Sunday, 20 January 2013

Are Marketing Clouds Pie in the Sky?

2011 and 2012 saw major software vendors rushing to offer digital marketeers a one-stop solution for creating, publishing, analysing, managing content and measuring the performance of their social media properties.

To name a few, bought Buddy Media after acquiring Radian6. Adobe has also been busy inflating their marketing cloud, as has Oracle with their recent acquisition of Eloqua.
Other vendors have also been busy. IBM purchased Coremetrics, HootSuite upped their games with Webtrends analytics and a Social Media Command Centre. Many other niche vendors have also emerged.

It’s no wonder the big guns are getting in on the act given that analysts such as Gartner are predicting that CMOs will be responsible for more expenditure on IT than CIOs in the next five years.

What is a Marketing Cloud?

Well, there is no one definition and the term itself is a misnomer. Of course cloud software services are well established, but what if the cloud marketing systems themselves?

The label ‘Marketing Cloud’ suggests a range of integrated systems that handle all things marketing. Well that may be the end game of the cloud system providers, but they are not there yet. It’s a cloud too high given all the different tools digital marketeers use. Tools spanning website design, SEO, SEM, attribution measurement, insight analysis, data mining, big data, CRM, SFA, eCommerce, collaboration, content creation and dynamic publication, social media management, email automation and so on.

The reality is that most Marketing Cloud offerings today consist of disparate software applications, some of which are due to be integrated, used for managing social media operations. Specifically:

1. Tools to help automate the process creating, publishing and managing social media content across multiple social network platforms.
2. Systems to automate the process of publishing and monitoring the performance of social media campaigns and display ads (if you want to waste your money on social media display ads).
3. Tools to monitor, analyse and report on market/consumer sentiment, engagement, reach and influence.
Some vendors such as Oracle are including in their Marketing Cloud systems that have evolved from mail and website lead nurturing (known as Marketing Automation).

Why do you need a Marketing Cloud?

The initiated will have discovered the power of social media. However they will also have found out that harnessing this power is very resource intensive and demands a deep understanding of integrated digital marketing. Yep, social media requires highly experienced digital marketeers who have done a deep dive into social media.

I think that most brands have learnt the painful realities of recruiting ‘Twitinterns’ to be the vocal voice-piece of their organisation or expecting their marketing agencies to have a full grasp of all the many facets of social media.

Given that social media needs specialists and dedicated resources, any new methods to help manage social media operations, reduce overheads whilst performing highly effective strategies are going to be welcomed – enter the Marketing Cloud.

But be warned! Many of these technologies are powerful and require an initial investment of time and again, resources, to get any value from them. Hopefully, all driven by a great social media strategy that is fully aligned to and integrated with the overall marketing, communications, customer services, CRM, goals and strategies.

Selecting your Social Media Marketing Cloud Provider

Social media operations should never be conducted in isolation. Its real power will come when the technologies enables marketeers, customer services directors, insight directors and the like, to automatically correlate unstructured social data with transactional data. I am sure I don’t have to explain why!

Therefore, pick a Cloud provider who can, or is definitely planning to seamlessly integrate their Marketing Cloud systems with the Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Lead Nurturing and online community building systems. Otherwise you could be heading down a blind alley.

For further tips, check out my previous blog ‘Navigating the world of social media monitoring tools’.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Social Media: Market Segmentation Strategies: Navigating the world of social media monitoring to...

Social Media: Market Segmentation Strategies: Navigating the world of social media monitoring to...: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!      This may be an old business saying, but is has never been more pertinent when i...

Navigating the world of social media monitoring tools

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!   

This may be an old business saying, but is has never been more pertinent when it comes to social media. 

It is possible to track and trace in real-time any digital communication if it’s in the public domain.  Social media has of course created an explosion of trackable online and public dialogue.

Herein lays an amazing opportunity to gain an endless amount of market and consumer insight and intelligence. But herein also lays considerable new challenges for marketers.

The technology is not the issue

In response to the anticipated market opportunity for monitoring and analysing what consumers are saying on social media there has is a  plethora of software tools developed that can perform these tasks.

A colleague dedicated over a year to the creation of a taxonomy and guide summing up the main features, functions and benefits of a remarkable 250 different tools. This report is available from

But despite the guidance given by the report, the process of selecting the right tools is still a bewildering exercise particularly as and they range in price from free to over £150,000 per annum. So where do you start

Start with deciding what you want to measure

Unless you want to get totally confused by the masses amount of data you can collect, start by deciding what it is you need to measure. 

These measurements should be based on your goals for using social media. Remember, social media is best used in conjunction with your other marcoms activities and not used in isolation. Therefore, refer back to your original marcoms goals and then work out how social media can most effectively achieve these goals by augmenting your other marketing and customer services programs. 

Resist being carried away by obvious metrics such as numbers of Facebook or Twitter fans or followers. These stats are good for the ego but have only on vague correlation to tangible goals that social media is great as realising. Goals such as increasing average order value, improving customer life time value, reaching more of your total addressable market, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing churn rate.

Having decided on what you can achieve with social media then decide what metrics you need to measure the ROI.

The next step is to start the process of selecting the most cost effective tools that can produce the data you need in easily produced and digestible management dashboard reports. But there are other considerations.

Data integration is vital

The unstructured data gleaned from social media will offer up great insight but will considerably more valuable if can be integrated with and correlated to your other data sets. Transactional data, web data and purchased research data that should be held in your CRM systems.

Knowing who is saying what on social media, their propensity to buy, sentiment, advocacy and social capital or influence is invaluable for building ongoing engagement. But you also need to match that data with consumers buying patterns and market segment classifications. This is what data scientists have started to term as ‘Big Data’. This collection of data enables marketers to know how to better engage with consumers through personalised interactive content. 

Therefore, organisations that use CRM comprehensively need a social media monitoring system that integrates SocialCRM data with their CRM databases.  

Software vendors offer integrated tools

A few technology vendors are starting to build this capability into their software. Notably, a leader in CRM systems, has made a flurry of acquisitions to provide an integrated social system. is tooling up to provide a complete social enterprise platform offering tools that will allow you to listen, gain insight, engage,  publish, advertise and measure social marketing programs

They have acquired Radian6 a leading social monitoring tool, Chatter an online employee collaboration system and Buddy Media. Buddy Media is used for social media content distribution and moderation, user engagement and measuring the reach of your content and the buzz it generates across the Blogosphere.

Many other social media monitoring technology providers integrate operation capacity of CRM systems with their tools and services.  Ideya's report has identified around 62 SMM tools providers that currently offer their own CRM or allow integration with other CRM technologies.

Accessible and affordable

The good news is that systems such as those provided by and many others are provisioned as ‘software as a service’ (Saas). These services mean no IT hardware investment, systems implementation effort and problematic deployment issues and not least, no capital investment.

Start simply
Just get started by trying out a monitoring tool to get a feel of what it can do and use the above tips to plan your way forward.  

For those of you need to dig deeper into social media metrics I can’t recommend  enough reading Social Media Metrics by Jim Sterne. In the meantime consider the following 11 tips.

11 points to work through
  • Be clear about what you are intending to achieve by adopting social media and decide what you want to use a tool for.  For example, market insight and prediction, competitive monitoring, customer satisfaction and sentiment analysis,  market reach and influence,  building social capital, campaign measurement, influencer, conversation and community marketing.
  • 2Set measurable social media goals against your core business objectives and prioritise them.
  • 3Decide what the metrics you are going to use to measure your success.
  • 4Don’t just measure numbers of Fans or Followers.
  • 5Be clear about the main sources of data you want to monitor e.g. social networks, blogs, microblogs, social bookmarks, video and photosharing sites, news, duscussion boards and reviews, smartphones and geographic coverage.
  • 6Do you need to merge social media data with CRM data? Make a list of the benefits this can bring to your marcoms programs because this is a bigish investment.
  • 7Decide if you need your social media content distribution system to measure the reach and buzz generated by your content.
  • 8Decide what management reports you need for different functions of your organisation – customers services, PR and marketing will need different dashboards.
  • 9.    Be clear about what you can realistically do with the data to improve your marcoms initiatives.
  • Make sure you have the people with the skills and time to use the insight reports to improve your marcoms.
  • Seek advice from specialists in this field such as the author of this blog and start simple.
Paul Fennemore

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Don't be corporate with negative posts on social networks

Today, I was asked by an oil company, how to prevent bloggers posting inappropriate comments on their social network pages. They are worried that they cannot control what is being said about their company, This is a major challenge for them that they did not know how to manage.

The following is my response...................................................

Your company is going on a journey with social media. The issue is that organisations don’t understand what that journey entails or where the destination is going to be.

Therefore, grounded on extensive research I have done with two leading business schools, I have developed a social media adoption framework. The purpose of the framework is to give organisations a greater understanding of what they need to do to and how to do it.  Here is a link to the framework

To your point about negative feedback.  In order for social networks to flourish they have to be open, transparent and honest. This means that you will get negative comments.

If the comments are fair then surely you need to know about them and act on them. When you deal with valid negative comments or even wrong perceptions, it’s important not to respond in an official corporate tone. You are dealing with individuals who need to be acknowledged and handled with respect and in the case of social networks, in a conversational manner.

As social networkers operate in a real-time and interactive ecosystem you have to be resourced to operate in this environment. Delays in responding, if required, can cause further frustration and potentially lead to a social media bushfire of negative posts.

If the posts are unfair the others members of the online communities are likely to shout them down without you having to do anything.  So when this happens, listen to see what happens. You may well find some advocates this way who can go onto support and nurture.

But don’t go down the route of firms like McDonalds who is building a network of fans by gratuitously rewarding them to post positive comments under a scheme called Family Arches. This misguided strategy will surely lead to yet and another backlash for McDonalds because it undermines all the tacit rules of social networks.

However, there are ‘Trolls’. People who are intent on making unjustified negative comments and ‘social media stalking’ companies or individuals.  These people should not be responded to as you give them credence and great satisfaction by doing so. There are online laws for these people and if they are guilty of slander and harassment they can get legally managed.

Companies who are adopting social media need to undergo a cultural change and transition to the new paradigm where the consumers, shareholders and employees have more influence over brand or service reputation.  Trying to suppress this will cause a backlash. We have seen plenty of examples of this.  Key strategies are to define your ‘tone of voice, cultural change, employee code of conduct and governance and even a ‘crisis management’ procedure.

The issue is that most companies underestimate the resources required to manage their social media operations. It calls for resources including conversation and community management and moderation and good content generation. 

If you set off playing around with social media without a plan you are likely to run into trouble. Once a company has set up social network pages without a plan, skills and resources the company is leaving itself open to a whole range of issues.   Therefore, formulate a strategy with the appropriate budget, resources and skills and importantly ensure that your board level directors understand it and are bought into it.

Paul Fennemore is MD of Viapoint a leading social media strategy and services provider.
Paul also conducts research with Henley Business School and lectures at Henley and Oxford Brookes University. He also found presenting and on panels at business conferences.

Friday, 30 March 2012

The UK is 2 years behind with social media!

Having spent two days at the UK Social Media World Forum this week, depsite getting hundreds of visitors to our stand, it became increasingly clear that UK industry remains two years behind North America and many countries in the Far East. Also South America is rapidly overtaking the UK.

The conference was well intended but by marketers and those who provide technologies to marketers.   

Whilst the conference is about social media it had a very narrow focus, a focus on how to use social media for marketing campaigns.   But even then, social media is not very effective for short term tactical campaigns.  However, there was some light at the end of the tunnel, as there was short panel session that covered other areas of business management that social is very effective for media

Visiting social media conferences in other countries such as the USA and Japan, I can see that the scope of social media is much broader and attracts not just those in marketing but COO’s, HR Directors, e-Commerce Managers and so on. 

Organisations in these countries are already using social media for recruitment, innovation, competitive analysis, employee collaboration, e-learning, supply chain management, procurement, community management and many more areas of business management and civil services.  

However, here is one good example of social media being used by the UK Police Services to improve community services which proves we can do it. A ‘trailblazing’ fully social smartphone application.

Business leaders in the UK need to get to grips with social media make it strategic and assign specialists expertise to the role of leading the social media charge and don’t leave it to the marketing professionals alone.  Otherwise, foreign competitors will yet again steal the march on UK industry.

A massive change in mind set is called for in the UK.. Start by putting Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc out of your mind and begin thinking that social media is about business transformation,  agility, competitive advantage, resource optimisation, improving time to market and such matters.

Paul Fennemore is MD of Viapoint a leading social media strategy and services provider.
Paul also conducts research with Henley Business School and is called upon  to lecture at Henley and Oxford Brookes University. He also found presenting and on panels at business conferences.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Are social media networks killing the practice of market segmentation?

Segmentation, the cornerstone of marketing
Most wouldn’t disagree with the view that since the 1950’s, when the practice of market segmentation began, it has been the cornerstone of any marketing strategy.  Define your market segments accurately then the follow on activities of targeting and positioning are much more effective.
Have online social media networks and their ability to engage with individuals interactively and in real-time made the practice of categorising people into groups redundant? The answer has to be a resounding no! But it is changing.

Changing emphasis
Consumers are considerably more socially mobile and transient than when demographic segmentation was first being adopted by marketers.  Also, as result of the web and social media, consumers are much more informed and influenced (think Tripadviser), they have access to greater choice and their smartphones are doing all of this for them wherever they are. 

Therefore, the basic strategy of demographic segmentation and pigeon holing people into presumed and fixed characteristics is less relevant today. Grouping people into segments by geography, age, gender, profession and income and assuming they are never changing is not a great way to relate to your online audiences. 

Therefore, the emphasis is towards using the previously less used technique of psychographic segmentation.  Simply put, psychographics is about classifying people by their attitude and behaviour.  Using monitoring tools it’s possible to gain deep insight into users ‘sentiment’ towards a product or service whether it is positive, negative or neutral. You can also track consumers’ interests, opinions and interests. This form of social network psychographic segmentation is becoming known as ‘socialgraphics’.

Go where your segments are hanging out
Using social networks, brands are able to find where their traditional market segments are ‘hanging out’ online and engage with them.  These are self segmenting groups brought together through a common interest such as hobbies, sport, health, jobs etc. These are very fertile forums for brands to promote themselves to their exact target segments that are conveniently congregating in one place.

These communities of interest are intentionally being fostered by social network platforms who can charge brands to participate in them and include Google+ Circles and LinkedIn Groups. But there are scores of other online communities that brands can a join in with.

However, when entering social networks brands are participating in people’s social spaces and they have to earn the right to be there. These are places where users go to be informed, educated, supported and entertained, not to be sold too.  Therefore, the golden rule of social media marketing is not to overtly advertise in the traditional sense. All my research has found that when organisations do this their fans and followers leave in droves.

Pull- in your market segments
Some socially savvy organisations are using a strategy that I have termed ‘segmentation pull’.  This involves setting up your own hosted online community and ‘pulling’ in your market segments.  For example, one of Viapoint’s team master-minded Open Forum, an online community for SME’s hosted by American Express.  The community serves itself as well as Amex offering support and guidance to all facets of running a small business. Rather than advertising to the SME segmen,t Amex has ‘pulled’ or drawn in this segment.

Britmums is another example of segmentation pull. Britmums host an on online community of mothers and has fostered a community of 3000 bloggers. Each blogger gets on average 4000 page views per month creating an aggregated audience of 12 million. Mums are an ideal segment for many brands.

Influencing the influencers
About 10% of social network users generate 90% of the content. These are referred to as ‘Creators’ or ‘e-Influencers’. In fact they are bloggers. These people are highly influential and could be classified as a new market segment.

Influencers are often brand advocates and should be discovered and then very carefully nurtured in order to help exert their influence. But don’t ask them to transparently talk about your product or gratuitously give them something for nothing, you will alienate them. Give them something new and really interesting to talk about or review, that’s what motivates them. This technique is known as ‘Social Influence Marketing’.

There are also ‘detractors’ or ‘trolls’. These are also influencers but they will vehemently give brands a bad press and their words are contagious like no other.  There are plenty of examples where they have damaged brand reputation, so they need to be treated with kid gloves. No corporate or official responses to their posts.

Creators and detractors are arguably new market segments, albeit ones that come and go. But then again that’s how people behave and that’s what marketers can now tap into, behaviour.

Conversation marketing – the panacea?
Unless you only have handful of customers, one to one marketing is not practical. Yes marketers need to and can influence their few influencers, but it is not practical to try and have individual online conversations with your whole customer base as some self professed social media gurus will preach.

However, conversation marketing is still possible if you go back to principle of segmenting your customers.  You can have group conversations with communities of interest once you have found where they are hanging out or pulled them into your own online community.

In conclusion
Segmentation strategies are here to stay and in fact becoming increasingly important so ensure your social media marketing team is fully trained on the concept and working hand-in-hand with your customer insight or market segmentation teams.

Paul Fennemore is Managing Director of Viapoint. Viapoint is the leading Social Media Consultancy, Services and Training Provider.  Paul backs up what he preaches by grounding it on objective and extensive research. Paul is a researcher with Henley Business School and is often called to lecture on Digital Marketing, Social Media and eBusiness. Paul holds an MSc (Dist) in Digital Marketing.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Don’t start a social media bush-fire with your brand

In days gone by most channels of marketing and communications could be controlled by the brand.  Marketers could determine what messages are conveyed, to whom, where and when ensuring their precious brand reputation is kept in-tact.

Enter social media and a whole new tinder dry marketing environment. Power is being transferred to the consumer. They can refer, recommend, vote, score and comment on positively or negatively anything they feel or experience about a product or service.  And the big dose of fuel to the bush-fire comes from social media’s interactively, real-time capacity to broadcast messages with unlimited reach in compelling multi-media formats such as pictures and videos taken on the go from smartphones.

Brands are being compelled to be more open, honest and transparent. Trying to hide or disguise issues on social networks with service quality, for example, is likely to fan the flames of discontent.
In fear of a loss of control, many organisations are holding back on adopting social media either because they once had their hands burnt or someone else in their industry did. There are lots of examples. 

But there is a solution and let’s face it there has to be, no organisation can dig in and hope that the flames of social media will die down.  Unlike most marketing channels, social media initiatives call for a risk assessment. For most in marketing, risk assessment wasn’t covered in their marketing school curriculum.  

Well time to learn a new skills and processes – social media marketing risk analysis. Social media risk assessment is about analysing the potential negative consequences of a marketing initiative or how to handle a flare up about your organisation.  If you already understand that marketing is a science and a lot of social science, then you will buy into the following few broad principles that need to be adhered to................
  1. Remember you are dealing with individuals now, not markets.
  2. Test social media initiatives on real people (not sample groups) by asking for their reaction before running. Gauge their reaction.
  3. Understand what is motivating users to participate in online social communities and think through the reactions you are likely to get – scenario plan.
  4. Check that your initiative builds ongoing ‘engagement’ not is not a traditional marketing ‘campaign’ as they don’t work.
  5. Check that you are being honest, open and transparent – or just go and hide somewhere.
  6. Never be corporate or official with your responses to negative posts.
  7. Assign skilled resources and technologies to monitor discourse.

Making sure that the social media fires you ignite are setting people alight with enthusiasm and not inciting them to burn down the town requires new specialist skills and  risk assessment and damage limitation are two vital elements to successful social media marketing and communications.

Paul Fennemore
Managing Director Viapoint
Viapoint – UK’s Leading Social Media Consultancy, Managed Services and Training Provider
Researcher and Lecturer at Henley Business School and Oxford Brookes University