Category Archives: Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth

5 Ways Your B2B Marketing Strategy can Improve with Social Media

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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While no one can argue that social media is extremely important in any B2C strategy, when it comes to B2B marketing people aren’t always so sure. In a world where SEO and email typically reign supreme, social media can seem like an add-on or a lower priority component of the larger strategy.

Consider these statistics:

  • As of 2015, 65% of adults now use social media compared to 7% in 2005.
  • Facebook has nearly 1.4 billion users and generates 4.5 billion likes daily.
  • Twitter has over 284 million active users posting 500 million tweets per day.
  • 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of advertising – just 10% trust brands today (Lithium).
  • 81% of consumers are influenced by their friends’ social media posts (Lithium).

However, social media is no longer an innovative, new way to drive awareness and sales for your brand.

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We Are Social

Essential to your organization’s survival in the competitive B2B landscape, it needs to be an integral part of any B2B marketing strategy. Social media helps B2B businesses showcase their credibility, acquire and retain customers, and build a strong reputation. “While tried-and-true B2B marketing techniques such as search engine optimization and email still bring plenty of prospects to the door, social media entices them to enter a dialogue, pick up some information of value and step into the sales funnel” (eMarketer).

Furthermore, social media can be even more impactful for a B2B company than for a B2C company. This is because B2B companies, as Convince and Convert explains, usually have “a smaller potential customer base, a higher average price point, and customer decision funnel that is more influenced by word of mouth and reputation.”

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eMarketer

Here are 5 tips for developing a social media strategy for B2B companies:

1. Understand your audience and engage with your customers on social media. Leverage social listening to understand the pain points for your customer – what are their needs and desires and how can your product/service help solve those problems? The main benefit of leveraging social media for B2B marketing is to build relationships with current and potential customers.

2. Use social media for content promotion. Share various forms of content such as videos, photos, or longer form content to showcase your products/services in a broader context and to drive the authentic voice of the brand.

3. Drive traffic to website. Ensure that your website is prominently highlighted on all of your social channels and within your posts. Utilize link tracking to see which content drives people to click through to the website.

4. Invest in social video to produce more leads. According to a report by Software Advice, “video is the most-used content type and the content that generated the most leads for surveyed B2B marketers in 2014.”

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Software Advice

5. Increase brand awareness with paid social. Allocating a percentage of the total budget to promoting social posts helps ensure that your content is visible to the right audiences. Social networks such as LinkedIn offer advanced targeting options for promoting your brand’s content, which ensures that you reach the most important and targeted audiences.

Social media is extremely valuable for top-of-funnel engagement and for generating strong leads for B2B companies. As we move into 2016, a social media component is going to be critical for every B2B marketing strategy.

Beacons in Retail: Will Eddystone be a Game Changer?

Written by: Eric Fransen
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In July, Google announced their answer to Apple’s iBeacons — Eddystone. It is an open source beacon that is not only accessible by both Android and iOS platforms, but can also operate without the need for an app by the sending of a URL. This kind of flexibility could open up a world of possibilities for interested retailers. Here are just a few ideas:

Real-Time Inventory
Departments, aisles, and product sections feature beacons that help users locate the product they’re looking for and alert them if it is in stock. If it is out of stock, users could be pushed to complete a transaction through the mobile app or e-commerce site to order for home delivery. App users could instantly connect to an expert through chat or messaging to ask product questions or get help with an order.

Real-Time Content Delivery
Product sections feature beacons that trigger access to exclusive product reviews, content from content creators, and lifehacks featuring the products. For example, a shopper in the Home and Bath section of a store may receive a video of interior design inspirations with complementary products that are curated by a popular YouTuber, or featured Pinterest boards from a Pinfluencer.

Real-Time Social Reviews and Tips
Shoppers can leave reviews, tips, and complementary product suggestions through an app experience that are tied to physical locations in stores. For example, a shopper may have had a better experience with a particular brand of cleaning materials — they could leave that preference in the form of a social sticky note for the next shopper to discover.

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Content and the Consumer Journey

Written by: Eric Fransen
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A smartphone is a crucial part of our daily routine – a connection to the rest of the world. And in the case of retail shopping, it’s the critical key to accessing information to help inform our purchase decisions in real time.

According to Google, 79% of shoppers access information online while visiting a store, from retail websites to influencer vlogs. The fact that only 9% more shoppers at 87% conduct pre-visit research suggests that there is a huge opportunity to influence decision-making in the moment, at the time of purchase, by using the right content across the right channels.

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But what kind of content is most impactful in purchase decisions? In short: not the brand’s.

  • 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other people – even strangers – over brand content.
  • 70% of consumers reported online customer reviews as the second most-trusted source.
  • 35% of U.S. readers read blogs to discover new products.

As marketers, it’s our job to understand how impactful influencers’ and peers’ reviews and opinions are in the decision-making process, and plan accordingly. This means developing meaningful partnerships and lasting relationships with advocates and influencers, as well as encouraging consumers to share their experiences and opinions.

The bottom line: conversations are taking place with or without the brand’s involvement. Will you be part of them?

The More You Know: Wantering

Written by: Jordan Lee
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Online shopping can be overwhelming. Combing through a sea of retail sites, blogs, and Pinterest in search of something on trend to wear can feel daunting.

Many retail search engines, like ShopStyle and Polyvore, offer the same experience. You can sort by color, size, and price. A new site, Wantering, is offering something more to consumers: item search based on social popularity.

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Image via wantering.com

Ranking is determined by mentions across the web including blogs and social networks. Clicking on a product allows you to see both where it is most popular and a “hotness” score based on current mentions and relevancy.

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Image via wantering.com

Social influence impacts the consumer journey as a consultative force. According to a study by Bazaar Voice, 84% of millennials say user-generated content plays a role in their purchase decisions, even when that UGC is from a stranger. In addition, 71% of millennials say they share their opinions and input because they help other consumers’ purchase decisions.

Wantering is leveraging the movement of consumer empowerment and providing a unique online shopping experience. Product reviews are going to be weighted more and more in the future. Brands and retailers will need to not only keep up with how their products are evaluated but also with what is trending in order to drive sales in the changing shopper landscape.

Humanizing and Amplifying Your Brand Voice Through Employee Advocacy

Written by: Jake Schneider
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One of this year’s breakout films is Ex Machina. At its core, the sci-fi thriller is the story of an inventor’s quest to create an authentic, seamless human experience and connection through something that isn’t human at all: an android.

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We have never had more global avenues to connect and be connected to than we do today, and we do it seamlessly and authentically through these platforms of personal expression as if it were second nature. For consumers, digital authenticity is an expectation; for brands, however, it remains a goal that only gently grazes the surface.

For a brand to reach a truly authentic and emotional connection with their customers, and become a part of their lives, they have to do something in this day and age that is very foreign. In order to humanize a brand, they must give a piece of themselves over to their humans, their employees.

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External employee advocacy and internal employee engagement are not mutually exclusive of each other and have become popular topics for our clients for great reasons. In today’s highly connected world, employees provide knowledge and expertise – as well as authentic relationships – in their social ecosystems, providing value to both their network as a trusted expert as well as a valuable ambassador for their employer.

What are some of these benefits? It really comes down to the goals of the brand and what problem they are trying to solve internally and externally.

External: Reach & Trust

For brands, trust in a recommendation from an employee has never been higher or more credible. In fact, in a recent study, consumers named “a person like yourself” 62% more likely to trust, “a regular employee” 52% more likely to trust, and “a technical expert” more likely to trust 66% compared to a “CEO” or brand at 43%.  It is easy to see why. Word of mouth, even in digital form, is still the most powerful form of marketing. We still crave human interaction and connection; it’s only how we interact and connect that has evolved.

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According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers still trust recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. Additionally, consumers are still 71% more likely to purchase based on a referral from a connection and 78% of salespeople using a social selling strategy outperform their peers.

Despite those statistics, less than two-thirds have any sort of strategy for sales and marketing teams and even less have a structure that empowers employees to share.

The reason? Fear on both sides.

Control of identity, message, narrative, and brand protection has been a traditional part of brand marketing, but the more restrictions and controls brands feel they have over their message the more they feel they are mitigating risk but also depreciating authenticity and approachability. Enabling employees to share and join in brand efforts means opening brands up to some risk it also means opening  up to massive scale, impact, and authenticity.

An employee assumes a great amount of risk, as well. The greatest risk is their job, and therefore financial wellbeing. Employees fear sharing, or don’t feel empowered to share, for fear they might position the wrong information or fired for sharing their personal interests, views, and activities while identifying as an employee of their company.

As early as 2008, brands were asking employees to not post to LinkedIn (the world’s largest business network), Facebook, or Twitter. As early as 2011, we were still trying to convince brands to build Facebook pages because of the fear of negative comments. As early as last week, I had a conversation with a major brand requesting that employees not identify themselves as employees for fear that their personal actions might reflect poorly on the brand.

From a brand perspective, social collaboration is the idea that everything I do remains private with the exception of what I choose to share, so that the message is controlled. From a human perspective, everything I do, I share, with the exception of what I want to keep private.

Brands benefit by breaking down this disconnect and empowering their employees.

Brands that empower their employees can see a considerable shift in organic reach on Facebook. One of the greatest complaints over the past year is the massive drop-off in organic reach for Facebook Pages where it is generally 0-5%. Person-to-person sharing is much greater. When working in parallel with paid campaigns, the brand can weave a great creative story with human content, increasing the impact of the campaigns.

For Retailers – especially big box retailers. Employee advocacy can allow you to position regionalized content, making your brand feel more local. Because employees often identify as a target demographic with the brand they work for, an employee program allows you to impact more accurately and efficiently, as the employees’ connections within their network are of the same demographic.

For Tech Brands – recruitment and the cost of recruiting are always constant. More and more companies are giving new hire bonuses as an incentive, which is a great first step but few go beyond that incentive. Employees are the best extension of your brand culture, and the theory is top talent knows top talent. Incorporating recruiting into your marketing and enabling your employees to play an active role helps reduce time and costs in finding the right people for open positions.

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Engaged employees are brilliant ambassadors for brands, because while they are beacons externally they are also improving the foundational culture internally.

Even more brilliant is that while employee engagement seems a no-brainer, less than 30% of employees say they are engaged in their workplaces, according to Gallup. The least engaged demographic: millennials. It is easy to see why when you consider the traditional philosophy of corporate sharing (everything is private, except what I allow to be open) vs. the personal view of sharing (everything I share is open, except what I wish to remain private).   Millennial engagement internally and externally with their network is a plus.

Employee advocacy programs add a feeling of purpose and deeper involvement outside of the day-to-day mandatory productivity that employees execute. That small participation involves and empowers employees and, more importantly, it engages them.

Engaged employees can impact all areas of the balance sheet. Statistics show that there was 2.5x more revenue for companies with engaged employees than competitors with low engagement levels.

From a corporate expense number, $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover, yet we’ve seen that highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the company they work for than their counterparts, reducing the cost of onboarding and ramp-up, as well as breaks in culture.

These are just a few reasons why to consider an employee advocacy program.

Employee advocacy programs are becoming more and more important for our clients and for the industry, in general. It is important to understand that this is not something that you just decide to do. The formation of a plan to humanize a brand through the empowered voice of its employees isn’t turnkey. Authenticity never is.

In my next post I will walk you through things to think about when considering enabling and engaging employees as advocates.

Jake Schneider is the Director of Digital Strategy for The Marketing Arm, overseeing both digital and social strategy and in particular leading TMA’s Employee Advocacy practice. You can find him on Twitter @jakeschneider.

A New Era of Binge-Watching

Written by: Olga Kraineva
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The act of binging is nothing new. TV marathons have been around for ages, but thanks to Netflix and Hulu at our fingertips we’re now indulging in entire seasons to the point of potential overconsumption.

Walt Disney Pictures / Via newyorkz.tumblr.com

Some media outlets are beginning to expose an emerging entertainment trend suggesting consumers are exhausted by the ability to binge-watch and would prefer to wait to see what happens next. They allude to the dawn of a new era, or perhaps a reversion to a past time when TV watching was an event people looked forward to: “the age of anticipation.” This is especially apparent for dramas with a lot of cliffhangers.

What consumers miss with binge-watching is a feeling of community, of water cooler moments where people can dissect what just happened and speculate together. Consumers are also unable to think about TV show storylines in an in-depth manner when they’re speeding through them. With the freedom to watch on your time at your pace comes a loss of togetherness. Some research even indicates that binge-watching can cause feelings of depression and loneliness.

While this may be a side effect, it cannot be denied that binging is addictive and has proliferated the market, especially among technology natives like millennials and Gen Zers. What’s interesting to note is consumers are using their ability to binge as a way to discover new shows and not merely catch up on their favorites. When you hear that a show is good from multiple sources, you’re intrigued to watch for yourself.

Networks and MSO’s are taking notes. Turner is working with Comcast to make all 15 of their original programs available via on demand. Steve Meyer, vice president of video strategy and analysis at Comcast Cable, said, “The numbers suggest that people are discovering programs several weeks after they first hit linear television but want to be able to start them from the first episode.”

In October 2014, PBS digitally released the entire “The Roosevelts” series and found “most viewers used the digital availability to play catch-up with the series and then joined the linear broadcast to be part of a broader community of fans.”

Lifetime recently released the first four episodes of their newest drama, “UnReal,” to stream on demand or to download for free on iTunes directly after the premiere. Meaning, fans of the first episode were able to binge-watch the next three episodes immediately. The network gambled on potentially lower numbers for episodes 2-4 in return for word-of-mouth and hopes to turn more viewers on to the show. And, it paid off. Episodes 5 and 6 had the greatest conversations since the premiere. While some viewers were upset they had to wait three weeks until episode 5, this allowed word about the series to spread and the show to gain momentum halfway through the season.

The bottom line: the growing desire to get back to the age of anticipation means binge-watching – while still relevant – is shifting in consumers’ end goal. Binge-watching is helping people discover more quality content. It’s the networks’ decision whether they want to choose digital and linear broadcast in parallel and potentially compromise live views.

The Anti-Facebook? Meet Ello

Written by: Tom Edwards
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With the recent shift towards a reach and frequency model and organic reach hovering at 3% (with plans to go lower by the end of the year), Facebook has now created a void in the social networking eco-system.

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This is what maturing enterprises do. They refine and evolve and sometimes this change has significant ramifications on existing best practices. Facebook is still an incredibly powerful digital platform. I would no longer classify it as a “social network” at least from a brand marketing perspective. Facebook has moved away from KPI’s such as engagement to focus on becoming a highly effective direct response tool.

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We are currently at a significant cross-roads from a social marketing perspective. The mantra of reach through engagement is really only applicable on Tumblr & Instagram (for now). Twitter is shifting towards an algorithm driven approach to showcasing tweets in your feed and organic reach has continued to decline and it will be interesting to see how much of the feed is “real-time” moving forward.

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With all of this movement away from what made social… social, you should expect to see new platforms emerge that essentially provide what Facebook used to be, an actual social network.

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One such platform that is starting to pick up momentum is Ello.

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“Ello is a simple, beautiful, and ad-free social network created by a small group of artists and designers” according to the founders. It is designed to be an ad-free digital zone.

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One of the selling propositions to join yet another network is the fact that they state they won’t sell data to 3rd parties.

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The core of the experience is similar to what you would expect, it supports GIFs, comments on posts and reply directly to friends. You also have insight into how many people have viewed a post but there is nothing revolutionary with the platform, it simply is what Facebook used to be.

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This is still in it’s early stages and is very similar to the early stages of the social networks that came before it so there are still some elements that need to be refined but there is a need for platforms such as Ello that provide an alternative to the increasingly ad driven models and allow for more organic connection and discovery of content.

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Be sure to sign up for an invite.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

The Marketing Arm Digital – September 2014 Newsletter

Written by: Larry Weintraub
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We published our monthly newsletter! Check it out below, and to see it in all its glory with working links, click HERE.

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How To Make Trends and Influence People

Written by: Eric Fransen
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One of the proverbial Holy Grails of social marketing has been to get your brand to trend on Twitter. It signifies scale and social value of your brand, it’s easy to explain, and not everyone can do it. Or can they?

First, let’s begin with some definitions.

What does it mean to trend on Twitter?
It means appearing in the top trends box on Twitter’s home page and mobile app. The trends are tracked and viewable at a global, national and city level.

What are trending topics?
Trending topics represent what people are talking about the most at a given time. But it’s not just a traditional word cloud, tracking individual words — rather, Twitter uses an algorithm to identify the larger conversations related to topics and distill them down to hashtags and keywords. By clicking a trending topic, you can see all related tweets, profiles, and headlines.

How does something become a trending topic?
The most certain way to trend on Twitter is to pay for it using Twitter’s Promoted Trends product. These opportunities are offered once per day at a fixed rate — typically $100,000 – $200,000 for 24 hours. While this is a surefire way to get your brand in front of the massive Twitter audience, what we’re discussing today is how to do it the old fashioned way: organically.

There are a few things to note about organically trending topics. 
First, there’s no telling how long or short their time to trend is going to be. I’ve seen trends last less than 20 minutes and up to a majority of the day. It really comes down to the size and nature of the audience that’s engaging — that is, fans of One Direction and Justin Bieber are incredibly passionate and show up in the millions to create organically trending topics quite frequently.

Second, a big part of the algorithm that causes content to trend is based on two things: frequency and volume over time. That is, the more people are tweeting about a given topic in a shorter amount of time, the more likely that content is to trend. This is why you see topics related to live television like sports and The Voice trending — the viewership is so massive and active on social media that, at any given time, thousands upon thousands of conversations are occurring about these cultural events.

So, what does this mean for me and my brand?
When it comes to trending topics, there’s a lot to do with chance — right content, right time — but there’s an equally important part that can be affected with the right strategy to put your best foot forward. Here are a couple thought starters that should get you on your way to your first trending topic.

1) Live Events
What better way to replicate the momentum achieved by a live television or sports event than to create one of your own? I’m not saying you need to produce a television show or host the next Dodger game. Quite the opposite, in fact. You can create an online event targeting a smaller but passionate audience. The most common example of such an event is a Twitter Party — an event hosted by a popular Twitter personality, centered around a hashtag, and designed to get their audience talking about a topic. Another type of live event that I have personally seen success with is a live trivia event. Working with a gaming client, we devised a program that offered up high value prizes to the first Twitter follower to answer each of a series of increasingly difficult trivia questions using a designated hashtag. We hosted a similar event for four weeks and organically trended three of the four times.

2) Mass Appeal
Don’t have the means to make an event of your own? You can try appealing to the masses with something that holds a universal truth or can be entertaining to everyone. A program I created for the same gaming client was designed to tap into the passion around nostalgia for a particular franchise and the result was the topic trended within the first 10 minutes of publishing the original tweet. It comes down to understanding your audience and their motivations. What are they passionate about at scale?