Keen in the minds of consumer social marketers is getting measurable ROI on any campaign, promotion or initiative launched within the user generated space. The quick and easy approach to quantifying ROI is to try and put a value on the number of fans or followers a brand achieves at any given time. A notional value per fan multiplied by the number of fans achieved can result in a pretty solid ROI measurement.
But is this enough of a measure of the true value of a brand's fanbase, or perhaps more importantly, a measure of the true quality of each and every fan?
Attributing value to fans was a topic that came up for discussion at last week's #smlondon gathering hosted by Adobe's head of social strategy Jeremy Waite. During his chat about how social brands connect with their fanbase, he shared a slide which referred to an enlightening study by Syncapse which, through an 'Empirical Review', charted the Value of a Facebook Fan in 2010. Through a rigorous approach to valuating a Facebook fan, Syncapse could then enable consumer marketers and brand managers to better plan, execute and measure their return on Facebook investment, they said.
All good stuff. But in my mind there's a couple of points we can raise here: first this approach has solely looked at Facebook and clearly there are other impactful routes for social brand managers to use in targeting the consumer market. And second it assumes that by attributing all fans a value you have a sensible measure of success at any given point in time.
I'm no consumer marketer or brand manager so will not look further at routes to market. But coming from a background of content evaluation, I wanted to explore the idea of measuring success. I was intrigued by this approach and began to question whether putting a monetary value on a brand's social platform fanbase was a full enough reflection of fan or follower engagement.
It's not all about the numbers
Both consumer brands and consumers alike get satisfaction from seeing a growing number of followers and their expressions of appreciation (likes, shares, links-to and retweets). And given that a value can be attributed to all these fans and followers, rising numbers of supporters must mean that things are going in the right direction?
It is one thing to have fan and follower numbers rising, and assume that with this rise comes a rise in fan value. But it is something else to identify within those numbers the people who really count for a brand. Marketers can quite happily establish a monetary value per fan, but I was keen to look a little closer at the fans themselves: their affinities and loyalties. Who are a the advocates and loyalists, people who in my opinion hold huge inherent value to any brand that can't be easily measured by dollar signs alone? To separate the advocates from the generic fans and followers, we need to be clear on who an advocate is and what extended value they can bring to a brand.
Bottom line is an advocate is someone who stands out as wanting to repeatedly engage with a brand and others on behalf of that brand. Advocates are loyal, satisfied brand endorsers and customers. Brands will be short-sighted if they overlook these in the quest for more follower numbers. Numbers represent audience, but they are not necessarily followers who can bring about action or change regarding a brand.
The inherent value in advocates goes beyond propensity to spend on a brand; it goes towards driving and maintaining a consumer community engaged with the offerings of that brand. We know that brand advocates are 83% more likely to share content about your brand than standard fans (source: BzzAgent). We also know that 92% of consumers trust brand advocates (source: Nielsen). That's some real added value if brand advocates are identified correctly and nurtured by marketers and brand managers.
While Syncapse's approach holds some merit in measuring ROI, I believe that there are other factors in play that go beyond the attribution of a cash value to a fan, and these factors should also be considered when trying to put value on a fanbase volume.
Only 3 months in and already it has been one of the most tumultuous and topsy-turvy years for one of the biggest of the entertainment industries.
I'm talking of course, about gaming. Not the gaming as in Pacman, quarters and nerds, but gaming as in Call of Duty, billion dollar global brands and a industry overtaking the movie industry in revenue.
Yes, in this modern world, gaming is something to be taken seriously as an entertainment medium and as a business . The coverage we've seen coming from the industry event known as the Game Developers Conference (GDC ) is testament to that.
I think it's fair to say that gaming has had a few high profile issues so far this year. Two rather large releases (that shall remain nameless) have been met with less than rapturous acclaim from journalists and by the consumers themselves, gamers.
As a direct result of these two, very different releases, as different as say...... two simulated alien colonial cities **knowing wink from author**, the reputational damage to the publisher and developers behind them has been palpable. Armed with a righteous sense of indignity, an often tenuous grip of the English language and a host of platforms to vent their frustrations on, the sharp end of the gaming community has been very vocal indeed.
At GDC the legacy of these high profile incidents drove some of its major themes. The three big themes we saw coming out of GDC all predicted a future direction of the gaming industry and in fact all the talk of future & change was a strong theme in itself.
The year of next-gen...? Certainly
The year of indie..? Could well be
The year of mobile gaming...? This writer is still not convinced on that one.
When we monitored the online chatter around GDC this year, we saw the usual patterns of low engagement in the build up to the event, big peaks during the event and a gradual tail off of chatter post event. This is nothing surprising or out of the ordinary, that's what any PR or marketing exec would have predicted.
The interesting thing that did emerge from our look at the buzz was the difference in coverage from the two big competing hardware brands over the course of GDC, Playstation and Xbox (omitting Nintendo as their latest console is already out)
It should be noted that not every mention is specifically about the hardware but even so, Sony have announced their PS4 system but Microsoft have kept quiet as yet but almost certainly have a successor to the all conquering Xbox 360 and the smart money is on them unveiling it at their press event on April the 26th.
That tactic looks to have paid off as Xbox brand coverage wiped the floor in volume of mentions over Playstation brand coverage. Whether its games, hardware, rumours or expectant chatter from gamers, a large proportion of the online buzz seems to be about Microsoft's new system and this is some achievement given Microsoft's recent gaming reputational issues with Windows 8 and tight lipped silence so far, on the next generation.
Whatever this year holds for the gaming world, next gen consoles, the fall of the big publishers, the rise of the indie publishers, microtransactions, always online DRM, mobile gaming, scalable engines, destructible scenery, yearly sequels, android consoles or even VR, that the influence of consumer sentiment expressed through social media, forums and comment tails is now a bigger driving force for gamers' buying habits than a games marketing campaign.
Publishers now have a reputation defined by many influences, some out of their control. A CEO's statements about monetization now has a significant effect on a publisher's brand reputation and this brand reputation, based on how a publisher's business actions are interpreted by press and gamers are becoming as much as a driver for game buying choices as review scores.
In a year where the industry is looking to its future, often its focus due to the nature of the beast, it's this writer's opinion that game publishers should be looking at how their brands are truly seen now so that the bright next future actually materialises.
The annual World Federation of Advertisers Global Marketer Week (#gmw2013) kicked off in earnest in Brussels yesterday. The highlight of the first afternoon was the presentation of the CMO World Tour by Frederic Colas (@fredcolas), Chief Strategic Officer of the Fullsix
In 2012, Fred took time out from a hectic marketing career to travel the world with his family, and during this time he interviewed and filmed world-leading CMOs about their personal use of social and digital media, how new media have changed their view of marketing, and how this has impacted upon their jobs. With the backing of Facebook, Colas has produced a low-budget, high-quality content snapshot of contemporary CMO opinion of the most talked about and misunderstood aspect of modern marketing.
Some consensus views emerging from Fred's research include:
- Social media makes the requirement for products to stand up to quality scrutiny - or else they'll go down in flames under peer review (Keith Weed, Unilever)
- Brand custodians ignore consumer influence at their peril. Those who succeed are harnessing the power of independent endorsement and commentary by actively letting go. Trying to control everything just leads to a loss of relationship and trust (Chris Burggraeve, AB InBev)
- CMOs have unanimously adopted digital as an owned and paid source of influence, but not necessarily in the earned media space. Many think it's just too risky to give up that much control
- Campaigns that win are those with B.I.T.E. - Built In Talkability and Engagingness (Vipul Chawla at Yum! Restaurants)
But in a spread that continually seems to beggar the rules of the normal distribution, most companies claim that they are actually lagging behind the drive to digital. The barriers Fred identified to more effective adoption of digital communications include:
- Risk aversion and fear
- Lack of knowledge
- Structure - both clients and agencies are not structured to follow and capitalise on engagement, communities and reaction. They're stuck in silos that actively block progress
- The lost generation of 30-something marketers controlling budgets who are neither digital natives nor being dragged by their bootstraps into the digital age by their tweenage and teenage children
- Client and agency processes moving too slowly to adapt to the speed of the outside world
But these barriers, reasons and excuses are starting to wear thin, particularly as many brands are starting to make real progress and deliver genuine, measureable ROI through digital.
|Titbit of the day: we learned that more people are connected to mobiles than to running water in India - one of those killer stats you want to repeat until mobile marketing properly takes off.|
Ebiquity is the Effectiveness Partner of the WFA and sponsor of the WFA's 60th anniversary dinner on Wednesday 6 March 2013 in Brussels.
The Mobile World Congress kicked off this week in Barcelona, hot on the heels of Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Manufacturers from across the world are clamouring to excite and generate buzz for their upcoming offerings this year. But it is increasingly apparent that capturing the consumer market's attention is becoming a trickier prospect.
After our Technology Sector Head Sabine Pevy's recent look at the buzz around the 2013 Macworld/iWorld event, we saw - through our informed reading of social media content - that consumers were less engaged with that event than in previous years. Post event social media chatter trailed off quickly and online news coverage was more focused on celebrity appearances than on tech innovations. The general pervading feel of consumers and commentators was 'meh', to coin a phrase. There was nothing on display to excite the consumers.
Apple hit upon this truism early on, and now the rest of the tech industry are catching up: creating hype and buzz about 'game changing' products coming in the future is key to cementing the all important attribute of any technology company's brand reputation, Innovation.
Companies like Apple and Nintendo have enjoyed so much success in recent years because their products have changed the face of the market they are aimed at and made previously 'geeky' tech into desirable, mainstream lifestyle accessories. iPod changed the way people viewed music as iPhone did for smart phones, iPads did for tablets and the Wii did for games consoles.
So why do we no longer see the excitement and anticipation focused on industry trade events that we saw during the 'noughties' and specifically when it comes to upcoming mobile releases? A decline in that excitement has been reflected in the dipping share prices of some of the biggest and most highly regarded mobile and tech firms.
I think there are three principle reasons why the thrill has gone: blurring of the lines, saturation and the right fit.
Blurring of the lines
The first mobiles were just phones for, you know, phoning people. Then we had phones and text messages. Then gradually manufacturers combined phones with other devices such as mp3 players, cameras, low-level gaming devices and satnav.
But now we are at a stage where the list of potential gadgets that it is possible to merge into a mobile handset is thinning - there's an App for everything - and it's becoming harder and harder to make a handset that contains a unique feature list.
Most new models now sell themselves as 'faster', 'thinner' or with more mega pixels crammed into the camera, but this simply does not excite the wider consumer market in the same way as seeing a phone with a camera for the first time. Mobile providers will attest to the fact that more and more, customers are not upgrading at the end of their contracts as the prospect of paying more for seemingly slight improvements on the model they already have isn't so appealing.
And on the first day there was Symbian, and for a time it was good. Then God created Blackberry. and the two lived peacefully and for a time it was good. Then lo, iOS was born unto us and united together, we proclaimed "this is the new messiah!" But as Symbian faded from memory, Android rose to challenge iOS and behind it, many false idols sprung up.
The choice of mainstream smart phone by the end of this year will be the biggest it's ever been with new companies entering the market place. By the end of the year there will be six major competing phone operating systems.
For anyone who doesn't understand what terms like 'jailbroken', 'Tegra GPU' or 'Android rooting' mean, it is an overwhelming set of choices with no clear advantage to be had by buying into one or the other. I think we will start to see that more choice means less migration, as consumers will increasingly stick with what they know.
The right fit
The technological environment consumers now create for themselves encompasses Smart TV's, computers, laptops, tablets, consoles, and a myriad of other WiFi-connected, lifestyle-improving devices. Consumers buying choices for mobiles are increasingly dictated by what they already own and how it will fit into that ecosystem.
For instance a person who uses Apple computers, tablets and Apple TV, is not likely to pick a Nokia Windows 8 phone as the connectivity will be a problem. Some companies are pushing for universal standards of connectivity, most notably Android based platforms, but with natural competition between rival standards, proprietory systems are still rife. This is a less direct factor than the other two but is still contributing to the growing disinterest from consumers in upcoming devices.
The way forward
There is no right answer to give to companies struggling to captivate consumers who have seen 'the next big thing' a few too many times, but one thing is certain: to succeed in such a fast-moving and crowded marketplace, brands must be clear and effective in the messages they outwardly communicate and make sure they truly understand not only the changing needs and interests of their consumers, but that they each have a distinct 'character', a brand reputation governed by how they are spoken about by an ever-growing number of commentators, many of them citizen journalists.
The way that these commentators write about the brands and shape the reputation in the eyes of consumers is not just based on how many mega pixels have been added to the latest handset. It's based on how a company acts, what its staff say, what it's seen to stand for and how many of its marketing promises are delivered in its products.
It's never been harder to engage, but it is getting easier to understand how to.
A new survey from PR company Shine and the London Business School has found that less than half of marketing and comms directors believe their campaigns are well integrated (Comms Directors want more integration, survey reveals, PR Week, 25.07.12). The study also revealed that four out of five said the issue is among their main concerns.
This is not surprising, but it is a little depressing and concerning that many brands are taking so long to align and integrate their comms when savvy and connected consumers, customers and stakeholders have done so almost intuitively. For them, media is media is media.
To mark the inaugural BrandMAX event, Echo Research - the reputation practice of Ebiquity - quizzed marketing and corporate affairs teams about where they believe responsibility lies for setting, implementing and measuring marcomms activities.
We found http://bit.ly/MnmWBh that explaining to the board how brand and reputation affects business performance is important to more than 8 out of 10 respondents. However, responsibility is still often split and siloed between the functions, which at times appear to actively work against one another despite batting for the same team.
We also found that earned media coverage - in social and traditional media - has led nearly half of companies to change their marcomms activity in some way. The same proportion could readily name examples of message misalignment between paid and earned comms, from BP to Innocent, Cadbury's and Tesco to Toyota. As a result, nearly half our sample believed that better alignment between marketing and comms would benefit their business directly.
Social and online media have driven the transparency agenda (a good thing). They've wrested brand management from the hands of brand managers (an interesting transition, but on balance positive in driving brand-customer dialogue). And they've generated an exponential leap in data volumes (an opportunity, but a threat unless you use well thought-out analytics to make sense of it).
Businesses and the comms teams are not short of data. Far from it. But many are drowning in it.
They're data rich and insight poor like never before.
Comms is increasingly everyone's business - marketing, corporate comms, HR, customer service, operations, the C-suite. Those brands that will thrive in the era of Big Data will be those who get a proper handle on the alignment or otherwise of the totality of their communications, across paid, owned and earned media. This is exactly what we do for an increasing number of our clients.
Are promises made in outgoing, controlled messaging seen to be kept in inbound, mediated communications? To ensure that they are, brand custodians need to plan, execute and measure the outputs, outtakes and outcomes of their comms in a properly integrated fashion.