Musings from the Internet Strategy Forum

About a week ago, I spent a pretty inspiring day at the 5th annual Internet Strategy Forum in downtown Portland. Drawing over 200 fellow digital strategists from around the country, the forum is a “professional association and peer networking group” designed to spread best practices about general digital strategy, social media strategy, personalized marketing, e-commerce, email marketing and customer metrics.

The meeting kicked off with a rousing keynote speech by Charlene Li from Forester—co-author of Groundswell—that covered the topics and themes from the book and lays out a very clear “road map” to build a social media strategy for your business. If you haven’t read the book, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a well written and absorbing book about how technology is transforming how we connect with one another and with brands. Littered with plenty of real world examples and case studies, this is good reinforcement for the “pros” and a great social media 101 for the “newbies.” Charlene urged marketers to deal with social media using a four-step process, POST:

  • People: first access how your customers use social media

  • Objective: Figure out what you want to accomplish with social media

  • Strategy: Plan for how this engagement will foster your relationship with customers

  • Technology: Pick your method of engagement LAST

Charlene also explained the Social Technographics Ladder, which explained the levels at which consumers engage with social media. The “steps” on the ladder are: Inactives (44%), Spectators (48%), Joiners (25%), Collectors (12%), Critics (25%) and Creators (18%). Not surprisingly, 15-26 year olds are the most fervent “creators” – i.e they write blogs, upload videos, rate places etc. If you’re curious how your customers stack up on the ladder, use this profile builder tool on the Groundswell website. While you can’t get granular by adding specific geographic targets or psychographic information, it gives you an insightful window into how consumers of all ages are engaging with social media.

Finally, she spoke at length (this is also available in the book) about how to use the groundswell to meet several business objectives. They are:

  1. Listening (research – what does the buzz stand for, how do people perceive you, who are the influencers among your audience etc.)

  2. Talking (marketing – engaging with your audience via blogs, social networks etc.)

  3. Energizing (sales – getting your customers to be evangelists by giving them tools such as ratings/reviews and by participating in pre-existing communities)

  4. Supporting (use it as a customer support mechanism; e.g. Dell forums)

  5. Embracing: Helping your customers to work with each other to come up with ideas to improve your products or services

Other highlights of the day long conference included:

  • David Placier of Spoke in broad terms about how an integrated CRM (customer relationship marketing) tool has become a fundamental tenet in Disney’s efforts.

    Key takeaway: According to David, key characteristics in the best use of CRM are: differentiated treatment of individuals and cross-platform compatability; i.e. if you tell ESPN you only want to see text messages scores of PAC-10 teams, this preference should be reflected next time you view a personalized ESPN website.

  • Mike Moran, former IBM online marketer: Gave an interesting speech comparing online marketing with the more traditional direct response measurement (DRM); he urged us to follow the highly iterative DRM process of “measure,” “experiment”, “test” and “monitor”.

    Key takeaway: Measure three categories of metrics: impressions (did they see it), selections (did they click it) and conversions (did they act). The numbers aren’t as important as trends; don’t forget “mini” conversions (subscribing to RSS or downloading a white paper)

  • Geoff Ramsey of eMarketer enchanted the audience with a dizzying presentation chock full of charts and data. If you’re an eMarketer subscriber, you’ve most likely seen the content of this presentation in your inbox or read about them in this blog.

    Key takeaway: “…transparency equals trust…give the user control, make it fun and give them tools to spread the word.” He specifically cited, where conversions increased 49% while average order size increased 40% after user reviews and ratings were introduced.

  • Nancy Bhagat of Intel was probably one my favorite session of the day (besides Charlene). While she talked at length about how Intel has moved most of its branding efforts to the web–so much so that it’s offering a 35% reimbursement for co-op partners–she spoke most passionately about about the discombobulated nature of measuring the impact of the conversations happening in social media, urging the industry to work together to come up with a more intuitive and accurate method. Hmmm…I wonder if she’s been reading Troy and I wax poetically about engagement!

    Key takeaway: “Great brands are not the best storytellers…but…the ones with the best stories being told about them…”

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