Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why GM's Latest Product, OnStar For My Vehicle is a Marketing Disaster

Needless to say, GM has been in financial turmoil for a long time. In addition, pressures from investors- who forever consider only their own short-term gains- have forced them to become a very different company than they were a decade ago. What drove their early success was a corporate focus on improving the quality of their vehicles and services; now, they've shifted that focus to the quality of their quarterly earnings reports.

Recently, they invested a good sum of money to manufacture and market their renowned OnStar systems, à la carte for installation on all vehicle brands. Of course, this was in an effort to maximize profit sources by increasing the width of their product offerings.

At the same time though, they take away from the depth of their product experience. While producing OnStar à la carte may raise profits for a little while, allowing all car brands to have the sense of security that is unique to GM, takes away a huge differentiating factor for the struggling company. This was one of the few aspects that were definitively different (in a positive way) in GM vehicles; it was an excellent piece of technology that improved the brand’s experience exponentially.

Now, they are selling this beautiful innovation. Too often, companies favor short-term profits over long-term brand equity and this is what has happened to General Motors. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Easiest Way to Boost Your Customer Engagement and Social Media Buzz

This is no magical fix to all your social media woes. You probably won't even notice any empirical results. However, this is a simple way to give your Facebook page a little extra push.

The default setting for a Facebook page is to show your posts only. However, this robs you of so much potential buzz and word-of-mouth. Consumers will never trust your biased promotional jingles over the raves of impartial fellow consumers.

If you want to truly take advantage of the fanbase you've worked so hard to build, showcase all the positive things they have to say. In addition, this is great if you interact well with your customers.

To switch the setting to show both your posts and your fans' posts, simply go to your page while signed in and at the top right, you should see a button that says "edit page". Click this. Now there will be an option called "Wall tab shows". Select all posts and you're all set.

You just made your Facebook page 1.5% more engaging.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How to Easily "Wow" Your Customers with Social Media

Many brands (and most social media consulting firms)  fail to understand that social media marketing is about building relationships with customers. They splurge on hiring the best graphic designers to create a fancy Facebook page for them.

But let's recall what a relationship is. Or better yet, what it is not. A relationship is not one person always talking, and the other person always listening. Instead, each person will talk a little and listen a little. Why is this simple concept in interpersonal dealings not applied to social media marketing?

An engaging Facebook page is 5% about you showcasing your brand; the other 95% is just letting customers talk amongst themselves and to you. We've handled how to promote the sharing and word-of-mouth so let's talk about having customers talk to you. Here are posts on talking with your customers:

Improving Customer Relationships by Responding to Negative Feedback

How to Respond to Positive Feedback through Social Media

Great Example of a Conversation with a Customer Through Social Media

Here's a little example of a conversation with a customer. It's meant to be read with this post about responding to positive feedback on social media websites. This is a dialogue between a fine Italian restaurant and a customer who just praised it:

Reviewer: Hi there, I loved your restaurant! The veal parmigiana tasted very authentic.

Italian Restaurant: Thank you so much! That really means a lot. We really do strive to remind everyone of the tastes of Little Italy through our food. You seem like someone who really appreciates food; what’s been your favorite experience with an Italian restaurant? It’d be great to have your input so we can make our atmosphere and food even better :)

Reviewer: Haha, I vacationed in Italy for a month last year so I guess I know a little bit about Italian food. :) I guess my best experience would be at this restaurant in Italy where the chef himself took the dishes to our table and finished off the garnishes at the table. Needless to say, the food was great!

Italian Restaurant: That's awesome! Maybe we'll include some of those ideas in our experience for next time! What part of Italy did you go to?

...and so on and so forth...

How to Respond to Positive Feedback through Social Media

For an entrepreneur, there is nothing sweeter than the feeling of positive feedback, especially through social media. But don’t get caught in the moment. Positive feedback is an opportunity to advance your brand even further, in the eyes of both the reviewer and the general public. This is your chance to turn fans into fanatics and transform brand loyalty into the coveted “loyalty beyond reason”.

Thank the Reviewer

After all, they probably just augmented your profits by one or two percent.

Engage Him or Her Even More

Start an entire conversation with them by prompting them to talk more about themselves and their idiosyncrasies. Ask questions that they would be proud to answer. Here is a link to a great example of an exchange between a positive reviewer and a fine Italian restaurant. I highly recommend that you take a look at it.

This sort of conversation can go on for several days back and forth. Also, in addition to engaging this particular customer, through this conversation you gain valuable insights into how to improve your own restaurant experience. And as you begin to see commonalities in the people who praise your brand, you can better target your marketing toward a particular niche.

One day, maybe you’ll come across a million-dollar conversation where somebody gives you the suggestion that can immediately drive your brand to the top. That’s the ultimate reward for the fifteen minutes per day that you spent responding to feedback.

Give Out Tokens of Appreciation to Reviewers

First of all, this should only be done occasionally so your costs are not too high and your fans do not come to expect rewards. To add, these can just be coupons or small gift certificates; there is little correlation between the extravagance of these gifts and how loyal they will be. However, do not expect them to tell their friends about your brand, in exchange. Do not ask for anything in return. Period.

Do Not “Feature” the Feedback on your Facebook Page

This is not only pointless (the post is already public), but comes off as desperate. If you are using Twitter, occasional re-tweets of positive feedback is OK. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with motivating and praising employees by sharing the feedback with them during meetings or presentations.

As soon as you apply these principles, your brand loyalty will skyrocket.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Legitimate Complaints vs. "Hater" Comments: Responding to Negative Feedback on Social Media

This post is meant to be read with the post about improving customer relations by responding to negative feedback.

No matter what your organization produces or works toward, there will always be a few envious attention-seekers who want to get famous, by bringing you down. These people are what my generation calls “haters”; they do not have a valid reason to complain about your company, but they do it anyway. Basically, their comments will go along the lines of:

“[Your company name] SUCKS!!! I HATE THEM!! LET’S GO BREAK [your name]’S LEGS!!!”

Or the slightly more conniving:

“[Your company name] has terrible practices. They beat their workers. They’re worse than [insert a dictator’s name].”

At the end of the day, some of the most financially successful and ethically sound companies in the world, fall victim to millions of “hater” remarks. However, rarely is there any benefit in responding to these sorts of comments, with more than a canned apology. Even if their facts are wrong, telling them this can only spark more anger; the last thing you want is to start a social media war that polarizes your customers. And unfortunately, despite your best intentions, the public almost always sides with the “underdog” consumer.

Most people will not go any further after you respond with an apology. If they decide to continue to barrage your page with hate, simply remove their comments- why keep such negativity on your page?
Occasionally though, it is difficult to discern between hater comments and legitimate complaints; there can often be something genuine masked in the curse words of spur-of-the-moment rage. Here are a few guidelines on the differences between hater comments and legitimate complaints:
  • Hater comments question the operations of your company in an angry and irrational way.
  • Legitimate complaints are about the product or experience that your company provides. This may include questioning the operations of your company, but only if it is directly related to their experience (e.g. “you need to train your customer service representatives more effectively”)

  • Both can sound angry at first.
  • Haters will continue to be angry, even after you sympathize and apologize.

  • Legitimate complaints can either be public or private (e.g. email or phone)
  • Haters like attention and will always try to humiliate you publically

  • Legitimate complaints talk about your flaws in a candid, no-nonsense sort of way. Even if their complaints are long, every sentence is related to their own experience. 
  • Haters go out of their way to insult you or your company, often on a personal level. They like to insert underhanded jabs at your company, for no good reason

  • Legitimate complaints talk about themselves and how their own experience was bad.
  • Haters talk about you and how you are bad.
All in all, just remember: haters gonna hate. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Improving Customer Relationships by Responding to Negative Feedback

Negative feedback is inevitable, no matter how strong your brand and products are. Now, with the advent of social media, companies are bombarded with complaints through Facebook and Twitter. What's different about the social media complaints is that the customer's comment and your interactions with them is public. Anyone in the world can see the professionalism, sympathy, and service mindset that you demonstrate.

However, few brands take advantage of this powerful tool to show that you care about your customers. Most companies refuse to make a tiny investment of time to respond to these comments and improve customers' experiences exponentially.

This is your opportunity to set yourself apart. Ask select employees and even executives to take 15 minutes every day to log onto Twitter or Facebook, to respond to feedback and solve others' problems. Interns and co-ops who have shown a thorough understanding of your brand, can complete this simple task as well. Here are the steps that responses should follow:

1. Apologize and sympathize

Customers are usually decidedly furious when things go wrong in their experience with your company. Calm them down and let them know that you understand and care.

2. Ask how you can fix the problem

Ask for all the specific details you will need to fix the problem. Try to find these out all at once, rather than continuously going back to ask for more details.

3. Demonstrate a sense of urgency

The worst mistake in customer service is making the customer feel like you're nonchalant about their issue. Act quickly and give them updates on your progress if solving their problem will take more than 3 days. Go to every extreme to ensure that they are satisfied.

4. Offer them a gift to apologize for the inconvenience

This should be done whether the problem is solved or not. The gift can be a coupon, store credit, or a specific item.

5. Thank them for the complaint

Appreciate the fact that they helped you improve your product, by pointing out a flaw.

In addition, it is important to differentiate between legitimate negative feedback and what I like to call "hater" comments (here is a post on how to distinguish the difference). Respond only to legitimate complaints.

All in all, when you respond to negative feedback, customers are taken aback by how much you care- after all, they've likely never had a good experience with customer service, especially through social media. Nike+ responds to all tweets that "mention" them. They congratulate me when I tweet about my runs and when my sensor stopped working, they tried to help. Even though they weren't able to fix it, I was impressed enough with their dedication to me, that I will be a loyal customer for years to come. That means thousands in revenues for them, from a few simple tweets.

Social media- just do it.

The Ultimate Guide to Creating Social Media Buzz: A Word-of-Mouth Portal

Intertwined in our nature is this inherent need to share. We need to talk to people about the weather, what we had for breakfast, and what we did over the weekend.

Now, the main goal of a social media marketer is to capitalize on this irresistible urge to talk. We hope to harvest brands that are resonant enough to talk about, then convince our customers to chatter away.

First of all, the buzz generates great brand recognition . More importantly though, you can spend millions on traditional advertising but no matter who you are, consumers trust what their friends say about your brand, more than what you say about your brand. When a customer talks positively about your product on Facebook, they tell 500+ friends that buying from you is a sound decision.

As soon as your brand harnesses the power of sharing, you are able to showcase your best characteristics to the entire world. Here are The Art of Glow's best posts on promoting social media buzz:
  1. Making Customers and Supporters Proud to Share Your Brand
  2. Creating Funny and Interesting Experiences that Translate Into Good Stories
  3. Using Tangible Rewards and Incentives to Promote Word-of-Mouth
  4. Making it Easy for Brand Advocates to Share

An Easy Way to Boost Social Media Word-of-Mouth

Customers are lazy people; there are not many of them who will go out of their way to aid your brand, unless there is a large enough incentive to do so. We've taken care of the incentive in previous posts about making customers proud to support your brand and creating experiences that translate into good stories. So let's move onto the easier portion: removing the part where the customer has to go out of their way to support you.

Clearly, more people will share if you make it convenient for them. For example, Nike+ GPS, Nike's latest running app, allows users to automatically share the details of their latest run. So users feel the pride of publicizing their fitness and it's easy for them to do so.

On the other hand, while automated sharing can be convenient, status updates or tweets that sound canned do not resonate. Allow users to customize their sharing, in order to let their own authenticity shine through. If this is not practical, add a little bit of flair or personality to the automatic sharing.

Once you integrate some programming that makes sharing easy, you'll be well on your way to achieving the buzz that you've been looking for.

For more posts on promoting social media buzz, go to the sharing portal.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Creating Social Media Buzz with Tangible Rewards for Sharing

Tangible motivators are popular amongst today's "social media experts" for a few reasons.

First of all, there is a clear and definite correlation between the value of your reward and number of "likes" or "follows" your brand gets. If you guarantee users who "like" your page, a coupon or voucher, naturally, more people will "like" your page. Don't get too excited though because with these extrinsic motivators, you zap the element of engagement from the "like". You do not forge an emotional connection with the person, robbing you of precious brand loyalty and advocacy. In fact, if the customer is actually captivated by your brand, an extrinsic reward downplays the value of this relationship. It's almost like your friend paying you to do a good deed- it takes away all of the intrinsic value.

Also, tangible rewards require little creativity; it's just coupons, a "chance to win an iPad", or access to content. I'm not saying that innovation cannot exist in tangible rewards; it's very possible. However, it's not very abundant in today's social media situation.

Despite all this criticism that I have, tangible benefits do have a place in social media marketing plans. Tangible rewards are effective if they are given to loyal customers unexpectedly. This unexpectedness does not render the customer relationship meaningless; if they are unexpected, they are more like gifts of thanks for being loyal, rather than benefits to remain loyal. Also, these unexpected gifts can be combined with exclusive closed groups to maximize their power.

Moreover, a short-term campaign based on tangible rewards, can be viable for small brands that need a period of viral buzz. If executed correctly, this can explode brand recognition. On the other hand, be careful with this sort of campaign because customers may become "addicted" to your reward and flock away quickly if it is withdrawn. To combat this, ensure that your rewards are short-term or offered on an infrequent basis. As well, during and after you withdraw the rewards, present another meaningful way for the customer to connect and reap benefits from your brand (some sort of an engagement campaign).

Last but not least, occasionally, businesses need to boost the number of "likes" their page has, in order to "legitimize" the page. A tangible reward can do this very quickly.

All in all, it is generally a good idea to stay away from tangible rewards but every once in awhile, they may be able to supplement more meaningful marketing.

For more posts on promoting social media buzz, go to the sharing portal.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How to Ignite Word-of-Mouth for Your Brand on Facebook and Oher Social Media

Nike + iPod Marketing

One of the most attractive facets of Facebook marketing campaigns is the massive word-of-mouth potential. However, a vast majority of promotion on Facebook does not take advantage of the most efficient platform for sharing, in the world.

To figure out how to spur sharing, we can go back to the roots of why Facebook is so addicting. We love Facebook because it is an opportunity to show our true colors to a network of people who are interested in them. If you have Facebook, you know what you share: status updates often detail your accomplishments of the day, you might post your child's graduation photos, and you may put your political or religious views in your information section.

The common denominator of all these items is that you are proud to showcase them to the world. Why do people spend time filling out their favorite bands, movies, and athletes on their profiles? Because they're proud to show how unique and special their preferences are.

Clearly, the best way to trigger word-of-mouth on Facebook, is to position your product in a way that your customers can be proud to use it.

Nike + iPod (a device that tracks and shares running statistics) users are proud to share the fact that they are avid users because it gives them the image of being fit and determined.

Meanwhile, charity donors love to flaunt their generosity and restaurant-goers like to show off their good tastes.

All of these people would take pride in sharing their love of a specific brand on Facebook. How can your brand make customers feel the same way?

For more posts on promoting social media buzz, go to the sharing portal.

Creating Funny Experiences to Generate Social Media Buzz

Facebook users love to entertain their friends. We'll share jokes, funny stories, and odd things that we notice with life. Why not make your brand one of these interesting or amusing status updates, that are the lifeblood of Facebook and Twitter?

Use either your product or your marketing to create experiences that don't happen every day. There are no boundaries on what you do, as long as it's unique enough to solicit an emotional reaction. This reaction can be surprise, laughter, the classic "awwww... that's so cute," or anything else that resonates with your target audience.

Burger King made people laugh with the interactive "Subservient Chicken" marketing campaign. Basically, this campaign was a website where users would see a video of a man dressed as a chicken; they could type in commands to get him to do things like "peck ground" or "walk like an Egyptian" (all pre-recorded, of course).

The entertainment value of this website triggered sharing and word-of-mouth like no traditional advertisement could ever dream of doing. Meanwhile, it furthered Burger King's brand of "having it your way" and drove up profits by 30%.

Stores should use the intimate environment that they create to form these interesting experiences. Imagine how many teenage girls would scream their heads off on Facebook and Twitter if, at Abercrombie or Hollister, the models (or even just the attractive-enough employees) started talking to them.

Take these examples and adapt them to your business, to generate the buzz your revolutionary idea needs.

For more posts on promoting social media buzz, go to the sharing portal.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cultivating Brand Advocates Through Social Media: Involving the Customer

Customers truly enjoy engaging with brands that include them in their operations. Generally, companies subject even their most loyal customers to sitting on the sidelines, as mere spectators. Why waste these valuable brand advocates that you've likely spent years building relationships with?

Social media is a tool that can make customer involvement much easier.

Free the Children, a charity group whose goal is to eradicate child poverty, demonstrates this perfectly. They've partnered with various sponsors who have agreed to contribute $1 for every "like" they get on Facebook. This allowed supporters to be a part of the giving process, with a simple but meaningful gesture that they could feel good about.

Several brands have also created "name this product" contests on Facebook, as well as YouTube-based contests to make advertisements.

These sorts of engaging campaigns can create lifelong brand loyalty with winners and fun memories for other participants. Once you make a customer feel like a part of your organization, she feels sincerely good about supporting your brand.

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to Build Brand Loyalty with Facebook and other Social Media

To truly create a strong emotional connection with your customers, you have to give them good experiences that make them feel special. After all, a brand is is simply a sum of every positive and negative experience a customer has with your business.

For many high prestige brands, stroking a customer's ego is never a bad thing. Tiffany & Co., the legendary jeweler, allows loyal customers access to a back vault stocked with highly exclusive merchandise not available to the general public.

These sorts of loyalty programs can extend to Facebook with the "closed group" feature where membership is by invitation only. Here, you can pamper your most die-hard fans with special deals and early access to new products. Obviously, the feeling of being part of an exclusive group, can make the 2% of customers who drive 80% of sales, feel very special.

This is excellent for companies who are selling a revolutionary new technology that only a small segment has bought into. Reward these first supporters and they will reward you.

Although the closed nature detracts from direct online sharing, word-of-mouth in the real world will be strong, as your proud brand advocates boast about their membership in this group.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

This is Not Your Average Social Media Marketing Blog

The blogosphere is teeming with publishers who rave about the power of social media marketing. By starting this blog, I just become another voice in the mega-choir of twenty-something upstarts, Facebook addicts, and self-proclaimed marketing experts, all singing roughly the same tune.

Thousands of paraphrased articles basically say the same thing: social media will revolutionize the way we do business. That sounds sort of familiar, doesn’t it? Satellite radio was supposed to revolutionize the radio industry. Ethanol was supposed to revolutionize automobiles.

Heck, the Shamwow was supposed to revolutionize the world.

However, unlike other bloggers, I don’t think of social media marketing as a “revolution”. More like another handy weapon to have in a branding arsenal. And more importantly, the purpose of this blog is not to make you salivate over how amazing social media is.

Instead, this blog is a no-nonsense entrepreneur’s guide to actually using social media to build your brand. This blog is for the ambitious innovators who dream of creating “the next big thing”. I know you have the creativity and I know you have the commitment; all you need is that little spark to ignite your idea.

I hope you use the ideas I talk about to get the brand advocates you need. See you at the top.

The Founding Principles for The Art of Glow

This blog does not try to be controversial, with posts about what sucks and what’s going to change the world.

This blog tries to be inspirational, with attainable ways to get to the top.

This blog is not about how to make money.

This blog is about how to change the world (while making money).

This blog is not “social media for dummies”.

This blog is “social media for talented people, who have the creativity to think outside the box, the judgment to know how to apply concepts, and the determination to seek out success.

This blog is not a collection of ooey-gooey business buzzwords to make you feel smart.

This blog is a collection of practical ideas to engage your current customers and attract new ones.
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