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  • Paul Fennemore 11:22 on August 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , social media analytics, , social media monitoring, , social media tools, ,   

    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  http://ideya.eu.com/reports.html.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 Salesforce.com, a leader in CRM systems, has made a flurry of acquisitions to provide an integrated social system.

    Salesforce.com 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 http://www.salesforce.com/uk/solutions/.

    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 Salesforce.com 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

    1. 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.
    2. Set measurable social media goals against your core business objectives and prioritise them.
    3. Decide what the metrics you are going to use to measure your success.
    4. Don’t just measure numbers of Fans or Followers.
    5. Be 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.
    6. Do 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.
    7. Decide if you need your social media content distribution system to measure the reach and buzz generated by your content.
    8. Decide 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.
    10. Make sure you have the people with the skills and time to use the insight reports to improve your marcoms.
    11. Seek advice from specialists in this field such as the author of this blog and start simple.

    .

    Paul Fennemore

    http://www.viapoint.co.uk

    paul.fennemore@viapoint.co.uk

     
  • Paul Fennemore 12:36 on May 8, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , family arches, , , paul fennemore, , , , , , , , , viapoint, viapoituk   

    Don’t be corporate with negative posts on social networks

    ImageToday, 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 http://viapointuk.wordpress.com/2012/02/18/its-time-for-corporates-to-stop-playing-with-social-media/

    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 you 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 these vocies will cause a backlash. We have seen plenty of examples of this.  Key strategies are to define your ‘tone of voice, cultural change, set out an employee code of conduct and governance guidelines 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.

    Paul.fennemore@viapoint.co.uk

    @paulfennemore

     
  • Paul Fennemore 15:37 on March 30, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: change management, , , ecommerce, marketing agency, marketing consulting, social business, social enterprise, , , social media world forum   

    The UK is 2 years behind with social media! 

    Image

    Having spent two days at the UK Social Media World Forum this week, despite having hundreds of visitors to the Viapointg stand and many enquiries,  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 http://t.co/TLog31Sb#SMWF@SocialMediaWF.

    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 applicaion that proves the UK can do it.

    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.

    Paul.fennemore@viapoint.co.uk

    @paulfennemore

     
  • Paul Fennemore 12:36 on March 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ecommece, , , ,   

    Are social media networks killing the practice of market segmentation? 

    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

     
  • Paul Fennemore 12:07 on March 14, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , ,   

    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

    paul.fennemore@viapoint.co.uk

    http://www.viapoint.co.uk

     
  • Paul Fennemore 12:50 on February 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    It’s time for corporates to stop playing with social media! 

    There are now enough examples and evidence to know what social media marketing strategies and tactics work and don’t work. Enough for organisations to move beyond the baby steps of adoption where about two thirds are in the UK are today.

    The Board of directors are the culprits

    The issue is that most organisations, particularly at board level, are still holding back their organisations by not at least gaining a fundamental understanding of the medium.  Nor, and perhaps as a result, or they recruiting the right calibre of skills into the roles of digital and new media.

    I have interviewed and worked with scores of organisations on their plans for social media and many have said they now want to make social media strategic. However, they put their hands up and say that the issue is that they don’t know what strategic means when it comes to the adoption of social media for marketing and communications. So I decided to help them by defining what strategic means.

    What does strategic mean?

    I have been able to define strategic by examining what companies are doing well and can point to great examples of success and examining what is holding other companies back. In this blog I will not mention any names mainly to protect the reputation of the laggards.

    Firstly, I can tell you that strategic does not mean employing a campaign manager or a creative marketing agency to take charge of your social media plan and running it. Nor does it just mean setting up Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google+ or any other platform account, irrespective how funky your agency might make it look. And it also doesn’t mean overtly promoting or advertising your brand, products or services in online communities, you will drive members away in their droves if you do this.  However, I am compelled to say that most companies are still doing all three of these tactics with sometimes disastrous results or at best attracting a few passive ‘fans’ or ‘followers’. So what’s the strategic approach I here you cry!

    Well the bad news is that getting the best from social media is not straightforward and is resource intensive and demands a long term plan of action. But the good news is those companies who are finding how to go about using this new channel are getting some amazing results.  Below is a chart that I dare you to study that I produced.  I have identified eight business competencies that successful organisations are tackling to get social media working.

    Industry regulation is no reason not to use social media

    Levels of adoption do depend of the legislation that applies to different industry sectors. For example the financial services and pharmaceuticals sectors are regulated. But that hasn’t stopped those more ambitious organisations to use social media to great effect. For example, the Amex Open Forum online community for SME’s is held up as the benchmark for brand hosted social platforms (master-minded by a Viapoint Associate I should add). Whereas, I know of another credit card company who ban the use of all social networks and smart-phones only because it seems they lack know how.  Guess who is losing SME market share?

    Despite heavy regulation, Pfizer are using social media forums to help support, educate and enthuse young scientists and school kids that are looking to go into the medical profession. You see all it needs is the right approach and a framework against which social media can be implemented across an organisation to exploit the benefits and mitigate any risk.  Hopefully, my framework will help to take you on the right journey and starting now. Please feel free to contact me if you would like me to talk you through it.

    Social Media Maturity Model

    How to get social media working for corporates

     
  • Paul Fennemore 18:44 on February 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

    McDonalds: Corporates Still with the Wrong Social Media Mind Set 

    The week that Macdonald’s makes another massive social media gaff should bring home to CEOs and their CMOs that social media is not for the inexperienced http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2090862/McDstories-McDonalds-Twitter-promotion-backfires-users-share-fast-food-horror-stories.html.

    Putting social media in the hands of a well intention junior campaign manager is like a CMO putting an automatic weapon in the hands of an angry 5 year old. And yet despite the very public mishaps of MP’s, Skittles, Habitat, United Airlines, Nestle, Toyota and countless more many corporates are still lost as to how use social media effectively.  Yet paradoxically there is now enough experience and evidence to know what social media strategies work and don’t work.

    The main issue is that companies and many agencies still believe that social media is about marketing campaigns and running them in the same way they always have done.  In fact social media marketing and communications is so fundamentally different a whole new approach is required

    A change of mind set is needed.  Consider social media or social commerce as a strategic marketing and communications channel that has the power to make organisations more agile, be much more in tune with their employees their market and their supply chain. Social media has the potential to transform businesses.

    Astra Zeneca announced drastic cut backs, making thousands redundant because they had new drugs coming to market soon enough. Yet those Pharmaceutical companies are using social media to crowdsource R&D and innovation, such as Proctor & Gamble, are keeping their share price up by having reduced R&D cycle times by 40% through using an online network of 80,000 independent innovators.

    CEO’s and CMO’s need to make social media strategic and stop delegating it to marketing campaign managers and campaign managers need to understand that social media is not about campaigns. Social media marketing is its most effective when joining up traditional marketing campaigns and perpetuating ongoing consumer engagement thereby building brand loyalty and increased word of mouth.  Tactical marketing campaigns and social media do not mix as McDonald’s has yet again demonstrated.

    Paul Fennemore

    Managing Director Viapoint

    http://www.viapoint.co.uk

     
  • Paul Fennemore 12:33 on February 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Meeting with HBOS today re how they tackling getting a single customer view across multiple channels. An issue that is becoming more challenging as a result of online social networks and FSO legistlation .

    Please note that you can call Viapoint a social media agency but we are so much more as social media is so much more than a platform for marketing campaigns. Just check out our blogs.

     
  • Paul Fennemore 11:22 on February 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Online Social Networks User Motivators: The Science 

     

    It’s time for those involved in social media to try to understand the science of social media networks. As all professional marketers will know, marketing is a science and not an art.

    Therefore, this paper helps marketers to understand one facet of online social media networks, the one of what motivates people to participate in them in the first place.

     

    The Science of Social Media User Motivators

    Traditional social networks have been the subject of a considerable amount of social science academic literature with regard to what motivates people and societies to socialise and form communities. Building upon existing social science theories, further research has been conducted into what physiological motivators drive people to create and participate in social networks communities .This is an important subject and needs to be addressed because it is valuable for marketers to understand user relationships and behaviours within online social network communities .Therefore, I offer the following perspectives.

    Online social networks have undoubtedly entered into mainstream culture and integrated into the daily routines of many people world-wide. Social networks are transforming the way society thinks, acts and behaves. Social networks are bringing participants together to create online virtual communities, and to act as an outlet for creativity and expression.  Rheingold (1994) defines virtual communities as:

    Social aggregations that emerge from the Internet when enough people carry on public discussions long enough and with sufficient human feeling to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.

    According to William (2009), communities are interdependent relationships that flourish when they deal with issues or common topic of interest. A study carried out by the IABC Research Foundation (1990) concluded that successful communication was “built on relationships, and was achieved through two way symmetrical communications”. Online social networks enable people to establish these two way relationships, and provide a highly effective method for computer mediated users to interact and form communities of like minded people, but on a considerably larger scale, scope and public openness than when IABC did their research 20 years ago.

     

    Sociologists, who have been researching traditional social structures and friendship networks, have found that patterns of friendship are strongly influenced by characteristics such as age, race, language and values. This is explained in the ‘birds of a feather flock together’ concept developed by McPherson et al. (2001), which is based on the human tendency to seek out and engage with those people who are the most similar to them. A theory known in social science as ‘homophily’. The main principle of homophily is that personal networks are homogeneous in the respect of many sociodemographic, intrapersonal and behavioural traits.  René Girard of Stanford University, a proponent of a theory of human behaviour called ‘Mimetic Desire’ (MimeticTheory.org, 2010), supports this argument.  Mimetic desire is based upon the concept that people are essentially sheep-like, and will copy one another without much reflection. This theory corroborates Thiel’s view, the Facebook venture capitalist, who argues that human beings will tend to move in flocks, hence the enormous popularity of Facebook.

     

    The principles of homophily and the aforementioned theories, might offer a rationale as to why people congregate into social networks of self organised groups but they do not explain what motivates users to act and make contributions to these groups.  I suggest that the reasons why users elect to participate in social networks are more than a subconscious desire to mimic or follow other people as proposed by the aforementioned scholars.

     

    According to Safko and Brake (2009), people become motivated to contribute information of value to their groups because they have an expectation that they will receive useful information in return, and gain recognition for doing so by their peers. Social psychology research has found that some individuals may contribute because they are having an influence over their environment and are gratified by responses to their contribution.  Social networks give individuals a channel to broadcast and express their views quickly and easily, in a conversational manner that is highly personal and controllable. Given that personal expression is recognised by sociologists as a compelling motivator to act I propose that this could be a key reason that explains why some people actively participate in social networks beyond the basic desire to be part of a group.

    Furthermore, according to Nour (2008), social networks subscribers will decide to interact with and help others based upon the value each one brings. I posit that the digital communications media of Social networks does not limit the value that users can gain from each other. In a research project on chat networks, Reid (1995) acknowledged the relationship building capability of digital communications and found that personal relationships amongst participants can be deep and emotional. Reid claimed that “individuals may explore possible public identities, create otherwise unlikely relationships, and create new behavioural norms”. In so doing, I suggest that this could be a reason why users are drawn to invent new social network communities. Moreover, online communities can be low risk environments that encourage people to form more loose relationships, to be more open with their opinions and in doing so communities collectively generate more value for its members. Therefore, I deduce that it is possible that the collective value communities generate for their members increases as the numbers of members grow. A phenomenon creating a self perpetuating cycle which might explain why some social networks have grown to the scale they have.

    Clinical psychologists offer yet another reason as to why people participate in social networks such as Twitter, the micro-blog service, where each post is limited to 140 characters.  James (2010) believes that micro blogging stems from a lack of identity and through constantly blogging, users are reminding themselves as to who, what and where they are.  Cognitive neuropsychologist Lewis (2010) proposes that today’s society is narcissistic, and by using Twitter infers a level of insecurity invoked by a compulsion to be recognised.

    However, Singer (2009) asserts that the main motivators of bloggers are derived from more positive behaviours that originate from an inherent desire to share their expertise, they want to become more involved with interests that they are passionate about, to speak their mind and they measure the success of their blogs through a sense of personal satisfaction.  I suggest that these behaviours relate back to earlier social science theories, specifically Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and levels of affiliation and self actualisation. Affiliation, in respect of the desire to be part of a community and self actualisation in terms of being able to express one’s self.

    I have found that reasons why people are motivated to join online communities are complex, driven by deep seated psychological motivators that need to be understood by marketers if they intend to effectively create empathy and engage with community members.

     

    Paul Fennemore is the Managing Director of Viapoint, a social media consultancy and services provider. Paul a popular speaker and panel host at digital and social media conferences and forums as well as regular blogger. Paul continues his research into social media in collaboration with Henley Business School and Oxford Brookes University. He holds an MSc with Distinction in Digital Marketing.

     
  • Paul Fennemore 11:50 on December 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Social Commerce – An Organisational Approach 

    Here are some home truths that creative social media marketing people will find outside of their brief, but CEO’s and Operations Directors should take heed of. The following perspectives are grounded on my research done with Oxford Brookes University and Henley Business School.

    Social Media is not just for Marketing

    Social media de-silos organisations through better collaboration with employees, supply chains and customers. Yes, social media is being used for marketing, but it should incorporate all business functions. Customer services can use social media for handling queries and complaints cost effectively and in a very responsive real-time interactive way.

    Innovative companies are using social media for crowd-sourcing, involving their customers and external specialists in R&D. Firms such as Proctor & Gamble and Eli Lilly have considerably reduced time-to-market by syndicating their R&D via a community called InnoCentive.com.

    The business world is turning back-to-front with B2B and B2C communications transitioning to E2C, C2E and significantly C2C. More power and influence is being transferred to the consumer, the share-holders and potentially the employees as they are given a much louder voice and are able to confer with each other anywhere, anytime and in any place. Firms now need to navigate their way through this new paradigm. Success with social commerce means adopting it strategically, aligning it to corporate objectives and fully integrating it with business operations and yes marketing.  For example, Nokia are using social media for a major business transformation program involving their whole corporation. Rather than suppressing the use of social media, companies are making social media all inclusive, getting their staff to be the firm’s voice acting as one, making them a powerful positive force.  However, this strategy requires a good governance policy, a code of conduct and some employee education as to what their involvement is and what their tone of voice should be

    Social Commerce Adoption

    Those businesses who are adopting social media commerce productively are tackling eight business competencies.  Starting with ‘Informed Leadership’, whereby business leaders had got to grips with social commerce and are using its interactive, real-time, multi-media and limitless reach capabilities to make their businesses agile. Other competencies include using social media monitoring and analytics tools to listen to what is being said about their products and services and indeed their competitors. These tools help firms keep their figure on the pulse and respond to market or shareholder perceptions appropriately and when it really counts. Social commerce demands a new philosophy of openness and transparency that some firms are struggling to come to terms with, but inevitably will have little choice in doing.

     
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