The Future of Digital Marketing: Lessons from the keynote discussion at Internet Summit 2011

While this year’s opening keynote at Internet Summit was intended to cover the future of digital marketing, I found the discussion around “the future” to  include some great reminders for social media marketers, setting the stage for this week’s conference:

Grabbing and keeping the attention of your audience is only getting harder

We’ve all seen this, and done it. When was the last time you watched a commercial? Thanks to DVR, the poor advertisers paying for my attention get it at lightening speed. Don’t have DVR? The panel addressed something we’ve been talking about quite a bit at Ignite: second-screen viewing. This is a trend enabled by smart phones and tablets where television viewers spend the length of their favorite TV shows watching the Twitter conversations, visiting TV show Facebook pages and following the live-tweeting of the stars. Then the panel shared a startling wake-up call for marketers: checking online during commercials requires  a mutli-channel approach, yet 79% of advertisers don’t have a mobile ready sites.

Still, some brands, like BravoTV, have done a fabulous job of harnessing the second-screen viewing trend with tactics like Tweet chats during their competition shows.

The golden rule of marketing: Think from the audience’s perspective

Seems obvious but I see so many marketers forget this fact and it’s the reason that so many seemingly brilliant social media campaigns fail. This is the reason companies who spend millions on UGC contests with prizes upwards of $1 million dollars only receive 10 video entries. The marketers forget to ask why would anyone care to participate? And if we can get 10 people to participate, why would they share with their networks? And if they do share with their networks, why would their friends click on that link in their newsfeed?  Answering these questions is vital to a successful social media program.

I often get requests to do something groundbreaking and never-been-done before. Groundbreaking promotions can help you win big in the social space – Did your see Ford’s reveal via Words With Friends & LiveStream yesterday? Brilliant!  But when a marketer sets out with an objective to do something groundbreaking, I find those campaigns are successful 1 time in a million. (Doing something groundbreaking is not a business objective, btw.)

Why? Because programs need to meet the need of the customer, not the need of the marketer. And if you don’t have anything to offer the end user, they don’t want to give you anything in return.  Just recently I was talking to a contact at a popular social network and when I asked about unpublished opportunities his response was – We don’t offer certain types opportunities like some of the other networks because we’ve gotten feedback from our users saying that’s not why they engage on our platform. Smart answer, and a philosophy that I believe won’t make this network the richest in the world, but likely one of the most stable. They’ve solved the need of their users and given just enough opportunity to marketers to turn a profit without turning users off.

This brings me back to the cocktail party metaphor once again — when you show up fashionably late, interrupt a conversation and talk only about yourself, you’ll clear the room pretty quickly. Instead, you need the join the conversation that’s already happening, providing quality input (maybe that’s about you, maybe not) when you can, keeping the people in that conversation circle interested in what you have to say, you’ll make friends at the party.

Social Media for B2B companies is becoming a must…

…but it’s not the only channel, and you can’t rinse & repeat B2C social media strategies for B2B. They shared a few key social media strategies for businesses:

  1. Tracking to show the value of social media for B2B is key. Often selling a product with a lengthy consideration phase,  business need to think about tracking upfront because backing into determining social media marketing’s effect on an eventual purchase is going to be nearly impossible.  The panel didn’t mention this, but Hubspot provides the best analytics package I’ve heard of for tracking leads moving into the purchase funnel through social media.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals or recommendations. Business owners used to pass out referral cards or feedback forms to get customer testimonials. Now that exists online, and if they say thank you on your Facebook page it ends up in their newsfeed for their friends to see. All you had to do was ask.
  3. Video can be used for more than just SEO. Let’s face it, your customers don’t have any more time in their busy days that you do. The example from the panel: I don’t have time to read a 20 page paper about your product or sit on a 1 hour phone call to connect with you personally, but I can get all the info I need form a well made 2 minute video about your product. Salesforce was the example from the panel of a company who sells their product well through video.

The panels gave a couple examples of companies doing B2B social media marketing well —

  1. IBM – They’ve developed what they call a digital eminence strategy, encouraging company leaders to be active in the social media space, openly sharing the company news and messages. They’ve also employed social media listening for customer service allowing them to identify detractors, address concerns head on and turn them into advocates.
  2. Oracle’s YouTube channel – I couldn’t really hear why and in looking into this quickly I only see an extremely fragmented YouTube presence but I suppose they have good video content. It’s short, somewhat compelling and they have a good subscriber base for a brand.

It’s a great time to be a marketer

This was the final point made by the panel and one I agree with wholeheartedly. Social media has allowed marketers and companies to get close to their customers. We went from small-town mom and pop shops who knew all of their customers, to big business who we learned about through commercials and who only communicated through press releases. But today, customers have immediate access to big brands and their other customers through social media.

At the same time, it’s a scary world out there for brands refusing to engage because whether you showed up to the party or not, people are talking about you — Don’t you wish you were there to hear it, learn from it, defend it, and say thank you?

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