Saturday, December 31, 2011

The One Trend That Will Define 2012: Hyper-personalization

Behind voice assistant Siri, facial recognition technology and apps that help mobile users find local deals, there is one mega trend for 2012: we'll give up more privacy to get more personalized digital services. Mimics, gestures and voice (fundamentals of face-to-face communications) will enhance app, game and social networking experiences.

Voice: In addition to voice-enabled assistants, our phone, chat and social networking experiences will merge. Skype's Facebook streaming and Facebook's phone will go to the next level, bringing digital conversations closer to offline conversations.

Facial recognition: More advanced social media users will give up their privacy to benefit from facial recognition technology while enjoying photos and games online.

Local deals for 'me': We'll see the next generaion of Groupon, Living Social and Amazon deals that offer customized, local discounts to shoppers based on past purchase habits. Frequent and loyal shoppers will find seemingly better deals based on where they are, what they typically buy and their price limits.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2012 Will Be The Year of TV+Social

Social media channels are multiplying TV reach through viewers’ Tweets, posts and messages.  As NM Incite and Nielsen research shows, there is a significant correlation between online buzz and TV ratings.


What it means for marketers:  2012 is poised to become the year of television with the Olympics and the US elections drawing millions to TV screens. Advertisers will find added value from social media users who will create and reverberate news through their personal profile areas. As the word will spread from TV to social media, online audiences will tune into programming they hear from their online contacts.


Action: Expand your definition of reach to go beyond traditional GRPs. When estimating TV news’ lifetime, account for social media mentions.


Note the flux of new audience members from mobile and computer screens to TV sets, as they find out about news and shows through social media.


To subscribe to Info-Currents, a newsletter on the future of social media, click here. 


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Like Zynga, More Game Publishers Will Venture Outside of Facebook

With its vast and diverse audience, Facebook has become an incubation ground for game publishers and app developers. Those who can command millions of users on Facebook, have evidence that their business can survive beyond the social network.


What it means for marketers: Experiment with placing brands in games and apps that reach and engage sizable audiences. Add the following to game storylines and app functionalities:


-          Coupons

-          Videos

-          Links to owned media through animated logos


Brands can gauge the success of such initiatives by tracking:


-          Coupon redemption

-          Video views and sharing

-          Conversion from user to site visitor



To subscribe to Info-Currents, a newsletter about the future of social media, click here.



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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tablets To Host Loyalty Clubs

Tablet entertainment and commerce is getting enhanced with loyalty clubs. Amazon Prime, which gives customers free shipping and streaming services at an annual fee, is offering benefits to Kindle Fire users as well. Those who have not used Prime instant videos over the past year are getting a free month of Amazon Prime service, as soon as they register their device. 


What it means for marketers:  A higher order of tablet users is emerging – the frequent shoppers who are committed to their retailer relationships.


Action: Go beyond the typical comparison of tablet users to non-users, when calculating the value of this new customer segment. Look into shoppers, loyal customers and advocates who conduct transactions and post reviews through their tablets.


To subscribe to Info-Currents, a newsletter on future of social media, click here.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

PENN State Alumns Start Grassroots Movement, Putting The Focus On The Victims

A group of Penn State Alums, including my friends Jaime, Jerry and Bob, started a grassroots movement to keep the focus on the victims and to create funds to help them. They partnered with, the largest, anti- sexual violence organization in the US and raised $225,000 in 48 hours. They need your help in reaching their goal of $500,000 by 3:30EST today (the end of the Penn State/Nebraska) game. 

Please visit Proud To Be A Penn Stater to make a donation now. Every dollar counts and goes towards helping victims of sexual abuse. It makes a statement about humanity.  Football blogs such as and have been supporting the campaign. Traditional media channels (CNN, ABC, NBC, and Fox among others) are covering the story.

But with so many of us watching the news and the stories unfold, there is more we can do. Please click here to lend your support. 


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Thursday, November 3, 2011

For Amazon, it's not about the device -- it's about content

Amazon announced that its Prime users will be able to borrow one e-book a month for free. Info-Currents November issue had highlighted this trend a day prior to the announcement, indicating tablet providers would feed deals to their loyalty clubs. 

Currently, there is no time limit on borrowing--but users can take advantage of the freebie offer one book at a time.

Amazon is paying a fee to publishers to buy titles.  Meanwhile, becoming an Amazon Prime customer costs $79/year. Sometimes, consumers buy Kindles to benefit from deals like this, thinking of possibilities of endless hours of fun.

Amazon will continue unveiling deals to hyper shoppers, making its Kindle series a service. Amazon is going beyond the device, as any smart entertainment company would do. 

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Amazon Starts Kindle Service Bundles


As I'm waiting for my Kindle Fire to arrive in the mail, I got my first cross-sell email from Amazon. No, it's not for extended warranty. Amazon is offering music storage for $20/year in it's cloud service. Pretty attractive offer, considering benefits: I can download to Kindle, Android, PC or Mac. 

I am expecting more offers and bundled services from Amazon in the next 3-6 months. 

No, Kindle Fire is not just $199. 

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Netflix Will Stream Along


First Netflix, now RedBox is increasing the price of DVD rentals. One hypothesis would be that there are fewer customers for DVDs, requiring a price increase to keep the business going. If customers are not moving away from movies all together, but rather switching to alternative ways of getting entertainment on demand, then Netflix is on the right path. 

Netflix's business model switch was too painful to watch - poor external communications, bold consumer reaction to pricing, inconsistent offerings...But they will survive this ordeal - because they are aligned with the future of TV and more broadly, entertainment. They are regarded as a value add to cable services. They give people reasons to enjoy their flat screens. And early adopters, especially among younger viewers, are streaming on demand. 

Those who focus on the number of customers leaving Netflix are acting on incomplete data. How profitable were those customers who complained and dropped off? Did they order one or 10 movies a week, paying the same subscription fee? If they were infrequent users, how easily would they switch to a streaming service?If they were hyper users, are they more likely to stream or wait for the DVD in the mail?These questions need answers, before we make final claims.  

The death of qwickster was a distraction. Netflix has some patching to do to mend its reputation. With the right content library and distribution strategy, it can survive. 

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Info-Currents November Issue Coming Soon

The November issue of Info-Currents, my monthly social media newsletter is about to go out. Below is a snapshot from the previous issue. Each month, I delve into the implications of three emerging trends and provide readers with practical next steps. If you would like to subscribe to Info-Currents, please click here.

Info-Currents October 2011 Snapshot

Emerging trend: Consumer electronics buyers are as likely to consider online word of mouth as in-person conversations (29 percent, respectively), when making their purchasing decisions.* 

  •  Those relying on online buzz for their electronics purchases have been increasing steadily--from 24 percent five years ago.
  •  Video camera (44 percent), sound system (40 percent) and smart phone (38 percent) buyers have been most likely to rely on the word online.
  • Among sources of online buzz, reviews have been the most influential.

Implication: As the new holiday shopping season nears, online reviews will play a significant role in smart phone and video camera purchases.

Action: Brands need to watch their star ratings and gear for search engine optimization now. They need to activate their fan base to share and rate their experiences.


*Source: S. Radoff Associates, Large Purchase Study

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Online/Offline Word of Mouth Bibliography Ready for Review and Additions

More than a year ago, a group of WOMMA members got together, curious to answer the question, “What is the interaction between online and offline word of mouth?” We knew about the Keller Fay research pointing to the dominance of offline word of mouth and we were living through the social media revolution—personally and professionally. Our hypothesis was that offline word of mouth trickled online and social media found its way to face-to-face conversations.


Our search quickly revealed that few marketers had explored this question. We felt that we would do a great service to the larger WOMMA community by pulling together a bibliography of key studies and publications that explored this topic. In this document, you will find a broad range of studies, including:

·         Comparison of online and offline word of mouth (BzzAgent, Brains on Fire, Keller Fay, Peres and Shacha, S. Radoff)

·         Offline activities’ impact on social media and search behavior (Cheema, iProspect , Lauren F. Sessions)

·         Social media’s impact on offline consumer decisions (Chintagunta et al., Godes and Mayzlin)


In addition, we conducted a survey* among our members to see how they approached the topic and measured online/offline word of mouth. We found out that while they measure both types of conversations separately, a sub-set looks at the impact of online buzz on offline initiatives and vice versa. Among WOMMA members:

  • 45% measure online buzz to capture the impact of offline word of mouth campaigns
  • 35% measure offline marketing communications’ impact on online word of mouth about brands

We hope that as the word of mouth marketing field matures, marketers find innovative ways to track results across online and offline platforms, and refer to the studies included in our bibliography as guideposts.


I would like to thank Dr. Walter Carl, Brad Fay, Bithika Mehta, Martin Oetting, Tarah Remington, Jasper Snyder, and Jeanie Son for all their contributions and their ongoing dedication to the project. As the online/offline word of mouth committee, we also appreciate WOMMA’s academic advisors’ input.


We present you with the online/offline word of mouth bibliography and invite you to join our conversation. We welcome your feedback and additions.


*Survey results are representative of WOMMA’s member base, and should be used directionally when talking about the broader marketer universe.


** This post has also been published on WOMMA's All Things WOM blog.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Facebook Ad Credits Will Not Solve Small Business's Social Media Problem

Facebook is giving small businesses advertising credit in hopes of getting this substantial audience to use the platform for customer acquisition. The mammoth social network is up against a tough challenge: Grand majority of small business owners do not see social media as a priority in their digital marketing list. IIn fact according to a Hiscox survey published by eMarketer, only 4 percent list it as a must-have. Many small business owners say they could live without it (43 percent). Some add that they don't get to it everyday (24 percent). There are still those who don't even know where to start (14 percent). Facebook may need to think of a more comprehensive plan than an ad push to secure time on small business owners' schedules. 

I know the challenges of small business social media  first hand. I am West Side Art Studios' self-appointed social media consultant. Greg Kessler, the artist behind the studio, is busy creating and teaching art day in, day out. He uses Facebook to stay connected with friends, but he rarely has time to devise a social media calendar, identify and engage his influencers. He does a good job of announcing milestone events and the rest of his time has to go to creating the product. 

    Social media outreach requires time -- you need time to build a following and to engage in genuine conversations with them (vs. pushing messages at them). That's not a problem Facebook ad promotions will solve. 

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Get The Most Out of Your Social Customer Care Channels

Standing with empty paper cups in hand, we looked for a recycling bin. Much to our dismay, the grand coffee chain did not separate its trash. “Unbelievable!” we thought and approached the counter. “Nope, we don’t recycle. Can you believe it?” said the employee, agreeing with our protest. My friend turned around and shoved the cups in mixed trash and said, “I’ll Tweet about it!”


That is one frustrated, social media savvy customer who knows she will get the attention of the brand and many others who’ve gone through similar experience, if she posts a mere 140 characters online. Her expectations are not only high because she wants the coffee chain to be green, but also because she wants a solution through immediate and open dialogue.


This is the changing face of customer care in the age of social media. Monitoring online conversations and responding in near real time has become an essential step in maintaining brand health. The complexity of setting up branded social media customer care lines may seem like added cost to an already robust system that handles queries through phone, email and mail. Companies need to have a perspective on the business impact of their social care channels, before determining their role in the customer service chain.


Social media customer service channels can reduce churn, increase satisfaction and bring in new customers:


·                           Reduced churn: Solving customer problems and preventing customers from discontinuing a service helps maintain a steady customer base.


·                           Repeat sales: High customer satisfaction yields loyalty as renewed purchases.


·                           Cross-sell, up-sell opportunities: The solution to a customer problem may be a product bundle or an alternative service. Social care specialists can serve additional products/services to customers depending on need and tone of conversation.


·                           New customers through positive word of mouth: Resolved cases and happy customer hash tags fortify brand reputation and convince readers that they would be equally well treated if they were to purchase from the company.


Besides expecting benefits, companies also need to ask some hard questions to build social care channels that make business sense for their target audience:


1-     Who are the social media savvy customers, seeking a dialogue online?

a.      What is their history with the brand?

b.      Do they tap into offline channels as well?

c.      Among online sources, which social media platforms do they prefer?


2-     What questions/issues typically make customers turn to social media channels?

a.      What are main topics?

b.      What is the volume for each key topic?

c.      In what problem stages are these questions? Will they need extensive follow up online and/or offline?


3-     What is the cost of assisting a customer through social media, considering staff and technology systems?

a.      What are key skills for social care specialists? What kind of training will they need?

b.      How many staff members are needed to assist in social media conversations?

c.      What is the process in which social care specialists will monitor online buzz and respond to customers?


The opportunity in social care is in addressing customer needs through efficient systems that deliver value fast, at reduced cost to the company.


This post has also been published on NM Incite's blog. Click here to read more on social media trends and business implications.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

charity: water stands out with "THANK YOU!" messages in crowded cause-marketing space

I got three critical emails in my personal inbox today: One from Seth Godin, asking me to buy an ebook, which would help buy malaria nets for children in need. One from TOMS Shoes, letting me know about their founder's book 'Start Something That Matters'. One from charity: water thanking all donors for what they have given to the cause over the past 5 years. Just this little example goes to show you how crowded the cause-marketing scene is. Everyone wants your attention for something worthwhile. You have limited dollars and time. What's a smart marketer to do to break through the clutter? 

How about giving something back, instead of just asking? I got an email last night from charity: water saying they would be releasing the thank you videos online today. They would be thanking their donors starting at 9:30AM. I rmade a mental note to check out the site this morning. Of course, there they were: fun, genuine clips showing charity: water staff thanking all sorts of people who had ran campaigns, given up their birthdays and donated over the years. I thought it was cool, so I tweeted it. In less than an hour, charity water was following me back. 

charity: water made a point to connect and treated me as a VIP with premium information. They emailed me a thank you note and they entertained me with a series of videos, while showing me how others have donated over the years (including a 3 year old!). They thanked me again for Tweeting. At the end of my fifth video view, I didn't mind the donate button. I was at this giant, virtual birthday party.

This was labor intensive on their part, but the back and forth was an example of what true (social media) relations should be like. 

OK, one last point for staff members who were chugging Ouzo to thank Dimitri for his contributions to charity: water: Guys, you need to mix it with water and have some meze with it. You don't just gulp it down like that! But then, since you're hard core, I understand.  


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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Positive Stories Stick

Dr. Martin Oetting and his colleagues at trnd, a Europe-based word of mouth marketing company, have released some interesting research based on a survey of 30,000 panel members. The study revealed that people were most likely to remember positive stories about products and companies, rather than negative. When asked about their latest word-of-mouth experience, an overwhelming majority (89 percent) of survey participants mentioned a positive story, while a mere 7 percent recalled a negative experience. 

The study also found that some categories are more prone to negative word of mouth -- such as transportation and telecom (communications) -- than others. Yet, word of mouth about most FMCG products was positive. 

These findings echo US studies, such as those from Keller Fay Group , which show that most word of mouth is positive. 

What's the takeaway? People want to pass along positive stories and feel good? Perhaps people are more likely to focus on what works vs. what does not because they want to experience the better things in life. I wonder how these findings would vary if we were to ask questions about political and social climate vs. products and companies. How would people report on the news they hear from the media, friends and family after being exposed to so many negative reports on the economy and political battles?



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Sunday, September 4, 2011

New twist on charity: water September 2011 campaign: Track Your Donations at Work

Every year charity: water, the non-profit that drills wells and brings clean water to populations in need, plucks our heart strings with touching human stories from the field. The crew opens our eyes to the lives of villagers in remote areas of Africa. This year, they're taking a different approach in sharing their story and drawing supporters into the donation process. 

Charity: water is inviting us to raise funds to help them buy an FS 250 drilling rig.


This investment will allow them and their Ethiopian partners to drill faster, and get to more places. In fact, this campaign is aiming to bring clean water to 40,000 people in 80 communities!

Ever wonder what happens to your dollars once you hand them over? As always, 100 percent of donations will go towards the good deed. Moreover, donors to this campaign will be able to track the truck through a GPS system. They will be able to see the gift of their donations 24/7 for years to come. 

This is not only a simple, but smart twist on location-based marketing, but it's also organizational responsibility. Charity: water is transparent in its communication and is treating loyal followers as true partners. 

To make a donation or start your own fundraising campaign, click on the highlighted links.  

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Google+1 May Face The Same Challenges As Facebook 'Like'

PowerReviews and BazaarVoice, which are the names behind many customer review and ratings systems, are adding the Google +1 button to their feature suite. The partnership is giving Google an amazing distribution platform -- PowerReviews alone catalogs more than 35 million products and 5,500 branded products. Jockey is among the first PowerReviews brands to integrate the +1 button. While it's nice to see the +1 option in review boxes as a choice of expression, this initiative makes me think +1 may face some of the same challenges as the 'like' button, in terms of user privacy: 

Will consumers want to show to their whole Google network what they used and reviewed? Giving a camisole a +1 on connects my personal shopping habits with my email, blog, Google+ network, YouTube and Adsense accounts. This might be a bit too-much-information. 

Will consumers give a +1, in addition to using a 5-star system? Within the PowerReviews system, consumers still have regular features to rate a product on a star scale and write reviews. Clicking on the +1 would mean I want to make sure everyone hears about what I have to say. What percentage of consumers would go through the extra step? Will we see a correlation between types of reviews, average star ratings and +1's?

How does the +1 system benefit the ad consumer? If I am sharing so much information about my likes with a giant advertising platform, will I get more targeted, useful ads? How would this type of information matching make consumers feel about using the +1 button or clicking through online ads?

A substantial group of people use the +1 button, across 1 million+ sites. Coupled with consumer review content, Google will be collecting considerable data on the most outspoken word of mouth agents who regularly publish their opinions online. 

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Nutbox Moves Fast to Draw Customers Post Hurricane Irene

If you had the pleasure of shopping for food in New York between Friday afternoon and Saturday noon, your experience could simply be described as mayhem: Long lines, empty shelves, baskets filled with panic - rather than family-budget choices. You may think these shops made a killing thanks to Hurricane Irene. But remember they were closed during what would have been their busiest time in the week, because of the emergency situation in the area. 

Many stores in our Brooklyn neighborhood remained closed after the stormed moved from the area with employees stranded in other boroughs. Meanwhile Nutbox, an eclectic store that sells all sorts of nuts and dried fruit, moved fast. Around 3PM, I got an email from them saying their Brooklyn shop was open until 7PM and I could come in for a free taste of their latest coffee flavor. In 15 minutes, we were in the store, buying Spanish paprika and onion flakes. 

The cost of coffee to Nutbox is probably 15 cents. The email push is I'm guessing also nominal -- they used Mail Chimp. We paid about $10 for the two items. Two other customers walked in while we were there, after they saw activity in the store. 

Nutbox's simple email is chock full of small business lessons:

1- Use nimble technology: Use affordable, turnkey systems such as Mail Chimp e-mail manager to reach out to your opt-in list.

2- Move fast - you're the boss: You don't have to run your brilliant idea up the chain. If it's at low cost to you, just do it.

3- Tailor your messages to customer needs: 'Come and have a cup of coffee,' was the perfect message to increase foot traffic post Hurricane Irene debacle. People were glued to their TV sets for almost two days and were aching to get back to normal - as in times when they could leisurely walk and buy something they can enjoy without a certain sense of urgency.

4- Good service means cross-sell, up-sell opportunities: We could have easily walked in to just grab our coffee and walked back out. But with so many rightly priced items at our disposal, and having just received a bit of an incentive, we went ahead and shopped for nice-to-haves.

5- Don't miss a chance to beat competition: Both Starbucks shops in the neighborhood were closed with signs saying 'Blame the weather, not us!' And it would have been perfectly understandable if Nutbox remained shut through Sunday and even Monday. But, why miss the opportunity to offer something people cannot get elsewhere?





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Sunday, August 21, 2011

How to Estimate Value of an Online Coupon Program?

Online coupons are often used to boost Facebook fan base. But they come at a cost to the company. Brands looking to throw a coupon out there need to have a good estimate of redemption rates for their category and the value of actual purchases couponing fans will generate. Consider this:

CPG brands can expect 17% online coupon redemption: The U.S. Mid-Year 2011 CPG Coupon Industry Facts report by NCH Marketing Services shows Internet home-printed coupons' redemption rate in second place with 17%, right after instant on-pack coupons (23%). (Source: In other words, online coupons have become the next best option for deal seekers after finding the coupon on the package. 

Online coupons bring in new customers: Another important finding comes from Knowledge Networks, which found that nearly half (46%) of CPG digital coupon redeemers from 2008 to 2010 had not previously bought that product. (Source: 

This is terrific news so far, but we need to add a few more variable to the equation to make sure that the online coupon will be worth your efforts:

Organizational cost based on:

  • Cost of product * expected number of redeemed coupons
  • Cost of fulfillment

Agency cost based on:

  • Cost of designing/programming the coupon
  • Team hours to promote the deal
  • Team hours to manage the process before and after posting coupon

If the coupon is on a Facebook fan page, adding all costs and dividing them by the number of new fans will give us the cost of acquisition for a new fan

Will each fan be worth the same? Probably not, considering some will never come back to visit the page while others will recruit friends. Let's think of a scenario where

  • 50 percent of new fans never visit the page again, nor do they purchase the product at full price
  • 20 percent visit the page again, but do not purchase again at full price
  • 30 percent become loyal fans who visit again and purchase at full price

The real value of the coupon effort will come from those who become loyal fans and customers. In this case, we'd need to take 30% of those new fans and multiply their number by the average profit they bring to the brand.

Gain from new fans:

(Total number of new couponing fans * % who become customers) * Average profit from new customer

Take the cost of acquiring new fans through a coupon out of this gain and you'll find the real value provided to the organization. 

Coupon Program Value = Gain from fans who became customers - Cost of acquiring all fans

In a low or negative value scenario, you may find that you spent too much to acquire the few fans who became customers. In a positive value scenario, you'd find that enough fans converted to customers, covering the cost of the program and bringing profits. 



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Obama's Tips on Foursquare: A New Grassroots Political Campaign

President Obama has been posting tips about his stops on the Midwest economic bus tour through the White House Foursquare account. Beyond accruing 'cool' points, what might be the motivation behind setting up yet another social media channel? Here's my take on what this means:

Mobile grassroots campaign: The President will continue with a grassroots approach that taps young adults in his 2012 bid. Foursquare has set up an automated system so that the White House account immediately follows back every account that starts following Obama. Currently, there are close to 30,000 followers on the @whitehouse Foursquare account. That's 30,000 (and growing) mobile contacts that can be mobilized locally in the following phases of the campaign.  

Obama's social media share of voice will grow organically: In the 2008 elections, online searches we ran using social media monitoring tools had to be cleaned of unrelated Obama comments. The name was everywhere. We'll see a rise on search results and posts with Obama tags, thanks to Foursquare check-ins not only from the White House, but Obama followers. 

Politics will infuse personal social network accounts: Let's not forget the connecting ties between networks. Foursquare check-ins can easily be Facebook status updates or turn into Tweets. Dashboards like Tweetdeck allow users to manage multiple accounts from one spot. A check-in at an Obama event can spread to multiple personal networks at once.

Security risk? Is it safe for a President to communicate where he is so often and in almost real-time? Arguably, it may not be the best idea. But citizen reporters with social media access are already reporting Obama sightings with updates, pictures, videos. The media are following the Obama tour closely. @whitehouse account is just another official channel of information that's helping the Obama campaign steer the agenda and direct traffic to and the blog. 

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Re-thinking Influencer Reach

Grouping my contacts in Google+ Circles is making me re-think about the way we've been defining reach in social media. The value of your network shouldn't just be based on how many people you know, but also account for 'who' you know. As the recent Harvard Business Review article, A Smarter Way to Network, indicates, successful leaders capitalize on diversified networks. They not only solicit feedback and insights from their contacts, but they know people from different circles. This adds to the richness of information they get and the variety of networks they reach. 

While we study influencers, it's important to know the number of their followers, blog readers, Facebook friends, etc. But it's also key to know how many different types of circles they tap and which ones they will choose to send your messages. Years ago, when I was working on the e-fluentials surveys at Burson-Marsteller, a journalist had asked to interview someone who qualified as an online influencer. The selected e-fluential told the journalist how he had separate lists of people he emailed, for politics, jokes, national news and general updates. He explained that he was very careful not to push information out to people who would not want it or not engage with the content. 

Perhaps this e-fluencer was ahead of his time or a bit conscientious, but today we have Twitter lists, LinkedIn groups and now Google+ Circles. We need to ask influencers how many people they are spreading news for every different type of message, product or service. Next, we need to understand which channels when they disseminate that particular info byte. Then, we can talk about influencer reach and network value. 

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Get The Most Out of Location-Based Services

You may or may not be running a program on Foursquare, but chances are your customers are checking in and reviewing your products and services on location. Wouldn't it be smart to analyze these trends across multiple check-in services? You could find the optimal path to offer coupons and run promotional in-store programs. 

I grabbed this image from a Momentfeed presentation. The company provides a tool for brands to track and manage multiple location-based services from one source. The start-up says it can let users track up to 20 location-based services. This gives marketers a chance to understand where consumers are checking in frequently and then choose the right venue to engage them.  

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Google+ Hints At Social Commerce

You don't have to worry about your Mom joining Google+ and using it with the same enthusiasm as she does Facebook. She will. Because Google+'s next version will combine social clues from peer-to-peer interactions with search recommendations and possibly reviews. Users will be able to go seamlessly from conversation to search and purchase.

One of the most important things to note about Google+ right now is the way Google is soliciting feedback about the various features from early adopters. We are witnessing a massive focus group and a public usability test. In time, we may see some features dropped, some new ones evolve and others tweaked. Mobile extensions are a given. Among these iterations, Google is likely to start pushing targeted ads and offer product recommendations. Consumer reviews will be an organic part of the process as people post about what they have seen, what they have done, search and purchase will be a click away. 

Thanks to the plus platform, Google added a whole new data stream to its wealth of information on search behavior. Soon, it will know not only what we are curious about, but also how we get to those questions. It will have all the elements of a powerful, socially driven, product/service recommendation engine. 


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What's Next?

I've been under a rock - admittedly. I was away for a few weeks, first on vacation, then transitioning into a new job at NM Incite - a Nielsen / McKinsey company. While switching gears from PR to consulting, I am also steering my blog's focus to be about the future.

Everybody wonders 'what's next?' The best way to answer that is to read between the lines today and put pieces of the puzzle together. dotWOM will not only be about trend watching (e.g., Google+ launched), but it will be about trend discovery (i.e., what Google+ means for social search and commerce). It will tell its readers what changes and innovations we can expect to see in the industry, based on consumer behavior, mergers, brand initiatives. 

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Women Heavily Rely on WOM When Investing


According to the latest Info-Currents report Investment Conversations, based on the Large Purchase Study, there are stark differences in the way men and women make investment choices. Women rely on face-to-face conversations, while men are more likely to act based on their past experiences. Considering the combined effect of online and offline word of mouth, nearly six in 10 (56 percent) of women say they make investment product and service choices based on word of mouth, while only 32 percent of men do so. 


The study validates financial institutions' programs geared towards female customers. It also suggests that companies prepared to answer women's questions and assist with their review process to inform those peer-to-peer conversations will have a competitive advantage. 


To download a full copy of the Investment Conversations report, please click here






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Sunday, June 26, 2011

IBM Reveals Gaps In Corporate and Consumer Perceptions Of Social Media

A recent CRM Study (2011) by IBM Institute for Business Value reveals significant gaps between what brands prioritize in their social media communications and what consumers expect when communicating with companies through social media. Guess what? Consumers are not so focused on activities that are deeply engaging and entertaining. (They probably prefer Hollywood for that.) They are looking for discounts. They want to make purchases or they are looking for reviews that will help them solidify their buying decisions. Meanwhile, companies are spending dollars on providing general information and product updates. A significant percentage of companies believe consumers follow them to feel part of a community (64 percent) or to access customer service (63 percent). As the image below shows, these items are not as high on consumers' list.

So, have we been wrong about polls and quizzes and 2 minute videos that bring color and interaction to Facebook fan pages? Not necessarily. However, we are missing an opportunity to close a sale if we do not bring product to these activities and give consumers the chance to try products, read reviews and purchase in one click. Consumers have their friends and other personal connections on social networks giving them a sense of community. When it comes to b-to-c relations in social media, commerce should be at the center of branded activities.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011 Launches Social Media Compliance Solution for Financial Services, the company that creates turnkey compliance solutions for blogger engagement and social media activities has just announced a product for financial services. These regulated companies no longer need to fret the technical complexities about information sharing in social media when communicating with their online stakeholders. The tool works for investor relations, brokers, funds and employees. It simply helps them engage in social media, while ensuring that they are in compliance with the law. appears simply as a short URL at the end of a brand announcement, blogger post or Tweet. The URL takes users to an area that houses appropriate documentation for the promotional activity. For financial services specifically, the tool makes sure corporate messages in social media are in compliance with FINRA, SEC and FTC rules and regulations. is currently partnering with StockTwits to showcase its financial tool. Here's how social media content appears with the links:


Each link within a social media post has a unique code. This helps the system track syndication and measure online word of mouth as content gets picked up and quoted elsewhere. The traceable nature of content also means that content that gets syndicated remains in compliance. Companies do not need to worry about liability issues as users share and re-tweet or re-post content. 

You can watch a video announcement about this smart solution here




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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Can Your Phone Be Your Wallet?

According to trends revealed in the March/April 2011 issue of MIT's Technology review, in the US, we haven't given up on our checks but we are increasingly accessing our card information on mobile devices. Meanwhile, a global review of mobile payments show that emerging markets are ahead of developed markets when it comes to this emerging form of money exchange. The analysis does not indicate whether these payments are coming from simple or smart phones, but they do underscore a certain level of comfort with mobile payments. 


These numbers also suggest that Google's latest partnership with Citibank to offer a mobile wallet app to Citibank Mastercard and Nexus 4S phone customers is on the right track. When the Google wallet app launches, it will let users simply tap their phones on paypass signs and make payments directly from their accounts. They will also have opportunities to redeem coupons and benefit from special offers. Few merchants, including Sports Authority, Container Store, Duane Reade, Walgreens and Macy's have signed up for the deal. Google is assuring potential early adopters their transactions will be secure

This is indeed exciting news for those of us with messy bags and multiple gadgets, looking to consolidate everything on a smart phone. But the real opportunity seems to be for those emerging market economies with populations eager to adopt new technologies and need easier ways to access money and make transactions. The next trend to watch is the boost these types of technologies can bring to local economies and help connect publics with merchants in more efficient ways. 

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

TOMS: What's Next?

TOMS Shoes' new campaign, Next Chapter, puts a fresh spin on the classic social media campaign model where brands ask their fans to create content. The company that donates a pair of shoes for every purchased pair is about to unveil the next chapter in its history. As it is gearing up for the big announcement, it is asking its fans what they want from the future and how they are contributing to making a difference in the world. 

Anyone who's set up one of these campaigns asking for photo and video submissions knows that content creators are far and few in between and it's a lot to ask consumers to go film something, post it and tell all their friends about it. These campaigns need inspiration. They also need a system that makes it easy for consumers to create and submit content. 

TOMS is speaking to a certain type of idealist consumer. Folks who choose their brand not just as a fashion statement, but also as a social business. These people are likely to have something to say about the future. They have hope. They have ideals. They want to make a difference. Most importantly, they believe they can make a difference. 

For this audience, telling and sharing their story would not be enough. It's ordinary. It's not that exciting. But TOMS is tapping into their ideals and giving nature by asking them to think about the future. 

Given the audience's mindset and TOMS' motivating messages, I hope we see many submissions. 

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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Word on Banking

The latest report from the Large Purchase Study shows that offline WOM is significantly more likely to influence banking-related purchases than online WOM. Yet, there is a twist in this all too familiar plot line. The impact of online word of mouth on banking product and service purchases has been significantly increasing over the past couple of years.  


Banks have a significant opportunity to grow their customer base and invest in long-term relations through online communications and marketing. The report shows that young adults and ethnic minorities, are more likely than their respective counterparts to listen to online buzz when choosing their banks.

As young customers get older and go through various life events and changes, they will need banks' help with credit, mortgage and retirement products. They will continue to turn to their online sources. Banking brands that earn their trust today will have significant competitive advantages in the future to earn these customers' business.

The latest census data pointed to significant growth in Hispanic population between 2000 and 2010. Considering the Hispanic population's (especially the younger Hispanic segment's) affinity for social media, banks that manage the word online and proactively communicate with Hispanic customers through social channels will stand a real chance with them. 

To download the full report and read more about the influence of word of mouth on banking-related purchases, click here.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Don't Just Call It An App

Smart clients are pushing back on app ideas -- they don't want an app for app's sake. Considering the sea of content competing for attention in social media, they are right. There are hundreds of thousands of apps being downloaded as we speak. What will make yours noticeable and compelling to use?

Think of an app like a web site or any other destination on the web your brand owns. You need to take care of it the same way: develop interesting content, make sure it fulfills a need, make sure it works without a glitch and promote it!

So, an app is not just a widget on your Facebook page's corner to engage users. It is an extension of your brand and your service. Therefore it needs to be part of your marketing and communication plans. 

An app can collect data, keep users focused for minutes at a time and get them to return to your site and revisit your brand. Why not give it the push it deserves, so it can work hard for you? 

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Media Converges on The Royal Wedding

This is a snapshot of our Media Live room at work, where we track both online and offline media. We were doing a drill down on online influencers who were writing about the Royal Wedding. Guess what - it's not just about the dress or the kiss. Everyone approaches this media event from their own angle:

- Mommy bloggers are talking about Disney's approach to the wedding and some criticize the emphasis on the 'princess' role for young girls.

- Tech outlets touch upon the technology challenges (bandwidth) around the Royal Wedding. Apps about the big day are also topic of discussion.

- Travel sites are taking bets on where the honeymoon will be.

- Finance sites are weighing the plusses and minuses for the economy: Will it be a boost? Or will it simply be a huge cost center?

- talks about companies that are making charitable donations in the name of the occasion. 

- Health outlets note Kate's noticable weight loss and discuss Briderexia. 

Whether you choose to watch it or not, this wedding will be on your screen.  




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Thursday, April 21, 2011

The New York Cosmos Want You!


Do you remember the New York Cosmos? Probably not - but not to worry, they're coming back. The famous soccer club of the 70's is being rebuilt from the ground up. Legend Pele is the Honorary President. King Cantona and Cobi Jones are Directors of Soccer. They don't have a team or a league yet but they are busy marketing and communicating. Their jerseys are for sale. They are on Times Square billboards. They have grassroots young players games and training camps. They are smart--they know that a soccer team is actually more than 11 people. They need the fans. Scratch that - they need zealots. NY Cosmos needs tens of thousands of people obsessing about the game - waking up with it, talking about it, posting about it, screaming about it.

So, they are turning to New Yorkers and proposing them a new reason to live. As their CMO and Director of Communications recently shared at the PSFK conference, the new team behind NY Cosmos is trying to create a brand that will start a movement and give way to the club, rather than the other way around. They have a six-act play in turning New Yorkers into an extension of their team:

1- There is no longer old and new, there's just good and bad or real and fake. NY Cosmos is good and it's real. It has a modern day significance with a strong heritage. 

2- Provenance trumps personality: The Cosmos are from NY - a mega metropolitan with immigrant populations from every imaginable corner of the world. To appeal to a broader base, the Cosmos are marketing NY to a global landscape through soccer. 

3- New York City is their #1 player: the NY Cosmos brand is closely aligned with New York City. There may not be a team in place yet, but aspirational ads are up on Times Square, the heart of the city. This one was up on Pele's birthday, to promote a series of promotional activities the club was organizing. [[posterous-content:mAtkfvcwCfzvDnnduxBe]]4- Dream big and make it happen: Through sports gear (vintage and new), the club is putting the Cosmos shirts on New Yorkers backs. This is not just to spread brand fame through fashion, but also to create a broader team and to generate street buzz. Check out the club's Web site with photos of fans from the streets of NY. 

5. Honoring the fans: The Cosmos is not an elusive brand. They want to honor their hardcore fans and recruit at a grassroots level. The club is embracing those amateurs who had been gathering with their friends to play. The games already have the flavor of NY's global span. Where else are you going to get Albanians, Greeks, Mexicans and the Polish play on the same team?

6. Always do more than you say: The Cosmos Academy offers young, aspiring players a chance to train for free. The club is not just for those who can afford the tickets. It's truly for the love of soccer.

Many brands want to tap into the power of advocates and mobilize them, but few have the luxury to start with a base of hardcore believers who share the same passion and code. Having an active fan base  makes the franchise all the more valuable to potential buyers. Once they meet M.L.S. requirements, NY Cosmos can really take off with New Yorkers' support and enthusiasm. 

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

No Matter How You Market It, Travel is About Experience

Who doesn’t remember the 1994 episode of Saturday Night Live where David Spade and Helen Hunt act as the most insensitive airline crew? We laugh at this exaggeration because we can remember at least one less than pleasant travel incident. 


Travel is indeed about experience. Whether shopping for airline tickets, renting cars, going on cruises or choosing hotels, travel purchasers are most likely to refer to their past dealings with brands and establishments.




Findings from S. Radoff Associates’ Large Purchase Study shows that discounts may sway travel service purchasers’ decisions. About one-fifth of travel purchasers say their buying decisions are influenced by such offers.

Like discounts, the impact of word of mouth on travel purchases is also dwarfed by the significant role of past experience. Fewer than a quarter of travel purchasers say they were driven by offline or online buzz when making their final choices.

Word of mouth is more likely to influence cruise and hotel choices and less likely to impact airline and car rental service choices. Cruise fans are the only group of travel purchasers who indicate that face-to-face conversations (32 percent) and online word of mouth (23 percent) influence their buying decisions.

Marketing, media and peer-to-peer channels may drive trial and awareness of travel services. Yet brand trust and customer loyalty are closely linked with experience. Customer satisfaction is travel industry’s key variable for growth.

To download the full report on how consumers make their travel purchases and how sources of consumer decisions vary by age, parenthood and ethnicity, please click here


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Saturday, April 2, 2011

'To Catch A Dollar' Is About Group Success

To make a dollar you need to catch a dollar. You need a little bit of investment to buy product, supplies or a chair, a desk to be in business. If you are not credit-worthy, you can't get a loan, you can't start a business, you can't get a job--you stay at square one, you remain poor. That is the truth the movie To Catch A Dollar underscores. 

The documentary follows the story of micro-lending bank Grameen's entrance to the US market showing Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and his team's tireless efforts to spread this message and empower the poor, help them get back on their feet through micro-loans. 

They give loans strictly to women under the poverty line, defined by the US Census. Why women? Their past experience in other parts of the world have shown that women manage their loans better and when women can start businesses an earn their own living, the rest of the family wins - children go to school, health problems can be addressed and women gain power in extended family relations.

Grameen America started it's first branch in Queens, New York. They ask applicants to form groups of five. Loans are given individually but the group has to approve each business plan. The group also becomes a support system and sounding board as women face life challenges. They meet every week, with a Grameen field worker in lead and they pay back their loans bit by bit. Today, the payback rate is over 98 percent.

The personal stories of women's rise out of poverty revealed in the film are truly touching and inspiring. Besides sheer will power and relentless support of Grameen team, there are several reasons why these women are able to succeed:

1- They feel responsible towards their group: For the program to work successfully, everyone must show up. If one doesn't show up, she fails four others. 

2- They feel responsible for the group's success: Each person contributes to the group's success. You are evaluated as a group.

3- They get continuous input from Grameen and from their group members: The group is a sounding board of ideas, therapy session and friendly bonding time. 

4- They take small steps and have small payments: Paying $20 back a week is not only manageable but it also instills discipline. 

5- The call to action is clear and achievable.

The big take away here is that groups work better than solo acts when striving for that big goal. Groups are dynamic and social by nature - they can help sustain activities. They reduce risk of falling out by setting tone and behavior. 

We talk a lot about the value of networks in word of mouth marketing. We look for the group leaders and hope they'll just carry the word for us if we impress them enough. Grameen's success shows that there needs to be a bit more careful thought put into the way we identify and work with groups. 

When thinking about motivating and mobilizing crowds, think how you can organize these people into groups with common goals and how you can enable each member to contribute. 

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Water is Everything

charity: water is truly the master of online word of mouth. Check out their latest campaign, Water Changes Everything, that educates audiences about the connections between an everyday matter such as water and macro issues such as education, food security, sanitation, women's issues, healthcare and economic development.

The campaign first caught my attention on Facebook with clever depictions of what lack of water would mean for us in the developed nations.

Then I found the trail to the web area where they have six key messages you can Tweet and/or like, each one of them opening the viewers' eyes to the impact clean water can make in a country's economic development and public health. 

Between these messages and the photos on Facebook I generated four tweets and three likes, which turned into four additional re-tweets. In other words, one enthusiast created more than 10 messages through direct involvement and pass-alongs. Randomly peppering like buttons on a web site does not guarantee online buzz. Yet giving a community of advocates strategically packaged, byte-size messages can turbo-charge word of mouth. 

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Monday, March 21, 2011

What About Direct Selling?

Ever since I've met Mr. Hakki Ozmorali through his blog The World of Direct Selling, I've been interested in the similarities between word of mouth marketing and this form of network-based marketing. The Avon ladies, the Tupperware parties -- can't they teach us a thing or two about sampling, experience-driven word of mouth and sales? Hakki has lead teams at Oriflame, Herbalife and LR Health & Beauty Systems as their Country Manager in Turkey, and as North American Regional Manager for the Canadian network marketing company Lifestyles in Toronto, Canada. He currently runs his own firm, DS Consulting. Here are Hakki's valuable thoughts on the opportunities in direct-selling businesses. 

What do you think is the connection between direct to consumer marketing and word of mouth? Is there an overlap?

Obviously, direct selling relies very much on word of mouth. In its network marketing form, this reliance is even stronger. Companies expect and promote network marketers to conduct their businesses in their close circles. That is, you take the word to your circle of friends and acquaintances and they take it from you to do the same in theirs. As a consequence, people enjoy the luxury of using the products they like, of referring them to the people they like, and make money from this. 

Word of mouth marketers are grappling with measurement issues. It is hard to ask for more projects without proving their worth and ROI. Any learnings you can share from direct selling?

One of the strongest aspects of direct selling is its measurability. One can keep track of all the transactions that take place between the direct sellers and the company. And those transactions expand through word of mouth. One might say here, “Hey, you talk about direct sellers. How about the end consumers?” First of all, it is very rare to see a direct seller not using the products the company he or she is affiliated with. So, a direct seller is in fact, always a consumer as well. Secondly, many direct selling companies have “preferred customer” programs where end consumers can directly buy from the company at discounted prices where you again, can measure everything. So, when a company can find the way to register the user, it can do all measurements one can think of.   

What are the best approaches and practices that work in direct selling? How does consumer experience play into these?

In time, we have learned many lessons. There are some generally accepted rules now. For instance, you need to have a meaningful product line, a solid compensation plan to reward the field, and an operation that satisfies well the needs of direct selllers and consumers. On top these, we have the Internet. A direct selling operation without serving on the Internet now, belongs to yesterday. And today, we are faced with another phenomenon called the “social media”. With that, we have the most powerful tools ever to reach out to younger generations. As a side note, younger generations have traditionally stayed not-so-close to the direct selling model. Oriflame’s “Dare to Be” that I had covered on my blog previously is a very innovative example to such efforts.

 With regards to consumer experience, I can say it is in the heart of direct selling. It is very unusaual that a direct seller who personally did not have a positive experience will go out and promote.

Where do you think the future of direct selling is going, with all the changes in social media landscape? Does powerful consumer mean powerful marketer, in your opinion?

Every single day, the industry is exploring new opportunites that the social media tools provide. If this is all about networking, now a lot of networking is going on the Internet. When you have a meaningful presence there, you can benefit a lot. So, I don’t think the advances on the Internet will challenge the future of direct selling in a negative way. Having said that, another challenge is there because those who utilize these tools better than the others will be winning. It is important to note here that Sequia Capital after investing $37 million in the direct selling company Stella & Dot said it had done so because “the direct selling industry is on the cusp of a new age, with e-commerce and social networking transforming the landscape of the traditional direct-sales approach”.

Coming to your second question,  yes, empowering consumer is actually the essence of network marketing. That is, if you have a powerful consumer, that person will be a powerful marketer for your product as long as you show him or her how to do it and compensate for doing so.

You have an interesting trail of international work. What would be your recommendation to global brands in today's communication landscape?

While there is so much going on in the direction of globalizaton, local languages, cultures, tastes, attitudes are still there. I’ll give you an example from Facebook. The Turkish people make up the fourth largest audience among Facebook users. This is not because the Turks are one of the most Internet savvy or technologically advanced society in the world. This is simply because Turks love to socialize, to network, and to share. So, when launching a marketing activity, one may choose not to utilize Facebook in a specific country, but apparently, you don’t have that luxury in the Turkish market.  

Thank you very much for your time and insights!

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