will include integration with VOC data.

"Listening to what your customers are saying is already huge, but it will get even bigger," Ernst says. "When Salesforce bought the market leader, Radian6, that indicated social listening is going from a niche to a core platform."

Integrating social media monitoring sites with VOC data is a natural evolution, Ernst adds. "Companies are moving from just listening to their customers' moods to figuring out how to respond. It's one thing to know what people are saying about you, but it's another thing to know how to react and engage your customers."
Users can also expect more customization options when analyzing their VOC data, says Bruce Temkin, managing partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm.

"Companies need information in a form they can act on and, historically, voice of the customer data has been centralized," Temkin says. "Now more and more platforms are coming out that will let you tailor it to specific roles, such as the store manager, the regional manager, etc."

Temkin also expects to see more mergers and acquisitions occurring between traditional VOC companies and social media monitoring companies. "We're just starting to see a wave of M&As, like Attensity [buying] Biz360 and Verint [buying] Vovici. The customer base has grown so rapidly that providers are behind and need to catch up," he says.

Social Media Marketing | Target Loyal Fans
Companies are continuing to learn that customers respond best to social media networks that are used as a communications channel, rather than an overt marketing tool. "

Using new tools to push the same traditional marketing message is "just a fast way to get people not to listen to you," CRM Essentials' Leary says. "If you want to be successful, you have to understand what's important to your customers and interact with them."

Marketers are wising up to the fact that customers are more likely to trust their friends than an impersonal ad when making buying decisions. As a result, savvy companies are looking for ways to help their customers share their favorite brands with their friends.

Asking customers to write positive reviews or "like" a company's Facebook page are what Ernst calls "social amplification."

"Companies are spending a lot of money on paid media campaigns—which is still important—but they're also looking at social media as a way to amplify what they're spending on those campaigns," Ernst says. "A big question that companies are working on is 'How do you amplify the messages of your happy customers?'"

After a few missteps (think Beacon, Facebook's ad platform that was terminated for violating consumers' privacy), Facebook has fine-tuned its sharing capabilities. When you "like" a company's Facebook page, you can also see who among your friends likes it too.

In addition, more brands are including a "shop" page on Facebook that looks like an online catalog with share options. If you like a dress on Express's page, for example, you can recommend it to friends and post comments about it before adding it to your shopping bag and purchasing it.

Businesses that need help identifying their most loyal customers can also turn to a social media marketing company like Zuberance.

"Every company wants brand 'lunatics,' and sites like Zuberance will help you find them and enlist them as brand advocates," Ernst says.

Intuit, the financial and tax preparation software maker, is one of Zuberance's clients. With Zuberance's help, Intuit asked satisfied customers to write reviews of what they like about Intuit's service, which the company now displays on its Web site.

"Now we realize it's not just about us sending out marketing materials, but it's also about getting people who love us to share that, and there's a lot of value in that," says Laura Messerschmitt, senior marketing manager at Intuit, in a testimonial video on Zuberance's site.

Video | Fewer Obstacles but Not Quite Perfect
Once costly, online video is becoming an increasingly easy and affordable way for companies to communicate with their audience. More videos are also being watched. According to comScore, nearly 40 million online videos were viewed in September 2011—a 28 percent increase over the previous year.

"With bandwidth getting cheaper and the proliferation of smartphones and other recording devices, video is becoming a viable way of engaging with consumers, building awareness, and driving new customer acquisitions," notes Jeff Zabin, CEO and research director of Gleanster, a market research firm. "The winners will be brands that engage their prospects in a contact-sensitive way."

Businesses concerned about producing polished content to engage their customers need only look at the viral videos on YouTube to know this is no longer necessary.

"It's not so much about the polish as it is about the meat of the content," GMR's Rasch says. "If you can answer a consumer's question or show them something new, the production quality becomes less valuable."

In addition to the growing popularity of online videos, two developing trends are the demand for videos that are compatible with mobile devices and advanced technology for tracking video analytics.
"There's going to be an exponential increase in video that is heavily weighted towards mobile in both B2B and B2C," says Nick Balletta, CEO of TalkPoint, a company that provides technology and services for interactive Webcasting and virtual meetings. "We've seen a thirty percent increase in mobile viewership over the last quarter, and it's only going to increase."

Esteban Kolsky, principal and founder of ThinkJar, remains unconvinced of video's usefulness as a marketing tool, unless it includes an effective video analytics system. "Video is still a toy for marketers," he says. "We don't have an easy way of tracking video to know how much time people are spending on it and how it translates into business. Until we can do that, video is just hype."

By themselves, these technology trends are unlikely to be groundbreaking—what is exciting is what you do with them.

Why Group Buying Is Falling Fast
Group buying and daily deals sites are losing their luster faster than the amount of time it takes to snap up a deal, according to marketers and industry experts.

Groupon, the former golden child of daily deals sites, has seen its IPO tarnished by questions about its unorthodox accounting measures, scaled-back expectations of how much money Groupon can raise, and revisions of its sales figures.

Even large companies like Facebook and Yelp have run into problems. Facebook announced it would test its own daily deals service in April 2011. Brands like the Gap, Chipotle, J.C. Penney, and Harrah's had partnered with Facebook Deals and were ready to start offering discounts through the social network.
After running Deals for just four months, Facebook shuttered it last August.

"After testing Deals for four months, we've decided to end our Deals product in the coming weeks,"
Facebook told Mashable in a statement. "We remain committed to building products to help local
businesses connect with people, like Ads, Pages, Sponsored Stories, and Check-in Deals."

>In addition, Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of the local business-review site Yelp, said in a blog post that his company was scaling back its own daily deals site and slashed its daily deals sales staff by half.

"As time goes by, group buying becomes more fragmented," Bryan Rasch, of GMR, says. "Group buying started under the idea 'I'll put in a good deal and get a lot of people interested.' But as people get hundreds [of deals], no one pays attention anymore. I think it'll just get to a point…where it's no different than getting a flyer."

CRM Essentials' Brent Leary agrees that the excitement over daily deals sites has cooled but believes there is still a place for them. "Group buying has definitely come down to earth, but it can be a good way to experiment with generating leads," he says. "You just don't want to continually go back to it, otherwise it could eat into your revenue."

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Social Media Trends for 2012

It was the year of the tablet computer, the release of Apple’s iPad II and the birth of Amazon’s Kindle Fire. It was also the year Google challenged Facebook with Google+ and caught up to Apple with the Android mobile operating system.

With such a dramatic year behind us, the question is, what next? It is always risky to make bold predictions about social media trends for the future but some things already underway should reach their full development in 2012.

1. People will get more news from friends than from major news outlets.
Social media has always been a platform for self-expression as much as a platform for staying connected to people. So as more people start their day with Facebook rather than the morning paper, they are going to encounter numerous postings on the current news, and links to articles people want their friends to see.
Those articles are more likely to be opened because they come from trusted sources. So what people post on Facebook, and to a lesser extent on Twitter, is likely to serve as the first exposure many people have to any news item.

But it isn’t only Facebook status updates that impact the news people get. Search engines, including Google, YouTube, and Facebook, now individualize their search results, ostensibly to give people what they really want to read. The result, however, is that alternative viewpoints are harder to find than ever.

2.  Content will continue to move to mobile devices.
While most of the content people consume in 2012 will continue to be created on desktop or laptop computers, an increasing percentage of it will be consumed on smart phones and tablets.
According to statistics, there are more than 200 million devices with Apple’s mobile operating system, the iOS, including all iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches on the market. But that’s just 44% of the mobile market. Hundreds of millions more mobile devices in use today that use other mobile operating systems, most notably Google’s Android.

That also means that anyone creating content today has to expect that a significant portion of the audience will be using these devices, either at home while doing other things, or on the bus or train on the way to work, or any number of other places where computers generally weren’t used in the past.

3. Social media will converge with traditional media.
Five years ago, Social media, or web 2.0 as it was then known, was viewed as a revolution in Internet communications. Today’s an indelible part of our lives.

Marketing and communications, therefore, is increasingly moving away from isolating social media campaigns from the rest of a company’s marketing efforts. Today, the savviest marketers combine social media with traditional marketing. Domino’s Pizza, for example, set up a digital billboard that featured unfiltered comments about the company from the Internet.

There are other trends to track across 2012, including the growth of “the cloud” – software that stores your documents and data on the Internet instead of on your personal computer; the growth of social shopping sites such as Groupon; and photo sharing from mobile to the Internet through sites such as Instagram.

It’s also a good idea to keep an eye open for urprises. If there is one thing that can be said with certainty about the current era, technology is advancing faster than we can track it.


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Six quick tips for integrating social media marketing into your working day

Six quick  tips for integrating social media marketing into your working day
Let's cut to the chase here. Social media isn’t going to go away anytime soon,and the opportunities for small and medium sized business to fuel rapid growth via social media marketing is enormous. But just because you are on Facebook and Twitter, it doesn’t mean you have a social media marketing strategy and in fact most companies still don’t know what to do with social media marketing.

Let’s get social
I meet with companies every day who tell me that they would like to somehow engage with social media marketing but have neither the time nor the basic knowledge to do it. While consultants and journalists are happy to showcase the successes of the likes of Dell and Coca Cola as social media success stories, these names (and their massive marketing budgets and resources) hardly even resonate with SME marketers who may be both cash and time poor.

But make no mistake, the opportunities for SMEs to profit from social media marketing are out there and often just call for slight changes to your working day to implement. Here are my six quick tips:
 1. Socialise your email marketing activity

Your email marketing subscribers, as loyal customers or prospects who have already engaged with your business, are your most lucrative market. The mere fact they have opted-in to receive regular communications of offers from you shows that they trust you and want to hear from you. By adding Social Media tools such as a Facebook “like” button or a Twitter “tweet” button to your emails will encourage them to share your email content with their friends and followers and could potentially turn an email viral.

2. Schedule your social media output

You don’t need to be sitting in front of a computer to post messages to Facebook and Twitter. Software tools are available that allow you to schedule your posts to the social media networks. This means you can plan and launch multiple campaigns to run automatically over the coming days or weeks. This is particularly useful if you are targeting customers across different time zones or just outside of normal office hours.
 3. Learn to listen

Just as you may schedule time to answer your emails, you should schedule some time to monitor or “listen” to your feedback relating to your company or brand via the Social Networks. Larger companies may want to employ sophisticated software such as Radian6 or Brandwatch – but smaller companies can keep costs down by very simply using the search facility on Twitter, monitoring their Facebook pages and setting up Google Alerts to catch mentions on blogs and forums, etc. It’s also a good idea to monitor your competitors brand terms and compare sentiment towards them with your brand.

4. Don’t be afraid to engage

There is a very good reason it is called social media. Don’t be afraid to engage with people via Social Media. Thank people for kind words or recommendations. Try and assist people who might have problems and never ignore an angry comment.

5. Add value with your own content
Too many people use Social Media to re-appropriate other people’s content. Just because you are 10th person to re-tweet and interesting news article or blog post does not mean you are a Thought Leader. Add value to your Social Media output by creating your own content. This could be a blog post, a competition or even just a simple photo or image which showcases your business.

6. Maintain momentum

Once you have started, don’t stop. An ill-tended or redundant social network gives the impression of a slack organisation or may even suggest you have simply gone out of business. It might take a number of months to see any real return on your investment (in terms of followers and revenue) so stick at it and be prepared to build slowly.


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Optimizing Mobile Marketing To Deliver The Ultimate Customer Experience

Let’s face it: today’s consumers — myself included — are obsessed with their mobile phones. In fact, recent research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project has indicated that 65% of adult smartphone owners sleep with their phone on or next to their bed.

The cutting-edge features of smartphones such as the iPhone and Android are great contributors to this evolution. From the instant communication of short message service (SMS), to the media-rich experiences in applications and the robust, yet compact, Internet experience of mobile web, smartphone technology seems to have it all. To that end, innovative retailers are leveraging mobile marketing strategies to interact with tech-savvy shoppers in the new era of customer engagement.

One of my recent retail experiences spotlights the potential impact of an effective mobile marketing strategy. Since I was in need of new furniture, I decided to search for the best deal during the red tag sales of Columbus Day. After conducting extensive research via my iPhone, I discovered that JCPenney carried the exact furniture style I was looking for, at the right price. Upon completing my purchase, I opened a JCPenney credit card, signed up for the rewards program, and opted in to the retailer’s email and SMS programs so I could be alerted when my bill was available and when I was eligible for deals.

A day after opting in, I received a “thank you” text and email, and a coupon for a future purchase. This retailer has hit all the touch points of the shopping process, securing me as a new customer and motivating me to consider additional purchases.

Although my personal shopping experience shows the power of mobility on an individual basis, the recent Retail TouchPoints Mobility Report drives these points home on an industry level. In the report, retail analysts and experts identified the customer-facing benefits of SMS, applications, quick response (QR) codes and geo-fencing strategies. Based on consumers’ position across the buying lifecycle, retailers can find the perfect message and channel to boost engagement. Some examples follow:

-SMS: Similar to my JCPenney experience, shoppers have “raised their hands” via SMS to receive news updates and specials directly in their text message inbox. Retailers such as Urban Outfitters, eBay and Victoria’s Secret have optimized this strategy by tapping into shopper history and preferences to send relevant, targeted messages.

-Applications: Mobile storefronts have changed the way shoppers browse, buy and interact with brands. Retailers including Sephora have set the bar high by creating a multi-media brand experience with videos, tutorials, customer ratings and reviews, and social media integration.

-Geo-location apps/geo-fencing: Applications such as foursquare have taken the mobile marketplace by storm. These programs turn everyday experiences into a game by promising check-in points, badges, offers and the greatest honor of all: to become the mayor of a location. When I enter a restaurant or store, I am anxious to check in and find out how many points I have earned. Retailers can take advantage of this “gamified” strategy to drive foot traffic. However, geo-fencing is moving to the forefront as a new way for retailers to push out digital coupons when a shopper is in a store aisle. The goals of this strategy are twofold: boost impulse purchases and increase basket size.

-QR Codes: These scannable codes allow retailers to connect the dots between print and digital marketing. For example, Crate and Barrel, Best Buy, and Macy’s have leveraged QR codes on in-store signage, catalogs and print advertisements. Once shoppers scan a code, they can obtain detailed product information, access to deals, and behind-the-scenes videos.

With the holiday season in full force, I find myself struggling to make the time to buy gifts for my friends and family. However, by simply tapping into my iPhone, I have the resources to research items, purchase gifts, redeem deals and share my wish list. Looks like it will be a jolly holiday, after all.

To learn more about the latest mobility trends, click here to download a complimentary copy of the Retail TouchPoints Mobility Report.

*Alicia Fiorletta is Associate Editor for Retail TouchPoints. Working closely with industry analysts and experts, Alicia reports on the latest news, case studies and trends coming to forefront in the retail industry. With a focus on cross-channel strategies, Alicia follows consumer-driven applications in the industry that increase brand loyalty and shopper engagement in-store and online. Through her work with G3 Communications, Alicia also acts as Managing Editor for Channel Marketer Report, a blog that spotlights new marketing strategies, research and news within the channel. 


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