Social media: Media channel or purchasing influence?

Blog_93_crop

The ad revenue model is blurring the lines between social media and advertising

In the early days of social media it was hailed as the replacement for advertising. The interruption model of advertising was so twentieth century and the permission model of social media was the darling of the new millennium.

Brands that were early adopters were especially excited because they viewed social media as a non-commercial marketing channel. Instead of renting space in magazines or commercial time on broadcast networks, social media offered the hope of connecting with purchasers on a one-to-one basis for less cost. Brands flocked to Facebook populating their pages with helpful hints, events and special deals for those who “Like” their brand.

As social media platforms matured, it became apparent that in order to sustain their business they needed a monetization model to pay the bills.  Google figured this out early. Ad Words (the purchase of key word search terms) made Google extremely profitable and allowed the search engine to continue to provide a free service.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn had lots of users but struggled with developing a monetization model. The one thing they did have were copious amounts of data about their users. Access to this data was attractive to the advertising community. It held the promise of being able to target advertising to an individual user based on their profile, interest and browsing habits.

Social media channel?

As the social media platforms grew the sheer number of users dictated that brands develop a social media strategy instead of just maintaining a presence.

Social media platforms responded by offering sponsored advertising.  Sponsored advertising solved several problems:

  • Now the social media platforms had a monetization model leveraging their vast proprietary database.
  • Brands could better target their advertising based on the users profile.
  • Digital analytics provided a rear looking ROI measurement.

So what began as a non-commercial peer-to-peer network is transforming into a branded media channel.

Using social media to influence purchasing

The premise of social media is word-of-mouth advertising. Brands understand that a negative comment or a positive review can affect brand perception ultimately influencing the purchasing decision. Many brands have adopted social media as an inbound marketing channel.

For example:

  • Airlines producing their pre-departure safety videos to become branded forms of communication.
  • Firms like GE have dedicated social media pages about locomotive and jet engine engineering and production.
  • Dell computer uses social media to answer customer questions and solve technical problems.

All of these strategies have one thing in a common – to connect, engage and influence the purchasing decision.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Using social media to gain customer insight

Finding the sweet spot for social marketing

Social marketing begins with the correct strategy

 Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Aviation Marketing: Big data and creativity

Creativity needs big data to define the landscape in which the brand operates

Creativity needs big data to define the landscape in which the brand operates

One provides tactical insight, the other the emotional glue

Big data is the buzzword of the day. The techno savvy number crunchers are heralding big data as an “end all, be all” for tracking RIO and determining which marketing initiatives to fund. I’m in agreement that big data, when properly interpreted, can provide customer insight as to the purchasing habits and the media channel that culminated the sale. No argument – this is valid tactical information and should be considered when planning marketing initiatives.

Big data has limitations

Big data interpretation is also influenced by what the interpreter wants from it. We all know numbers can be twisted to justify decisions based on the interpreter’s bias and ultimate goal.

Big data also presents a one-sided view of the transaction process. Yes, it can isolate the channel that the purchase was transacted through, but it cannot measure the cumulative effect of brand value and preference across all the marketing channels that led to the conversion.

Big data lacks soul

Dissecting any purchasing process has to take into account the emotional decision to consider the brand in the first place. This is where big data comes up short.

Purchasing decisions start by pinging an emotional need.  These emotions are what make us human and drive our wants, desires, and needs. Emotions are the glue that create an attachment to a brand and pique our curiosity to investigate features and benefits to justify the purchase.

Creativity needs big data and visa-versa

Big data is automated. It’s a logical path that turns creativity into a commodity. From automated ad purchasing programs to social media sentiment, tracking these algorithms can not detect sarcasm, joy, empathy or any of the other emotions we humans employ on a daily basis to communicate, cope, and justify our purchasing decisions.

There was once a time when creativity was celebrated. Good advertising built brands and created brand preference. It could sweep the nation with catch phrases and imprint the brand message in the minds of millions of potential customers.

Creativity needs big data to define the landscape in which the brand operates. Big data can help creative thinking by providing comparative analysis, insight into purchasing habits, and models of what not to do based on different scenarios.  Ultimately, this tactical execution may be big data’s greatest contribution to the creative process.

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

Big brother and marketing ROI

Big brother is watching

Know where the line is between user privacy and data collection.

Digital ushered in the era of data collection.  For aviation marketers, digital offers big data and unlimited possibilities for ways to track advertising and marketing effectiveness. The “C” suite demanded accountability for marketing funds and data houses responded by monitoring and tracking click-throughs, websites visited, time on page, and time of day, basically offering a very specific connect-the-dots profile of our web usage. Cookies were placed on our machines without our permission and we naively accepted that corporations would do the right thing with our personal data. Big data houses claimed that did not track our names but tracked the IP addresses, as if there’s no correlation.

Unfortunately, it did not quite work out like we planned. Now we come to find out that data mining companies have been selling out web browsing habits to advertisers so they may offer up specific banner ads or offers based on our browsing profile, credit score, and brand preferences.

Web privacy groups lobbied for more transparency, and software providers responded with better and easier controls to track cookies that gathered our information. After all, it’s just one little pixel bobbing around in a sea of screens.

But now we’re discovering that the Federal Government also has an interest in our browsing habits, emails, phone calls, and everything else digital, and stores this content for connect-the-dots referencing. Should this surprise us? Of course not!

During all of the news coverage following this revelation the advertising community has been very quiet. In fact, it’s embarrassing that agency  holding companies, trade associations and digital advertising networks, have said almost nothing about data collection.

The advertising community probably has done more to promote behavioral targeting in the name of more effective advertising that any other group on the planet.

Which leads us to a very interesting internet privacy case of Harris vs. comScore’s  class action lawsuit. The suit centers on comScore’s practice of bundling its monitoring software into third party downloads such as free screen savers. The plaintiffs contend that comScore did not provide adequate notice that when the downloaded free third party software was installed, it also monitored the users’ email and browser habits and sent that information to comScore, which in turn sold it to advertisers.

You could look at this two ways; one being a fight for internet privacy, and the second  how comScore tried to monitor users’ internet habits and email without users’ consent.  Why is this a big deal? Because our personal data drives internet advertising. To put in a monetary context, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Internet Advertising revenues total $36.57 billion in 2012, a 15% increase over the previous year.

Now with mobile on the rise, geo-location tracking opens up even more real estate for internet privacy issues. Just think about the amount of information you are providing through apps and social networks every time you pick up your smart phone or tablet.

In conclusion, aviation marketers need to pay special attention to the privacy rights of their customers while balancing the perceived needs for more marketing ROI data.

Additional articles your may find of interest on this topic:

Determining Advertising Return On Investment (AROI) for Aviation Marketing

Why content development will drive the future of aviation marketing

Aviation Marketing: Measuring Digital Display Advertising ROI

5 reasons why aviation manufacturers need to embrace people-to-people marketing

The connected customer gathers information from a multitude of online sources before coming to the final purchasing decision

The connected customer gathers information from a multitude of online sources before coming to the final purchasing decision.

The connected customer spends more time on social media than with watching television, listening to radio, or reading a newspaper. Cloud-connected smart phones, tablets, and laptops are the predominant tools of the connected customer. They absorb information from many different sources and share their experiences with followers on social networks. Aviation manufacturers that do not shift their marketing tactics are endangering their brand and flirting with obsolescence.

Aviation marketing is changing. Yesterday’s target audiences are now communities of constituencies that share information across digital platforms. Here are 5 reasons why aviation marketers need to embrace people-to-people marketing:

1. Traditional advertising is a one-way conversation

Traditional advertising is great for building brand awareness. However, it cannot create the conduit for immediate engagement or offer additional content at the click of a mouse or tap of the screen. The connected customer wants the option of a two-way conversation.

2. An integrated model of online and offline channels are necessary to hold the connected customer’s attention during the considered purchase process

A strategic approach to integrating online media with traditional print media placement offers the manufacturer the opportunity for extending the engagement during a prolonged sales cycle. Banner ads across different digital media channels, coupled with guides and E-books, provide brand stickiness with authoritative content and data collection from interested parties.

3. The traditional sales funnel has been replaced with the customer decision journey

Traditional B-to-B sales and marketing is based on a linear approach of selling to accounts. This approach loses sight of the importance of trigger events, internally or externally driven, that kick starts the decision journey in the first place. At first the prospective buyer may either be unaware or unconcerned, but then something happens (the trigger event) to raise their awareness of an issue they need to deal with – and the online search for a solution gets underway.

The connected customer’s decision journey is circular with four potential areas where marketers can win or lose: initial consideration, active evaluation, closure through purchase, and post-purchase. During each of these phases manufacturers can be added or subtracted for consideration.

4. Savvy aviation manufacturers have increased their social marketing budgets

There has been a massive shift in the adoption of mobile devices. Apple’s CEO Tim Cooke summed up the tablet adoption.

“Through the last quarter <Q1 2012>, I should say, which is just 2 years after we shipped the initial iPad, we’ve sold 67 million. And to put that in some context, it took us 24 years to sell that many Macs and 5 years for that many iPods and over 3 years for that many iPhones.”

By 2015 there will be 7.4 billion wireless compatible devices on the market (ABIResearch). This where the connected customer lives and aviation manufacturers should consider investing a minimum of at least 15% of marketing funds to online channels.

5. Aviation marketers that adopt social marketing get better customer insight that leads to better decision-making

Analytics obtained from social marketing provide a wealth of information about the connected customer’s decision-making process and behavior. This information can drive product development and smarter product marketing.

Translation:  if you’re not where your customers are, connected to them and tuned into their purchasing behavior, you’re going to lose business and inflict damage on your brand.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Why people-to-people marketing is replacing business-to-business in the aviation industry

Dynamic customers require quality content

Designing a social marketing strategy for aviation marketing

Aviation Marketing: How to engineer a social marketing strategy

How to engineer a social marketing strategySocial marketing is not free – it requires time, money, and resources

Social marketing is an all-encompassing term that covers very specific strategies and tactics designed to engage customers and prospects. When considering the addition of social marketing into the marketing mix, it’s best to review current marketing strategy and determine where social marketing will have the greatest impact.

Aviation marketers that step into social marketing are really making a decision to become their own content producers. Implementing a successful social marketing program requires time, money, and dedicated resources. Without these, the effort will be shortlived and short on results.

Where to start

Social marketing strategy development starts with the answers to the following questions:

  • What are the goals for the social marketing program?
  • How will social marketing integrate the existing marketing program?
  • Who will lead the social marketing efforts?
  • What resources are available to ensure success?
  • How will social marketing ROI be measured?

The answers to the above questions will form the foundation of your social marketing strategy.

Below are a list of goals that can be used as thought starters when defining the goals for the program:

  • Increase the number of prospects on the sales funnel
  • Influence decision makers in an informational, non-selling manner
  • Add an interactive component to the website
  • Position executives and technical talent as experts in their field
  • Create product evangelists that recommend product or service offerings

How will social marketing integrate into the existing marketing program?

To have a holistic marketing program, a balance of outbound and inbound strategies and tactics need to be orchestrated. Relying solely on a blog to generate leads is not a good idea. However, integrating a blog on the website may be a good idea to feature technical talent, thought leadership, or respond to customer questions and comments.

Who will lead the social marketing efforts?

Social marketing cannot be relegated to the summer intern or administrative assistant. Having a Facebook page and Twitter account does not make one a social marketing expert.

Having a champion in the executive suite provides the focus, incentive, and resources to assure that quality content is being produced and tactical execution followed through.

What resources are available to ensure success?

Depending on the social marketing tactic, one may need writers, video producers, coders, designers, and/or digital media planners. Few aviation manufacturers have this type of talent on staff.  Selecting a firm that has access to this talent can provide the necessary resources to keep the program moving and cost in line.

How will social marketing ROI be measured?

Everything digital can be measured. It’s important to realize the role that social marketing plays in the overall marketing mix. Consider the customer touchpoints in the sales cycle and where social marketing can influence the sales process. A purchase inquiry may come through an email campaign, but where was the customer influenced that started the research process leading up to the purchasing inquiry?

Additional articles that may be of interest:

Why content development will drive the future of aviation marketing

Why aviation marketers struggle with digital marketing integration

Aviation Marketing: 3 ways social media can help build your brand

Why aviation marketers struggle with digital marketing integration

Blog_72_Intgration_iStock_000017914623Small

Successful digital marketing requires a different mindset

Aviation marketers are creatures of habit. When challenged with the myriad of digital marketing strategies and tactics available, they go back to what they know and are comfortable with – interruption-based marketing led by print advertising with media placement in trade publications.

Repeated studies in the aviation and related industry segment peg digital marketing spending between 10 – 15% of the annual marketing expenditure. In 2008, this was considered discretionary marketing spending as companies experimented with digital advertising, social media, and analytics. Today, with Apple heading toward 50 billion app downloads, you would have thought the light bulb would have clicked on somewhere in the executive suite that digital marketing is here and it’s getting bigger.

Changing the way you think

In the advertising world, digital has cut a disruptive swath through advertising agencies. Yet I still hear agency principals talk about digital agencies and digital departments. Are aviation marketers to blame when their agency partners have not integrated digital thinking into everything they do for aviation clients?

Instead of creating ads for magazine placement, shouldn’t both client and agency be thinking about complementing brand building marketing with digital tactics that provide on demand information that encourages engagement and extends the relationship?

Measuring marketing effectiveness

One of the reasons why 80% of the marketing budget is still going towards traditional advertising venues is the area of wiggle room and accountability.

Brand building ROI metrics play well for those who are not digital natives or converted digital immigrants. As long as the profitability numbers keep increasing, marketing’s influence will consist of mostly presentations at board meetings.

With digital, everything is measurable. Yes, it can involve a lot of data crunching and discussion of where in the digital marketing landscape the convergence of digital tactics influenced a purchase.  But this does provide a correlation between investment and return, providing a smaller area for marketing wiggle room.

Understand the customer’s expectations and brand experience

Apple’s closing on 50 billion app downloads should be a beacon of the future for what “on demand” marketing will look like for aviation industry. The technology is here, and the platforms are your smart phone, tablet, and laptop. The challenge aviation marketers will face is tooling their marketing organization with digital natives and immigrants.  The natives will come from the bottom up, and the immigrants will rise based on the fear of being left behind. These two groups will teach others to think in digital terms and provide guidance on how to create a seamless brand experience in real time.

Aviation Marketing: How mobile application development drives people-to-people marketing

Blog_65_How mobile application development drives people-to-people marketingBrands are starting to realize how mobile apps can improve the brand experience.

Enterprise mobile development, the strategy and integration of mobile applications based on devise capabilities and user expectations, is becoming part of brand strategy. Applications that aid us in doing our work are providing a brand experience outside of the workplace environment.

In the aviation industry, airports, airlines and hospitality companies will benefit from understanding the when, where, and how of creating engagement and deployment apps that increase customer loyalty.

The tale of two apps – QR codes disrupted by NFC

Not long ago, QR (quick response) codes held the promise of integrating print advertising with the online experience. Large consumer brands jumped to add QR codes on packaging and point-of-sale materials. The strategy was based extending the engagement leading to an action or a monetary transaction.

B2B companies also started to add QR codes to their advertising but failed to consider the amount of time and resources needed to create meaningful content on the back end of the QR code transaction.

In the aviation industry, adoption of this technology has been slow due to the following:

  • No technology standardization
  • Users unaware of QR code technology and reader apps
  • Limited mobile bandwidth
  • Small size and low-resolution screens of mobile devices
  • Inferior camera software and lenses
  • Difficult keyboard response
  • Immature mobile operating systems

All of this resulted in a hit-and-miss user experience.

Contrast this with the emergence of NFC (near field communication) chips that are being embedded in Samsung smart phones running Google’s Android operating system. NFC technology is a communication protocol and data exchange format that is based on existing radio-frequency identification (RFID) standards. NFC builds upon RFID by allowing two-way communication between app and NCF tag.

Samsung TecTileTM is an app that lets you read and write programmable NFC tags.  TecTiles are the NFC tags that can be programmed for multiple actions such as:

  • Change phone setting
  • Launch apps
  • Check into places
  • Update social status
  • Make calls or send text messages

All these are done by swiping your smart phone in close proximity over the TecTiles.

This is a disruptive technology for QR codes based on standardization of application and chip contained in an open source operating system for mobile devices.

Airports, airlines, and the hospitality industry should consider implementing NFC branding in situations where TecTiles are in close proximity to customers. This technology holds the potential to enhance the user’s experience, increase brand loyalty, and extend the functionality of the brand outside of the intended workplace.

For more information on NFC, click on the following links:

Samsung TecTilesTM

Wikipedia Near Field Communication