Compelling Reasons Why Your Brand Needs a Managed Community

Powered - The Leader in Social Marketing

Powered - The Leader in Social Marketing

I recently received the 2008 Social Marketing ROI Report and Benchmarking Guide from Powered – an Austin-based company that creates social marketing programs that helps companies create communities around their brand and “insert the brand into the social fabric of the internet”.

Not only did the companies in the Powered survey report an average of $60 in returns for every dollar spent, but they also reported strong correlations in purchase intent, brand affinity and brand loyalty as follows:

  • Purchase Intent: Two-thirds of the respondents stated they were more likely to purchase to sponsoring brands products and/or services as a direct result of the learning experience offered in the community
  • Brand Affinity: Two-thirds of respondents indicated an improved brand perception of the sponsoring brand
  • Brand Loyalty: 63% of respondents stated that they had a more positive opinion of the sponsoring brand

The survey included results from over 112,000 people – or about 11% of the total 1 million people represented in the population of the 22 communities surveyed.  Social marketing programs achieved nearly 5x the ROI of direct marketing programs and 30x the ROI of traditional media advertising programs.

From Powered Social Marketing ROI Report

From Powered Social Marketing ROI Report

The whitepaper goes on to suggest that Powered’s results are “virtually always above the industry norms” and advises marketers to study their target customers “to learn what kinds of social marketing and web experiences they would likely value the most, and to test those experiences”.  In any case, these figures are quite compelling and point out that a managed community can drive drastic changes in brand performance.

In the implications and concluding thoughts, I found this excerpt to be particularly telling:

Social marketing as a relatively new non-traditional form of persuasive marketing communications is widely misunderstood. Most advertising and marketing executives assume that the term relates mainly to content generated by consumers. Beyond social marketing, marketers ought to carefully investigate and test every practical means of befriending consumers by new and established forms of marketing communications which do not involve straight advertising. This includes True Sponsorship in all its forms i.e. entertainment programs as well as educational ones, in all media; cause marketing; service advertising (e.g. helping the consumer to know which products to buy and how to use them); sponsored games; sponsored processes supporting consumer generated media; and new forms which no one has thought of yet.

So why doesn’t your company and brand have a managed community?

You can download the report for free from the Powered website after filling out a registration form.  All serious social marketers can learn from this outstanding report.  You can also check out the slides from the webinar (“This ROI is Too Good to be True”) they held to release the report at this link.

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Gleaning Insight From The Community Ecosystem

LinkedIn and MarQuant Analytics at OCBF2009

LinkedIn and MarQuant Analytics at OCBF2009

Another session at Forum One’s Online Community Business Forum (OCBF2009) touched on gleaning insights from your community ecosystem featuring Matt Warburton from LinkedIn and Barbara Lewis from MarQuant Analytics.

Matt started out by talking about his work with “Voice of the Customer” programs.  He described the various options for running a program starting with in-person meetings with 10 to 15 users, phone conferences structured like a focus group and a private online forum or group to provide ongoing feedback.

Matt ended by sharing his best practices for Voice of the Customer programs:

  • Have participants sign an NDA
  • Limit tenure to a defined period of time (say 1 year)
  • Remove non-constructive and disruptive users
  • Require direct staff interaction in meetings, calls and forums
  • Require all participant inquiries to go through the community team

Barbara Lewis says that there are too many marketing activities to track for most companies – more than $400B per year in total – and almost all companies do not really know what is driving sales.  Add in social media and the measurement gets even harder.  Barbara’s company (MarQuant Analytics) uses sophisticated econometrics to help companies take their results and build models to optimize their marketing activities.   MarQuant uses up to 3 years of real sales data and layers that in with external and other controllable factors.

Barbara’s recommendations included:

  • Tie social media to business goals
  • Identify data that measure business goal achievement
  • Capture appropriate data points
  • Analyze and monitor changes
  • Test various options

A copy of Barbara’s complete presentation is available below or on Slideshare:

Measuring and Improving Community Performance

Impact Interactions and Edmunds.com at OCBF2009

Impact Interactions and Edmunds.com at OCBF2009

The third session at Forum One’s Online Community Business Forum (OCBF2009) covered measuring community performance featuring Mike Rowland from Impact Interactions and Sylvia Marino from Edmunds.com.

Essentially Mike discussed that measurement breaks down into 3 categories:

  • Traffic – how many?
  • Behavior – what did they do?
  • Value – what did we gain?  (such as revenue, leads, insights, brand awareness, purchase influence, content, etc.)

Mike went on to discuss the difference between traffic and behavior.  Traffic is the function of outreach, marketing and content while behavior is a function of the user interface, feature sets, etc.  Traffic and behavior do not equal value, but they help drive value.

Finally, Mike identified the 4 mistakes that impact community results:

  1. Poor outreach
  2. Too much input
  3. Confused users
  4. Enthusiasts and volunteers

According to Sylvia, Edmunds.com focuses on consumers and not on advertisers, and they rely on several underutilized and underappreciated metrics such as:

  • Registered visitors and guests (and the ratio of registered to guest)
  • % of time spent per session
  • pageviews per session

Sylvia’s recommendation is to sit down with the executive team and tell them why they want to know care about measurement.  Then help them clarify and justify specific objectives for the community and identify metrics that will meet those objectives.

“Context is King” According to Randy Farmer

Social Media and Community Pioneer Randy Farmer was at Forum One’s Online Community Business Forum (OCBF2009) last week and he conducted a breakout session on context.  I did not attend the session, but I did follow up with Randy’s notes on the forum’s wiki and from his website. 

In Randy’s own words, here is what he’s up to:

One year ago I presented Context is King to this community and partially as the result of your feedback I decided to persue a year of consulting and book writing.
Presently I’m working with Bryce Glass of Yahoo! on a book for O’Reilly and Yahoo! Press entitled Building Web 2.0 Reputation Systems. The book is being written open-book style – there is a companion blog and wiki at http://buildingreputation.com where you can read our thoughts, draft chapters, and give feedback and even make edits to various commentary sections.

Essentially, Randy believes that context is the “new king”.  Bill Gates originally said that “content is King” in 1996 and then “user generated” content was crowned the next King starting around 2003.   Taking it a step further, Randy offers that “user generated content in context” is what really causes the transformation from a website into a community.

Here is a Slideshare presentation with more of Randy’s thoughts:

Managing Your Community Ecosystem

Digg and Salesforce at OCBF2009

Digg and Salesforce at OCBF2009

The second session of Forum One’s Online Community Business Forum covered community ecosystems with Jen Burton from Digg and Erica Kuhl from Salesforce.com.

Jen started with the comment that “it’s impossible to manage the ecosystem” when the community spans domain and geographic boundaries.  For example, Digg’s ecosystem includes the Digg website, mainstream media, social media, blogs, Facebook and Twitter.  The challenge is to monitor conversations about your brand across all of these channels.  Jen takes a structured approach to monitoring conversations that include taking a high level view, determining how to react adn respond and then communicating the health of the community to executive management.  

In summary, Jen noted that it is important to:

  • define the ecosystem but be open to change
  • provide tools for members to communicate with each other
  • monitor conversations without moderating
  • accept that swells and uprisings will occur
  • don’t forget to keep an eye out for the good times

Erica Kuhl described a similar ecosystem for Salesforce.com and noted that it is important to go where the conversations are which include official and unofficial pages on Facebook and groups in LinkedIn.  Salesforce.com also gets immediate feedback and page-specific feedback using Opinion Lab.  Additional feedback comes from discussions boards (1350 posts per month) and Idea Exchange which has received more than 10,000 ideas and 230,000 votes since it was launched.  Erica is the primary author on one of the 16 Salesforce.com blogs.  Finally, user groups are still very important to Salesforce and there are currently 85 user groups with 13,000 active members that conduct more than 60 meetings per quarter.

Social Media in a Challenging Economy

Forum One - Online Community Business Forum

Forum One - Online Community Business Forum

I really wanted to ‘live-blog’ from the Forum One’s Online Community Business Forum today, but the wireless access was less than desirable so I am settling for ‘same-day’ blogging.

Today’s first session was with Thor Muller (Valley Swag and GetSatisfaction.com) and Nova Spivak (Twine.com) on thriving in a challenging economy.

Thor started out with an excellent analog of the “buffalo culture” or doing more in a land of less which is what the Native Americans who lived in the Plains perfected.  The Native Americans learned to use the whole animal and he developed 6 themes around this topic:

Hidden value – Just like the Native Americans used the whole buffalo, we must apply these techniques to today’s environment by taking the trash and turning it into shiny objects.  One suggestion was to move customer service beyond a cost center focus.

Integrated value of the tribe – Native American tribes had a communal set of values that they incorporated into everything they did and were as natural as breathing.

Be migratory – You have to go where the buffalo are.  One example is Comcast’s Comcast Cares unit that is a triage swat rapid response team that quick addresses customer issues.

Gathering of tribes – Everyone must depend more on collaboration when times are tough and may even mean collaborating with possible ‘enemies’ to share ideas and grow the market together.

Adaptation – People need to adapt when in tough times or when technology changes how they think.  Thor used the example of Twitter and how writing 140 character messages now seems very natural to those who have used Twitter for a month or more.

Reverence – Metrics are important, but we sometimes strip  out the reverence with a total devotion to the numbers.  Being reverent is doing things that don’t need to necessarily translate to transactions or sales, but doing the right thing and it’s the only thing that can sustain a community in the long term.

Nova Spivak then shared his experiences of building the Twine community which now has over 1 million members with just 24 people in his entire company and only 2 devoted to supporting the community.  As a venture-funded started, the key is to conserve cash, keep the team together using salary cuts instead of layoffs and using viral marketing instead of paid campaigns.  He also mentioned that there should be more opportunities for community sites in a down market especially for communities that energize people around the economic crisis.  In downtimes, people also need more support and have more ‘free’ time to network on community sites.  In addition, many companies are looking for ways to collaborate in less expensive ways than face-to-face meetings.

Jeremiah Owyang – Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down

Crowdsourcing Jeremiah Owyang’s Fate

Jeremiah Owyang - Yah or Nay

Jeremiah Owyang - Yah or Nay

Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang wrote a blog post yesterday about some rumors at Mzinga that ended with a strong recommendation for any prospects to stall any movement until he is briefed by Mzinga next Monday.

Here are a few excerpts from the original post:

I’ve been hearing from multiple sources in a variety of folks that Mzinga is undergoing some changes. With the recent layoffs a few months ago, to apparently voluntary leave of the CMO this week, there are a lot of questions I have to ask.

I strongly recommend that any Mzinga clients or prospects stall any additional movement till they brief me next Monday.

First, I believe that such statements in a blog are incredibly unprofessional and border on negligent corporate behavior – especially when the post was written based on unsubstantiated rumors.  Second, the call to “stall any movement” until Jeremiah gets briefed next week is pretentious in that only Jeremiah can get to the bottom of this issue’?

Jeremiah is a respected analyst working for a respected firm, and has worked hard at covering and growing the social media and community space.  Jeremiah did issue an apology on his blog today and I heard that Forrester also sent Mzinga an apology as well.  Plus, there have been more than 60 responses to his original blog post and nearly 30 to his apology post today.  I’m sure that Jeremiah feels contrite in the same way that Alex Rodriguez, Bernard Madoff and Bill Clinton have felt in the past when they issued their own public apologies.  But that doesn’t undo any damages that Mzinga has incurred from negative mentions in the posts and on Twitter.

Because Jeremiah is such a proponent of social media, I think we turn his predicament over to the general public and use crowdsourcing to determine his fate.

Take a moment to express your opinion below in this quick poll:

Several other bloggers have piled on to this issue including:

I’m sure there will be more.

My disclosure – I have worked with Mzinga since December 2006 on two different community efforts and I believe that Forrester should fire his a** for this flagrant offense in order to protect their own brand and image.