September 21, 2012

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4 Speed Bumps for Social Media Social media has transformed and bedeviled marketers. The idea and promise of 24/7 interactivity and dialogue with customers, partners and co-workers is equally scary and seductive. Social media’s potential to transform markets and marketing are limited by four big issues that keep most of us scratching our heads and retard adoption and investment. Chicken or Egg Affinity. Do our fans followers like and follow us because they already know and love our brands? Or does the interaction and dialog on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others create affinity and advocacy? Are we preaching to the choir or recruiting new members? If so, can we mobilize these committed fans to spread the word and increase purchases? We’re also skeptical about the reach and impact of the so-called friends multiplier. How many friends of friends can we actually reach and what is the immediate and aggregate impact of those messages? Uncertain Business Value. How do we translate followers and fans into initial sales, repeat customers, increased market share and brand advocates? How can we justify incremental investments in social media without a clear and commonly accepted methodology for calculating ROI? Too much research focuses on how to optimize platforms rather than on how to make a buck. We are skeptical of “engagement” metrics, which justify spending without correlating returns. And we have a hard time believing Zuckerberg and others who seek to transform or disrupt our business models without our input or agreement. Fear of Big Data. Consumers seem to be willing to trade offers for privacy. But marketers are much less willing to trade liability for invasion of privacy for uncertain insight. The promise of massive data collection and processing yielding startling insight or competitive advantage is usually overstated. And the high price is rarely mentioned. We want to know our customers better but we’re anxious about TMI and its risk potential. Absence of Best Practices. Social media is evolving. There is no consensus about best practices across platforms, disciplines or industries. Marketers are reluctant to play a new game without a playbook. Nobody is really sure what each platform does or how to layer or combine social efforts to achieve business or communications goals. Some of the confusion will go away naturally as we learn by doing. But without established norms and benchmarks, social media will be stuck in first gear.
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20 Free Social Media Tools The great promise of the Internet is that we can instantly access encyclopedic experiences, opinions, insights, lessons and data sets -- the sum total of human wisdom in 2 clicks. Imagine if we could hear from and have direct knowledge from our customers and prospects on topics that matter to them. Better yet -- imagine if you could get to this mother lode anonymously without having to actually see or engage these people, hear them whine or see their bad haircuts and off-beat fashion choices. How great would that be? The idea that "everything is a conversation" was first articulated in the Cluetrain Manifesto. Now years later a bevy of free tools exist that instantly plumb social networks by scraping their feeds to reveal the authentic ongoing conversation and lay bare the themes that characterize consumers’ popular, political or personal agendas that incubate cultural phenomena, influence popular tastes or drive brand marketing. The promise is simple -- type in the topic. These tools reveal tweets, posts, comments and blog entries in seconds. Some offer insight into timing, influence, virility and trending topics. You still have to dig into the details to get context and to understand trends over time, but these quick snapshots can be useful for optimizing social engagement, monitoring the competition and/or developing resonant content. Test drive these 20 free tools to see what I mean … Monitter.com, BackTweets.com, TwitterCounter.com, Twazzup.com, Sentiment 140.com Twitalyzer.com, Topsy.com, Hashtags.org, Stats.brandtweet.com, Starcount.com Tweetfeel.com, Twittratr.com, Tweetreach.com, Tweetcharts.com, Twialert.com Addictomatic.com, 48ers, SocialMention, Who’sTalkin and Tweriod. And while none of them is foolproof, using several to address real-time intelligence gathering or to monitor the same topics in social sphere can yield impressive insight and potential competitive advantage. As a dedicated student of social media, I can vouch for the wisdom, opinions and accurate information that emerge from social communities. And who knows? Just maybe free tools like these will help us get a little closer to accessing the complete font of human wisdom.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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