Tuesday, April 21, 2009

U.S. Hispanics Repesent 10% of the Online Market

True to its reputation as a "melting pot," the U.S. boasts an increasingly large Hispanic population -- the implications of which, when it comes to advertising, go far beyond a language barrier. A recent report from Pew Hispanic Center stated that U.S. Hispanics have represented more than half of U.S. population growth since 2000.

Marketers may have been tempted in the past to ignore this group -- or, at the least, did little to tailor messaging to it -- but it is no longer financially wise to do so. According to a 2008 comScore survey on U.S Hispanics online, 5 percent of U.S. born and 17 percent of foreign-born Hispanics said they pay more attention to online video ads than TV spots, and 17 percent and 26 percent, respectively, find them more engaging than TV ads. The same survey also states that 13 percent of U.S. born and 22 percent of foreign-born Hispanics said they are more likely to respond to ads targeted to Hispanics.

The comparison of TV and online advertising as it relates to response rates should be viewed in context of the language barrier. In the U.S., there are television networks such as Univision, which are broadcast in Spanish and include direct cultural relevance to Hispanic audiences. These types of channels are certainly not the only ones that Spanish-speaking audiences may view, but they are a specific destination on television where they know they can see programming in their language. Similarly, the internet is a much vaster marketplace, but those same types of destinations exist, even though Spanish-language sites are not the only ones viewed by Hispanic audiences.

As more ad dollars shift to this growing segment of the U.S. population, those destinations will become in-demand (i.e., expensive) online inventory for marketers. So how do you reach out to other cultures in an effective and cost-efficient way?

Behavioral targeting can help marketers reach across the cultural divide, helping to identify Hispanic online audiences, or any other ethnic group for that matter, and deliver messaging that is relevant to not only their language, but also their overall culture. It can also expand the inventory marketers use to reach Hispanic audiences.

Behavioral targeting is used to create Hispanic audience segments first based on users who have visited Spanish-language sites or any sites with Hispanic-relevant content. You can then create sub-segments based on not only ethnicity, culture, or language, but also interests and purchase intent behaviors observed on those or other sites. You can even identify "purchase influencers" among U.S. Hispanic populations, based on browsing and buying behaviors plus geographic location. You may then serve culturally relevant marketing messages to these segments when they travel to any other site online.

You will also find re-targeting useful, once you have begun to build these behavioral segments. As you serve ads to your Hispanic audiences and sub-segments, you can then re-target them across whichever network or sites you choose, with upsell, cross-sell, or discount offers. As a marketer, make sure you're making the most out of these types of programs by using bilingual creative, or messages in Spanish, with themes and designs that will resonate with a Hispanic audience.

Finally, ensure that you are integrating your marketing into these segments with your other media programs. With your search program, you can strengthen your segments by layering your behavioral data with your search data. Behavioral profiles that have been tagged as part of a Hispanic audience or sub-segment can be given a boost by search data including Spanish-language or Hispanic content keywords or search engines that have been set to Spanish.

Consumer education is a challenge no matter what language you're speaking or audience you're trying to reach. If you decide to embark on a Hispanic-focused BT campaign, ensure that your privacy policies are clearly communicated in both languages on your site, as well as any type of opt-out or opt-in functions you provide.

According to SMG Multicultural CEO Monica Gadsby, 19.5 million U.S. Hispanics are online, 70 percent of Hispanic women are online, and Hispanics make up 10 percent of all online users. This might be a significant portion of your potential customer pool, and reaching out to them can be just as easy as reaching out to any audience segments, with a few process and creative changes. Based on its ability to accurately segment audiences, behavioral targeting is by far the most efficient way to market to the Hispanic population. And remember, these same principles can be applied to any cultural group that you want to reach out to in the country.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Beginners Guide to Twitter

Having a profile for your brand on the popular microblogging site isn't enough. You have to create a real presence. Our expert shows you how.

It is important to recognize and understand the nuances of Twitter as a communications channel. The genius is in its simplicity, but it's still a tool that consumers and businesses can leverage many ways.

My team conducted an exhaustive and extensive survey of the Twitterverse and how consumers use the platform for their needs. Check out some of the ways people use Twitter.

It is significant to note that 56 percent use it in some professional, marketing, or work-related capacity.

Conversations on Twitter happen quickly, and there are many benefits to your brand. Below is a tweet from Scott Monty from Ford on the value of Twitter as Ford sees it.

So how can and should your brand use Twitter? And more importantly, what are the most common mistakes and pitfalls on Twitter that could have a negative impact on your business or brand?

Let's take a look.

You need to have a unified experience consistent with your brand so as not to confuse consumers. Your Twitter profile is where people go to quickly discover how you are using Twitter and learn more about your business. Make sure that you get your brand or business messaging across using the 140-character descriptor field.

It is acceptable to tell them how you are going to use this Twitter channel and set expectations. For example, if your account is strictly for distribution of an RSS feed and there will be no human interaction, tell them so. Companies like SUN and Dell have multiple Twitter channels -- each specifically geared to deliver niche content to a target audience.

Tip: Update your Twitter page background with an image that conveys the positioning of the brand. A good example is Dunkin Donuts.

Notice how the company uses a visually branded background, page font, color, and an icon that are all consistent with its brand. Also note that the bio is descriptive, concise, and links to the Dunkin Donuts' homepage.

"Bio: Dunkin' Dave here, tweeting on the behalf of the DD mothership. I'm an American and I'm certifiably running on Dunkin."

Twitter effectively allows you to be the "fly on the wall" at a cocktail party. When an opportunity presents itself to join a conversation and interact, you should be ready. But you have to listen in order to do this efficiently.

Listening is a critical part of using Twitter if you want to be relevant and add value for the people who matter the most to your business. You can search Twitter as a lightweight form of brand and reputation management. Go to http://search.twitter.com/ to set up a number of persistent searches for your brand, as well as keywords that your users might be tweeting, and monitor them so you have the relevant knowledge of what is being said. This will allow you to respond and react accordingly in a timely fashion. You can also set up these searches as an RSS feed to monitor with something like Google Reader.

When users tweet @yourcompany, they are specifically reaching out to you and expecting some sort of response. User expectations are that if a brand or company is on Twitter, then it is there to interact. Failure to respond can have negative ramifications and is most commonly looked upon from a consumer's perspective as a sign that you don't care enough to respond. This is not what you want to have happen.

Responding in a timely manner and in a public fashion can have a very positive impact, as your followers and the followers of the person that you are interacting with will see that your company is engaging.

The bar has been raised, and the expectation for response from your brand has been increased dramatically. Now is the time to take this opportunity to increase your brand's engagement levels.

Most marketing people create a "message" and push it to multiple distribution points. That tactic does not work well in the Twitter ecosystem. While using Twitter to push press releases or automatic distribution of an RSS feed from your company blog might be appealing, the consumption model is minimal. Only linking to your website in your tweets will quickly become boring to your followers.

When you have people follow you, they follow for a reason. They have effectively "opted in" to hear what you are publishing and sharing. Focus on adding value and giving them what they want. Use this channel as a way to communicate industry news and trends -- insights that are valuable to your target audience.

Interaction is the key to building influence on Twitter. Share openly and don't only talk about your services. Find a way to mix it up and be interesting and human in your interactions.

Tip: Focus on adding value to the people who matter most and you can't go wrong.

There are several ways to measure the ROI of your efforts on Twitter. You need to choose clearly defined metrics for how you will measure and rank key criteria. The easiest -- but least valuable -- metric is how many people follow you. While this is a general indication of "popularity," it is not a good metric of influence, customer interaction, or customer satisfaction.

You will want to measure the number of interactions, the number of people you touch, and the net outcome of those interactions and conversations. For example, did you take an initial negative brand detractor and move that person to a higher satisfaction level, or to the point where they have become a brand evangelist?

You might also want to consider looking at the number of mentions of your brand as a general way to measure buzz or velocity as a topic of conversation in the ecosystem.

Also, consider the number of times your content is re-tweeted (noted on Twitter as "RT @yourbrand") and pushed through the network by multiple people. What is the effective "reach and influence" of the people that re-tweeted your content? This is actually an important metric when you look at how often people find your content interesting and "sharable." Interesting and valuable content is more likely to get re-tweeted by your followers.

You should also track the landing page of your site and how many people come from Twitter and what they do once they are on your site. This will help you to determine the behavior of the people that come from Twitter and what they are interested in.

It is important that, somewhere on your main site, you have a "directory" of people from your business that tweet on behalf of the company. It is also important that these people's bios are descriptive.

Companies like Dell use the word "Dell" in the user name (richardatdell, lionelatdell, etc.).

Kodak employees clearly identify themselves on Twitter via a visual branding profile image. Note the brand logo on the lower portion.

Many marketers make the rookie mistake of setting up an account on Twitter and not clearly defining how it will be used. Just because you are "on Twitter" does not mean you are using it in the most valuable way.

In fact, your company might need several different Twitter accounts that align with the target market and desired communication/business outcome. The low-hanging fruit that most companies are using it for is customer support or brand and reputation management. This is far from the only way that Twitter can be used.

As an example, Ford has six different Twitter accounts. Each account serves a specific purpose as a communication channel to address different market segments:
• FordTrucks
• FordDriveOne
• FordDriveGreen
• FordCustService
• FordMustang
• FordRacing

Here are just a few examples of how you might want to use Twitter:
• Customer support and service
• Brand reputation management
• Polling and product feedback mechanism
• Lead generation
• News distribution
• Brand awareness and establishment
• Product promotion and launch
• Humanizing of a brand
• Public relations

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

What Are The Right Social Media Networks For You?

More than 30 million baby boomers now connect on LinkedIn, and even more are on Twitter. And it doesn’t stop there. According to recent data from Inside Facebook, the number of U.S. Facebook users over age 35 doubled in 60 days–and is still on the rise.

No longer dominated by tweens, social media is a viable channel to market to business and family decision makers. And that means long gone are the days when you could just optimize your Website content and create meta tags and expect serious results from the Internet.

You need to get involved in social media and optimize your entire online presence. Before you begin, though, you must understand where your target audience resides online.

With the many options available to companies in the social media realm, it’s important to first learn about your audience. Where are they most likely to be engaging in social media?

Today it’s no longer enough, or even smart, to post a profile to MySpace and Facebook just because those are popular, and call that good. Your audience may be on Facebook or MySpace, or maybe it’s LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter or something else entirely. Do a search to see where your brand is being talked about.

How? You can do this directly from a major search engine or by using the search capabilities the social media outlets provide. For example, you can search twitter using http://www.search.twitter.com. And a great way to view your brand’s social media presence is to use http://www.prmetrics.com.

Is your company being discussed on any of the social media sites? If it is, you need to be there engaging in the conversation.
Coca-Cola is a great example of this. Did you know the Coca-Cola business page wasn’t actually set up or controlled by Coca-Cola? Two of its fans actually got there first.

But instead of getting angry about it, Coke used this to its advantage. It embraced its fans, inviting them to talk to them personally.

Think of the insight Coca-Cola gleamed from this meeting! And today, Coke has the second highest number of fans on Facebook for its corporate page–topped only by Barack Obama (http://www.allfacebook.com/statistics/pages/).

Can’t find any mentions of your company? Don’t panic. That means you have the unique ability to start the conversation—the way you want to start it.

But don’t wait. Get involved now and start talking about your company positively in social media channels.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Social Web Crisis Communications

Businesses, individuals, and organizations will, from time to time, make honest mistakes or in some unfortunate cases, intentionally support unethical decisions to dissuade or conceal something significant from its public.

Whether it's an oversight or a matter of deception, savvy companies usually employ and deploy a crises response team to prepare for, manage and attempt to positively spin the potential backlash from customers, partners, and employees related to almost anything.

Crisis communications is a branch of PR that is designed to protect and defend an individual, company, or organization, usually from a reactive response, facing a swelling public challenge to its reputation, brand, and community.

Throughout the course of history, we've learned that all that's required to ignite a negative firestorm is a spark from a single voice or an organized congregation.

If a conversation takes place on the Web and you're not there to hear or see it, did it really happen?

More often than not, we miss the very things that provide insight into a future response simply because we're not conditioned or trained to proactively discover and diffuse threats or negative experiences.

Our weakness, however, is also our opportunity to manage and also respond to any potentially damaging or menacing public groundswell.

Conversations related to your brand, company, executives, products, and competitors take place each and every day, without our knowledge and perhaps worse, without our participation.

In the era of the Social Web, a story, and the ensuing public recruitment, rallying, and support, can rapidly spread unlike any crisis wildfire witnessed or experienced in previous generations.

Social Media is pervasive. At the very least, it is transforming how we communicate with each other and also how we discover and share information. As the adoption of Social Tools and applications progresses from the left to the right of the bell curve, Social Media will simply coalesce back to "the Web." But, its migration, exploration, experimentation, and education will only contribute to its significance and resilience and ultimately change behavior and expand the infrastructure for corporate communications in the process. Regardless of genre, the sum of all social channels today equate to a powerful, influential, and revolutionary archetype for exposing and diffusing public opinion.

Perception is formed through the unique, individually-filtered experiences we each bring to the table. In that regard, our brand, and more specifically, our actions are open to public interpretation, support, and dissection. It’s what you say about you, what they hear, how they share that story, and how you weave that insight into future product and service iterations, communications, corporate infrastructure, and public conversations.

The tools and platforms available today are sophisticated, evolved, and designed for social distribution and redistribution. The Social Web forces a new level of understanding and participation in order for all communications professionals, in addition to crises response and reputation management teams, to understand its dynamics and the prevalence of information, positive, neutral, and especially negative.

To date, crisis communications and reputation management were relegated as a reactive response, while the groundwork for a potential predicament and the development of strategic communiqué is among the best practices for proactive crisis planning.

The traditional crisis communications planning and response workflow:
• Crisis Planning
• Negative Groundswell
• Crisis Response
• Public Relations
• Assessment/Monitoring

In the Social Web, I propose that many, if not a majority of potential crises are now avoidable through proactive listening, engagement, response, conversation, humbleness, and transparency (repeat).

I'd like to introduce you to an old, but new again, dynamic process to integrate into the existing corporate communications and marketing workflow. Today's social tools and communities that can work against us can also work with us, when proactively managed and embraced with an open mind, sincere intent, and genuine participation.
• Active
• Listening
• Observation
• Conversation
• Learning
• Planning
• Continued Adaptation and Engagement

The art and science of proactive listening, observation, and participation will not only inspire the creation of in touch, relevant, and poignant PR and marketing strategies, but will also dramatically reduce the potential for reactive response and crisis communications programs. Crisis communications teams can also partner with those responsible for monitoring online brand reputations (ORM - online reputation management) or vice versa, to jointly listen, respond, and incite change from within. This creates a more effective "public relations" organization.

The point is that this is about proactively diffusing visible, but not yet large-scale predicaments before they're full-blown public crises. And, also through direct listening, engagement, and actively addressing concerns both inside and out of the organization, we're diverting the momentum from tropical storms before they have an opportunity to form unforeseen and unanticipated hurricanes. It's the ability to avoid a storm without knowing a storm was brewing by identifying weaknesses and opportunities as they emerge.

This is community-driven communications in its purest form which begets a community-focused and customer-centric organization.

Everything starts with openness and the ability to learn and adapt. It's the acceptance that it doesn't matter if the customer is always right. After all, a happy customer will share their good fortune with a group of friends and peers, but an unhappy customer will tell everybody.

Perception is everything.

For communicators, it's our role to actively listen and translate conversations into actionable next steps. It's not an automated process. It requires dedication and empowerment. Much of this responsibility is falling upon community managers and the new role of research librarians who are quickly acclimating to online conversations and how and where they apply to the internal decision makers, traffic coordinators, and metrics analysts. By partnering with these new, socially adept resources, Public Relations can…can more accurately and genuinely participate with influencers, whether they're media, analysts, bloggers, or tastemakers. When we step back and assess our markets, we just may find that they're collectively one in the same.

What if you don't yet have these roles or resources to help you listen and follow meaningful conversations? It's not impossible for you to proactively monitor conversations and the cultures and behavior associated within each digital society in order to identify and prioritize opportunities for engagement, reform, and evolution.

Start with using free search blog search tools such as:
• blogsearch.google.com (set up Google Alerts via RSS or email)
• Technorati
• Blogpulse

As we all know, or should know, the social web extends far beyond blogs, relevant online conversations are pervasive and rampant in social networks and microforums as well. In that regard, be sure that your initial waves of search include:

• search.twitter.com
• Ning
• Facebook
• Google and Yahoo Groups
• Uservoice
• Getsatisfaction

For those with a moderate budget to evaluate dedicated SRM (social media relationship management) or ORM tools, consider:
• Trackur
• BuzzGain
• Radian6
• BuzzLogic
• BrandsEye

Search for keywords related to your business, such as the company and product name, key executives, as well as scouting discussions for the "suck" or "die" factor. This includes adding a combination of the following criteria in your search process:
• "product+sucks"
• "company+sucks"
• "die+company"
• "i+hate+company"

As the Web itself grew in pervasiveness, it also paved the way for customers to easily launch sites to vent publicly. Examples already number in the thousands, with some capturing significant public attention including starbucked.com, ihatestarbucks.com, boycottwalmart.org and againstthewal.com.

Fairwinds recently released a study that documents the power of Internet gripe sites. The Wall Street Journal explored the topic with an in-depth article, "How to Handle 'IHateYourCompany.com,'" which explored what some companies are doing, or not doing, to protect their brands online.

In its study, FairWinds researched the Web to identify gripe sites specifically containing "sucks.com." The study uncovered over 20,000 domains with only 2,000 ending in the phrase "stinks.com." Of the major consumer-facing companies surveyed, only 35% own the domain name for their brand followed by the word "sucks."

But domain names are only one of the many opportunities for customers to share their discontent, and in the new era of the two-way web, communications, customer service, and brand and reputation management teams must all work together to actively survey the landscape to detect and diagnose negative experiences.

The Social Media and conversation landscape is a diverse universe. In order to identify a potentially dangerous asteroid on a glancing or full-blown collision course with your brand, you'll also need a powerful telescope, or, a "Conversation Prism."

The Conversation Prism was designed to provide a snapshot view of dialogue within mainstream and vertical social networks and communities that may be consequential to your brand. Every network provides a search box to unearth threads of discussions tied to connected keywords and inherent developments, negative or positive that may affect the company brand and reputation.

Conversations and developing crises are probable across a multitude of online channels, including:
• Blogs and Comments
• Microcommunities aka Microforums
• Social Networks
• Lifestreams
• Customer Networks
• Groups

The ensuing conversations tied to your brand can quickly and easily amass, across multiple networks simultaneously. Don’t let those conversations fall upon deaf ears.

For the first time, we have the ability to identify and address potential crises as they surface. And not only do we have the ability to engage with people to address their grievances or discontent, we can also learn from each engagement and feed the corresponding lessons, experiences, and criticisms back into the sales, service, and product development departments to change everything for the better.

It's the difference between simply placating customers and improving our business and products to satisfy many others who would have been potentially exposed to a potential deficiency.

Customers are among the new influencers and have the tools and platforms readily available to them in order to share their experiences and potentially incite the masses.

It's not just about the gripes we've identified, it's about the dialogue and actively and publicly addressing each issue to minimize the unforeseen eruptions from those who have yet to publish or rally others against us.

While our control has been crowd-sourced, perception management and crisis communications are ours to lead. Perception is reality and it's our responsibility to invest in the relationships and the correlated activities that will help us cultivate and manage an industry leading, market relevant, and in-tune brand.

Listen, learn, and adapt. In the Social Web, and in the real world of business, companies will earn the relationships, and the crowd-sourced brand, they deserve.