Category Archives: Strategy

Real World Social Media – The Power of Networking

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve spent the past 2 years and 9 months working diligently on an AACSB accredited MBA at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, MN.  The university requires successful completion of 17 classes, 2,200 hours of class time and a LOT of group projects of their MBA candidates – whether you attend full or part-time.  My decision to attend St. Thomas was made for a variety of reasons (including their AACSB accreditation) but as I look back on the past 3 years or so – one criterion stands above the rest … the people.

The power of social media has enamored both marketing and sales organizations over the past few years.  In fact, when I began my MBA coursework, Facebook was still a “college” thing rather than the behemoth it is today.  Twitter was called Twttr. And the iPad didn’t exist.

Social media’s influence and impact continues to grow and to be debated but will surely be with us in the near term.  However, we must not forget the power of being social in the real world.

The true power of social networking exists in real life as it has for generations.  The ability to hold a conversation, to emote, to share and to laugh (without the use of LOL or emoticons) will quickly become a lost art form if we forget the most important aspect of our day-to-day the lives … the people we interact with, cherish, work with, or even dislike. No amount of Facebook likes or posts, Twitter Feeds, Apps, Texts, etc. can replace real world communication and networking.  They can enhance or compliment the experience as any technological innovation should do.

While I’ve learned a great deal about marketing, statistics, decision-making, strategy, and yes, even social media during my pursuit of an MBA … as I reflect on my experiences it becomes readily apparent that no amount of technology or innovation replaces the fundamental power of being social – IRL.

(that’s Twitspeak or SMS for In Real Life)

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Marketing Technology: Cloud Computing Definitions – SaaS – PaaS – IaaS

Cloud computing stack showing infrastructure, ...

Image via Wikipedia

Marketing isn’t just about branding, creative, etc. – marketing accounts for the rise in global technology usage and stands poised to embrace the “Cloud”.  The Cloud is a virtual environment that precludes the purchase of servers and other technology components to deploy websites, social media sites, etc.  Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft and Google have offerings in this space and there are three acronyms that marketers need to understand when deploying future marketing strategies – no matter which vendor you utilize.  The three most typical deployment models are:

SaaS – Software As A Service.  Pronounced “SASS”.  Simplest deployment method which allows software to be tapped from a cloud computing resource rather than relying on software installations and implementations.

PaaS – Platform As A Service.  Pronounced “PASS”.  Intermediate deployment that steps away from simply renting applications from the cloud by leveraging the cloud as an operating system (platform).  This also eliminates expensive network upkeep as most service providers provide routine maintenance and upgrades as a part of their SLA (service level offering).

IaaS – infrastructure As A Service.  Pronounced “I-AS”.  The holy grail of cloud computing! You access / rent everything from the cloud … this means servers, storage space, routers, and other hardware, networking capabilities, operating systems, and applications.  This allows for the ultimate degree of scaling as your projects (and customers) dictate.


Android Phones Pass iPhone in 2010 Unit Sales

According to Gartner Research, as of February 2011, Android has surpassed iOS in unit sales. Their research also indicates that Nokia’s Symbian maintains market leader status although the combined Android and iOS sales momentum in 2010 should have them worried about that status in 2011.

This is very important information to a marketer … at an aggregate level it would appear that marketers should continue to embrace iOS but need to ensure that they have a presence or app available for Android as well.  The press that the iPhone commands is misleading to marketers!  If your app is not available to Android (or Symbian) users then you are not engaging 67 Million folks (or 111 Million).  Scary, huh? And don’t get me started on organizations that are optimizing mobile sites for iOS with no thought or regard to Android … (note: I have both an iPhone and an Android based phone).

While the iPhone and iOS are “sexy” and hot topics … it is possible that the closed environment or ecosystem combined with limited distribution of Apple products may once again prove a challenge to Apple’s market dominance.  It wasn’t that long ago that Apple PC’s enjoyed a lion’s share of the market but limited distribution, closed environments, and high prices enabled Microsoft to quietly eclipse Apple as a market owner in less than 5 years.  This would explain the introduction of the iPhone to Verizon users this month – someone at Apple finally realized that they had limited access to the smartphone market with AT&T while Android based phones are offered by every carrier.

The lesson?  Organizations need to ensure that their mobile marketing presence is not limited to the Apple ecosystem.  The aggregate data and market research confirms that the iOS market share represents a minority of overall market opportunity.  Marketers who are partial to the iOS platform (and Apple) should be worried about the rapid increase in Android unit sales this past year … check it out for yourself in this killer video that shows the slow build of momentum since 2008 of the Android platform based on global Android activations from 2008 – 2011.  Pay particular attention to how quickly the platform base growth accelerates in 2010 and early 2011:



Pre-game Super Bowl XLV Ads and Brand Strategy

I’m looking forward to the Super Bowl advertising spots this year – we should see a true blend of old and new advertising / marketing strategies at play with traditional video and TV spots leveraging brand presence on Facebook, Twitter, and most importantly …  YouTube.  Major kudos to Volkswagen with their efforts thus far – a “pre-release” or sneak peak at their spot has generated more than 12 Millions views on YouTube, 50,000 Tweets, and over 140,000 Facebook shares … and get this … over 5,000 mentions on Google Buzz (I didn’t think they had that many users?!).  YouTube may be the hands down winner in all of this as consumers hit the site to re-play not only scenes from the game but their favorite advertising spots as well.  If a brand positions these marketing assets properly, there is a significant opportunity to build brand equity and drive revenue growth.  In my opinion,  the spots should direct consumers to YouTube to re-play the ads (maybe via a promotional enticement upon viewing?!) with an opportunity for customers to engage with the brand further via social media (think Facebook likes and follows) with the ultimate goal of driving a desired behavior (e-mail subscribe, purchase, etc.) by re-directing new Facebook and Twitter followers to the brand’s consumer web site.

Volkswagen Super Bowl XLV Ad:  The Force


Short Term vs. Long Term – MySpace and Facebook

MySpace laid off almost half of its staff this week and is reportedly for sale amid reports of continuing subscriber loss to Facebook.  MySpace was the social networking site when Facebook reserved its membership ranks to attendees of Ivy League schools.  It was the first site that anyone could log into and create their personal “space” on the web including photos, music, mini-blogs and more.

It took MySpace less than 5 years to become a star and fall from grace in the markets while Facebook accelerated at a pace that now eclipses that of Google.  What happened?  Well … it’s a case of trying to be everything to everyone and the master of nothing.  It spread itself to thin and lost its way.  Facebook has always been straight forward – you get what you get.  Sure, they introduce new products here and there but it’s a “one size fits all” model no matter if you’re a celebrity, student, housewife, or just a regular joe.

The lesson?  Decide who and what you are and stick to your guns.  An ever changing business model that reacts to short term guidance or market pressures ultimately leads to failure.  We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again – history always repeats itself.

When MySpace was sold to News Corp. it forced itself into the world of short term thinking where quarterly revenue was king.  The pressures to top quarterly analyst forecasts eclipsed a strategic vision that was responsible for its rise in popularity and ultimately led to an ever changing and increasingly complicated social media landscape and mission statement that turned off its core user base.  These users flocked to the simplicity that is Facebook (at least from a UI perspective) and the rest as they say is history.

Maybe Zuckerberg had it right by resisting the pressures for an IPO over the years and keeping Facebook private?  It has meant he can deliver on his strategic vision from a long term perspective rather than a reactionary stance every quarter like most public entities.  You tell me … MySpace is the 49th most visited site globally according to Alexa.com.  That’s nothing to sniff at unless you’re competing against the likes of other social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and a slew of others that rank higher for visitor count.  They’re all competing in the same space.  Pun intended.


Holiday Marketing Perfection via Coca-Cola

You didn’t think I was going to let the Holidays pass without a marketing spin, did you?  : )

Coca-Cola has once again mastered the art of Holiday marketing with its latest commercial featuring the band Train’s new single “Shake Up Christmas”.  The commercial is titled “Snow Globes” and has been played in traditional and digital channels since Thanksgiving.  Holiday marketing can be a tricky strategy for many companies that try to be everything to everyone.  Rather than focusing on a single message (that would ultimately offend someone somewhere), Coca-Cola adapts current branding and messaging to local markets at a cultural level – whether you’re in Africa or North America.

Fun Fact:  Did you know that Coca-Cola’s marketing engine is responsible for the North American depiction of Santa Clause?  Read all about it on the Coca-Cola site:  http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/heritage/cokelore_santa.html  or simply enjoy the North American version of their Holiday campaign below …

Happy Holidays!


Social Media ROI – Fact or Fiction?

Image Credit:  http://www.webguild.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/roi.jpg

ROI (Return On Investment) is a rather simple mathematical calculation that evaluates the efficiency of an investment or its performance in comparison to other investments.  How simple?  Here it is:  Gains – Costs / Costs = ROI.  Pretty nifty, right?

Here’s an example – if you use $100 of budget that nets $150 in revenue or gains your ROI is 50% (150 – 100 / 100 = .50).

The basic ROI equation becomes rather tricky in the Social Media realm.  How valuable is a Twitter follower?  What quantitative impact does a Facebook wall comment provide?  Is the quantity of LinkedIn connections more important than the quality?

Social Media is a channel of open communication that exists outside of the normal boundaries of push and pull marketing and is difficult to provide firm ROI in the traditional sense.  And this is where things get tricky …

Trying to prove the value of Social Media in a traditional ROI sense is rather difficult.  You cannot easily quantify the value add of a Social Media presence in terms of traditional ROI gains.  In fact, you’re more likely to show a loss when using a traditional ROI model.  Social Media, as a channel, should be analyzed from a branding, engagement, influence, and competitive value add perspective as a component of strategic marketing initiatives.  This allows for qualitative measurements of individual marketing channels that combined lead to revenue gains.  Strategic marketing encompasses the channels and messaging that will deliver on business initiatives (i.e. sales, hires, brand recall, viral marketing, etc.).  Thus, the Social Media aspect of marketing ROI cannot be measured alone.

I guarantee you that a marketing executive will get fired looked at funny if they delivered an ROI analysis that included this statement: “We spent $50,000 on a Facebook page and have not been able to prove that anyone posting comments on the wall or who has followed the page actually buys our products.  But, it looks cool. And, everyone else is doing it.”

Social Media’s ROI should (typically) be tied to branding and influence initiatives within the marketing budget and strategy.  Branding ROI is component of marketing ROI and should never be analyzed independently … rather, the entire marketing budget (thus, your strategy delivery mechanism) should be utilized against total revenues or gains to determine effectiveness of the strategy.  No results = Bad strategy.  Plain and simple.  Simply creating a corporate Facebook page or Twitter account is a tactical response to a strategic problem.  Changing your channels of communications as part of a shift in marketing mix that is quantifiable in gains (ROI) is a strategic move.

That marketing executive I mentioned earlier would look like a rockstar if their statement included:  “We built a fan base to mitigate negative public comments and bolster positive consumer opinions that would impact our brand.  We leveraged sponsored campaigns on this channel (Facebook) that were tied to the page and tracked click-throughs and sales via web analytics …”  and so on.

At the end of the day, it’s all about ROI.  Plain and simple.  Did your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc. create gains on its own or was it part of a marketing mix that worked in unison from a strategic perspective to deliver gains?  The person signing checks or giving you a budget doesn’t care about fans, followers, comments, and so on … they are concerned with your strategy and its ultimate impact on revenue.  Positioning social media as a progressive and innovative component of your overall strategy makes you look like a rockstar – if, and only if, that strategy, as a whole, actually delivers something quantifiable like revenues, hires, etc.


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