Search and social

Do you know the differences between marketing with search and social? We all have to do both but understanding the differences would help manage your expectation. There is actually one major difference, only one.

I recently started using a Travel ad program from Expedia. I also promoted the same Ad through Facebook ad. The immediate result was different. The Travel ad generated far better results than the Facebook ad. There could be many explanations but the major difference is “customer’s intention”.

In search (i.e. Travel ad), customers have an ‘intention’ to do something. They were looking for a place to holiday. They did the search to fulfil their intentions. In social, customers don’t normally have intention or efforts to take purchasing action. They might like your photos or your offers. But, they are likely to save those offers for later days.

Social is more suitable for building up brands, spreading awareness, or introducing your product. As I said above, we need both. But, knowing the difference would help you manage your budget and your expectation.


Telling your stories

I went to visit one of our hotels yesterday. It is a hotel that struggles in the past 5 years to compete in a crowded market. I was appointed to look after its market now. Challenging and exciting at the same time.

What surprised me the most is that this hotel has a lot of stories to tell. The problem is we don’t tell those stories to the world. We only told those stories to the team and partners, which is fine. But, in the intensely competitive world, we need to get the stories out there. We need the stories that will make the hotel unique. We need to tell the stories that give reasons for guests to choose us.

That’s my number 1 priority to help this hotel. Our team will update its website to have a section that allows us to share the hotel’s stories. We will then use social the spread those stories. After that we will encourage passionate guests to share stories.

It’s all about telling your stories.


Audience-centric storytelling

Another buzz word I afraid – audience-centric storytelling (ACS). At its core, ACS is a story told from the perspective of a customer. It’s more compelling than brand storytelling because it blends both the power of storytelling and social proof.

We are all familiar with User-Generated Content (UGC). But, with ACS, we would be more specific about how a product could solve customer problems. It could be a blog post that use a real customer explaining his problem and how he uses a product to overcome it. Another effective form of ACS is a video review by customers.

The concept of ACS should be used on other channels too such as a company’s website, emails, social media (of course).


The rule of 7

In the crowded world we are living in today, I am not sure if this rule is still valid. It is a part of a marketing job to send messages to customers and to expect them to take actions. For a direct response marketing, it’s getting more and more expensive because you send a new message to a new group of customers all the time. A branding marketing is better in this aspect but this approach takes longer times with consistent focus.

The rule of 7 says that a customer has to see an advertisement or message 7 times to remember it or to be inspired to take action. The rule applies to most if not all channels e.g. TV., emails, social media.


Social media, PR and Marketing

We recently communicated to our customers about how our industry is structured. Many customers shared their thoughts that the industry needs to changed, which is not the response we wanted to hear. This conversation was posted in our social media channels. Our marketing team responded and managed this conversation (and social media overall). There was a push from the top that PR should manage social media, not marketing (we seperate the 2 units).

I disagreed, not because I want to keep social media in marketing, especially the service-related aspects. My main reason is PR is one-way communication. The PR function prepare press releases and send them out to journalists. I know this function does more than that but this is the nature of PR – a one-way communication.

Social media on the contrary, is a two-way conversation. We engage in conversations with everyone, customers, employees, suppliers, etc. It’s a one to many conversational structure. You say something to a group of followers and they say something back. Some would agree with you and some wouldn’t.

And, my final point is PR might have a better writing skill. However, social media is not just about grammatically correct grammar. It’s important but the ability to communicate in the simplest form and to manage an online community is much more important.


Do you use ephemeral content?

I never use it before. Do you? Does it work for you? For those who don’t know what ephemeral content is, it is short-lived but long-remembered content. It is rich media, primarily images and videos, that are only accessible for a brief period. You can guess that it’s widely used on Snapchat and Instagram.

The benefits of ephemeral content are quite a few. It takes advantage of FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. So, this type of content is very engaging. Additionally, it generates an immediate response to your campaign.

I would think videos would work best for this content type. The target market would be quite young, under 35 years old. I still don’t know how to use this content in our campaign. If I could find a way to do it, I will share with you later.


The two types of social media

Part of my role is to manage the company’s social media. I was asked every year, actually more often than that, about my social media strategy. And, I always explain in a very simple way as following:

What I want to achieve from social media is our customers share their product usage stories. The technical term is user-generated content. The simple term is customers share their success stories on their social network. I haven’t achieve this objective yet. And, it’s my primary goal this year.

Secondly, I divide social media into 2 areas – social media marketing and social media service. There are cross-overs but they both have different objectives. In the end, we are in the era of marketing as service i.e. customers love our service so they share our stories.

This is my simple social media strategy that I try to achieve. From what I started 6 years ago, I am about 50% there. Getting customers to share our product success stories is the hardest part. I will need to do something differently this year.


Top of the funnel

Seth Godin raised a very good point in his blog today. If you have interesting and valuable content or solutions at the top of the funnel, you don’t have to worry too much about conversion at the end of the funnel. Your content will keep people coming to you, some will be converted. Because of the volume at the top of the funnel, it will take care the conversion by itself. This is the situation that you and I want to be. But, let face it, it’s not easy.

Why is offering valuable content or solutions so difficult? The main reason is that many of us is driven by short term gains. In my case, we are measured on daily and weekly KPIs. Building good reasons or relationships with customers are not in our marketing book. Whether we like it or not, the company has lasted for more than 10 years.

The bad news is the world has changed and it’s hard to know when we will become irrelevant.


Online Community Management Tips

I have an opportunity to manage the company’s online communities. I am not sure how I ended up doing it considering English is not my first language. And, of course, most of the customers or the community’s members speak English. Below are what I learn from doing this task for a few years now.

  1. The communication skill is more important than the language skill. I used to worry if I used the right words or if my grammar was flawless. I don’t think about it anymore. The reason I am doing this is to help my customers. As long as I achieve this goal, everything else is secondary.
  2. I cannot get upset or angry, at least customers cannot know that. Some customers are unbelievable (in a bad way). I have to remain professional and hide my true feeling from social media.
  3. All interactions are two way communications. Remember this – those interactions are conversations like when you sit in a meeting room with full of participants.
  4. If bad things happen (complaints, bad news, etc), I have to be quick to acknowledge that I am now aware about those things. I then have to inform the PR team and my management team. I keep monitoring the direction of the conversations. If a conversation goes in the direction I don’t want it to, I need to create a diversion or a distraction.
  5. Mostly importantly, I am dealing with humans. I should expect the unexpected. But, if I genuinely care, customers will protect me.
  6. I have to tell myself everything about the reason why I am doing this job. I have to stay on track and cannot get distracted to whatever force that is thrown at me.

Being an online community manager is not like walking in the park. I have to stay true to myself. It’s not the job that anyone can do it. It helps me learn so much about our customers.


Will Email Marketing be Dead?

It has been more than 5 years now that some marketing experts have predicted about the end of the email marketing. Their primary reason is because the widespread usage of social media. And, here we are, 5 years later, we still receive a lot of emails. Will email marketing be dead?

In my humble opinion, the email marketing would never die as long as we still have to use our email address as a login to many online services. Facebook, Google, Apple, etc require users to use an email address as a login. Things will change if one day we can use our finger print or facial recognition to login to our accounts. We start to see this trend already. I would say in about 2 years from today, the usage of the email address as the login will change. And, by that time, the email marketing as we know it will also change.

For marketers, we can continue emailing people in the next 2 years. The open rate and the click through rate will decline more and more. Things will get harder if we continue bombarding our customers with cheap deals. Having said that I don’t believe email marketing will be dead. But, it will be in a zombie stage in 2 year.

It’s about time to change.