Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Social Media Integration - ESP examples from StrongMail, ExactTarget and Epsilon

In looking at Interactive SaaS provider, it's also interesting to see how ESPs are integrating with Social Media platform and networks. In most cases, ESPs are building campaign tools and reporting that bring email, direct web and social channels together. Here's a few examples of how ESPs have innovated from Strongmail and ExactTarget.

1. Link email and web sharing. StrongMail's Influencer product connects web and social information with email subscribers. How? Not only does the Influencer product allow a marketer to extend their email with SWYN your network functionality, it goes one step further and integrates sharing from a customer website. By connecting sharers with their subscriber status, Strongmail customers can identify which customers are active sharers from both the web and email perspective. From there, a customer can actively target them from their email platform - in the long term, measure the value of the subscribers - and which channel messages and campaigns are most effective at getting the word out.
2. Dovetail an Email with a Tweet. ExactTarget's platform allows marketers to coordinating email messages with a Twitter status, or executive a Twitter campaign along side a tweet. While I kinda cringed at a DM to all followers (just seemed to intrusive, but still follows the Twitter Rules), it certainly makes it easier to get the message out. They've also integrated for URL shortening and tracking.

3. Integrate Email and Community Platforms. ExactTarget has had their online support community 3sixty up for a while, but on October 13th, they've productized their community platform as something for their customers and prospects to purchase. 3sixty allows is a "permission-based online social network to give prospects, customers, employees and partners a forum to gather, exchange ideas, distribute material and engage in discussion." Check out the press release. For those companies that have their own online communities and forums, integrating email with the community site is a great way to keep the community engaged and measure its success.

4. Integrating Email and Social Media Listening. Finally, Epsilon - a full service ESP has partnered with Alterian to provide social media monitoring and analysis capabilities for their clients. Alterian's SM2 product will provide social media listening data to Epsilon. View the full press release.

(Full disclosure here - I work at an ESP (Yesmail).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How Omniture & Saleforce Integrate with Facebook & Twitter

If you haven't noticed, there are several ESPs, CRM and Web analytics companies integrating with Facebook and Twitter in smart and innovative ways. These companies have leveraged what is already occuring online - conversations, praises, complaints, prospects and integrating them with existing business processes. In looking specifically at Omniture and Salesforce - there's a great case study in doing integration right for the social media channel.

Omniture Twitter Integration - Omniture integrates with Twitter in some obvious ways - like tracking traffic coming from Twitter and other social media sites, as well as:
1) Measuring overall customer value and customer acquisition with other digital channels
2) Integrating Twitter conversation and filtering by specific keywords and phrases
3) Alert notifications for Twitter
4) Group contributors in the way they impact your brand and track them over time
5) Segmenting groups on Facebook by the number of followers

Omniture Facebook Integration - Omniture tracks Facebook application as well. Once you have an application on Facebook, Omniture tracks success of Facebook apps by:
1) Measuring application adoption (which part of the app is getting the best pageviews)
2) Measuring the viral component of the application (how many people are inviting others to download the app)
3) Measuring the app back to marketing goals (Linking the application to funnel reports to see which connects Facebook to purchase behavior) Integration - in March of 2009, integrated customer and prospect conversations from Twitter into their Salesforce cloud. What's very smart about the Saleforce integration is that it:
1) Integrates search into the experience
2) Integrates searchable, pre-built Twitter responses to common questions right from (making replies easy, pre-built and painless)
3) Allows historical monitoring of conversation on Twitter
4) Integration of Twitter handles in their contact system

Salesforce/Facebook Integration - has a great cloud application with integrates with Facebook. Using Faceconnector, users of can integrate Facebook information and interact in Facebook through the experience. This includes:
1) Connect customers and prospects with connections on Facebook
2) Integrate conversations on with
3) Integrate addition Facebook profile information like employment, birthdates and photos into

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Over the Hype..and Into Engagement

Gartner is credited for creating the hype cycle for when emerging technologies become mainstream. With triple digit growth for both Facebook and Twitter, the mainstream audience has widely embraced this channel - often at the expense of others. While last year's question may have been 'How do I integrate social media into my marketing plan?," this year's question may be "So I'm on social media sites, now what?"

According to the e-tailing group and PowerReviews, 86% of top retailers have Facebook fan pages, and 65% publish on Twitter. What's more, a recent study found that Twitter users are more receptive to ads than other Social Media sites. So what gives with this unique audience, and how should marketers respond?

1. Marketers must let go of the illusion of control. Social Media is all about opening communication between customers and prospect with a brand. While you can somewhat control broadcast communication, by opening the conversation, you also let go of some of the control you may have had. This comes for most, with a lot of concern and trepidation. But for many brands, letting go has garnered enormous benefits, from bottom line profit margins, to new ideas in innovations, to moving from an unknown brand to the category killer, social media can be the change agent that makes an organization a phoenix changing from the inside out.

2. Markets much integrate cross-channel campaigns to social media in uniquely different ways that other channels. You can develop micro-sites, you can have triggered transactional messages based on behavior, but you can't automate conversations, and you can't predict how consumers will respond to social media campaigns. Social media begins with a conversation, a way to participate, to give, to contribute, or respond. Don't plan for the response to be 'oh that's cool,' or you haven't truly engaged this channel.

3. Marketers must look beyond immediate results. Everyone's heard of success stories from Twitter for Dell, but beyond the immediate sales, social media is about building a broad conversation with your brand and the audience. Measuring beyond followers, and clicks - how well are you engaging your customers? What new insights can you use to change direction in marketing? How about in your product? How will your brand be percieved differently because of your activity in this channel? All long-term questions to keep in mind when engaging in social media.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nielsen & Facebook: What's the deal?

This week, Nielsen Research and Facebook announced a strategic partnership. From this partnership, a new product (Nielsen's Brandlift) is available which marketers can immediately capitalize on. Here's what it provides:

Social Media Focus Groups - With 300M user, Nielsen's market research can have access to a vast and deeply mined focus group of Facebook users to gauge effectiveness of different creative executions of Facebook advertising. All polls are opt-in and no personally identifiable information is shared.

Connect the dots with social media advertising and purchase intent. One of the biggest challenges to social media is that it's hard to measure impact without immediate sales on the site. By partnering with Facebook, Nielsen can "...measure consumer attitudes and purchase intent from display advertising that appears on the site. There are plans to leverage Brandlift on other online sites in conjunction with Facebook.

Measure how engaged Facebook fan pages change consumer attitude and behavior. The first pilot customer of the Brandlift product was P&G. Through this partnership they found that their campaign had driven an 11% lift in purchase intent overall and a 33% lift in their target demographic (women: 13-18). Very good results overall for their first pilot.

Foundational in measuring multi-channel campaign effectiveness. Nielsen has dominated results in measuring television and online audiences. It's no surprise it's a win-win for Facebook and Nielsen. Facebook gets brand credibility and (hopefully) proven advertising effectiveness, and Nielsen gets access to a new channel audience. The partnership establishes a long-term foundation to realize advertising revenue opportunities and measure effectiveness for this audience.

In case you missed it - here's the video of Sheryl Sandberg's (COO of Facebook) keynote at Advertising Age, read more about Sheryl and Steve Zukerman (CEO) of Facebook on Forbes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

SaaS products: Capitalizing on Social Opportunities

Watch TV much? No? Did you know that according to Nielson, in July users spent and average of 5 hrs, 10 minutes on Facebook? I missed the last season of Lost, and heard there was a new show about advertising in the 60s, but man, I do know that a few friends successfully weathered the fires in Los Angeles, and that the health of my friends cat is doing much better. I'm a Facebook casuality. While advertising is declining at a double-digit rate, the behavioral shift seems to be towards social networks- spending time reading tweets and videos - and some of the money at least seems to be following.

As marketing advertising shifts more to online advertising, email, social media and mobile, SaaS marketing software providers are often one step behind the hockeystick growth - with metrics and execution tools to streamline and report out on the overall success of the social channel. Here's a few things I'm seeing:

1. Web Analytic providers integrating social media and emerging channels in digital analytics. Recently Omniture launched their CMO dashboards. Like many web analytic provides these bundle various digital channels: online direct, online advertising, search mobile, and social. Now it's beyond reporting metrics - it's analysis on channel performance - to prove the value of their marketing budgets.

2. CRM providers include customers through social networks channels. integrates communication through Twitter and integrates customers who set up communities on Facebook. They even integrate metrics to measure a communities involvement. Meanwhile Microsoft Dynamics Social Networking Accelerator allows customers to discover online conversation, identifiy influencers, and engage through the Microsoft Dynamic Platform.

3. Email ESPs power social sharing. Whether it's Yesmail's (where I work) integration with ShareThis, or ExactTarget's Social Forward, or Silverpop's Share-to-Social - the majority of ESPs have social sharing technologies that allow an email to be shared to a social site - and tracked.

4. Integrated Marketing Platforms add the social channel. Recently Alterian's acquisition of Techrigy and Axciom's Relevance-X platform brings social media listening in the context of a multi-touch point, integrated marketing platform. These tools add social intellence to the mix to understand behaviorally how customers interact and engage with brands in social media channels - and how they can best leverage this information in interacting with their base.

Convergence - it's what's next. As SaaS providers coming from different perpectives all have their unique bent for capitalizing on social media, I'd predict that SaaS providers which complement each other (Marketing Platform + pure emerging channels, for example) will converge to show metrics on social marketing success in the context of evaluating marketing channel performance and maximizing customer value as a whole.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Social Media - An Essential Component of Multi-channel Campaign Management

There are some great reads on multi-channel campaign management from Forrester's "Campaign Management Needs a Reboot" (4/2009) from Suresh Vittal as well as "Gartner's Magic Quadrant for CRM Multichannel Campaign Management." From both research organizations, there's interesting trends in how social media software companies are beginning to integrate with multi-channel campaign management solutions.

1. Integrate listening into customer touchpoints. Customers converse with brands increasing through social networks and social applications. Campaign Management solutions need to be able to view listening from social media channels (networks, communities and otherwise) as new channels to integrate within the context of an existing conversation with the customer. This is a critical component to getting brand kudos in recognizing who your buyers are. Lithium technologies, for example, has partnered with RightNow and Awareness has partnered with Salesforce, Rightnow and Clarify to ensure customers connecting through social media channels are integrated in the pipeline.

2. Realize that consumers choose what and how they communicate with the enterprise. Companies like Yesmail (where I work), Silverpop and Datran media are reaching customer in their email and social inbox. Customers increasingly reach out to brands by Twitter, Facebook, and other channels. Sadly marketing and communication channels still are playing catch-up in this channel in keeping their brand top of mind.

3. Ensure multi-channel isn't just digital and offline - it's inbound and outbound too. Advertising, search, direct mail, email and SMS are fine for delivering outbound messaging, but a true campaign management solution also uses inbound channels from social media, web, call centers and store locations into the mix of campaign management so the interactions with customers have the same face to the brand. Campaign Management solutions should make it easy to distribute content and offers to many channels. Post-launch analysis and reporting from the tool should reflect the multi-channel touchpoints in terms of campaign performance. Companies like Omniture are partnering with social media analysis tools like Collective Intellect to analyse and rank social media contributors within the larger context of web analytics.
4. Customer data append services needed. Most organizations have a fragmented look at their customer. They know there telephone number, but not their email, and not their Twitter profile, or who they are on Facebook. As customers increasingly get impatient with mass marketing, and more selective on choosing companies that 'know them' - data append services, whether social or traditional will become a critical component in filling in the picture of who a brands customers are - in the various channels in which they live - and having a positive experience with the customer as a result (well.... if done correctly).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Smart Moves on Social Networks

It's well know that social media spending will increase in the next few years, and now there are some recent excellent case studies on how retailers are engaging with relevant ways to interact - whether it's social networks, microsites, widgets, or mobile devices. This week highlights some of the stories of interest that provide interesting ways to engage consumers in online and emerging channels.

Placement on YouTube Matters!
In an article from ClickZ, when JCPenny launched their back to school campaign online , JCPenney bought "promoted video" placements on YouTube for their Sheckler line. This helped get about 60,000 views in one month. According to JC Penny the click-through-rate of the ad is ten times higher than the average promoted video ad on YouTube and 33 percent of views are from users are in their target demographic. The JCP teen page offers a view of the full JCP collection, plus concert tours, scavenger hunts, and more.

Coca Cola: How a great product is ideal for WOM
Coca Cola has a new, very cool way to dispense over 100+ beverage options at your favorite restaurant, and it's called the Coca Cola Freestyle. Becuase it is so new and different (it uses RFID to track and manage dispensor operations for example), it's an ideal product to spread via word of mouth. Coca Cola has done just that - launched info about the Freestyle on Facebook and set up a Twitter account to tweet about new available locations. In fact, it seems to be the plan - using social media to " drive traffic to participating outlets." Last count, their facebook fan had about 1,200 users. Many users are contributing content, and uploading photos of the latest development in drink dispensers. It's even greener than the previous dipensers!

Channel Shift in Spending
Last week for example, GAP's launch of the "Born to Fit" campaign placed 'greater emphasis on Web advertising and social media -- Facebook, specifically -- than any effort in the retailer's history.' The campaign includes invites to "Born to Fit" parties in various cities across the country, and asks fans via a Facebook widget "what were you born to do?" From here, fans could upload pictures of themselves and a caption ("Born to Dance!") to their profile and add it to a mural of GAP fans. This multi-channel digital launch includes a microsite, Facebook page, videos, and widgets, and an iPhone App. Check out the Facebook page.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Social Media Events - How things have changed!

Last week thousands gathered via WOM to see Dave Chappelle in my own hometown at Pioneer Square. The Chappelle 'show' was a total success - by accident - purely by the instantanous word of mouth tools like text messaging, Twitter, and Facebook.

While Mashable has done a great How-To Article, and there's a good Slideshare presentation on how to do this, but here's my Social Media event planning playbook on how to create and market an event using social media.

1. Create the killer event. Let's face it - in this economy, WOM won't work if it's just...blah. Create a topic that gives immediate answers that your audience is facing right NOW, or a unique challenge to traditional thinking, or bring in a speaker that is real buzz worthy is critical in stretching out that event message. Who is well... your Dave Chappelle? This is the most critical step in spreading WOM. Ensure you can spread the word- it's worth going!

2. Use your existing network - or find one. Whether you own your own business or market for one, where is your network? On Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? Do you have Maybe your target audience isn't in your digital or social rolodex, - can you find that subgroup in an existing social network? Are they talking on Twitter? How can you reach them? Keep in mind - you want a wide net, not just to send your message to one network, but to many.

3. Prepare your message. Get a consistent message and brand it. That means putting the event out on Upcoming, Eventful, Facebook events, messaging in your blog and creating event ads and emails to reachout with your peers to spread awareness. A consistent memorable message about your event can really aide WOM marketing. Get ready with widgets and links including hashtags for tracking - all in a one page 'play book' for your sales team and collegues to link to the event.

4. Set up incentives. You can start messaging early with hashtags and twitter by offering free event for the first volunteers, discounts for early birds and exclusives for coming through particularly popular bloggers, and more. This will help you fill the event and gauge how effective your different social channels are doing at attracting attendees.

5. Align your players. By now you have brainstormed on all the ways you can build word-of-mouth about your event. That means you+at least a dozen people who will spread the word on our behalf- in multiple social channels. Match the players with the channels they are best at spreading the word (including blogging, email, and even phone). This may likely mean, you are doing old-school networking - sitting down and selling your event- to have them get the word out for you.

6. Spread the word. Communicate what the event is, why you should go, what the offers are and how to RSVP, and communicate go-live dates for invites and reminders to your network.

7. Show the play-by-play. At the event make sure you have asked people to live tweet and blog your events - in advance. Chances are you may be too busy in the AV details and event itself - and capturing the event details are great in creating buzz around the event.

8. Capture post-event highlights. You can also ensure you've captured the buzz with pics on Flicker, and video highlights on YouTube. These help keep the energy and momentum of your event going even after the guests are out the door.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Social Media - Features Well Suited for a New Channel

This week, Marketing Sherpa's survey found that Facebook PPC spending is on the rise among marketers. In fact, in their survey 17% of search marketers used Facebook for PPC marketing.

In addition, Forrester Research came out recently with their US Interactive Marketing Forecast for 2009-2014. They predict:
  • 1.9 billion in Integrated Social Media Campaign Spending by 2014
  • 1.3 billion in agency fees attributed to Social Media by 2014
Great news for agencies and those involved in social media marketing management! The challenge? Right now most conversations tie you to the platform (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and provide little insight into how to measure a brand impact over the entire channel of social media in terms familiar to marketers (segments, lifestage and lifecycle messaging etc). In addition, there are few products out there which streamline monitoring conversation, nor provide a blueprint for improving ROI when investing in this challenging new media. What's needed?
  • Campaign management that spans across social networks. You answer questions on LinkedIn, monitor your brand in Twitter Search, and check posts to your brand fan page on Facebook. All with different logins, and duct-tape monitoring. Isn't it time for a product that monitored these for you - and allowed you to manage these from one place?
  • Tools that make your social media hat a little easier to wear. If you get a brand complaint, wouldn't it be great if a tool auto-recommended an approach on how to handled it? Better yet, had workflow to assign to customer support or sales, regardless of which social network, wiki or website the comment came from?
  • Framework for measuring success. You can track traffic coming from social networks, and you can count new followers, but who are these individuals and how do they differ in frequency, spend, and ultimately profit for all the hours invested in social media? A social media tool should also provide a framework for linking social media to the bottom line, no matter how long thecycle from conversation to purchase - especially in these times.
  • Turn-key data integration. It should be easier to integrate you social media presence with traffic you you website and interaction with mobile and email channels. Any product out there should have open APIs to provide a big picture glance at the performance of the entire online channel.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Interview with Jeremiah Owyang

A while back when I was at the Forrester Marketing Summit, I sat with Jeremiah Owyang, and thought it was worth a post. If you don't know, Jeremiah works at Forrester Research in Interactive Marketing - with a focus on social media marketing. As part of the Forrester Summit, I had a chance to ask a few questions. Here our conversation....

1. Some of my colleagues are a little hesitant about the free aspect of Social Media. What do consumers want in return for influence?
Consumers want to be heard and see that their input has had some effect. Social Media has made major inroads in product innovation in that consumers are gravitating to products they have influence in shaping. There is definitely opportunity in gaining market share by tuning in to what consumer want. The key is to not let suggestions go unnoticed - or you'll be seen as just a social media black hole.

2. How are marketers approaching marketing in social media spaces?
There is some hesitation on approaching social media, but is embraced in some capacity by the vast majority of consumer brands. They are setting goals and aligning social networks to meet those marketing objectives (brand perception, sales, promotions, etc). Measurement is predominantly web tracking.

3.Are marketers thinking in the terms of 'campaigns'?
Yes, and it's unfortunate because at best it's an ongoing conversation with consumers. (A good study to start with a multi-online approach is Forresters 'Campaign Management Needs A Reboot.') It's unfortunate they think of campaigns because at best it's an ongoing conversation with consumers.

4. Which companies are trying to provide services to marketers in this space?
Of course, the Listening platforms are having the best traction, but also, plus integrations in social media with SAP CRM, Salesforce, and Shoutlet. Also in terms of campaign management and widget creation: Gigya, Widgetbox, Clearsping, Newsgator, Rocku, and Slide.

5.How are marketers measuring social media campaign response on the backend, and what metrics are most critical to track as the channel evolves?

Certainly traditional metrics are increased traffic to the brand site, clicks, follows, and sales, but there is more strategic moment in tracking the velocity of engagement (time+energy- resulting momentum).

6.Who typically "owns" the social media marketing responsibility (and budget) within an average organization? Is it a shared responsibility across the marketing organization, or are most companies hiring internal experts or contracting with agencies?

It's marketing - but as sales and customer support also are using social media - it's beginning to expand in responsibility and taking a SWOT team approach to customer and prospect engagement.

You can follow Jeremiah on Twitter @jowyang or his blog.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Extending Twitter: Marketing-Friendly Twitter Apps

Twitter's popularity is growing phenomenally. While there is alot of noise, there are also opportunities for marketers to track and extend Twitter beyond 140 characters. Here's are a few marketer-friendly extensions that extend (and improve) the Twitter experience.

1.Stweets  a mashup between Google maps and Twitter, Stweet will shows the street from where a tweet was made! While it's cool that you can track where people are tweeting, what would be more interesting to marketers to advertise businesses nearby a tweeter - a timely offer with a nearby business. 

2. Twitdoc - it's very common to send pics over Twitter, but Twitdoc lets you attach Microsoft Word, Excel, and PDF documents. This extends Twitter so that documents can be shared directly, without having to go to a website. For marketers, once they start tracking the number of downloads, metrics can measure the subject line equivalent of Twitter - how engaging are your 140 characters to prompt a download? 

3. Twitoaster - With triple-digit growth, tracking conversations (particularly about brands or a topic) has become pretty tricky. Twitoaster  threads your twitter conversations like on a message board.  This allows you to understand searches and replies in context to the conversation. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What's Shareworthy: Survey Says...

With Yesmail's recent integration of ShareThis, I thought it would be good to do a little 2.0 consumer survey on what types of content is share-worthy on a social network or social media site, and how people feel in general about companies having a shingle on social networks. Because it was mostly those within my network, I had about 50 responses. Here’s what I found:

1. Sharing is still new - education and simplification is needed. Over 60% of those surveyed said they had not shared an email to a social site, and another 11% couldn’t get the sharing tool to work.

2. Viral content in social media is not necessarily all about sales. In fact, sometimes content that humanizes a brand is what gets shared. Here’s the content that was interesting to those surveyed.
Cool or funny video (30% responded with interesting, 30% strongly liked it for sharing)
Insider’s look at a company (30% responded with interesting, 16% strongly liked the content)
VERY good sale (30% responded with interesting, 19% strongly liked it for sharing)
Tie-in with a non-profit (32% s responded with interesting, 11% strongly liked it for sharing)

3. Consumers are lukewarm about traditional marketing efforts. It’s been said before that traditional tactics don’t work in the social media world. The survey reaffirmed that fact.
Sweepstakes are not interesting. A strong 58% would not share a sweepstakes or contest, and 33% felt lukewarm (The response was ‘maybe’).
Neither is a company’s presence on a social network. Unfortunately, a lot of consumers don’t care about a new social media presence. 38% would not share, 35% felt lukewarm.
Even loyalty programs are not all that share-worthy. 30% would not share news about a new loyalty program, and an additional 52% felt lukewarm about it.

4. Consumers have accepted finding corporate brand presence on social media websites as long as the brand fits the social network. A whopping 85% felt there were types of social media sites that didn’t make sense for companies to have a presence on.

5. Facebook rules in terms of company follows. 57% of consumers surveyed said they followed/friended a company on Facebook, while another 49% followed those on Twitter, and 27% on LinkedIn, and 8% on YouTube.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Social Smarts: Integrating Email and Facebook

Let's face it - Facebook has seen hockeystick growth over the last year - over 175M active Facebook users last count, if you are a consumer brand, you are probably, like many figuring it out as you go along. Email can be a great channel for spring-boarding your social media campaign on Facebook. Then again, Facebook can be a great way to grow your email list organically. Here's a few great best practices in integrating social media and email.

1. Email - When you Go Big: Drive Exclusive Offers for Facebook Fans. For French Connection, they offer exclusive news and offers- and track these offers uniquely. Recently, French Connections and others started doing this with Twitter as well.

2.: Use Navigational elements in email to drive awareness of your brand's social footprint. You can see below in the footer from Peet's there's a clear list of social media sites: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube - plus a viral element to forward to a friend.

3. Message via email - and Facebook. If you are looking for a last minute Valentine's gift - it's okay to post updates on Facebook, and with an email campaign - just make sure you track both uniquely.

4. Like email, mix it up, and keep it relevant. Whether you are CPG product which has a Facebook recipe contest, or a fashion retailer with Facebook fans decked in your finest, fans can help your Facebook presence say isn't about just promotion, - it's about the fans.

5. Test. Track. Test. Repeat. Make it part of your practice to uniquely tracks text and logo for Facebook to see which users originated from which email - and which linked from email to Facebook or other social destination site. Having unique email and Facebook offer codes, and link tracking to help you evaluate how well these integrated campaigns work for your business, and which integrated campaigns worked best for your brand.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Getting Close Your Market using Social Media

Remember 'old school' product management? We got enhancement feedback from customer service, competitive intelligence once in a while from sales/research? It was rated, reviewed, prioritized, and integrated in the roadmap - maybe every 6 months or so. Perhaps you wrote customer surveys to gauge our products, and waited for a few months for feedback? Remember that? You'd have structured survey data..."Good presentation of reporting data" "Fair User Interface" Easy to recommend changes.

That's changing - and if you are in product management, it's probably going to be pretty chaotic at first. Here's where I think product management needs to listen to customers -and prospects.

1. Be like Dell - Go Direct. You may look to marketing or PR to monitor your products, but often MarCom is looking at how the brand is perceived, not necessarily the product. What you won't get is 'the industry is buzzing about integrating mobile and social media campaigns.' What you won't get is 'Rumor is...your competitor is planning an integration with [leading edge company Y]. The influencers are blogging about the next big it in your roadmap? The challenge for product management? Set aside time at least weekly for a social monitor check to find the top social media stories in your space, and track the 'big influencers' in your industry. While this doesn't need to dominate your roadmap, it certainly needs to inform it.

2. Create Feedback Loops. In other words, learn how to make friends with others that use, could use, or are using competitor products in your industry. Features are not about writing requirements - they are about meeting market need. Using social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, & Facebook, start meeting (albeit, virtually) and commenting on people in your industry.

3. Test you
r Assumptions. Think your product has the best reporting- bar non? Use quick (We are talking 5-10 questions, at most) surveys to test your assumptions about your product, and others in your industry, or pose a question via LinkedIn or Twitter. What social media has shown us is that people really do help others. Instead of quarterly (or worse - yearly) surveys, try a few questions every month. This will ensure your roadmap continues to be close to market needs, and not what the market needed 14 months ago.

4. Listen in. Make it part of your monthly list to listen to customer calls and prospects. At one organization, they gave me a 'listen line' to monitor a consumer call center to see if I could translate a good call center rep to an online experience. We did and got better revenue as a result. Sometimes getting to the raw data, and befriending the sales and the support team will have invaluable results -and can validate your assumptions about the market.

5. Get Consensus. Know what I love? It allows you to ensure that the ideas you've uncovered, tested the market with, and gathered intelligence on are actually what the rest of your organization think too! Peers can vote on features to see which rises to the top -or submit additional features you might have not yet uncovered. It's a great way to know if you - and the rest of the organization - are on the same page. You can also open it ups to a few of your key influencers, and see if they have other ideas as well!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hey! You Listening to Me? A Framework for Social Listening (with No Budget)

I've been tracking social media for a while now, and have decided that those of us who monitor social media are more akin to anthropologist than marketers. Certainly, you have to decide who and what topics to follow - and why. But like an anthropologist, you have to sit with human beings and understand their behavior, their norms, their culture, and follow that tribe as it changes.

There are numerous blogs out there that can give you tools on how to track social media for free, and paid. In most cases, the free version of listening to your social media audience can involve multiple tools including Twilerts, Google Alerts, Technorati, Backtype, and others. These are tough times, and you may need to make the business case before you spend a dime on a listening platform.

Soo...just as important (if not more so) than the tools themselves is a framework to make sense of the all the noise. Here's four steps to getting some insight from listening to social media. (Feel free to click on images for better readability).

Drink from the fire hose (sort of). Using a free listening platform tool like SM2, Filterbox, Yahoo Pipes and/or Social Mention - identify where there is a good deal of conversation around your target audience. This will probably take a few weeks, and many track back historical data - which may get you there sooner. What you are looking for is this: common social media sites (networks, blogs, micro-blogs, taggers) and individuals that come up - again, and again. (Keep in mind, in social media - these sites and influencers can change often). You might already know a few movers and shakers in your space - now might be the time to check out their digital footprint.

2. Take a deep breath - and jump in. Who are the influencers? Who gets linked often, mentioned often, re-tweeted often? What are common topics that are viral? What are the concerns of these communities? You can use my handy guide (images from Mr. Men and Little Miss) as a benchmark on identifying influencers.

3. Compare yourself -and your competitors in these exchanges. Are you given relevant content, insight, and spaces to encourage dialogue? How strong a presence does your company vs. your competition? Who's involved in social media at your competitors? How big a 'social footprint' do they have?

4. How can you be better? Now comes the tricky parts. I like brainstorming using the POST method from Forrester- along with sweat equity 'free' research to create a relevant preliminary strategy for social media. Be prepared to answer the question: Now What? When? Why? Be sure to set realistic expectations, and to debunk a few social media myths.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Four Easy Ways to Integrate Social Media and Email Marketing

In several social media white papers and presentations, there is this concept that email marketing is purely a 'push' mechanism to share information from a company to a consumer. Working for an email marketing ESP, I find that this thinking is long antiquated. Our best clients already use and integrate social media content in their email marketing campaigns. There's a few examples I came across which provide some easy ways to get started in integrating social media content in email campaigns. Numerous studies have shown that consumers trust information from other consumers - much more than from companies that send them email. Integrating more user generated content will bring your brand and it's advocates closer together.

1. Leverage 'creator' content in how to best use your product or service. If for example, you manufacture shoes, you can leverage 'best pairing' blogs on how to create new looks for spring. The example to the left is from Kraft's member newsletter.

2. Add Links for User Ratings,and common Q&A to your newsletters. Knowing what's a five star product from Sephora for example versus a 3 1/2 star product is tremendously valuable. In this example, member questions are included in an email newsletter.

3. Provide ways for your subscribers to connect with you - and each other. Do you have a Facebook page? Are you building a 'follow' audience on Twitter? In your email footers, you can provide links to where to find you company in Social Networks. Peet's Coffee and Tea for example, provides links for social networks, and blogs allowing recipients to find more about them, and become fans or followers.

4. Provide tools for sharing, bookmarking, and publishing your email content. This viral tactic moves your content beyond the inbox for others, including potential new subscribers, to find it. The example above is from Read Write Web. Better to have someone follow you in their RSS feed than not at all!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Power of Twitter - Leads

Recently, John Harrison, (@johncharrison) the SVP of Product Strategy and Client Services began drinking from the fire hose that is twitter - and he got... leads.

Keep in mind, we have a suite of products from small business to enterprise, but the majority of our buyers have one thing in common - they want to market their products and services online using email.

Using Twitter Search
John typed in "Email Marketing Companies" in the search terms for Twitter. Here's the
exchange (minus, of course, the lead's phone number).

It was very quick, conversational, and effective, and points to great opportunity for Twitter and business. Even if Twitter doesn't end up charging subscriptions for corporations to post. Matching potential buyers at the moment they are looking with the companies that have the services has tremendous opportunity.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Social Media - 4 Tools to Start Making Sense of the Clutter

As part of product management at Yesmail, I'm looking at emerging technologies and how they can complement email marketing technologies -including Social Media. As such I've had to explain how social media works in relation to other marketing channels. I hope you'll find these tools useful in presentations to many who are new to social media. Below are four visual representations of social media seen through the lens of traditional marketing: audience sizing, demographic reach, and analytics.

1. Top Traffic sites in Social Media. This quick & easy graphic provides a layout of social media types (Platforms, Blogs, Networks, Micro-blogging, etc) and their unique traffic numbers based on Comscore/TechCrunch for November. You can play around with the graphic here. This is useful when answering the question "Just how big is this channel? How many users are using these technologies?" Keep in mind, there's overlap in users on social networks, blogs, etc.

2. Demographic Differences for a Few Social Networks. using demographic data from Rapleaf's July numbers - this illustrates differences between Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and LinkedIn in terms of key demographics (gender and age). Of course, you can further select targeted demographics and keywords within these social networks for advertising, but you can see self-reported data using pie charts. You can download Rapleaf's full report and pull demographic profiles from a host of social networks.

3. Social Media Analytics - SM2 by Techrigy. SM2 provides a good user interface for monitoring general buzz in social media. You can easily drill down to get a sense of what made buzz, and where it came from. SM2 allows you to select custom searches on competitors. Plus, it's free for the first 1000 keywords. Here's a profile of them from the Groundswell blog. Includes graphs, sentiment, demographics and custom search.

4. As a quick illustration, this tool is very effective at getting a sense what's being said on twitter about your brand, and how often in c0mparison with the competition. If there are doubts that no-one talks about your company - try this!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Business Twitter 101

Recently I was asked to give a presentation on how I use twitter in product management. When I first used twitter, I was a bit skeptical. But after I got a great recommendation for a feature rating tool (thanks to @idaapps), a local social media chapter (thanks to @brittanysims), and numerous bits of market research by following my tweeple, I'm a convert.

Here's the presentation. This short presentation includes an overview of how to get started, etiquette, and links to additional information.

Here's a quick cheat sheet from the last slide, since SlideShare doesn't seem to let you follow hyperlinks:
Best Practices When Starting to Tweet
The Twitteratzi
top 100
Mr. Tweet
ReTweeting Stats
Search Twitter
Twitter on Alltop

And in case your curious, here is also a great overview & 'how to' on corporate blogging by one of former collegues - Janet Johnson.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dr. Scrum: Agile and Making It Work in the Real World (Part Two of Two)

In the real world of Agile development, you may be pulled a thousand different ways - and not just by development. Here's a few tricks I've learned to make working with an agile team a bit easier.

1. Plan your stories and epics in advance. Even though the development team is looking at the user stories on the very near horizon, plan a roadmap for what you will be working on over the next 4 quarters. By documenting a high-level iteration plan, it will inform the team on what's coming next, and will help you make adjustments when new user stories are requested. What I've often done is write out high-level user stories several iterations in advance in a spreadsheet (not the acceptance tests- yet). That way I can look at what's coming 5 iterations from now, in both managing my time, and making changes to iterations as they are needed.

2. Keep User Stories Lightweight. At Yesmail, user stories are very simply and include acceptance tests. That (for the most part) is it. By keeping them straightforward and clear in the acceptance test, you'll have less questions from engineering, and more time for managing the product.

3. Be Flexible in the Outcome. When you write user stories and acceptance tests, you probably have a fairly good idea of how the product will look in the UI. My advice? Allow there to be several solutions to one user story - and choose the best as a team. There's nothing worse in really hampering creativity than a product manager with a 'my way or the high way' point of view. That being said, do ensure you communicate the users needs and technical expertise well, so the users needs are well understood.

4. Assess ROI and Market Need. Set time aside to validate your roadmap and backlog with ROI and market need. In my experience, nearly all developers are 'okay' if I communicate that I need time to ensure the user stories are in line with market demands. Practically speaking, this means that I try to make myself available for a few hours to help with product development, but I do say "I will be working tomorrow morning from 8:30-11:00 on a revised market assessment(or other product management task)." Most developers are okay with with working with your schedule.

5. Ensure continual communication about development estimating. In planning the roadmap, I've worked with several development teams to ensure realistic timetables for a product roadmap were communicated. The roadmap answers two questions 1) What do we need to do (and why?), and 2) When do we need it? Ensure that development is on board, and plans for product iterations are realistic. For me, there were standing weekly meeting about iteration planning and estimating. This helps in both building trust both with development teams and executives.

6. Use Steering Committees to Validate the Backlog. What has helped tremendously in agile is monthly explicit communication to the executive team about what's coming in the next few iterations and what's in the products backlog. This may be contained in JIRA, or a confluence page - or a spreadsheet. What's most important is that the team knows the scheduled priorities of the product, and the order in which they are released.

7. Enjoy the ride (and the people you work with). Agile is about daily communication and collaboration. Soo... get to know the development team well. Soon you'll be making a great product with a development team that delivers great solutions and superior products. Agile and agile methodologies are likely to be here a while. So buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dr. Scrum: Or How I Learned to Love Agile - Part One

I've been noticing a lot of product management blogs that begin "Aack! Development has gone Agile!" Recently I came across "Spotting Fundamental Flaws with Agile" in Pragmatic Marketing's magazine. You'd think we product managers had yet another business challenge and roadblock in front of us because now the development team is getting all needy because they want 'product owner.' Now, truth be told, it's a software methodology, but for us PMs sitting and collaborating with development on the latest products, these changes can have significant impact on our lives.

Agile is much better that what came before it. I've been doing product management for about a decade now. Remember what became before it? Pages and pages of PRDs, detailed technical requirements specifications, 9 month Gantt charts detailing in excruciating detail the development of your product? Do you remember? It was like entering NASCAR with cement wheels. A chasm the size of the grand canyon between product and development. I was directed to talk to the project manager, not development. The black box of months of development/QA/beta testing, that you'd beg to 'get a peak' at before launch. It was awful. My only way to help products get better was to try to forge relationships directly with the development team (beer helped), and talk about the product, and the users, and how great the product could be, then sometimes I'd be able to collaborate better, sometimes my IM would pop up and I could 'get a look.' Then, user testing (if there was any) was so long at the end of the product launch, there wasn't really a chance to change it before the launch date. It was bad.'s why I like agile.

Agile allows you to respond to market changes quickly. In SaaS software, your 2009 roadmap could completely change by March. Competition, new technical partnerships, business models emerge that may make you rethink what your organization is doing next month. You can completely chance course 2 weeks out in agile, and this was very hard before that. Agile allows an organization to be nimble in responding to market opportunities - and that can make a huge difference.

Agile forces you to think about what's important. One of the key tenants of agile is 'satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.' Guess who's job it is to ensure what is valuable, and that it's delivered first? Product Management. This doesn't mean you don't have a roadmap, but it does force you to make tradeoffs so the needed features are the next iteration, and the 'nice-to-haves' are in the backlog.

Agile forces you to refine your communication skills about what the product needs. In creating user stories and acceptance tests, you need to both ensure what functions are critical for the next sprint, and what are not. It's light weight, but that forces you to be crystal clear on what you want the product to do. In PRDs, often what was critical was written along side with what was nice to have.

Agile seems to help the creative process of product development. I've been in two separate agile teams at separate companies and even working with different locations, Agile brings a certain level of creativity to development and product that wasn't their before. Being lightweight, it allows better collaboration and creativity with the end product. I think that's a good thing. The best software engineers I've meet have 12 different ways to develop a feature, and have suggestions on how to make the product better. I think Agile gives a process to collaborate creatively on product development.

Again, agile is a software methodology, and in many cases we have a new hat as a 'product owners' (Unless you are a very large companies and have analyst act as product owners). Unfortunately, agile is not by itself, the defacto rule of success in developing great products. We can arm/aid the development team to paint an accurate picture of the user of the product, their technical expertise and needs, and ensure there is adequate end-user feedback, market research, etc to validate the product user stories. Most companies don't have a list of checkboxes to answer "Are you an agile shop?" there's cultural and process changes that need to happen to make it work.

Next up? How I've tweaked my work life and communication style to develop successful products using agile.