KPIs for B2B social media

“Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts.” Albert Einstein could have been talking about social media. And in truth, for companies who are not selling products via Facebook or Pinterest measuring the ROI from social media can be problematic.

But even if ROI – in simple terms of pounds and pennies – can be difficult, that doesn’t mean it is impossible to define some strong KPIs from BtoB social media campaigns. After all not all advertising is measured in terms of sales.

Vanity KPIs

Let’s start with vanity KPIs: things like Twitter Followers and Facebook page Likes. These have little, if any, value as KPIs – although they are very visible and thus superficially attractive. The trouble is that most followers and fans don’t do much: the average person will engage once and then have nothing more to do with your brand on social media.

The same is true of “trivial engagements” such as Facebook post Likes or Twitter Favourites: these are easy-to-perform (and easy-to-forget) actions that mean very little to your brand.

If you want to use followers and fans as a useful metric you will have to identify a subset: followers who can be considered to be prospects or customers; you can then track this number over time as a valid KPI.

Indicative KPIs

Indicative KPIs are a little more important because they tell you that things are moving in the right (or wrong) direction. However they don’t tell you much else. Change in numbers of followers/fans over a particular time may be indicative or success or failure, and movement in a positive direction is at least likely to keep the boss happy. Sentiment is another example: Tracking sentiment will rarely give you an accurate picture of how people really feel about your brand. However, if sentiment is steady or slowly becoming more positive over time this should at least give you some comfort even though there isn’t much you can do with this information. More useful is a “blip” in sentiment (a sudden rise or fall in positive or negative sentiment) which may indicate that something of importance has happened that needs investigating.

Other indicative KPIs are the “weak engagement” signals – content sharing such as re-tweets. If these are increasing you will feel that you are doing something right although it will be impossible to know whether this sharing is having an effect on your brand, and even harder put a value on this.

Another popular indicative KPI is website traffic from social media. Again, an increase in traffic looks as though it should be considered to be a positive result. It’s worth tracking but traffic on its own is a poor indicator: after all you don’t know why people have visited and it is perfectly possible that most of your visitors are disappointed when they arrive.

Brand KPIs

KPIs that indicate some sort of brand support or uplift are very important. These are things like positive brand perceptions such as “Brand X is a thought leader” or “Brand X is in my consideration set”. Generally these brand-based KPIs will need to be measured using one-on-one research such as surveys. This inevitably makes them more expensive to measure and many BtoB organisations may feel that this sort of measurement is not worth while.

Another type of branding indicator is the number of your followers and fans who are influencers. There is no set definition of what makes someone influential but you could decide to include people with, say, over 1000 followers. These influencers are likely to be of two types: “direct” influencers who are prospects or existing customers; and “indirect” influencers such as journalists and bloggers; track them separately.Unfortunately you will probably have to do this by hand.

Content effectiveness

If you are spending a lot of money on developing content (as you probably should be) then you will want to track loyalty: the percentage of people who have read your content who then return; and you will also want to track how frequently they return. This will involve setting up some customised reports in your social media analytics tools, for instance tracking the behaviour of people who have visited a particular set of pages or people who have visited your main website from your blog pages.

You may also want to track content engagement. This is hard to do as you cannot know whether people are actively reading your content or drinking a cup of tea while the page is open. The simplest way is to set up your analytics tool to track page scroll depth so that you can see how far down a page people have scrolled. As an alternative you can encourage people to rate content at the end or even divide content into a number of pages and then track each time people click on the link to pages, 2, page 3 etc. Alternatively there are more sophisticated tools (e.g. contently.com’s analysis) that can help with this by using clues such as mouse movements to estimate whether someone is actively engaged on a page and even whether they finished reading the whole article.

Strategic KPIs

Strategic KPIs don’t relate directly to marketing investment or sales success but are nonetheless important to track.

One set of strategic KPIs relates to competitors. Metrics such as social media “Share of Voice” compared with competitors will show you if you are shouting louder than your competitors (of course that is only important if you are shouting the right things.) And an analysis of comparative sentiment will also be useful (with an analysis of any blips giving you some actionable information). In a similar way an analysis of keywords around dissatisfaction with competitors will be useful information, although not strictly a KPI.

Another set of strategic KPIs relates to consumer insights. Here you need to analyse the content of any social media conversations and match the key words you are using to describe your brands with the keywords and topics that are generating engagement. You may find that one set of topics is going well at generating positive consumer reactions but that you are failing with another topic. This knowledge is important for advertising as well as for New Product Development.

Marketing KPIs

Unlike all of the preceding KPIs, some marketing KPIs can have a genuine value in terms of monetary ROI attached to them.

While the volume of website traffic from social media doesn’t in itself have a value, we could attach a value to it by estimating the cost of generating traffic using paid search or advertising. We could also attach a value to non-sales conversions such as product sheet downloads – if we know how many of these are likely to convert into a sale. And similarly we can value leads (such as email addresses) if we know what our conversion rate is likely to be. And finally we could potentially value any back-links that have been achieved from social media if we are able to calculate the cost of a single back link achieved via SEO activity.

Another area where we can potentially attach real value is in social media activity. Qualified followers and fans (i.e. people who have been identified as prospects) will have a quantifiable value if we know the average conversion rate we achieve with prospects. And so will people who are identified as being dissatisfied with a competitor.

Other KPIs worth tracking are the total number of “strong engagements” i.e. comments on your posts, and the numbers of qualified followers and fans who engage weakly or strongly with your content: while it is hard to ascribe an monetary ROI to these KPIs, they are important as they tell you whether your campaigns are succeeding in generating engagement and, importantly, whether they are doing so with the target audience.

Sales KPIs

And finally there is what every BtoB marketer will want to be able to measure: sales generated from social media.

At the soft (i.e. hard-to-value) end there are CRM interactions – the number of contacts with customers or prospects that have been made via social media. This isn’t the same as the number of leads as one customer or prospect may have been contacted several times via social media. Track number of customers/prospects contacted and also average number of contacts per customer/prospect.

And then there is the “gold standard”: sales converted from social media leads. Did I say “gold standard”. Well, that would mean that the sale was made in the absence of any other drivers such as advertising, email etc. And that’s unlikely to be the case. So track this figure; but bear in mind that giving social media total credit for the sale is probably over-estimating its importance. As Einstein said “Not everything that is worth counting can be counted”!

 

Advertisements

How to manage your reputation online (4 of 4)

Responding to critical posts

People are posting very unpleasant things about you in social media. What can you do about it?

You have prepared well. You have registered all the necessary social media accounts. You have built up a strong online profile. And now your efficient social listening process has uncovered some unpleasantly critical comments.

But those unpleasant comments are showing up right at the top of Google’s  results when you search for your name. You need to take action.

Now, if the comments are untrue (as opposed to opinion) then you may have some legal redress: although that is expensive and sometimes self defeating if it casts you, or your organisation, in the role of a bully.

So if you don’t want to go down the legal route, or if the critical   comments are true (I am sure they are not!) what else can you do?

The first thing to accept is that you probably won’t be able to get rid of the comments completely. What’s on the web remains on the web. Even if you can somehow get the original source taken down, the chance is that the comments have been repeated somewhere.

Your strategy is to make the comments less prominent. And this means making sure they don’t feature in the first 4 or 5 search results and ideally taking them off the first page of Google’s search results: results here get 94% of clicks with only 6% on the second page and almost nothing on the third page.

Engage

So how are you going to do that? The first step, if the criticisms are justified, is to engage with your critics. Disarm the criticism by apologising for whatever you have done wrong and explain what you are planning to do about it; remember to take any discussion with critics offline if you possibly can. The intention here is to limit the damage so that further criticisms are not posted.

Try to take the links down

The next step is to try to get rid of the information or the links to it.

  • Ask for the page to be taken down by approaching the webmaster and explaining why the comments are unfair (OK this probably isn’t going to work unless the comments are libellous, but it is worth a try)
  • Ask Google to take the links down. As a rule they won’t unless the links lead to a page with highly sensitive personal information such as a signature, credit card number or a social security number. However, for European websites they are now bound to go further and take down links to content that is “irrelevant, outdated or otherwise inappropriate”. At the moment it is Google’s call whether to take the links down; there is no guarantee that they will and in any case as things stand at the moment the links will still be there on non-European versions of Google

Make sure your own pages rank higher

If that doesn’t work (and it may well not) then your next move is to try to ensure your own pages rank more highly than the critical comments you are unhappy with:

  1. Review your web assets and web profile: Do you have all the large social media accounts you could have? Do you have your own YouTube channel and a  Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter profile and have you optimised them, for instance making sure you have “vanity URLs” which contain your name rather than a long number?  And are your web site pages sufficiently rapid and mobile friendly?
  2. Analyse why those unwanted links are ranking well: if it is because lots of sites are linking to those pages you may be able to ask the owners of the linking pages to take down the links, or to give you a link as well. Some people recommend aggressively targetting the sites that are ranking well using “reverse SEO” techniques such as buying lots of dodgy links to them from link farms in the hope that Google will penalise them. I wouldn’t recommend it: there are no guarantees and you may make things worse (besides this isn’t ethical behaviour especially if your critics have a point)
  3. Analyse the words that the unwanted sites are using about you. Say it is “customer service”: you need to put a positive spin on this by developing new positive content around the key phrase “customer service”: This could be a white paper; blog posts; comments in media sites relating to customer service; you could also develop social media pages that contain your name and the key phrase; and you might even want to buy some new URLs with the along the lines of JohnSmithCustomerService.com and develop appropriate content for them
  4. Freshen up your own web pages with new content so Google is likely to rank them more highly: the more popular the content, the higher they will rank. Start adding a new piece of content a couple of times a week at least. Get more active on sites like LinkedIn – changing your profile, posting updates and entering into discussions within Groups
  5. Develop content for social bookmarking sites like Digg, Delicious and Squidoo: It needs to be new content, not a duplicate of articles published elsewhere but that shouldn’t be difficult if you think “lists”: favourite restaurants, books, flowers, dogs, capital cities, flags…the opportunities are literally endless
  6. Upweight your PR activities: seek to get quoted in the press
  7. Upweight your SEO activities: focus on building more back links from high quality sites through social bookmarking, article submission, guest posts, and comments on other people’s blogs and articles
  8. Identify your friends (happy clients etc) and ask them to engage with all your social media profiles, following you and sharing your content with their followers. Start to write testimonials for suppliers and customers and make sure they include the words you identified in point 3
  9. Look for other ways to get mentioned on line: Register a company in your name. Join a service that will list you as an expert such as nonexecutivedirector.com, opentoexport.com or liveperson.com. If you can afford it, pay to be a speaker at a large conference as these often rank very well
  10. Self publish: take advantage of Amazon’s search profile buy publishing an ebook and an audio book on the site

None of this is free: but then having your name appear below pages that are critical of you isn’t exactly free either!

And sadly none of this is guaranteed to work every time. If you have been caught out doing something unsavoury, and if the public or the press create a social media crisis for you, then there is little you can do to reduce your exposure on search engines. But if you are just trying to down-weight some criticism or reduce the prominence of an unfavourable stories, then taking the steps I have outlined should help.

Could you manage an international social media campaign?

Could you manage an international social media campaign?

Social media campaigns are hard enough at the best of times. Soggy metrics, a lack of control, unexpected reactions…So adding an international dimension can make them even harder.

But if you are faced with managing an international campaign, what are the areas you need to consider?

I have been involved with a good number of international clients over the years and they are never easy to manage. Some of the learnings from international advertising campaigns are easy to apply to social media though.

Global vs local

The problem with international campaigns is knowing how “global” or “local” campaigns should be – to what extent they should be the same around the world and to what extend they should be designed for individual markets. And the answer to this is likely to vary across markets.

In some territories local activity will predominate. While in other territories it may be appropriate to use global assets that are produced by head office. The balance will depend on a number of factors.

Language

The simplest thing to address is language. If a client is headquartered in an English speaking country then running campaigns in English may be a logical solution for other English speaking countries and even in countries (such as Sweden, the Netherlands and India) where large parts of the population speak English.

However, while this is an easy solution, it may not be the best. Cultural differences may mean that campaign messages in one country may not be well received in another. Early UK advertisements for Coca Cola’s Dasani water used the message “Can’t live without spunk”. True possibly, but not something calculated to attract the average UK consumer. Research into whether localisation is needed is essential. And this is true whether or not messaging is being translated from one language to another.

Consumer perceptions

Another very obvious thing to address is the consumer. It is quite possible that the brand you are working with is perceived very differently in certain markets.

The oddest example of this I have come across was a UK cough sweet that was associated in Germany with, er, physical love! Fashion and retail brands often show differences around the world: for instance Levi Jeans have less fashion cachet in the USA than they do in Europe. Fast food too: Millward Brown show how Burger King is a weak brand in Belgium (compared with MacDonalds) but a strong brand in Mexico.

But getting the right message across to consumers isn’t necessarily the hardest part of managing an international social media campaign. There are many other issues.

Local platforms

A “one size fits all” approach to which social media platforms to use is unlikely to work. For instance Twitter penetration in Spain is around three time that of France but only half that of Saudi Arabia. Some markets, notably China and Japan, are very different from Western Europe and North America.

Local strategy implementation will need to take account of the strengths of different social media platforms. For instance if the strategy is to disseminate lots of photographs, then using Instagram to supplement picture posts on Facebook may be wasted effort in markets like Canada and France but worthwhile in Germany and Indonesia.

Local resources

If you are working with local operations in international markets then you will almost always find that resources in individual countries will vary widely, as will skill levels. One market may have a team of half a dozen experienced social media marketers, while in another the intern looks after social media in between doing the filing.

This means that you may need to moderate the amount of global assets you share with some local markets, or at least give territories with less resource the option to pick and choose between which global assets they decide to use.

 Local perceptions of social media

In most countries around the world consumers use a lot of social media. But that doesn’t mean that local marketers take social media seriously. There may be a big education job to be done helping local marketing managers understand why, and how, to use social media.

Where you are dealing with a local market that is sceptical about social media, it will be important to avoid a situation where social media is managed by a junior who may post inappropriately, without any (informed) supervision; social media is global and you won’t always be able to stop people in one country reading damaging posts in another country.

Local independence

Some local marketing operations will be more independent and harder to influence than others. Managers in a large territory such as the USA may well feel that they don’t need (or want) central control.

This may be especially true if the territory concerned has a heritage in effective social media marketing (which you could argue is the case in many English and Spanish speaking markets).

Dealing with resentment aimed at “interference from the centre” is always difficult. Providing reasons to use global strategies and assets (such as cost saving) is likely to be more effective than simply mandating the approach they must take.

Building consensus through joint development of assets and best practice will also help. And with social media, this shouldn’t be too difficult given that accepted knowledge of how best to use social media is still building.

Local laws

And finally do remember that laws vary across the world. For instance a competition that is legal in one country may be illegal in another. And similarly some countries have very stringent rules about endorsements.

Ensuring that local market operations are aware of the rules of what they can and cannot do on social media is important if you don’t want the humiliation of having your campaigns being deemed illegal or noncompliant by local regulators.

All in all

Setting up and managing an international social media campaign isn’t easy. As well as understanding how consumers differ across markets there are many practical issues around the nature and relative strengths of local marketing partners.

The safest way forward is to develop a global strategy with input from local markets and then allow local markets to tweak the global strategy, localise global assets and, if appropriate, add their own local content. Developing appropriate best practice guidelines to help less experienced local partners will also be important.

 

Social media and reputational risk

A good reputation is the lifeblood of any organisation. And managing reputation in a world where social media plays an increasing part is hard. After all, no organisation can stop consumers criticising them if they choose too. In the past it might not have mattered much if one or two unhappy consumers complained to their friends. But now, a bad review (whether fair or not) can spread around the globe in hours.

Social media risk is the risk that the use of social media by an organisation, or by third parties including the general public, causes loss or damage to that organisation. The risk can be divided into five basic types:

  • reputational risk
  • operational risk
  • compliance risk
  • legal risk
  • asset risk

Reputational risk is the most common form of social media risk, and certainly the most well known. This is in part because much reputational risk is a consequence of other risk factors. In other words, most social media risk factors can lead to reputational damage.

The risks can involve damage to an organisation’s reputation, or to the reputation of brands and products it owns and the services it provides.

These risks vary in importance but they can be found right across most organisations, in finance, operations, HR, marketing, sales and general management.

Social media reputational risks occur across an organisation

There can be a wide variety of causes including:

  • Unethical employee behaviour online or offline such as inappropriate tweets or the uncovering of unethical manufacturing practices by an organisation
  • Consumer reactions to poor quality products and services or inadequate after sales service, especially where these are amplified by the media
  • Impersonation of prominent people associated with the organisation who are then apparently heard saying inappropriate things; or the takeover and altering of corporate social media assets so that they are no longer “on-brand”
  • Inappropriate use of social media by employees such as bullying behaviour or simply the posting of unwise content
  • Poor marketing activity including allowing consumers to discover and respond to obsolete marketing campaigns
  • Unflattering comments by third parties on social media platforms (e.g. poor reviews, aspersions made against directors, negative analysis of financial performance)
  • Unwise comments by executives that are amplified by the media (the “Gerald Ratner syndrome”) with disastrous results

Many instances of reputational damage are not particularly important. There is often a lot of fluttering by social media commentators but if the damaging issue isn’t seen by mainstream consumers the main outcome can be red faces in the marketing department! In these cases it is important not to over react.

The real danger is that a particular issue – low quality, unethical practices, inappropriate public comments by senior executives – gets taken up by the mass media and “amplified”.

 Growth of a social media crisis

Organisations often place their social media risk management processes within PR or marketing. However, reputational damage is not just a concern for marketing departments. A damaged reputation can affect many things adversely, including:

  • Finance: The ability of an organisation to borrow at the best rate of interest; the ability to attract investment can also be damaged and this can result in damage to the share price
  • Operations: The image of the organisation as a “corporate good citizen”, which in turn may reduce influence with external stakeholders such as regulators or suppliers, ultimately resulting in less efficient operations
  • HR: The organisation’s “employer brand” which if damaged can result in difficulties recruiting the best talent
  • Sales: The sales a company makes; in addition the profitability of those sales can be reduced due to increased costs (less influence with suppliers) or by the inability to charge higher prices (less credibility with consumers)

Because the potential effect of reputational risk extends across organisations, it is sensible to monitor the risks outside PR and marketing departments. The ideal organisational structure will allow for social media risk management to be a separate and stand alone function which can work with the relevant business function to manage any difficulty.

As with other social media risks, the simple ALP management process should be applied:

  1. Audit: Identify potential risks using scenarios or knowledge of previous social media “fails
  2. Listen: Listen out for potential problems
  3. Prepare: Prepare for potential problems by:
    1. Developing an appropriate social media policy and training all employees in its meaning and use (this includes Board members)
    2. Agreeing management processes to handle likely risks including escalation processes and generic position statements
    3. Simulating problems and practising the response

As we said at the start of this post, reputational risk isn’t the only risk area to stem from social media. More on the other social media risk areas next week.

Managing the corporate risks of social media

So you think you are safe with social media?Digital risks include many risks from social media

It’s true that using social media is now an established part of the marketing armoury of most organisations. But how safe is it really?

In fact social media present some potentially massive risks and it is important to be aware of these risks and to have processes for dealing with them. It may well be that these risks are covered off in your corporate digital risk management system. But if you don’t have one of these, or if (as is generally the case) it doesn’t cover off social media risks, then you will need to think carefully  about how to identify and mitigate the very real risks that stem from your company and its employees using social media.

But the first thing I want to say is: posting on Twitter or Facebook is the same as taking out an advert in a newspaper and publishing it there. IT IS NOT PRIVATE (sorry for shouting). So if you think someone might be upset by what you say on Twitter, be prepared for the consequences.

 So what about those risks?

Internal risks

It is not unknown for employees to use social media accounts to post inappropriate content about your competitors, or your suppliers. This is obviously not desirable.

It is even more common for salacious or unflattering content relating to a social event, to be posted, and this can be a problem whether or not the event has been formally sponsored by your organisation. For instance photographs of staff members behaving ‘indecorously’ at a party could have a negative effect on your company if the people involved are identified as working for it, say in a caption, or even if they are just tagged.

In addition, personal opinions that do not reflect the organisation’s position can be expressed on a social media account. This can cause confusion or, worse, affect the way people feel about your brand.

These problems are particularly great when the social media account used is owned (or appears to be owned) by your organisation. But even when employees use personal accounts problems can occur, especially where people can be identified as working for your organisation.

At least part of the answer is to develop a social media policy and then train all your staff in its use.

Social media policies

Your social media policy needs to warn people that they are responsible for anything they post online. Not everyone knows that it is possible to libel people, steal Intellectual Property (IP), and even commit criminal offences by using Twitter or Facebook. So tell them this.

It is also generally sensible to tell employees that, unless they are formal spokespeople for your organisations, any content they submit on any site where they are identified as being an employee (e.g. LinkedIn) should be tagged as being their personal opinion and not that of their employer.

But perhaps the most important part of a social media policy is to lay down some rules about what people can say about colleagues and your organisation – whether or not they are posting content at work or on work-related websites. Simple courtesy would dictate that they should not ridicule colleagues or clients. Self-preservation should indicate that they should not be unkind about their employer! Common sense? Then why are there so many ‘accidents’? A social media policy, developed for your particular circumstances, and then shared with your staff will be your first line of defence here.

Board members

Senior employees such as board members should take particular care with social media. Comments about their working day or events in their industry could have unforeseen negative effects, for instance on share price, sales or recruitment, that could in some cases even be deemed illegal.

This will obviously be the case on company-owned accounts. But for anyone remotely in the public eye, comments on private social media accounts can also have unwanted effects. Politicians seem particularly prone to this type of gaffe, perhaps because they are so closely monitored by rivals.

Malicious content

Spoof sites

Spoof and hate accounts can also be a problem for organisations. For instance disaffected employees may create accounts that focus on unflattering descriptions of an organisation.

Negative opinions expressed on a personal account must be endured, although you can choose to ignore, acknowledge or rebut them. Anyone telling lies or setting up an account falsely purporting to be an official account may well be opening themselves up to civil or legal redress although it is often a good idea for large organisations to keep the lawyers at arms length for fear of making the damage worse.

Hacking

A big risk relates to organisation social media accounts being “hacked”.

While there isn’t necessarily much that you can do against a determined and skilled hacker, care can be taken to ensure that company accounts have adequately secure passwords. Without secure passwords it can be easy for company social media accounts to be hijacked as Burger King found out in February 2013.

Image of Burger King's Twitter profile after it was hacked

Weak passwords can result in social media accounts being hijacked

Ownership risks

Who owns your company Facebook page? Is it a member of the IT team? Or has it been set up in such a way that the company owns and controls it?

Google+ and Facebook procedures mean that business “Pages” are set up from personal accounts, rather than directly by the organisation involved. If a social media enthusiast in your organisation has set up an “official” Facebook page linked to their personal Facebook account you are exposing yourself to unnecessary risk.  After all what happens if they leave?

To guard against this risk, make sure you employ an appropriate strategy when setting up these pages: get a senior trusted employee to set up the business page without using their own personal account; implement appropriate security protocols such as having strong passwords; and ensure you have  back up processes (for instance make sure the password can be found by other people) if key employees are absent.

Managing a PR crisis

Another type of external threat is that of consumers reacting badly about a product or brand and causing a PR crisis.

While this doesn’t happen that often, it is important to be aware of the potential for a PR crisis and to have plans for mitigating them. Listen, prepare and practice.

Listen

Monitoring social media is a very effective way (indeed the only way) of identifying an approaching crisis so that action can be taken before it happens. Ideally you will be monitoring social media constantly – especially if you are providing a constant service such as an airline.

Monitoring social media can be time consuming (there are a lot of conversations going on around the world after all) and difficult. It can be done in a variety of ways and, depending on the goals defined in your strategy, can cost very little or a substantial amount. It is however important to ensure that someone in your team has responsibility for monitoring any mentions of your organisation in social media. They will need the authority to respond and/or  a process for bringing significant conversations to the attention of appropriate decision makers.

There are many free social media monitoring tools, such as socialmention.com. These are fine if you don’t want to extract a lot of data. For instance it will normally be quickly apparent when a crisis is growing as the number of negative mentions of your organisation or brand will be rising rapidly. However, using a paid service is likely to be easier and safer if your brand is of any size.

Be prepared

It is important to have plans in place to enable appropriate actions to be taken in the event of a crisis. Getting a quick press release out is no longer sufficient. You need to be able to respond, rapidly, in the places where the crisis is building. This is likely to be on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.

How to prepare? Well, the first thing to do is to imagine the most likely types of crisis. Is it a faulty product, a rogue employee comment, a marketing campaigns that has gone wrong? Identify these potential crises and then create a set of template communications that you can use.

Some of these will probably be holding statements along the lines of “We are urgently looking into this”. Others will be tactical responses such as “We are withdrawing this product line”. They won’t be appropriate if and when a crisis does strike. But they will help you rapidly develop a set of communications designed to manage the crisis.

In addition you will need to set up a triage and escalation process. You will need to define what counts as a crisis (if you are a large brand a handful of unhappy customers probably doesn’t – although insights from these people should be passed to appropriate teams) and you will need to put in place appropriate roles and responsibilities so that predefined people have the authority to react in certain ways. An escalation process for a large crisis is also needed.

Practice makes perfect

It is great having a set of template responses and an emergency team in place. But practising those responses will be invaluable. Social media crises can move very rapidly and this can take people by surprise. They can be very stressful. And the messages you have to deal with can be personal and hurtful.

Setting up a pretend crisis, flooding your response team, with messages from ‘angry’ consumers and giving them the opportunity to practice their responses is the only way to prepare them for a real crisis. In addition it is an essential way of testing whether your template responses and your escalation processes are robust.

A stitch in time…

Social media risk isn’t the same as “digital risk”; so even if you have a digital risk management process in place your organisation may well still be open to considerable social media risk. And managing that social media risk will not be simple. But it can be done, even if you can never avoid any risk completely. 

So if you are worried that your organisation may be exposed to social media risk, or if you would like to know more about how to listen to social media buzz, how to plan for social media emergencies, or how to practice your response,  then call mosoco on 07855 341 589 or email us on hello@mosoco.co.uk. We would love to chat.

Using editorial calendars in content marketing

An editorial calendar: it’s the most important tool for any content marketer. Why? As well as helping to you to deliver relevant and high quality content on a regular basis, an editorial calendar provides a powerful way through writer’s block and helps with the creative process.

It is easy to see how an editorial calendar can help deliver relevance and quality content. But creativity?

Well, the first thing a calendar does is force you to generate a list of topics for your content and assign a publication date to them. And, once you know what you have to write about at a particular time, the big, hard question that destroys so many blogging plans “What am I going to write about today?” has been answered.

And the second thing it does is give you time to consider the topic. The subconscious is a wonderful thing. Face a subject for the first time and your first thoughts about it will dominate your writing. Mull it over for a few days and at random times thoughts will occur to you that improve the structure of the piece and add interesting new perspectives.

A simple process for content development is: 1. generate content ideas; 2. plan content; 3. write content; 4. edit, sign off and publish content. The calendar is intimately bound up with all these stages.

At the innovation stage, when you are generating new ideas, you can use the blank calendar as part of your stimulus material. Dates mean things: Valentine’s Day happens in February, Midsummer in June, Christmas in December. Add important events: the Olympics, Glastonbury, Chelsea Flower Show. And anniversaries: World War 1, Dylan Thomas’s birthday…These don’t have to be topics you write about but they can stimulate ideas and allow you to add some topical relevance to your content for when it is first published.

The calendar really comes into its own in the planning stage. You have identified topics and selected the best ones. Now you need to decide what sort of content it will be (blog, Pinterest board, infographic, whitepaper, video…), who is going to create it, and when it will be published. The calendar provides you with a method of managing the flow of content, ensuring it is regular and that any quality control processes (sub editing, sign off etc) have been followed.

The calendar can help in the writing process too. It should contain information about the target audience of each piece (if you are writing for different audiences), the main themes covered, and potentially the desired SEO keywords. Having this information easily to hand will make it easier to create high quality content that achieves what you want it to for your organisation.

And finally the calendar helps with the management of the publishing process, enabling you to track whether content has been reviewed and signed off and published on time.

Editorial calendars don’t have to be complex. A simple Word document or Excel spreadsheet will suffice for many businesses. This document will specify at least the following:

  • The intended date of publication
  • The topic and key themes
  • The desired purpose and call to action
  • The audience (if more than one audience is available)
  • SEO keywords
  • The designated author
  • The reviewer and/or person responsible for sign off
  • The proposed media outlets
  • Details of any intended repurposing (e.g. blog posts taken from a whitepaper)
  • The actual date of publication
  • A record the responses each content piece has achieved

Having an editorial calendar can’t guarantee business success, or even quality, but without it success will certainly be harder to achieve.

If you would like to talk about how an editorial calendar can help with your content marketing efforts then please call mosoco on 07855 341 589 or email us at hello@mosoco.co.uk.

Spice up your content marketing!

Content marketing can be fun. But it is also a lot of hard work. And without careful planning it is very easy for it to start taking up a lot of time, give you a lot of anxiety, but deliver very little.

Which is why at Mosoco we use our five step content marketing process: strategy, plan, innovate, campaign, evaluate (SPICE).

SPICE: the five step content marketing process

Step 1: Strategy

The first step is to agree your content marketing strategy. In its simplest form strategy is just the answers to three questions:

  • Where are we?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • How are we going to get there?

Your strategy needs to be aligned with other marketing and business goals. For instance, if your current marketing strategy is solely about lead generation it might not be very sensible to develop a content strategy that focuses on brand awareness (unless you felt that your marketing strategy was inadequate and needed this addition).

Once you know the general direction you want to take, you need to audit your current position: how many sales are you making; what are the effects of seasonality and region; which types of products are particularly successful? At this stage you may also find it useful to compare your business with your competitors to see if there are any obvious opportunities or threats.

Next you can identify goals. These don’t have to be particularly detailed: for instance if your content marketing strategy is focussed on generating sales you might have separate goals for online sales, retail sales, developing a database of prospective customers, and reducing churn.

You are now in a position to answer the first two questions: Where are we? and Where do we want to be? The third question to answer: “How are we going to get there?

There are a couple of things to think about here. Firstly what resources do you have available? You will want to think about how much time and money you are prepared to risk as well as how much is available to you. And you will need to consider the methods you are prepared to use to reach your goals: you will be influenced by the available resources including access to skills and technology, time constraints, and your own experience of your organisation, your competitors and the industry you operate in.

Step 2. Planning

Now you have agreed your goals you can start thinking in detail about how you will achieve them. This is where you leave strategy and start to get tactical.

SMART OBJECTIVES

For each business goal you may have one or more objectives. For instance, as part of your “increase sales” goal, you may have an objective of increasing your database of prospective clients. You need to make sure that objective is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time bound). In this case:

Collecting “names and contact details of prospective clients” would be a specific objective (sometime people use the word “simple” or “single”) whereas collecting “names and contact details of clients, ex-clients and prospects” would not be as it includes three very different sets of data.

You need to measure the right thing. If we are counting prospects we would probably want to make sure we were measuring opportunities with particular companies or households rather than individual contacts. Of course it isn’t sufficient to have a measurable objective: we need to agree a measure that will define whether or not we have achieved the objective – say an increase in opportunities on our database of 100%.

Objectives also need to be achievable – within the resources available to us. Any objectives that are wildly different from what has been achieved in the past should be viewed with suspicion – especially if an untried method or technology is being proposed.

And of course objectives need to be relevant – in other words to support the business or marketing goal they are part of.

And finally they need to be time bound. It isn’t satisfactory to agree a objective of doubling your database of prospects without setting a date by which this must be achieved.

CUSTOMER CENTRIC PLANNING

It shouldn’t need saying, but understanding what your customers really want (not what you want them to want!) is pretty central to the planning process. It might be the same as what they wanted last year. Or it might not be.

If it is the same, it could be that the market environment has changed – new competitors coming in with better or cheaper products; new regulations making it harder to fulfill customer expectations; changes to household or company income. If this is the case then what worked well last year may not work so well this year.

Or it may just be that your target audience wants something different this year. (Selling the sort of Christmas jumpers I saw in the pub last night would have been pretty hard last year, but tastes change!)

Whatever they want you will need to think about the benefits you want to communicate. Sell the sizzle, not the sausage.

COMMUNICATION PLANNING

You also need to think carefully about how you are going to reach your target audience. For content marketing we need to think about where we can find our audience and what type of content they will expect and respond to. Will we find them on Facebook or is LinkedIn a better bet?

And what will they respond to? Will video communicate our message best (bearing in mind our resources)? Or an infographic? Or an advertorial?

We may have to treat different objectives in different ways. For instance, if our objective is to collect the names of prospective customers it probably won’t be sufficient to use an advertorial or a Facebook campaign.  (However, these tactics may be suitable for other objectives such as generating sales).

MORE AUDITING!

Another important part of the planning process is to conduct a “tactical” (as opposed to strategic) audit of what content is already available. It is not unusual for businesses to have a huge amount of content that they are not using but which could be used in a number of ways. This content can often kick start a content marketing programme.

Step 3. Innovation

Innovation is the next step in the process. This is controversial. Some people would say that getting the key idea or theme is something that has to happen right at the start of the process (or at least before planning). I think that’s true for an advertising campaign.

But for content marketing I think it best to plan the “structure” of our campaigns, including where and how we are going to talk to people, before we agree on exactly what we are going to say. (And remember that we identified customer wants in the planning stage.)

Innovation is fun. You can leave it to one or two “creative” people but it can be more effective to run workshops with stakeholders from within the business. Ideally you will include people from different functions (sales, marketing, finance, IT…) in an innovation workshop. They will all have different perspective, both from a business standpoint but also as consumers. Use the market insights you developed in the planning stage as prompts to create engaging (useful, interesting or amusing) content that promotes your business or brand in some way as well as offering value to the target audience.

While you will want to develop content that appeals to your audience by offering them information of value, you will also want to promote your products and services more directly. It is OK to include this sort of content but the innovation process should consider how best to wrap this sort of content up in a package that will appeal to the target audience. And however well this sort of content is wrapped up, it should probably only make up 20% of the content you publish as otherwise your audience will start to think of your content marketing as advertising.

The innovation process should address how the content could be used as well as what it should say. For instance if an idea for a whitepaper on sustainable living has been developed, think about how this could be used in different ways – an infographic, a series of blog posts, tweets about those blog posts, a webinar, a video…

If you are planning to spend a lot of money on your content campaigns it may be useful to test out your ideas on the target audience. However, it probably isn’t a very good idea to use consumers to generate the ideas. Innovating with consumers is rarely effective: on the whole people are uncertain of their motivations for doing things and there is a big danger that they will just say things that they think you want to hear.

Once you have developed your content ideas, make sure these are consistent with your overall brand statements.

Step 4. Campaign

Now we need to put our ideas into action. For this we need a robust campaign process which includes things like:

  • Persona documents of the target audience that people who are creating the content can refer to; these will include statements about the “wants” of our target audience
  • Tone of voice guidelines
  • Examples of content that has worked in the past
  • Technical parameters relevant to the places we intend to publish or share the content
  • Editorial board for content sign off and quality control
  • An editorial calendar so that we know what content we are going to publish and when
  • Diffusion process for promoting the content: for instance a blog post might be supported by 6 social media posts while a YouTube video might be supported by a blog, a website landing page, 12 social media posts (6 for the blog and 6 for the video)

Quality control is very important. The content you develop should be relevant to the audience of course. But it should also be:

  • Easy to find: SEO techniques including putting keywords in headings, writing appropriate metadata, and including appropriate semantic mark up tags are important
  • Consumable: especially for online content it is important to write simply (think about the reading age of any text) with plenty of headings and bullet points; videos should be short and to the point and accompanied by a transcript (some people will prefer to scan text); infographics should be simple, attractive, with data well visualised (think about this in the innovation step) and contain more than just text. If your content is at all extensive (perhaps a microsite or a web app) then employ some user experience testing methods to check out that people will find it easy and intuitive to use
  • Sharable: you want to encourage people to share your content as a way of diffusing it; so ensure that it is content that people want to share; you can of course ask them to share it and then make sure it is easy to share by including appropriate links and icons
  • Actionable: you will need to include calls to action that encourage people to behave in the way you want them to – downloading contact details (via a competition or free eBook for instance), reviewing a product (by making sure it is easy to do so and including “social proof” that other people have contributed reviews), or simply sharing your content with others.

It will also be important to set up monitoring processes to evaluate whether protocols and plans are being observed. It is all too common to find people who have agreed to contribute to a blog actually fail to do so, perhaps because the importance of their contribution has not been emphasised.

And finally internal processes should include liaison with other departments as appropriate e.g. passing sales leads and customer queries generated through content marketing to the appropriate people in your organisation.

Step 5. Evaluate

The last stage in the SPICE process is to evaluate your content marketing. First you need to measure the effect against any of the KPIs you set up when you were deciding on your content marketing objectives. Typically there will be two types of measure:

  • Indicative (or soft) measures that tell a story about what is going on but don’t link directly to business objectives; things such as website dwell time, Facebook Likes and YouTube video views may fall into this category. Indicative measures are important because they can show you how well (or badly) your campaigns are going before they end
  • Responsive (or hard) measures that are directly linked to your business objectives; things like positive reviews, sales leads and online sales are included here

As well as measuring the effect of your content campaigns you need to identify (as far as possible) the causes of any success or failure. Understand the reasons for failure and how to avoid them in future. Agree how to build on success. Take these learnings and use them in the planning and innovation stages of your next campaigns.

 What next?

Content marketing can be very effective. But it does require discipline and vision. If you would like to talk more about how you could use content marketing in your organisation then call me on 07855 341 589 or email me at jeremy@mosoco.co.uk.