July 05, 2011

Facebook Blocks Social CRM Facebook holds the key to the growth of social CRM. They hold the data about who fans are, what fans do and where fans go that can facilitate more segmented and more engaging marketing on their platform. What’s not clear is what Zuckerberg & Company intend to do with data generated by brand pages and how much access they will grant to the brands generating millions of fans, likes and comments. The key to effectively using social platforms for CRM, loyalty marketing or one-to-one communications is understanding and identifying audience segments. Direct marketers know that the source of a name signals why a person becomes a fan. It is extremely predictive of future behavior and a critical variable for creating meaningful segmentation marketing. The same holds true in social networks. The segments form a bell curve. People who organically “like” a brand are true believers; the right hand side of the curve. These are the people that relate to the brand, buy its products or services and talk it up among their friends. They revisit the brand page, click, like and comment. They want direct interaction with your brand and will respond to appreciation and requited love. Part-time fans know your brand and regularly consider it but they can be swayed by promotions, messaging or deals. They know who you are but have a what’s-in-it-for-me relationship with your brand. They are the middle bulge of the curve, which will consume the most marketing time, energy and resources to reach and continuously persuade to engage. They have the potential to become important brand advocates or ambassadors. Passing players, the left side if the curve, are deal guys, coupon whores and people who always have to get things at the cheapest cost. They play your games, take your coupons and like your page but if and only if it meets their ego and/or financial needs. Your brand simply fuels their agenda. Your brand is an incidental and passing fancy, though they are moving so quickly, they won’t even take the time to un-friend you. If Facebook truly wants to connect the world, they need to loosen the lock on data so that brands can zero-in on and communicate with fans in more meaningful and impactful ways.
Friending 2.0 The non-reciprocal easy-to-use friend finder and sorter introduced on Google+ calls the question on the proper protocol for friending. It probably takes friending into a new space by forcing us to look at our lists and reevaluate who we want to be friends with and what we expect from social media relationships. On Facebook you are friends because each party agrees to follow each other. Reciprocity is a necessary condition. On Twitter you can choose to follow anyone and they can opt to follow you back or just let things go one way. The consensus seems to be that its just common courtesy to follow somebody back who has expressed an interest in you. The debut of Google Plus raises several intriguing questions. Is is okay or even desirable to follow someone you may or may not know? What happens to courteous reciprocity? How do you sort and filter your friends and do you friend them in return? We are all natural editors. We frame and filter messages differently for different audiences. We talk to co-workers differently than to our kids. We confide in BFFs differently that we confess to parents. We moderate, modulate, massage and manipulate content in order to get the right message to the right people at the right time in the right way. This usually involves a full battery of conscious and unconscious motives, intentions, desires, shared history and neuroses. Until Google+ the technology for sorting was too cumbersome and daunting to mirror on Facebook or even Twitter. When conscious of multiple constituent audiences, most of us solve the problem by editing what we post and the images we upload. Yet with easy sort comes the burden of narrowcasting versus broadcasting; being aware and conscious in the moment who needs to know, hear or see what you are doing or thinking. In some ways it might reduce the social media blab by forcing frequent posters to think again and target their messages. It might also reduce the incidence of marginal friends, acquaintances, business contacts, distant relations or friends of friends asking for a connection that we feel "iffy" about. Google's intention seems to be to deepen and intensify the relationships that matter most. They also plan to merchandise those relationship streams once we've done the filtering and sorting for them. On the other hand, how will we react when the people we are used to seeing on our walls disappear? Will we be insulted? Will inclusion or exclusion from Circles impact offline friendships and consensual networks? Nobody really knows for sure. Some social media pundits and gurus aim to craft large one-way networks of loose friends or acquaintances in order to communicate their point of view and evangelize for pet projects and broad scale initiatives. They circles as a tool for creating a virtual private network suitable for informing and activating followers. I'm not so sure I'd want to be on receiving end of this kind of relationship no matter how smart, insightful or connected the owner is. In the short run, even with a nifty tool, social networkers will have to invest more time in thinking about and populating their networks. You can always default to one-size-fits-all but if everyone else is more selective you might alienate your base.

Danny Flamberg

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

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