Thank you very much for that very kind introduction … Today, I would like to chat with you about social media… and the tremendous VALUE it can have for companies who incorporate it into their daily business operations.
To get started, let me take a moment to introduce IGLOO Software to you. The company was founded almost 2 years ago… and our goal is to help organizations of any size to leverage the power of social software in their organizations to improve employee productivity and overall business performance. Currently, we have over 500 customers around the world using our online community technology platform… from government and educational institutions to large corporations and not for profits. I am also very proud to say that we are a Kitchener-based start up backed by RBC… the largest bank in Canada and that Jim Balsillie, Co-CEO of RIM is the chairman of our board.
Before we begin … let me provide a little context. I think we all forget how much the Internet has changed our lives over the past 15 years or so - both from a social and business perspective. It is changing the way we work… and the way we live. Some believe… it is becoming as important as the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe. I know… it sounds a little over the top… doesn’t it? Well… maybe not?? According to a recent study… a leading research firm asked Canadians what they were willing to give up in these tough economic times… people responded by saying that they would brown bag it work; give up their second car and even give up TV… but the one thing they were not willing to give up… was their internet connection.
Currently we are in a phase … which the experts call Web 2.0. This market has absolutely exploded over the last couple of years… creating a ton of noise, hype and confusion in this space. It’s hard to believe that there are over 300 different consumer web 2.0 tools and applications available on the market today. The question everyone is asking is … how did they become so successful? Well… for me three things jump to mind… they are all very EASY to USE… they all FREE … and they allow us to PUBLISH, SHARE and NETWORK like no application before… from almost anywhere in the world.
Out of all the confusion and noise... one web 2.0 tool has quickly emerged as the new “Killer App” - online social software. The social software space went mainstream in 2007… led by the popularity of leading consumer-based social networking tools like mySpace, Facebook and Linked-In. What they did was absolutely brilliant – they simply tapped into human nature and our need to socialize and offered us FREE, easy to use tools to connect, network and share with almost anyone in the world who has an internet connection. Pretty darn smart… don’t you think? It’s hard to argue with success… with over 300 million people today using social software sites to share pictures, upload videos, comment on issues and socialize with friends, family and colleagues. Even Microsoft couldn’t ignore it… paying approximately $240 million dollars for less than 2% ownership in Facebook in October 2007. That put Facebook’s valuation at the time at a whopping $15 billion dollars!!!
With such HUGE success in the consumer space… business leaders around the world are now frantically trying to figure out how to capitalize on this new phenomenon and apply it within their organizations. The BIG question for most executives is… What is the business value of Social Software? For me… the answer is simple. Social software is all about creating connections, interactions and transparency… between the people, the information and processes which drive your daily business operations. Social software puts the focus on your most important business asset – your people. From the executives on the top floor… right down to those who are working on your shop floor. It’s all about people… just like you and me… and empowering them to interact and around specific interests, expertise and their daily work activities. It is quickly becoming big business… with Forrester and many other leading industry analysts predicting the market to exceed 4.6 billion dollars by 2013.
It think it makes perfect sense… as… Companies don’t build products, do deals or make service calls… People Do!! By embracing social software in the workplace, companies can start to facilitate, promote and even reward social interactions that drive business activity for your company. This new behaviour can also start to shift the focus of your management teams away from being gatekeepers… to that of enablers… helping your workforce to build relationships, share knowledge and solve business problems that lead to increased business flow and financial transactions. When you think of social business software… think about improving business performance.
But… as we all know… managing people - stakeholders, partners, customers, students, members, or employees - can be hard… sometimes extremely hard. This is because each individual in your organization is different… in their views, skills, experiences, beliefs and behaviours. And in most cases… your employees don’t work alone… they work on teams and collaborate with others in your company to complete their daily business tasks. And finally… our work habits are changing… no longer is our job a 9 to 5 activity… we’re fuelled by unlimited access to broadband and wireless internet connectivity… this enables us to work from home, on the road… and from almost anywhere in the world… at anytime… 24/7 !
So… if managing people is hard… managing teams is even harder. As you know… dealing with group dynamics is never easy… and it gets even more difficult when dealing with teams that are: Cross functional Work across time zones Vary in their cultural makeup or Have huge generational gaps between team members. It gets even more challenging when team members are constantly on the road – and never in the office. Many business owners would be surprised at how many of their employees have actually never met... “face to face” with many of the team members they work with on a daily basis.
But… most difficult of all is trying to manage a successful company without… …the right tools; …the right people and of course; …the right culture. Many organizations today… still struggle with isolated knowledge workers, a limited understanding of organizational expertise and lack a set of accepted best practices. Information barriers hamper productivity, decrease employee awareness and cripple the pace of innovation by duplicating efforts. Do any of these captions look familiar to you in your organization?
Adopting and implementing social software for business purposes is not a big leap - as social networking is not a new concept in the business world. We as business users have been networking for decades... long before anyone had ever heard of Facebook or Linked-In. From telephone conversations to face to face meetings to the business conversations we have in the hallway or after work. All of these are all early forms of social networking in the workplace and are still being used today. But... the #1 business social networking tool by far is email. With over 90 billion emails sent daily... it is clearly the #1 tool of choice of most business users. Our dependency on email as our primary business collaboration, knowledge sharing and networking tool has become a huge problem for not only us... but the company’s we work for. Did You Know... that the average knowledge worker wastes almost 20% of their day responding, managing and organizing their email?
Many companies… are now starting to adopt web 2.0 social software solutions @ work… in an effort to minimize their dependency on email and provide more transparency on what is happening in their company on a daily basis. We are seeing two distinct categories of social software solutions emerging in the business space — something we call… workplace and marketplace communities. Workplace Communities are internally focused social networks… and are being used to connect the entire workforce across geographically dispersed project teams, departments and business units. Companies set up workplace communities to improve productivity, build corporate capacity and drive employee engagement. Marketplace Communities on the other hand are externally focused… and used to extend collaboration, knowledge sharing and networking beyond the corporate firewall to key stakeholder groups such as customers, partners, suppliers and alumni networks. Simply put… companies are adopting social software solutions like IGLOO in an effort to build corporate capacity by leveraging the talent; the knowledge and the relationships that already exist in their companies today… inside and out…using a web 2.0 approach… an approach that is bottom up, cost effective and fast to deploy.
I would like to take a moment to illustrate how my company… IGLOO Software is using social software to improve corporate capacity and business performance. We have implemented both workplace and marketplace communities … and use our technology to power our external corporate website; our customer care community; our partner portal; the Community PLAYBOOK; our Developer API community… and many more. We also have created a private workplace community for our employees called “Inside the IGLOO”… which you see on the screen now. Employees can login at anytime and are directed to the “Daily Pulse Page” . From here, they can quickly discover what’s new in the company… from new employee hires to customer wins to upcoming events… they can also participate in employee conversations, read blog posts or go directly to their specific departmental team room. And better yet… all of this vital corporate knowledge and interactions can be accessed using a standard web browser; their mobile device or their favorite desktop applications. As new content is added to Inside the IGLOO, employees are notified based on their personal subscription settings… thus ensuring they are always up to date on what is happening in the company. To me… this speaks directly to the business value of social software… and is summed up nicely by a quote from Lou Platt, former CEO of HP… If HP knew what HP knows… we would be 300% more productive.
But… we didn’t stop there… Every employee at IGLOO Software has their own personal profile. All employee profiles are displayed in the corporate member directory with employees being organized by role, teams and/or groups that they belong to. Employees can use their personal profile to share individual interests, skills, experience and expertise with other employees throughout the company. Employees can also create connections… just like Linked-In with other staff members. This enables individuals to build important business relationships or connections across teams, departments and/or time zones. Employees leverage these connections in numerous ways in their daily business activities… from soliciting expert advice to providing timely support to helping their peers solve a difficult business problem.
And Finally… as you would expect… we leverage as much as we can… consumer social media sites like Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter to help promote our products and services over the web. For example, we regularly upload informational video’s to YouTube; we Twitter or Tweet about new product releases and customer wins; we upload PowerPoint Presentations to SlideShare; we have created group spaces on both Facebook and Linked-In; and work closely with expert bloggers in our space… in an effort to create external champions and advocacy for our company. We also run targeted advertising on Google and leading business internet sites… for example… over the 6 months… our small company has had over 55 million impressions from our online ads… which has significantly helped us to create tremendous brand awareness in our space… as well as drive significant traffic to our corporate web site. I’ll speak more specifically to social media marketing and use cases shortly…
I would like to conclude my talk this morning… by providing you with just a couple of examples of how some of our customers are using social software in their business operations.
The BlackBerry Partners Fund is a $150 million venture capital fund focused on financing companies who are building applications for the BlackBerry® device developed by RIM. The Fund is co-managed by JLA Ventures and RBC Venture Partners. The fund managers wanted to create an interactive online environment which could be used to: Promote the fund online to potential mobile application companies Coordinate developer challenges online… these are cash based incentive programs for the most innovative mobile application ideas and To have a secure area for coordinating incoming portfolio applications and managing all existing portfolio investments.
Motorola wanted to create a more sophisticated, secure and flexible way to interact and connect with over 100 different user group communities throughout the world. The ultimate goal for their online network is to create product evangelists, build loyalty and drive new product innovations for all of their existing product lines. Within the Motorola User Community, members can quickly and easily: Join and participate in different regional and product related user group sub communities Provide “real time” feedback on existing product lines directly to Motorola Product Managers via online forums Create personal connections with other user group members who have similar product interests and expertise They can actively volunteer their time to test new emerging products from Motorola – and be incented for their efforts And finally… members can coordinate, manage and promote all of the upcoming user group meetings online
Brenda Halloran, the Mayor of Waterloo came to IGLOO Software looking to create an online community where she and her office staff could offer a platform for open dialogue with the citizens of Waterloo regarding issues facing the city. Citizens can go to the community and discover upcoming events Brenda is attending; they can comment on blogs from her staff and learn about initiatives that Brenda is involved in…. such as the Intelligent Communities Forum. We are actually seeing more and more levels of government adopting online social software solutions to drive fund raising, advocacy, transparency.
Measuring Return on Investment
Return on Investment (ROI) for social software solutions and online communities cannot be calculated by measuring monetization; as it is almost impossible to put a financial value on improved social interactions and knowledge sharing. A better metric is to measure the incremental value an online community solution brings to your organization.
Here are some business results you can measure: * Do you get new products and services to market—faster? * Are there resulting cost reductions in existing business units because of improved processes and access to information? * Has the community improved knowledge sharing (i.e. best practices and tools that improve the quality of processes, products or services)? * Are you better connected to your customers, partners and suppliers? Are they more satisfied? Has your retention improved? Are they more informed? * Have knowledge, resource and expertise sharing accelerated the rate of innovation across your organization? Are your employees generating new product or service improvement ideas? * Employee satisfaction and motivation, has it improved? Have your employee retention rates gone up? Are more people applying for jobs? Have the number of sick days gone down?
Here are some great stats: 1. Community users remain customers 50% longer than non-community users. (AT&T, 2002) 2. 43% of support forums visits are in lieu of opening up a support case. (Cisco, 2004) 3. Community users spend 54% more than non-community users (EBay, 2006) 4. In customer support, live interaction costs 87% more per transaction on average than forums and other web self-service options. (ASP, 2002) 5. Cost per interaction in customers support averages $12 via the contact center versus $0.25 via self-service options. (Forrester, 2006) 6. Community users visit nine times more often than non-community users (McKInsey, 2000) 7. Community users have four times as many page views as non-community users (McKInsey, 2000) 8. 56% percent of online community members log in once a day or more (Annenberg, 2007) 9. Customers report good experiences in forums more than twice as often as they do via calls or mail. (Jupiter, 2006) Source: Maggie Fox from the Social Media Group
Social media is a phrase being tossed around a lot these days, but it can sometimes be difficult to answer the question of what is social media. If MySpace and Facebook are a social media sites, and Magnolia is a social media site, and Wikipedia is a social media site, then just what is social media? Is it social networking? Is it social bookmarking? Is it wiki? What is Social Media? The best way to define social media is to break it down. Media is an instrument on communication, like a newspaper or a radio, so social media would be a social instrument of communication. In Web 2.0 terms, this would be a website that doesn&apos;t just give you information, but interacts with you while giving you that information. This interaction can be as simple as asking for your comments or letting you vote on an article, or it can be as complex as Flixster recommending movies to you based on the ratings of other people with similar interests. Think of regular media as a one-way street where you can read a newspaper or listen to a report on television, but you have very limited ability to give your thoughts on the matter. Social media, on the other hand, is a two-way street that gives you the ability to communicate too.
Do you think Social Media is a phase and you can sit the social networking craze out? Consider the following statistics. Let’s use Facebook as an example of a social media site…popular by today’s standards right?… * Facebook is one of the largest social media sites on the web: * More than 200 million active users * More than 100 million users log on to Facebook at least once each day * More than two-thirds of Facebook users are outside of college * The fastest growing demographic is 35 and older And their users are very active: * Average user has 120 friends on the site * More than 4 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day * More than 30 million users update their statuses daily * More than 6 million users become fans of Pages each day Okay – now let’s go beyond Facebook to a collection of Social Media sites: According to the online competitive intelligence service Compete.com, social media growth continues to skyrocket. • The top three social networks—Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn—collectively received more than 2.5 billion visits in the month of September 2009 alone. Twitter grew by more than 600% in 2009, while Facebook grew by 210% and LinkedIn by 85%. • Google and Yahoo are the only websites that receive more daily traffic than Facebook. Current trends suggest that may not last much longer. • In fact, if Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest. • The most recent count of blogs being indexed by Technorati currently stands at 133 million. The same report also revealed that, on average, 900,000 blog posts are created within a single 24-hour period. • It’s been reported that YouTube served more than 75 billion video streams to around 375 million unique visitors during 2009. • The online photo sharing site Flickr now hosts more than 3.6 billion user images. • The online bookmarking service Delicious has more than 5 million users and more than 150 million unique bookmarked URLs. How many marketing dollars would you need to spend to reach this range of audience on a daily basis with traditional marketing campaigns? Your only investment is time and ideas…
1.Your customers don’t want to be your friend If you’re Apple, Nike, or anything made with bacon, this presentation has little value and you stopped listening to me a long time ago… If your not a major brand, you need to recognize that your customers are probably not desperately trying to connect with your brand in social media. As a marketer, I’m trained to “see” brands and how they compete for our attention. Like a gold digger with a nose for AMEX, we’re disproportionately aware of opportunities and circumstances that could be used to create a communications advantage. Your customers are not. They aren’t marketers, and typically they don’t spend time thinking about how they can advocate on behalf of your company. 2. This leads to what I call the “Single, Non-Smoking Company Seeks Companion for Laughs, Maybe More” Your customers don’t innately want to follow your company or Twitter or friend you on Facebook, or read your blog, or watch your videos. There’s mountains of great content online unencumbered by a corporate dynamic. Thus, embracing your company and it’s content is not a high priority. Your job as a modern ‘social’ marketer then is not to “target” or “communicate” or even “persuade.” Your job is to create rationales. 3. So Now Answer the question of WHY. Why would a customer want to connect with your company online? What’s the benefit? How does doing so provide value, or helpfulness, or enjoyment? You must make the case to the customer that by NOT connecting with you, they are missing out on something of value. And you have to deliver on that promise. Socially-enabled marketing finally fulfills the promise that the Web itself once trumpeted. It truly is the great equalizer. Succeeding in social media isn’t about company size, or company type, or company history, or resources, or geography. But it is about rationale. The companies that can create a compelling reason for their customers to connect will succeed on the social Web. And those that don’t put the necessary emphasis on helpfulness and relevancy will fail. 4. Lastly, If Your Mom Isn’t Stoked, Your Customers Certainly Won’t Be Sounds crazy but honestly do this. The next time you have some sort of social media idea – a lure or a hook that you believe will get your customers excited and friending you like mad on Facebook, take a step back. Call your Mom (or anyone else that believes in you disproportionately). Ask her to rate on a scale of 1-10 how excited your whiz bang idea makes her. If it’s less than 8, try again. You’ve failed the rationale test.
Most small-business owners should look at the following progression or hierarchy as they move deeper into social-marketing tactics. So, jump in, but do it in this order and don’t move on until you have the basics of each stage down and working for you. 1) Blogging: The foundation of the pyramid. Read blogs, comment on blogs, and then blog. This is the doorway to all other social marketing. 2 RSS: Aggregate and filter content around subjects and use RSS technology as a tool to help you repurpose, republish, and create content. 3) Social Search: This is often ignored in this discussion, but I think it’s become very important for small-business owners. You can participate and should stimulate and manage your reputation here. 4) Social Bookmarking: Tagging content to and participating in social bookmarking communities can be a great way to open up more channels to your business as well as generate extra search traffic. But it takes work. Social Networks: Branching out to take advantage of the numbers of potential prospects that you might find in sites such as Facebook or MySpace will frustrate, at least as a business tool, if you don’t have many of the above needs met. These networks take time to understand and thrive on ideas and content. You’ve got to have much to share if you wish to build a business case. 6) Micro: Platforms such as Twitter, Thwirl, Plurk, and FriendFeed have become a very important part of the social media mix as they allow for quick tracking, joining, and engagement. However, they still reside at the top of the pyramid because without content, such as that created on a blog, the engagement on Twitter may not go very deep.
Not long ago, social media seemed so new and different that it was treated as an appendage of sorts—a kind of marketing that should be tried only by “experts.” While that view still exists to some degree today, it’s become clear to many that social media is no longer marketing’s new thing. It’s now simply part of the way we do business today. I believe that the proper way to view social media from a small-business owner’s point of view is as more of an evolution than a revolution as we just reviewed on my suggestions of “where to start’. Traditional marketing tactics such as advertising, referrals, and public relations are still very important, but social media tactics have now become a part of everyday marketing’s fabric and need to be considered at the strategic level of your business and marketing decision-making process. So, rather than asking yourself if you should or should not use Facebook or Twitter, the question is: “How can Facebook and Twitter help you achieve your marketing objectives?” It’s the same as asking how direct mail or having two more salespeople might fit into the plans. It’s important to have a social media strategy attached when you start —or you’ll find yourself running around in circles and left with a sense that all this online networking stuff is a big fat waste of time. I think the best way to look at social media is to view it as a way to open up new access points. These points can then be leveraged to create content, context, connection, and community. Do that well, and they can also add to lead generation, nurturing, and conversion. And that’s the payoff of social media. But get the order wrong, get the interaction wrong, get the participation wrong—and you may never see much return on the time you invest. Social media conversations are just that—open, honest, transparent conversations, not sales pitches or shouting festivals.
So regardless of where your business exists today with regards to your social media strategy – consider the following 5 tips for how to get more from social media: Integrate: Don’t treat your social media activity as something separate from your other marketing initiatives. Feature links to your social media profiles in your email signature, on your business cards, in your ads, and as a standard block of copy in your weekly HTML email newsletter. In addition, make sure that links to your educational content are featured prominently in your social media profiles and that Facebook fan page visitors and blog subscribers are offered the opportunity to subscribe to your newsletter and attend your online and offline events. Make your social media profiles a part of your address copy block and you will soon see adding them to all that you do as an automatic action. Amplify: Use your social media activity to create awareness for and amplify your content housed in other places. This can go for teasing some aspect of your latest blog post on Twitter or in your Facebook status, creating full-blown events on Eventful or Meetup, or pointing to mentions of your firm in the media. If you publish a biweekly newsletter, in addition to sending it to your subscribers, archive it online and Tweet about it too. You can also add social features to your newsletter to make it very easy for others to retweet (tweetmeme button) and share on social bookmark sites such as Delicious and digg. I would also add that filtering other people’s great content and pointing this out to your followers, fans, and subscribers fits into this category, as it builds your overall reputation for good content sharing and helps to buffer the notion that you are simply broadcasting your announcements. Quality over quantity always wins in social media marketing. Repurpose: Taking content that appears in one form and twisting it in ways that make it more available in another, or to another audience, is one of the secrets to success in the hyper info-driven marketing world in which we find ourselves. When you hold an event to present information, you can promote the event in various social media networks and then capture that event and post the audio to your podcast, slides to SlideShare, and transcript (I use CastingWords for this) as a free report for download. You can string five blog posts together and make them available as a workshop handout or a bonus for your LinkedIn group. Never look at any content as a single use, single medium, single act. Generate leads: So many people want to generate leads in the wide world of social media, but can’t seem to understand how or have met with downright hostile reactions when trying. Effectively generating leads from social media marketing is really no different than effectively generating leads anywhere—it’s just that the care you must take to do it right is amplified by the “no selling allowed” culture. No one likes to be sold to in any environment—the trick is to let them buy—and this is even more important in social media. To generate leads through social media marketing, you need to view your activity on social sites like an effective headline for an ad—the purpose of the headline is not to sell, but to engage and build, know, like, and trust. One glaring exception to this softer approach for some folks is Twitter search. I believe you can use Twitter search to locate people in your area who are asking for solutions and complaining about problems you can solve and reach out to them directly with a bit of a solution pitch. People who are talking publicly about needing something are offering a form of permission and can be approached as more of a warmed lead. The same can also be said for LinkedIn Answers. Learn - One of the hangups I frequently encounter from people just trying to get started in social media marketing is the paralysis formed when they stare blankly at Twitter, wondering what in the world to say. The pressure to fill the silence can be so overwhelming that they eventually succumb and tweet what they had for lunch. If you find yourself in this camp, I’m going to let you off the hook—you don’t have to say anything to get tremendous benefit from social media participation. If I did nothing more than listen and occasionally respond when directly engaged, I would derive tremendous benefit from that level of participation. In fact, if you are just getting started, this is what you should do before you ever open your 140-character mouth. Set up an RSS reader and subscribe to blogs, visit social bookmarking sites such as BizSugar, and Delicious and read what’s popular. Create custom Twitter searches for your brand, your competitors, and your industry, and closely follow people on Twitter who have a reputation for putting out great content. And then just listen and learn. If you do only this, you will be much smarter about your business and industry than most and you may eventually gain the knowledge and confidence to tap the full range of what’s possible in the wild and wacky world of social media marketing.
Many small-business owners still think they can take a pass on the power of online social media tools, particularly if they reside in seemingly low-tech industries such as plumbing, fishing, or lawyering. I want to share a great case study about a fellow named Jason Brown, 23-year-old cofounder of Brown Lures. That’s right, they sell fishing lures to guys and gals that probably don’t call hanging out at Web 2.0 conferences a good time. (I’m just guessing on that though.) Brown credits his blog with changing the way people find him. He created a podcast that gives him great “fishing stories” and loyalty from guides up and down the Gulf Coast, he uses RSS and content tagging to automatically produce fresh blog content, and email marketing to blow his competition away at trade shows. Using social media in industries that are still slow to adopt it is the killer competitive advantage. In Brown’s words: “We have been running waiting lists for products for about a year now, and no one has any clue how we are doing it without spending big advertising money. I love this stuff . . .” Lesson? If you boss says “We don’t need no stinkin’ social media, we just need more sales.” – prove them wrong!
One of the hardest challenges for many people just entering the world of social media is to determine how to accomplish the seemingly endless list of new tasks that they find themselves asked to complete. Participating fully in social media as a business and marketing strategy requires discipline, automation routines, and a daily commitment. Now, you’ve got to balance that with the fact that much of your activity is about building long-term momentum and deeper networks, and that doesn’t always make the cash register ring today. This is an example of an automated advanced routine (remember our pyramid for getting started in the world of social media) and may provide some insight into how you can best integrate your social media activity into your overall marketing plan. Twice daily • Check Twitter via TweetDeck—preset searches for @&lt;yourhandle&gt;, &lt;your full name&gt;, and &lt;your company name&gt; — respond as appropriate, follow some @replies that seem appropriate. • Scan MyBlogLog—I obsess over traffic, but this reveals trending links and stumble surges in real time so I can react if appropriate. • Respond to comments on my blog.
Daily • Write a blog post—RSS subs get it, Twitter tools sends to Twitter, Facebook gets it, FriendFeed updates • Scan Twitter followers for relevant conversations to join • Scan Google Reader subscriptions to read and stimulate ideas • Share Google Reader faves—these publish to Facebook and you can subscribe • FleckTweet any blog pages from my subscriptions that I love—this goes to Twitter • Bookmark any blog pages from my subscriptions that I love—delicious using Firefox plug-in for right-click posting—this goes to FriendFeed • Stumble any blog pages from my subscriptions that I love—this goes to Facebook and FriendFeed • Scan Google Alerts for name, brand, and products—in Google Reader as RSS feed— respond as appropriate • Add comments to blogs as appropriate—mostly response types—Google Reader and BackType
Weekly (end) • Scan LinkedIn Questions from my network and respond when appropriate • Scan delicious, digg, and mixx popular and select bookmarks for content ideas and trending topics • Consciously add comments to conversations I want to join—hot topic focused • Join one Twitter hot trend conversation if appropriate—search.Twitter.com shows these in real time Set your system up and work it, day in and day out—whatever that means for you. You will then start to understand the vital role that social media can play in your overall marketing strategy. Good luck managing the beast and remember the best place to start is by reading and following other blogs and eventually commenting, then blogging yourself.
Whether you are a small, medium or large business, size does not matter when it comes to measuring social media return on investment. In fact, if you&apos;re a &apos;mom & pop&apos; shop or on the Fortune 500, if you&apos;re using social media to improve your business then you are really not that different at all. The scale might change and one might require more staff to undertake the necessary work, but at its most basic, measuring social media ROI for a large corporation is not much different than a small business. Many people understand the inherent value of social media, however, they get stuck on how to measure its effectiveness for business growth and increasing sales. The easiest way to know if your efforts are being effective, or not, is to ask yourself (and be honest) these simple questions, &quot;Are there more customers now than before I started using SM? Is the business selling more product or services?&quot; Unfortunately, for those who have a boss that they need to answer to, this measurement technique is probably as helpful for your social media career as telling your superior that you saw the Loch Ness Monster on your ride to work. The truth is, social media has to bring measurable results, and I don&apos;t think that quantifying what&apos;s working needs to be all that complicated. Step 1 – Goals - Some common answers to the &apos;goals&apos; question include; increased brand awareness, sell more product, gain new customers, make the front page of Google, etc. Be specific to your original business plan – is it to fill more rooms in a B&B, Promote your location as a tourist destination or rank well in search engines? Step 2: The Plan - How will the goals be achieved? - The social media plan is built upon your goals from Step 1. Your plan will be tailored to your business, either large or small, and might include a blog, YouTube video, forum participation and interaction on Twitter and FaceBook. You can find templates and examples of sm plans on the internet. Step 3: Implementation & Execution - It is now time to put that plan into action. - Consistency is the key! And try not to fall into the trap of thinking, heck I created a Twitter account, Facebook page, and even a blog with one whole entry NOW where&apos;s my damn customers. For small to medium businesses, I like to think that it takes a good three to six months of hard work before any benefits are witnessed. If you are in a heavily competitive market you might be looking a one-year before you notice any results. Also, if you work for a large company (i.e. where you have a boss to report to), social media has to be part of the overall business plan and strategy and it must have buy in at all levels. Or else, you are setting yourself up to fail. Step 4: Measuring results - you have put in the required time and effort, now what? - All right, you have been going gangbusters for months, being helpful on forums and writing killer blog content. When IGLOO reached this stage, I&apos;ll admit, we were stuck scratching our heads. But then we really thought about the question, &quot;What are the measurable results that we can glean from our goals?&quot; If you are a small biz owner, large corporation, or consultant then you need to spend some time thinking about that question. The answers that we came up with: How are people hearing about my business? Which of my efforts are bringing the most traffic (blog, forums, etc)? Am I attracting the right people, e.g. when they get here are they happy? Based on my social media efforts, are we selling more product? What are the hard sales numbers? You need to ask: Why are they coming to you? How are they getting there, through which social media avenues? Are you closing a sale? Where did your customers hear about you? Step 4: Revisit/Refine/Redeploy - you&apos;ve gathered information now it&apos;s time to look at what&apos;s working and what isn&apos;t. - Every couple of months you should review your measured results and determine what you might be doing well, where the majority of your customers are coming from, and where you need to improve. You need to keep in mind that some elements of social media are just not going to be measurable or that results might take years to realize.
I’ll close with a final case study of a small business using Twitter – they became the ‘Purple Cow’ and doubled their clientele: When J.R. Cohen, Operations Manager for CoffeeGroundz (@coffeegroundz) Cafe in Houston, Texas first heard about Twitter from one of his customers, he was puzzled but intrigued. Today, he credits Twitter with almost doubling his clientele and with opening his eyes to a whole new way to build Community. Shortly after joining Twitter, Cohen started following members of the local Houston, TX Twitterati and in no time had amassed over 1000 followers. Cohen is a naturally charismatic, giving, and friendly guy - traits that make him a natural on a network like Twitter. On October 31st, 2008 Sean Stoner (@maslowbeer) was hungry. As a regular customer at CoffeeGroundz he sent the following Twitter to Cohen &lt;click to change image&gt; Cohen quickly replied and Sean went through the drive-thru at CoffeeGroundz to pick up his burrito. This simple exchange got a lot of coverage on Twitter and was hailed as potentially the first time that Twitter had ever been used to place a To-Go Order. Seeing an opportunity, Cohen started taking to-go orders via direct message from any of his Twitter Clientele. CoffeeGroundz offers free Wi-Fi, plenty of outlets, and they serve beer and wine - making it a cross between a Coffee House and a Lounge. Today, customers can order beverages and tasty bites from the comfort of their seat using Direct Messages to @coffeegroundz. How cool is that? You don’t even have to stop working to walk to the counter and order a coffee. &lt;click to change image&gt; Recently, CoffeeGroundz was the venue for a Houston Tweetup that Cohen nicknamed “The Great Twitter Party”. Nearly 100 Houston Twitterites spent a lovely Sunday afternoon there at the largest Houston Tweetup to date. And did I mention that they bought lots of food and beverages? So the next time someone tells you that you can’t make money from Twitter, tell them to think again!
Finding the Business Value in Social Software and Social Media