With all due respect to any PhD’s out there, marketing is not rocket science (thankfully!).
That said, marketing is a science. And science is all about the discovery of new things, and trial and error is an important part of this discovery.
However, trial and error as a marketing strategy can be costly, and deadly – especially when your competitors adeptly move past you in terms of positioning and/or sales while you’re experimenting.
In this post, I identify three Big Rock components of a marketing program and point out why most companies are making mistakes in these three areas.
In many companies, a public relations program consists of drafting a press release, sending it to a list of journalists, and posting it on the newsroom of the company’s website. This approach is akin to “if we build it, they will come.” It’s a feel-good tactic, because pushing out information about a product or service feels like you’re doing something. But increasingly, the singular press release approach is ineffective and probably a waste of money.
To understand this point, let me add some context. Traditionally, a press release served the purpose of informing the media – primarily reporters – of “news.” This news could be about a new product, service, upcoming event etc. The press release was then put on the newswire, a pathway of sorts that delivered the information to a select group of reporters via a private, subscription only network.
When the Internet came along, newswire services opened the feed to distribute these press releases widely via the web. This meant that a press release, which was historically intended for reporters’ eyes only, now became a public editorial piece.
Many of the traditional news outlets who had an online presence, such as the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, USA Today had cached news sections on their sites that received these newswire feeds directly. So, if your release had gone via a newswire service such as PRNewswire, BusinessWire, etc. it generally appeared in search with the major news outlet as the primary domain. This gave the news greater weight and value because of its association with these premium branded news outlets.
This also caught the attention of Google, whose business is primarily optimizing search and delivering relevant links to those searching on particular keywords. Google decided that the content appearing via newswire feeds on these cached sections was not relevant. So Google changed its search algorithm so that the news on these cached sections of the major news sites no longer appeared in search.
Overnight, this rendered the value and impact of a single press release distribution via the newswire almost irrelevant. Add to that the fact that most companies have an online newsroom with very little, or very old news. This gives a visitor the impression that not much news is happening with the company. So, the online newsroom section ends up hurting marketing efforts as opposed to helping.
So, do press releases still have value? The answer is yes, particularly when used as part of an integrated editorial ecosystem approach to content. This is a branded content approach, where the press release is part of an editorial ecosystem published by the company. Each component of the editorial ecosystem, whether it be an audio podcast (ie a customer interview), video, blog post or press release, has the thread of the core communication strategy in it. This means that when someone reads a press release and clicks on a link to a podcast with the same messaging strategy in the press release, it gives the press release much greater impact, and value.
Click here to see an example of how a branded content ecosystem like this might look.
The explosion of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn has radically changed the way companies think about marketing to customers. But, like the companies who issue a singular press release and wait for sales to start rolling in, most companies are making serious mistakes in the approach to social media.
In a nutshell, the reason most social media campaigns fail is because companies forget that the word “social” is an integral part of the definition. As a result, these companies use platforms like Facebook as one-way communication mediums (much like an enhanced newswire), posting endlessly about their company, products, services etc. paying no attention to putting effort towards engaging with people – through comments, questions, etc.
This approach is also like the “if we build it they will come” mentality. What happens is that there is an initial burst of excitement about posting on Facebook. An intern or junior level marketing person is put in charge of running things. Sales don’t increase, visitors start making negative comments to the posts (which either get ignored or deleted) and gradually the posts get farther and farther apart. It’s easy to spot companies that have taken this approach. Just visit the company Facebook page and look at the consistency of posts over a 3 to 6 month period. Better yet, look at the bold ignore-ance by companies of people asking questions or for help with customer service.
If you see bursts of posts followed by weeks of silence you know the company does not have an integrated communication strategy that can maximize the value of a social media platform. This highlights the fact that the reason for starting social media in the beginning was based on a flawed strategy.
So, does social media have value as a marketing communications strategy? Like the integration of press releases in a communications program, the answer is yes – if the social media approach is used to support or reinforce the components of an editorial ecosystem, or branded content approach.
For example, take the published press release and create a short video version of that news item and post it directly to your Facebook feed. Or better yet, set up a Facebook Live session where you can present the news story in the press release directly on Facebook as a live streaming session. This enhances the value of the press release because someone who watches a video on the news item and becomes interested is very likely to click to a link on a company newsroom page.
In this example, the social media platform has pushed the person to the website greatly building the value of the brand because of the exposure. Additionally, if the Facebook pixel has been added to the website, this opens up a whole new world of opportunities because you can now re-market to that person on Facebook based on the fact you know they showed interest in the content of your press release.
The final component I will touch on is the blog. Like social media, most companies misuse the blog platform. Similar to what you see with social media, the company will get excited about blogging, posting press releases and other company centric items on the blog. Sales don’t spike, writers get busy with other things, and all of a sudden there are weeks between blog posts. And then months.
Again, the good intentions of this approach have ended up harming the brand because a visitor comes to the blog section of the website and sees no new posts for six months. To that visitor, this conveys that nothing new is happening, or that the company has nothing to say. And an opportunity is lost.
While a company blog is a great place to republish company news and press releases, it should be much more than that in order to really have impact. For example, let’s assume you have some really smart people in your company – those who are experts on an industry topic. Why not set up a thought leadership strategy, utilizing the knowledge base that exists in these individuals? They don’t even have to write the blog (although some will, and this can be very impactful).
Take away the fear or threat of these people having to write a 500 word blog post and do a 20 minute sitdown interview with them. Record the interview and send that recording to one of many very affordable transcription services that exist on the web now. Then reformat the transcribed interview into a Q&A that you publish on the company blog.
Utilizing a company blog for thought leadership can be very effective in helping position the company as a leader against competitors. And this is especially the case when the blog is part of an editorial ecosystem approach.
So there you have it. Three marketing efforts you may be doing that you might need to rethink. If you’d like to discuss how to shift to an editorial ecosystem approach in your content marketing program, please send me an email.
Bill Threlkeld is president of Threlkeld Communications, a content marketing and public relations agency based in Santa Monica, California. Threlkeld Communications specializes in integrated editorial ecosystem campaigns that utilize PR, Social Media, Blogs, Audio, Video and Email Marketing.
A bold claim: Customer Service is the New Marketing.
Now that I’ve gotten that big rock out of the way, let me drill down a little on the statement. Effective Customer Service is the New Marketing. And to put this in a bite-size perspective, let’s say it this way: Effective Social Customer Service is the New Marketing.
Now, let’s focus on what this means. In this era of social interactivity, commonly called Social Media, your customer is much more empowered than in the old day’s (let’s say five years ago) marketplace model. This is because the dynamics inherent in the social web gives the little guy (the individual consumer) the power to positively or negatively impact the positioning of your brand by expressing their feelings or opinions to a potential World Wide audience.
What does this have to do with the concept that Effective Social Customer Service is the New Marketing?
The social web has increasingly become a multi-dimensional powerful publishing platform that can have great influence on how a brand or product is perceived. Now couple that concept with the principle that “Companies Don’t Position Products and Brands, People Do.” Then add the dynamic of web-wide engagement — where anyone who can read a post or watch a video can make a comment — and you’ve got a situation where the customer is in the driver’s seat of the commerce model, not the manufacturer or retail outlet.
Engagement between consumers is not new. Word of mouth as an influential marketing force has been alive and well since the caveman era.
What is relatively new with this concept of word of mouth is the ability for this type of engagement to spread like wildfire across the social web and become a broad conversation. The roots of ideas going viral and spreading quickly go deep, but we can identify a key flashpoint in the modern era for this phenomenon: Frank Eliason, Comcast and @ComcastCares.
The year was 2007. Eliason had joined Comcast (who was already enduring a rash of customer complaints) as Executive Support Manager, a middle level management customer service position. At the time, Comcast was getting pulverized across the social web for all sorts of issues, from its uncovered practice of blocking certain types service to poor response times to consumer complaints. Many of these unhappy customers abandoned the traditional method of calling the company and were taking to Twitter to express their hatred for the company.
Eliason was an early adopter to the newly emerging interactive social media landscape. Twitter had just exploded onto the scene at South by Southwest, and Eliason had begun experimenting with Twitter on a personal level. Once he began seeing all of the rants online about Comcast on Twitter, Eliason took it upon himself to do something about it.
He liked the Comcast brand and took the rants against the company personally. He wanted to do something. He had no idea that his grassroots efforts on behalf of Comcast would spark a new style of customer support and interaction.
So Eliason asked his boss for permission to start experimenting on the social web by interacting with Comcast customers via Twitter — read: letting them know they were being heard and trying to solve their problems.
The rest is an Internet success story of epic proportions. Almost singlehandedly, Eliason not only turned the negative sentiment about Comcast around, but created a perception of the company as one who cared about its customers. Indeed, Eliason’s Social Customer Service handle on Twitter was “ComcastCares.”
Eliason went on to become an Internet celebrity in the area of customer service, setting the standards for effective social customer service, many of which still apply today.
Which brings us to the subject at hand, as referenced in the blog title: “Marketing Tools of the Tirade.”
If your marketing department’s mentality is not collectively connected to the level of real world engagement and interactions that are going on about a brand or service online, there’s a stong possibility that marketing dollars spent on proactive messaging and sales pitches are, at worst either going to waste, or at best, being severely discounted. That’s because the aggregate noise generated by the complaints (negative messaging) is more than likely going to overshadow — and out-influence — the proactive messaging garnered from paid media.
So how can traditional marketing departments and people get involved, and become a part of the changing era of social marketing and social customer service? Here are some tips, and a quick overview of the marketing tools of the tirade:
The Big Three: Twitter, Facebook, Blogs
Here are a few general guidelines for using these tools to build the profile of your brand using a customer service approach.
- Monitor the web for flashpoints. Whether you use a free tool like Google Alerts or a paid tool like CustomScoop, there should be no excuse for not knowing that your brand, service or product is being talked about. It’s simple: add the keyword you want to track into the tool of choice, and watch for pickups.
- Deal with sensitive conversations or rants immediately. Conventional wisdom says that it’s a best practice to address a social web flare up within 24 hours. And yes, this does include weekends and evenings. Why? Because the real-time component of the social web has set the standard for quick response. Notice I said “address,” not “answer.” Sometimes, you may not know or have an answer within 24 hours. If this is the case, the response could simply be to acknowledge the comment. i.e. “@username thank you for your comment. We hear you and will address this shortly.”
- Take sensitive conversations or rants into a private channel as soon as possible. When you think about this, it’s really just practical sense. Don’t argue or have a difficult conversation with anyone on the social web in public. Besides the fact that this will encourage additional negative comments (“birds of a feather flock together”), it’s a no win for the brand.
Here’s how to take a sensitive subject offline:
- Twitter: Acknowledge the comment in the public channel. Then follow that person and ask them to follow the brand channel. Reason – you cannot have a private conversation with another Twitter user if you are not both following each other. Once that person follows your brand, send them a private message to let them know you have heard them and want to help. If possible, get a phone number so you can take the conversation to a voice-to-voice format. Once the problem is solved, go back on the public timeline and let that person (and all of their followers) know you addressed it.
- Facebook: Look for comments in posts that indicate a customer is unhappy or frustrated. Trust me, they will tell you! The same principle applies to Facebook as with Twitter. Ask that person to Like your page so you can move the dialogue to the messaging channel. Then, get it a one-to-one chat with that person via Messenger. Once the problem is solved, go back on the public channel and close the loop with a short Reply, such as “Glad we were able to solve this for you!”
The era of Social Customer Service is here to stay, and it’s only going to get more robust as new generation customers, who are more comfortable with texting and digital communications, become influencers in the market. If your marketing team is not ready to integrate your outreach efforts with social customer service efforts, you’re going to get left behind quickly as more progressive companies recognize the marketing value in helping customers online, and on their own terms.
If you would like to discuss how we can help you implement a successful social customer service program, please give me a call or send an email, or post a comment below.
Bill Threlkeld is the president of Threlkeld Communications, a marketing communications and public relations firm that helps businesses develop the right marketing strategies to grow their businesses and meet financial goals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org