A funny thing happening on the way towards widespread adoption of social media marketing: The use of global social networks as traditional publishing — and hence brand marketing — platforms was rightly perceived as a fairly limited way to connect with and gain the trusted, meaningful engagement of customers and prospects.
By now, everyone has heard that social media is an intrinsically different medium, and indeed, it is more involving, demanding, and harder to control than traditional media. In short, after years of declining results in old channels, companies have finally come to terms with the fact they must fundamentally rethink how they connect with the marketplace.
In the last couple of years, companies have increasingly sought out so-called ‘genuine’ and ‘authentic’ new ways of reaching out to, conversing with, and otherwise collaborating together in useful ways with those on social media on topics of mutual interest, namely the products and services that they provide. This has led to countless experiments in adapting social media to the marketing function in our organizations, while also living up to both the standards (and expectations) of the new social channels.
The question has always been, however, how to best use social media with the least cynicism and the greatest effect to truly engage with the marketplace, while having measurable and cost effective business impact. While the short term goal of such activity might be driving new transactions (sales and other outcomes), the long term goal is to partner with and co-create the best joint outcomes. This includes producing better products, ensuring they are supported well, and more prosaic yet very valuable results such as increasing margins and reducing time to sale.
Over the last several years, we’ve started to see a new trend clearly emerge from leading social businesses: Companies dealing with the realization that they have limited — and relatively untrusted — amounts of social capital in their possession. Certainly, a few companies are doing extremely well in this regard, but the total level of reach in social media of even most large brands is relatively limited.
Yet those very same companies also have legions of interested parties who do have — at least collectively — a tremendous amount of social capital that they just might be willing to employ for mutual benefit. If only they had guidance on how best to do it.
In short, savvy companies can strategically enlist their workforce, business partners, supply chain, customers, and other interested stakeholders to become advocates, if the right motivation exists. Now, while I observed recently that the environment for advocacy in social media has grown increasingly favorable, and the infrastructure, techniques, and management processes have moved beyond early experimentaton, we really haven’t talked about specific examples of successful social media advocacy programs. In other words, is there actually good evidence that advocacy works and is happening?
Fortunately, the lack of good examples of social advocacy programs is no longer the issue. In fact, we find they are starting to thrive in many industries, even while the exact result and approach remain relatively varied, usually a sign of early days. For now, the advocacy programs that exist currently are largely focused on the constituency that companies have the most direct influence over, namely employees, though certainly we know of good examples across the constituency spectrum.
Further Reading: How to accelerate social business using employee advocates
In terms of trust and predictability, employees make a good ‘starter’ group for companies to get up to speed on creating an advocate program. Employees obviously have a vested interest in furthering the goals of the company, and their alignment with the organization’s interests and objectives is presumably (though certainly not always) why they are employed there.
Here are a breakdown of some of the advocacy programs — many current, and some past — that leading enterprises have engaged in:
Note, that these examples are tech heavy, as we often see with social media. Fortunately, we are now seeing more traditional companies try their hand at advocacy programs now. Also, there is a good mix of B2B and B2C stories when it comes to employee advocacy which is encouraging.
Up next, I will explore good examples of social media advocacy programs with business partners, customers, and even supply chains.
Further Reading: How to inspire employee advocacy
Last year Facebook launched enhanced post targeting which enabled Page owners to target posts based on gender, relationship status, educational status, interested in, age, location and language. Although these don’t provide the psychographic precision of Facebook Ads, the demographic targeting can provide additional untapped value. In this post i’ll show how you can use these features and share some considerations to keep in mind.
How does it work?
There are two ways to control who sees your posts:
- You can either limit your post’s audience so only certain people will be able to see it;
- Or you can add news feed targeting to optimize your post’s reach
When you target a post it is visible to the target audience in their news feeds and to everyone on your Fan Page. So people who weren’t targeted by your post will see it when they visit your Page (unless you hide the post from your timeline). When limiting the audience of a post, this post will only be seen by the audience that it was intended for in both the newsfeed and on your Page. Even if people share your Page’s post with friends, only friends in the audience that you’ve chosen will be able to see it.
Here’s a handy table:
Targeting your posts:
Limiting your post’s audience:
Who’s doing it?
A quick search of some large Pages reveals that not all brands are targeting their posts (bearing in mind that limited posts might not be visible). You can see when a post is targeted by checking next to the date of the post. If a post has a globe, it means that the post is public. If it has a cog next to it, the post has been targeted to a specific audience.
Rihanna, with more than 70m fans, targets certain posts to fans when it’s relevant for people in that area, e.g. when tickets to local shows are given away. Youtube (75m) and Coca-Cola (64m) also target many of their posts.
Why do it?
Enhanced post targeting is especially useful for global brand Pages that might have a large number of fans from different markets and target audiences. Here are some reasons you should consider targeting or limiting posts:
However, before you jump in, its worth keeping the following in mind:
China is the world’s most populated country, with over 1.3 billion inhabitants. It also maintains the world’s second largest economy, on track to become the largest by 2016. This growth has contributed to the rise of consumer classes within the country and in turn captured the attention of global brands.
As brands ramp up marketing efforts in China, they are increasingly prioritizing digital channels. The country has 560+ million internet users – more than any other country – and the average user spends more hours per week online than with TV, print, and radio combined. Despite this high amount of time spent online, adoption of major digital and social platforms in China has been limited. Many Google properties including YouTube, Blogspot, and Google+ are blocked to regular web browsing, along with Facebook, Twitter, and others. Instead, Chinese users spend their time on country-specific sites like Kaixin, Douban, and Jiepang.
Although Dachis Group doesn’t maintain an official office in China, we have been staying involved with what’s happening there. Last week, we hosted a Social Business Summit in Shanghai for the second consecutive year. We incorporate Renren data into our social business software. And we have been working with clients to manage presences on local social media sites like Sina Weibo and educate staff to better understand local digital marketing strategy and tactics.
From what I’ve observed, there are many similarities to global marketing tactics than one might assume, given China’s restricted access. However when you get past differences in channel and focus on consumers and content, the lessons are similar. People have become the medium. Listen first. Your real job is storytelling.
But of course there are differences as well. China’s social media sites are similar to US sites and analogies can help keep things straight, but they have different capabilities and user bases. “Weibo” (微博) is Chinese for microblog, but should you use Sina, Tencent/QQ, or another? Pinterest-like sites Mogujie and Meilishuo don’t have monetization challenges, however many brands (particularly outside of the fashion industry) are struggling to find a place for these sites within their digital strategy.
And don’t forget scale: during the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony, Twitter recorded almost 10 million related mentions. Sina Weibo? 119 million. The biggest day in the history of US e-commerce was Cyber Monday 2012, with an estimated record US$1.5 billion in sales across online retailers in a single day. Last year, Taobao doubled that on Singles Day (11/11), seeing US$3.06 billion in sales.
A few weekends ago, I found myself in the heart of Union Square among the brightly colored, expertly fitted yoga pants at Lululemon. Waiting patiently to pick up my hemmed pants, I watched as other customers frantically tried on new arrivals — headbands, scarves, and tops designed for sport. One conversation captured my attention. It was hard not to listen. Each moment revealed details about the product. Some I knew. Some I didn’t.
“Where does it hit you on the hip?”
“Did you have to size up or size down? Is the cut good for yoga?””
“What does the fabric feel like? What does it do?”
This product discussion and game of personal jeopardy was happening between an experienced employee and a new Lululemon trainee. The interaction seemed designed with a very specific goal in mind: to establish customer empathy by experiencing the full customer shopping process.
This familiarity with not just products, but also the decision-making process and thoughts of a Lululemon shopper is a critical part of what makes the brand’s employees such effective salespeople and powerful advocates. The lesson learned:
A confident employee voice emanates from a real understanding of, and ability to, communicate the value of your product to customers. Genuine and transparent conversations occur when employees speak in their own voices, accurately and without hesitation.
Today, transitioning this behavior into social media is top-of-mind for many companies. The increased scale, trusted communications, and business value of employee advocacy is undeniable. Lululemon’s ranking as the retailer with the 3rd highest sales per square foot in the world ($1,936 psf) certainly suggests they are on to something.
Brands that want to embrace employee advocacy strategically need to provide more than training, policies, guardrails and tools (though these are all critical). They must also create the habits and understanding that enable employees to directly excel at ambassadorship.
“Do I use my personal brand to share something or do I let someone else speak first?”
Understanding the goals of each message builds on company affinity and creates a closer connection to content, allowing messages to become personal. This increases the likelihood that they will resonate within an employee’s network and with customers alike.
When distributing content and messages that you would like advocates to share, answer four W’s for employees: What should I share? Why should I share it? When should I share it? Where should I share it?
We embed this as a requirement in our Employee Insight software tool that helps to organize and activate advocates. Community managers are encouraged to include this information with every piece of content, so employee advocates always have the context they need to speak on behalf of the brand.
Establish an Employee Advocate community management and training plan that reinforces all the critical lessons of policy and education, but also has a hands-on component to build the right instincts through repetition and empathy (a la Lululemon’s in-store training).
We use day-long practical workshops, weekly one-on-one training, comprehensive community management and period re-immersion sessions. Whatever option you choose, remember that these elements are meant to be continuous and support your initiative at every stage. Employee Advocacy is NOT a ‘set it and forget it’ style program.
Connect employee contributions to your brand outcomes on a regular basis. Establish public measures in aggregate so that you can discuss both overall program contributions and those enabled by individuals, to encourage friendly competition or pride in achievement.
One simple tool to measure this goal is click tracking. We use regular reporting and individual click statistics on advocate-shared content to generate a feedback loop so every participant can gauge their own contributions whenever they want.
Employee advocacy is simply too powerful of a tool for brands to pass up. Companies like Lululemon and others have mastered offline processes to create the conditions of empathy, understanding and expertise that make employee advocacy work. The next step is to translate those tactics online and into social channels. But without the right foundation in place — for both employee advocates and those responsible for program execution — that value remains untapped and enclosed within the walls of your organization.
News broke yesterday that Disney has signed a deal with Netflix to allow digital distribution of its entire catalog of movies via the Netflix’s streaming movie service. The news got us excited to see Ariel, Jasmine, Cinderella, Snow White and all the other princesses streaming to our living room. It also reminded us of the massive breadth of Disney’s digital reach. Whether it is ABC, ESPN, Marvel, Dreamworks or just good old fashioned Disney – at times the brand’s reach seems to encompass the entire social web. It’s progressive (and profitable) moves like this Netflix partnership as well as the full scale embrace of social media that have kept Disney at the center of popular culture for decades.
In honor of the Disney/Netflix deal here’s the full breadth of Disney’s 30.7 million Twitter followers excerpted from our Social Business Journal.