Archive for the ‘Social Media Marketing’ Category

Mythbusting The Differences Between B-To-B Email And Social

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

My column for MediaPost this week is another look at the intersection of email and social, this time within the context of B-to-B, as that is where most of our clients operate. The opportunities for B-to-B companies in social media are not the same as for Starbucks or Red Bull. But the opportunities exist, and given the low cost, scalability and potential ROI of social, my objective was to try and remove some barriers by debunking some of the myths keeping B-to-B companies out of social media.

Mythbusting The Differences Between B-To-B Email And Social
by Mike May
published in MediaPost’s Email Insider, 9.21.11

Depending on whose statistics you believe and where your company does business, there are somewhere between 250 million and 1 billion reasons to accelerate your social media strategy.

But the email clients I work with are principally B-to-B, so the sheer tonnage appeal of social media is not as persuasive with them. If a company only needs a dozen new clients to hit its numbers for the quarter, what should it care that 35 million soccer moms are playing “Farmville,” or that #quikster is trending? Instead, it’s easy to point out the ways in which email and social media are different, and how it is possible to conclude that a company that has built its communications program on email should not move resources into social.

I hear the arguments a lot, and will of course concede that the tactics for success in social are very different from those in email. Ambient atmosphere, message frequency, message length, content strategy and conversational expectations can be wildly different between the two channels. But email and social are alike in a very significant way: They are the only two permission-based channels.

I believe marketers whose teeth are sharp from email head into social with a  competitive advantage, as they already understand the principals of audience acquisition, respect, empathy and relevance. How you execute on these principles varies between email and social, but for the email marketer, operating within them is already second nature.

That email marketers make excellent social media marketers is one very good reason to supplement communications through social. Still, there are many counter arguments I come across, some less defensible than others. Here are a few of the most frequently cited, each in need of a little mythbusting:

1. I don’t really know who my fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter are.
With email I know who they are. If you have open subscription for your email list, I would posit that the same is true –you don’t know who your subscribers are, either. Sure, you may know their names and companies (unless they use Gmail or Hotmail or Yahoo, which is common even in B-to-B), but you also know the names of your Facebook fans, and most Twitter accounts use or reference real names as well. What you don’t have in social is the ability to see who exactly is reading or clicking. Instead, you know who is commenting, liking and retweeting. Isn’t that just as valuable?

2. Not everybody uses social, but everyone is on email.
It’s true that only 250 million Americans, out of a population of 307 million, are on Facebook. And it is possible, I suppose, that the 19% of the population who are not on Facebook are highly correlated with your customer base. But statistics aside, is everyone you want to reach already on your email list? And if they are, do you enjoy 100% open rates, consistently? Most of the population on Facebook and Twitter is not a direct hit for B-to-B marketers, but your audience is there — and your business would benefit from reaching them.

3. Business doesn’t get done in social media. It’s where people talk about where they went to lunch and look at pictures of high school reunions.
“On Facebook / Twitter” and “at their desk, doing work” are not mutually exclusive. Your audience may be doing both at the same time. Even if they are snickering to themselves at the 25 pounds Cliff gained since prom, they’re still only a quick shift in attention back to doing their job. And if they are completely immersed in Facebook, you may find it’s easier to get their attention there than to try to lure them back to the inbox. It’s a water cooler environment. Conversations happen there that you are only privy to if you’re present.

4. My brand isn’t right for social media.
Is Vistaprint’s? It has 33,000 Facebook fans and 9,000 Twitter followers. What about The American Society of Mechanical Engineers? Its industry recruiting program on Facebook earned 10,000 “likes” in only a few months. Both of those brands, as well as Omni Hotels & Resorts, Optify, Lexis Nexis, Sybase, Cisco Systems, EMC and others, were all B-to-B Magazine 2011 Social Media Marketing Award Winners. If your brand says something to your customers, then it is absolutely right for social media.

5. I can control my message in email, but in social media it’s up to everyone else.
I’m not sure this is such a bad thing. Look at it this way: Which would you rather have — an unqualified email address, or a visit to your website from an in-market prospect referred by one of your customers? Good things can happen when your customers help tell your story, even when you have to give up a little control to let it happen.

6. I like email because of the one-to-one targeting. With social, you’re just talking to a sea of nameless, faceless, largely anonymous people.
Let’s be honest here. Do you really do any one-to-one targeting with email? I mean, besides inserting your subscriber’s first name after “Dear” and maybe segmenting by geography or some other fairly wide attribute? Truer one-to-one conversations happen in social media, owing largely to the expectations that customers have about their questions being answered. Whole Foods reports that fully 80% of the company’s tweets are part of individual conversations with customers. And one of the reasons Vistaprint has been so successful in social (see above) was a company policy to respond to every Twitter mention directly, whether it was positive, negative or neutral. As a result, its Twitter followers more than doubled and its NetPromoter score (a scoring of customers who would recommend the company to others) also increased.

Email + Social Hypotheses to Test

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Here at Real Magnet, we’re only weeks away from launching our new Email + Social features. With this new tool comes the ability to monitor all your social feeds from within the Real Magnet application, compose, track and analyze tweets and Facebook status updates through Real Magnet, and attach social messages to email campaigns so that you can see how social contributes to your messaging.

Part of my job here on the blog is to educate our customers on how to use Real Magnet to improve results, and this would be a great opportunity to do so. Trouble is, I have no idea what advice to give. Combining email and social messages and analytics in the way you’ll soon be able to is unprecedented – it gives marketers access to learning and insights never before available. I can’t tell you what you’ll find anymore than the Pilgrims could have predicted in 1620 when they landed in Massachusetts that it would take the Red Sox 86 years to win the World Series. We’re entering uncharted territory. The territory is rich with highly desirable real estate and bountiful resources, to be sure. But we don’t – can’t possibly – know what exactly they are yet.

Absent experience-based insight, I do at least have my hypotheses. And with the new Email + Social features, you’ll be able to test each of these hypotheses – and many more – yourself. So here’s a starting point for what you may discover about your own marketing when you combine Email + Social:

1. Over 20% of my traffic comes from Facebook and Twitter. You know how large your fan and follower totals are compared to your email list, and you also know the open and click-through rates from email and your web traffic. If you dig into your website analytics you an also see where your traffic is coming from. Well, sort of. Facebook traffic shows up pretty cleanly, as Facebook is a website so referrers do register in most web analytics programs. But most Twitter activity takes place outside of the Twitter site, on dashboards like HootSuite and TweetDeck, and on mobile devices and apps. When you compose your social messages within Real Magnet, the links you include are automatically tracked by Real Magnet, so you will be able to see how many visits to your site are really attributable to Facebook and Twitter. You’ll also see which messages drove the most activity, and which social channel drove the lion’s share of the traffic.

2. My brand does better on the weekend with email instead of social. Recent research is concluding that many brands enjoy a nice uptick in social activity over the weekend, and recommend that more brands shift their social activity to Friday, Saturday and Sunday in order to take advantage of the larger audiences then. That’s sound advice in general, but does it apply to your brand? If you are in B-to-B, are your customers more likely to retweet or like what you have to say on their days off? My hypothesis is that they wouldn’t be, but soon you won’t have to take my word for it. With Email + Social, you can attach social messages to email messages so that the tracking and analytics for all of your channels are available together. Do an A/B test of a message sent to inboxes, Facebook and Twitter, with half of your messages going on Thursday and the other half on Saturday or Sunday. On Monday morning you’ll have hard data on which channels were the most fertile for you during the week and on the weekend – in plenty of time for you to take advantage of this new learning by next week.

3. Good tweets make great subject lines. Twitter teaches marketers to think concisely, which should improve subject line writing as well. But does a tweet that performs well (by driving a lot of clicks on an attached link and/or earning many retweets) necessarily make a good subject line? It might, but why guess? Publish your tweets through Real Magnet and track their performance. You compose your emails and subject lines within the same application, making it easy to peek at your social analytics for subject line inspiration. Then you’ll have the email analytics to see if the same tack that worked in Twitter drives attention in the inbox as well.

4. Photos and videos drive email engagement as well as social. Media uploads like photos and videos drive a lot of engagement in social channels. This may be because, being “social”, the time their audiences spend immersed there is a little more leisurely. Photos and videos are also easy to view in Facebook and Twitter, with both sites and their apps making expanding, slide shows and video viewing simple and intuitive. The inbox, by contrast, is more purposeful and therefore better suited to business, right? Additionally, expanding a photo or watching a video requires following a link to the web, which opens a separate application and takes more time. So the conventional thinking is that the inbox is better suited for copy, while social channels are better poised to take advantage of multimedia. But if multimedia does drive engagement, isn’t it worth testing in email as well, where your audience is likely larger? Use a hosted media service like TwitPic or a Facebook gallery for your media, and promote the link to both your social and inbox audiences. Combine the messages within Real Magnet so you can see which channel is driving the most views of that media. You may well find that your social audience is more likely to follow multimedia links, but that your larger email list – while less responsive – contributes more eyeballs overall than social.

5. My mobile audience doubles when I use social. Recent research pegs the total amount of activity on social sites coming from mobile devices as high as 40%. Shorter content and the irresistible pull some people feel towards social channels make them a perfect match for smartphones. With Real Magnet tracking, you can see already how much of your email audience is accessing via mobile. Attach your social messages and you will be able to measure the total mobile audience size across all channels. Your total mobile audience may be considerably larger than you thought.

Social and Email: The Only Permission-Based Channels

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

I wrote previously about how social and email are tactically different. As marketers, we tend to zero in on the differences between the ambient environment, message length and frequency  and the conversational expectations of social, and conclude that social and email are highly differentiated and require an entirely separate communications approach. This makes social appear a little less appealing – it’s new, it’s different, everything we already know doesn’t apply here.

But everything we already know as email marketers does apply to social. The most important aspect of social media – which it shares with email marketing – is that the nature of the relationship between the customer and the brand is the same. Both email and social are permission-based. What’s more, they are the only permission-based channels. This strategic similarity gives email marketers a leg up on social media compared to marketers grounded in advertising, search and even direct mail.

The distinction is one of control. In permission-based channels the customer – not the marketer – controls the spigot. Full bore, trickle or off altogether is entirely in the customer’s control. This means that the communications within these channels must not only avoid failing; they must genuinely succeed in order to hang onto the customer’s attention. In other media, the price of failed messaging (insipid ads, poor targeting, clumsy creative) is mere non-response. In those channels, non-response is the norm, so they are built around high volume to compensate. In permission-based channels the price of failure is far greater. Unsubscribes and unfollows mean that the open line of communication with a customer who previously elected to hear what the brand has to say is now closed. With search or advertising or rented mail lists, marketers can simply buy their way into more audience. With permission-based channels, each new pair of ears has to be earned.

Sure, the actual format of the communications in email and social is different: 4 paragraphs or a rich graphical design in an email, compared to 140 characters or a conversation-provoking query in social media. But they are both built on the same foundation, common to permission-based marketing:

Respect: As email marketers, we have learned not to take our subscribers’ attention for granted. They have lent us their attention and to be successful we have to find the balance between rewarding them for the attention they give, and taking some advantage of that attention to fulfill our own business purposes. But we know that the golden rule of “do unto others’ inboxes as you would have others do unto yours” applies. The same holds true for social. Even though the execution is different, social messages that show a lack of respect for our audience will compel them initially to disengage, and ultimately to turn off the spigot entirely.

Empathy: In email, we talk about relevant and targeted messages. In order to send them we need to know what our subscribers are interested in. This is the double-edged sword of permission-based channels. On the one hand, because they have opted in (either through a subscription form or a purchase or some other means), we know that our subscribers are at least interested in us in some capacity. And the greater our history with them, the better we are able to tailor messages so that our communications with them do show empathy – that we know what they like, and that we are happy to provide it. The other edge of the sword is that by giving us permission, our subscribers expect empathy. Our relationship with them is on their terms, so relevance is not just a successful tactic; it is the cost of doing business. Social channels are similar, though we know less about the people who fan or follow us than we do through email. In social, the empathy test is less about targeting messages to individuals (which does not exist in the same way that it does with email) and more about targeting messages to the particular channel. Being relevant is social means knowing what your customers want from you within Facebook or Twitter, which may not be exactly the same thing they look to you for in the inbox.

Expectation: Messages in permission-based channels work better when they are anticipated. If someone expects your messages in the inbox, it may be because they arrive on a regular schedule or you send with enough frequency so that the communication channel stays open. It may also be because they have elected to hear from you by subscribing or making a purchase. Whatever the source of the expectation, it is always improved the more your brand appears in your customers’ lives. Social media is the same way. Your customers will pay more attention to your posts and tweets if they are meaningful to them and appear (and engage) often enough so that your brand becomes more relevant to them. Here is one of the greatest opportunities for email marketers moving into social. Having a strong social presence does make your brand more relevant to your customers, which can improve the expectation and performance of your email messages. And the better your email program is working, the more engaged your subscribers are with your brand, making them more likely to engage further on social channels. When executed well, social and email can be a truly virtuous cycle.

Analytics Hold the Key to B-to-B Social Initiatives

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

I bet I can guess what you love about email. It’s inexpensive, scalable and does not require external resources or advanced training. It’s also immediate: you can decide you want to send an email at 9am, have it on its way by 9:30am and see a nice uptick in business even before your mid-morning coffee run. And it works – you have the ROI to prove it, right there in your analytics.

The qualities we love in email aren’t limited to that channel, however. One of the reasons social media is currying so much favor in marketing departments is because, like email, it also is inexpensive, scalable, and does not require external resources and advanced training. Social too is immediate, with an initial lift often coming within moments. But second and third bumps in exposure are also common in social marketing, as comments on Facebook posts push a brand further up News Feeds, and retweets on Twitter gain circulation. From this perspective, there is only one difference, but it’s a critical one. Social does not enjoy nearly the analytics and metrics of email, making ROI difficult to calculate. Without calculable ROI, businesses that normally make calculated investments are forced to take a leap of faith with social. Because of the teeming millions reachable there, many consumer brands are ready and willing to take that leap, but b-to-b marketers, whose budgets lean more toward direct marketing than branding, are not as eager to dive into social.

In an April 2011 research report from BtoB Magazine entitled, “Emerging Trends in B-to-B Social Media Marketing: Insights From the Field,” this lack success metrics shows up as the second leading obstacle to social media adoption in b-to-b, trailing only “Lack of resources.” Also on the list are “Lack of knowledge about social media,” “Management resistance,” and even “company policies prohibit social media.” See chart below:

b_to_b_social

That sure sounds like a lot of obstacles, but in truth it’s really just one. Once the analytics are in place to measure the contribution that social media makes to marketing campaigns, many of these other obstacles will disappear. The first to fall is the “Lack of knowledge,” as the analytics will be able to show marketers what works and what doesn’t. Then the “Poorly defined success metrics and KPIs” become a non-issue as marketers develop more experience with social and can identify suitable objectives and measure success against them. Show senior management that these KPIs are in place, and with them the analytics to measure success and “Management resistance,” “prohibitive policies” and “lack of resources” will all fall by the wayside as well.

These analytics tools of which I speak are coming. Soon marketers will be able to see how social integrates with email and other messaging channels, what communications tasks it is uniquely qualified for, and what percentage of a campaign’s results are attributable to social channels. The available insight is powerful. All the b-to-b brands taking a wait-and-see approach to social will very soon be able to see plenty, and should no longer find any reason to wait.

If you have been reining in your social strategy, now is the time to let it run. Start building your fan and follower base, and begin integrating social into your communications. It takes time to cultivate audiences in all new channels, and to learn each one’s nuances. Resource allocation is also going to be important for social, just as it is for email. Now is the time to identify who will spearhead social initiatives, and others who will be involved, and to make sure that these folks have the bandwidth to take on this new responsibility. All the analytics in the world don’t create success in an initiative nobody is driving.

How Twitter Can Make You Better at Email

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Your email subscribers probably don’t want to know where you and Samantha from accounting went for lunch, or to see a picture of cake at the summer intern’s going away party. Inexplicably though, this sort of content finds an audience on Twitter. How can a channel as casual, fleeting and irreverent as Twitter have a place in B-to-B communications? And how could we possibly learn anything about email by following the daily life of Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) 140 characters at a time?

Twitter may be the most misaligned of B-to-B communications channels. Yes, you can lose a good chunk of the day to conversations about #rappernames. But let’s be fair – emails from Groupon and GiltGroup.com claim their fair share of productivity as well. The relevant truth about Twitter is that your customers use it. As marketers, it is our job to be available to our customers in whatever channel they choose. You don’t have to tweet about lunch or your intern’s cake (and in fact you probably shouldn’t), but there is a case to be made for almost any business to be on Twitter, with a content strategy that is consistent with the brand’s current positioning and still takes advantage of Twitter’s unique conversational qualities.

Today’s column, however, is not why to be on Twitter for Twitter’s sake. Instead, I’ll look at some of the ways your organization’s Twitter experience can improve your email program.

The soul of wit: Sure much of what you see on Twitter is at least supposed to be funny, the real soul of wit, according to Shakespeare, is brevity. With Twitter you have 140 characters to work with. Many emails are over 1000 words. Learning to craft messages in a shorter format takes practice, but given the narrowing windows of inbox attention, brevity soon promises to be the soul of ROI as well. Tweeting, and reading other people’s tweets, can help you think in more concise thoughts. Not only will this improve your subject line writing, but it will also help with those messages you use to promote a number of different features, such as a bullet point list of the key attributes at an upcoming conference, or a catalog of reasons to renew a membership.

Topic testing: With email, you get one chance to send your message to your subscribers. But on Twitter, it’s not uncommon (or bad etiquette) to tweet the same or a similar message several times throughout the day. Tweets are fleeting and audiences are transient, so each individual tweet only reaches percentage of your followers. Try tweeting the same topic but with a slightly different tweet throughout the day, and monitor the number of clicks each generates. This may point to a phrasing of subject of the tweet that resonates, and gives you a hypothesis to work with as you craft your email (and its subject line) on the same topic.

The audience is listening: Personal email is usually a conversation, but the email your business sends out is one-way. Your metrics will let you know who opened and read and clicked it, but sometimes without the two-way dialogue it is easy to forget that your audience is listening. Twitter can be much more conversational. Whole Foods, for example, makes a point of using Twitter to interact directly with customers, with 85% of its tweets part of customer conversations. When so many of your tweets are part of a dialogue, it is easier to remember that your audience is listening to your email as well. Will that change what you write, or how you write it? It could, particularly if your emails are too focused on what your business needs, instead of what your subscribers want.

Crossover audience behavior: Many of your Twitter followers might also be your email subscribers. There is no way to learn someone’s email address from their Twitter name, but many people put their full names on their Twitter profiles, making it possible for you to identify them in your subscriber list. Doing so, and then adding each of your subscriber / Twitter followers to a separate group within Real Magnet, is a manual process and could be onerous if you have thousands of Twitter followers. But the insights available could be eye-opening. Once you create this group of your crossover customers, send the email messages you would normally, making sure to also include this new group. Compare the metrics from your whole list to this group to see if your Twitter followers are more or less engaged with your email than your general subscriber list. If they are more engaged, ramp up your efforts to promote Twitter to your subscribers – you’re doing something over on Twitter that makes your subscribers like you.

How to Grow Your Email List with Social Media

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Social media is proving to be a highly valuable marketing channel in its own right, driving greater engagement and quantifiable results. For example, according to research recently published on Social Commerce Today, people are 51% more likely to make a purchase after clicking on a “Like” button, and Facebook fans who do purchase spend 117% more than non-fans. Facebook fans are also 28% more likely to repurchase, suggesting that social engagement helps drive loyalty as well.

If someone is more likely to purchase, purchase more often, and spend more as a result of social media, it is a reflection of deeper investment with your brand and interest in your products. The causality is unclear: are engagement and purchase metrics higher as a result of social engagement, or are the people who are already buying more and more often the same people likely to engage with your brand socially? Ultimately it doesn’t matter once marketers understand that social fans and followers are among the most engaged audience. These are the people you want to involve in as many of your marketing efforts and channels as possible.

Moving these people into your email subscription list, then, makes perfect strategic sense. Since they level of engagement among social fans is strong enough to move the needle on commerce metrics, it stands to reason that the softer ask of “Subscribe to our email” should enjoy a similar lift among this population. Recruit engaged prospects and customers to your email list and your email metrics should see a nice uptick as well.

Here are some ways to grow your email list with social media:

1. Add a subscription or contact form to your Facebook Fan Page. DM News recently reported that only 10% of brands on Facebook allow their fans a way to opt into the brand’s email list. While opt-in is not quite an incentive, it’s a necessary first step for harvesting that social engagement into your email program. Services like pagemodo and TabSite make it easy (and free!) to add customized tabs to your Facebook page, including graphics-rich welcome pages, contact forms that allow you to capture email addresses (all CAN-SPAM rules apply even in Facebook) and even embed email subscription forms and iFrame content that populate your email list directly.

2. Use unique social and email promotions to encourage pan-channel participation. Creating promotions unique to your social channels and email subscribers is a great way to drive engagement within the channel, and with your brand. For example, say you are an association promoting your big annual conference. During the months leading up to the show you launch “Wednesday Wake-Up Call,” a promotion where you offer something of value to a limited number of participants. It might be a room upgrade at the conference hotel worth $100 that you’re selling for $25, or a free shoe shine at the hotel valet during the attendee’s stay. You limit these to the first 10 participants and push them out every Wednesday morning through Facebook, Twitter and email. Soon your audience will grow to expect these promotions, and if they’re compelling enough will even anticipate them. But because of their limited availability, timing is important. Social channels offer immediacy, but not everybody is on Facebook or Twitter all the time. Continue to remind your audience that you only promote Wednesday Wake-Up Call on Facebook, Twitter and by Email, and that to increase their chances of seeing an offer quickly, they should fan, follow and subscribe in as many places as possible.

3. Use a Like Gate to draw more Facebook fans into your email funnel. Now that you have an opt-in form on your Facebook Fan page, and some engaging promotions to encourage your Facebook fans to subscribe to your email list as well, the work you put into acquiring more Facebook fans yields greater pan-channel dividends. A “Like Gate” is a feature on Facebook that makes certain content on your Facebook page only available to people who are fans. The more compelling the content, the greater reason someone has to become a Facebook fan. Maybe it’s a $100 discount off an upcoming conference, or a free polo shirt when they check-in at the conference. It might also be the opportunity to enter a contest, vote in a competition, or contribute questions in advance for the Q&A session following a keynote speaker’s presentation. Drive up the quantity of qualified fans and you have a broader base of engaged customers to pull into your email list over time.

4. Test Facebook Ads to find all new prospects. One of the reasons that Google AdWords became so popular was its ease of implementation for marketers. Text is a lot easier to create than flash movies or animated gifs, and Google’s interface allows the marketer to control the entire campaign setup and management, monitoring performance, targeting effectiveness and budget. Facebook Ads operates much the same way, but Facebook also makes it very easy to integrate images into the ads, and target extremely narrowly. Even if yours is a brand that does very little advertising, Facebook Ads may still have a place in your marketing programs. Target ads by interest, location or demographics, and ensure you’re reaching prospects by limiting your ad only to people who are not yet fans of your page. For narrower targeting, you can also serve ads to people who are fans of another page you identify (a competitor or partner, for example) or to the friends of your page’s fans. Facebook Ads are pay-per-click, so target the ad copy as narrowly as possible, ensuring that it only appeals to your precise target. “Free room upgrade at the Hyatt in Miami!” will cost you a lot of unqualified clicks, while “Free room upgrade at Miami Hyatt for IndustryCon Attendees” will limit the clicks to the audience you’re interested in reaching. Put the promotion behind a Like Gate (see #3 above) so that your ads drive new fans, and then use your existing programs for converting fans to subscribers (see #1 and #2 above) to double the ROI from your Facebook Ads.

The Union of Email and Social

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Social-Magnet---Unified-Management-of-Email-and-Social

Email and social messaging are powerful communication channels.  They’re also highly complementary and when coordinated and deployed strategically the impact can be dramatic.  One of the main impediments to gaining that strategic perspective is that sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Real Magnet are disparate platforms that don’t talk to each other.

Real Magnet will roll out a solution that addresses the problem head on. Our Social Publishing and Analytics solution allows customers, essentially, to overlay their social world on to their Real Magnet account.  This major upgrade creates one centralized platform for managing your entire social and email marketing efforts. Think of the utility of creating and publishing your email and social content (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) from a single account!  Moreover, you’ll have access to a trove of analytics that provide insight into the performance of each channel as well as comparisons across channels.

This upgrade has three main dimensions:

View Your Social Feeds in Real Magnet
You’ll be able to view your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn feeds directly in the Real Magnet interface – the hassle of jumping from site to site is eliminated.

Create and Post Social Content in Real Magnet
Customers will be able to create content for their social sites and post to them directly from the Real Magnet platform.  Social content can be created independent of an email message (a “Quick Post”) or associated with one.  Using the Quick Post functionality, a message can be posted to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn from any page in Real Magnet.   Simply select the account to post to, input your content and click the Post button to publish.

RM-quickpost

Using the QuickPost functionality, customers can see their social feeds and create
a one-time updates to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

We’re also introducing functionality to allow customers to link any QuickPosts with email messages, so their tracking data can be viewed together as part of a single campaign.

Customers can also associate updates with an email message.  After creating the email, customers can create content for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts very similar to the way text and mobile web versions are created today.  When it’s time for distribution, the messages can go out in unison, or independently.

RM-Social-AsscMessage

Social and email content can be associated.  The content is created similar to how a text version is generated. Moreover, with associated content customers get comparative tracking.

View Tracking and Analytics
Real Magnet takes the data from your social sites and combines it with data generated by your social and email communications.  The result is a powerful set of tracking reports that allows customers to contrast and compare the effectiveness of the different channels on a per message and per campaign basis.  Below is only a sample of the type of reporting customers will see.

Compare Performance Across Social and Email Channels

Tracking capabilities will allow users to compare and contrast activity
across all email and social channels…

social-chart2

…View activities related to a single channel…


rm-social-track-followers-v-friends

…and reports that pull data from your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.

If you have any questions or comments about this summer’s Social Release, please contact your sales representative or Real Magnet’s Sales Division at 301-652-5074, or email sales@realmagnet.com

Ramp Up Your Social to Boost Your Email

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

If we’re an email marketing company, why is it I spend so much time talking to our clients about social media? The main reason is because they ask, and the main reason they ask is that marketing and communications professionals are not in the business of sending email – they are in the business of delivering messages. If you have a conference to fill or product launch to promote, the best approach to take is a channel-agnostic one. No bonus points are awarded for email purity.

But we’re not entirely altruistic over here. There is also a very selfish reason why we advise our clients on social media marketing. A strong presence in social channels can actually boost the effectiveness of your email program. Here’s how:

Social is an additive channel, not a substitute. Often when I talk about social channels clients reply, “But why would I want to move my subscribers over to Facebook or Twitter? I’d lose all those juicy email analytics and won’t know who I’m reaching or how they are responding.” It’s true that you don’t have nearly the analytical visibility with social channels that you do with email. But building up your social presence doesn’t mean you lose the analytics because in most cases your subscribers are not “moving over” to social; they are adding Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn as a connection to your brand, in addition to their email subscription. Instead of losing analytics, you’ve gained a whole channel of touchpoints.

Email works best as part of a team. Naturally, we’re big fans of email. But we also know it can’t carry your entire communications program all by itself. Unless everybody in the world you want to reach is in your house list, and you’re regularly pulling 100% open rates with this massive list, you probably need to reach people outside of the inbox. By building out your social channels, the burden of reaching “everybody” isn’t placed squarely on email’s shoulders. that means you’ll see results from communications that come outside of email, minimizing your need to send follow-up messages or to reach a less targeted audience. The more your other channels are contributing to your messaging goals, the more you can exercise discipline with email, using it for the targeted, relevant and anticipated messages where it shines.

The more your brand is in your subscribers’ lives, the better. When you see a TV commercial for a laundry detergent, it affects your perception of that brand when you see it on the shelf at the store. This is no accident, of course. Branding may work mysteriously, but it does work – a brand that is already relevant before the point of purchase has a greater chance of driving a purchase. Similarly, the more in your subscribers’ lives your brand is, the more relevant and anticipated your email messages are. By showing up in a Facebook News Feed or a Twitter Feed regularly, you are strengthening your brand’s connection with your subscribers. Just as they’re more inclined to put that detergent in their cart, they’re more inclined to open and read your message.

Your email won’t go viral by itself, but your brand is more likely to enjoy a viral lift through social. You know those laughing baby videos on YouTube that get passed around and ring up millions of views? That’s never going to happen to your emails, sorry. Not since the Seinfeld final episode script leak has an email gone viral. Any lift to your email program – views, subscribers, clicks – has to come through a dedicated effort on your behalf. Social is appealing because it’s a channel tailor-made for content sharing. The more you build up your presence there with more fans, followers and conversation, the more likely your content will be shared between your current fans and subscribers and people who do not yet know you.

What is the brand value of an email subscriber?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I read an interesting article in AdWeek this week about the value of a “fan” on social media. According to the article, based on research by a firm called Vitrue, companies that have 1 million Facebook fans receive a brand lift equivalent to about $3.6 million in media expenses. Each fan at that level is worth about $3.60.

When we talk about the value of an email subscriber we normally revert to Lifetime Customer Value metrics, which are based on direct marketing principals. It’s possible to estimate the total profit a subscriber will generate if you have enough historical data to work with. It’s complex and onerous, but is the cost of doing business at many direct marketers and online retailers. If you know, for example, that a customer acquired through paid search has a lifetime customer value of $100, you know that you need to pay less than that to acquire each one through that channel. So if your search ads do a 1% conversion (1 out of 100), you can’t pay more than $1/click ($100 for the 100 clicks you need for that conversion) to turn a profit.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here. The Vitrue research points to the media or brand value of a fan. These fans help spread the brand’s message through social channels, generating incremental media and brand impressions. $3.60 per fan is a powerful multiplier, and speaks to the impact of word-of-mouth marketing and engaged ambassadors.

It occurred to me when reading the article that a company’s email file is a similarly powerful brand asset. Not only does each subscriber in your file give you permission to place your brand in their inbox regularly; each one also passes along your messages (and brand) to friends and colleagues through Forward-to-a-Friend (FTF) and Share-with-your-Network (SWYN) features. The Vitrue study demonstrates that each of these impressions has real value. Leveraging your subscribers and your fans and your followers allows a company to effectively increase its media budget, multiply its brand presence, and increase share of voice against competitors.

How much is each subscriber worth to a brand? The exact answer can only be found on the other side of a good-sized piece of research. But according to my back-of-the-envelope calculations I’m confident in estimating that the brand value of an email subscriber > $0. That is, every email address in your subscriber list has a value above and beyond the direct profit each one contributes through his/her own purchases from your company. This knowledge in itself is enough to influence an email marketer’s behavior. You have a brand asset on your hands: how can you best use this asset?

Here are some tips for better leveraging the brand value of your subscriber list:

Design with a brand advertiser’s eye. So much of email design is based on what compels click-throughs. Look at your templates and your messages though to make sure that you’re getting the most of your brand impressions. If your emails were forwarded to someone who didn’t know your company, would they make a powerful first impression? Convey the most important brand attributes? Identify what your company does? If the answer is no to any of these, make some design tweaks so that your messages serve the dual purpose of compelling clicks and delivering brand impact. And as always, roll out your new design with A-B testing against your old design to make sure you’re not sacrificing any of the direct response pull you’ve worked hard to build.

Encourage Sharing. Make sure your templates include SWYN and FTF buttons to allow your subscribers to spread the word. And use copy to encourage them to do exactly that. I have a two-year-old and can attest from personal experience that sharing does not come naturally. It needs to be taught, reinforced, and taught again.

Grow your list. If 1000 subscribers each have brand impact, 2000 subscribers is even more powerful. There are dozens of contact points available to you to enlist new subscribers. Some may not seem like they’re worth the trouble and integration. But if you recognize the brand value of each subscriber on top of the direct marketing value, maybe the resources required are now outweighed by the lift. Why not take another look at each place you come in contact with customers and prospects, and see if you can’t justify some new subscription catchers there?

SWYN Vs. FTF: Does Social Sharing Remove Too Much Friction?

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

A few weeks ago I came across a research study which indicated that peers were losing their credibility as a source of recommendations. This flies in the face of everything I had seen over the past 5 or 6 years, and certainly much of what word-of-mouth marketing relies on. The study hit me pretty hard (a more complete version is available on Advertising Age – subscription required), so I tackled it in my column for MediaPost this month. The column is reprinted below, or you can read it on the MediaPost site. Feel free to leave comments here or there – I read and respond to both.

SWYN Vs. FTF: Does Social Sharing Remove Too Much Friction?
by Mike May
published on 3.10.10 in MediaPost’s Email Insider

A lot of ESPs are now offering share-with-your-network (SWYN) functionality, and I can attest first-hand that inside the email industry we’re pretty excited about the email-social media integration that SWYN affords. “It’s like forward-to-a-friend on steroids,” we (collectively) say. Instead of subscribers passing your message on to a friend or a handful of department colleagues, they can now push it out to their 350 Facebook friends or 1200 Twitter followers. What a huge lift for your readership and ROI metrics, right?

Maybe — for now, anyway. Social sharing is appealing for marketers (email and otherwise) because it removes a lot of the friction from word-of-mouth marketing, and can amplify an audience exponentially. We’re all suddenly very organized about learning now to build campaigns optimized for SWYN functionality, tapping into the huge viral lift social media affords.

I was an analyst with Jupiter Research from 1999 to 2001, and if I had a nickel for every startup that brought in a PPT deck with the word “viral” at the top of the marketing section, I certainly wouldn’t have as many regrets about where my stock options ended up. Then viral went out of vogue for a stretch, when it became pretty clear that for most companies it wasn’t usually a marketing tactic, but a marketing substitute.

Now viral is back, made more appealing (and seemingly achievable) than ever through social networks. Let’s play it forward a few years. What if it actually works? What if a sizable chunk of your Facebook and Twitter subscribers start passing along your messages? If you crack the code, so have your competitors, so your subscribers will be passing along other messages as well. And the hundreds of millions of other social media denizens will also be dumping the contents of their inboxes into the socialsphere. If all your Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn friends pushed just 1% of their inbox into your news feed every day, on top of what they’re already sharing, how long before your preferred social network would be too cluttered to be of use?

If that happens, we’ll have on our hands a success disaster not seen since the heyday of spam. At the height of the spam epidemic, email itself was threatened with obsolescence. The channel was so easy — and frictionless — to penetrate that the legitimate messages from disciplined marketers were either buried, or wrongly lumped into the same offending category. As email marketers — legitimate and shady alike — clambered to reach the top, they caused an avalanche that blocked the high road.

We may be in danger of causing a similar avalanche in social channels today. Last month Edelman’s Trust Barometer Survey was released, and the findings were troubling for marketers lined up at the frontier of social media as if it were the Oklahoma border in 1889. “The number of people who view their friends and peers as credible sources of information about a company has dropped from 45% to 25% since 2008.” CEO Richard Edelman believes that social media “absolutely” contributed to the decline.

So what are we as email marketers to do?

1. Keep the long view. Let’s keep pushing forward and carving out our own best practices in social networks, while at the same time being mindful of the big picture and the state of the channel.

2. Look ahead, remember behind. Even though we’re not the only ones interested in marketing in social networks, I believe we’re uniquely qualified — through our experience in handling the spam crisis — to take a leadership position in social marketing as well. Let’s not forget what we’ve been through. Our experience may be called on again.

3. Don’t abandon the one who brought you to the dance. SWYN may be FTF on steroids, but FTF is pretty awesome even without the steroids. Don’t stop writing messages that are arresting and targeted enough to compel some action. Sometimes the extra effort required to share individually makes all the difference to credibility and ROI.