A couple of weeks ago, David Kirkpatrick wrote a popular blog post on using social media profiles for login on third-party websites rather than the more traditional form field registration. The post featured research from Janrain, a social Web user management platform, and some additional commentary from Larry Drebes, founder and CEO of Janrain.
That topic was very specific and applies to one marketing issue — gathering data from website visitors.
Janrain’s research found that Facebook is the clear favorite for social login at 42%, followed by Google at 29% and Yahoo! at 11%.In preparation for the innovation panel Wednesday afternoon, February 8th, at next week’s MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012, I also had the chance to speak with Larry about the social channel in more general terms, and to get his take on where it is heading and what marketers should be thinking about over the next six to 12 months.
Tomorrow’s blog post will feature the thoughts of panelist Loren McDonald, Vice President Industry Relations, Silverpop.
Here is the result of my conversation with Larry:
MarketingSherpa: Where is the social media channel heading for marketers over the next year?
Larry Drebes: I think it is going to be definitely an increasing part of the marketing mix. It just makes sense because more online activity is centered around knowing the user, knowing their social network and profile attributes. Social media is a large component of that, and I think it is becoming accepted both with the end users and the marketing audience, and it will be a healthy growing segment.
Certainly the popularity of the big social networks drive a lot of (social media acceptance) and you have seen their audience grow. And for our personal vantage point, where we supply websites with the tools to interact with social networks, our distribution has increased tremendously.
MS: What should marketers be watching for in the social channel?
LD: I think one aspect would be more of a divergence in the marketplace, so you have essentially new entrants like Google+, and I think location-based services, which have been around, but I think that is going to be an important aspect.
We have seen social players that have been centered around more sort of entertainment type sites and you might see that (being a focus) into e-commerce going forward.
I think the social sign-in is less about Facebook and Twitter and more an identifier, more of an identity that you use for a specific purpose. I think you will see a little division there where you might use Facebook or Twitter for more entertainment type sites and a LinkedIn account for something more professional. People will identify themselves in various personas depending on the context of how they are interacting with an online property.
MS: What are your views on privacy in the social channel?
LD: Certainly it is a big issue and there are lots of facets of privacy. Most people who put data into a social network understand that it is not private data, and if there is something that I really don’t want the world to know, Facebook is not the place for me to be typing that data into. We’re separating a social security number from attributes like, ‘I like this band’ and data about you that can help a website create a better experience and being useful for not only the websites, but you as a user to have a much better experience.
MS: What is the difference in the social channel for B2C and B2B marketers?
LD: The B2C is a very mass market, so you are dealing with larger numbers and you are catering to consumer preferences.
So, I think it is a traditional marketing mix where you are knowing more about the user, and what their likes and dislikes are, and who their friends are. It is essentially better intelligence with an improved medium and if you take it from radio to TV to Internet, and then Internet with a social channel. There may be a progression there.
And in the B2B market, I think it is hard to characterize that segment because a lot of B2Bs take on very application specific contexts.
It could be dealing with employees or behind the firewall or with different vendors, but again I think the same notion of knowing more about the end user (through social login) in a way that can better cater to them gives you more information intelligence and remove friction from a process that maybe would require someone to remember a password.
I think one of the areas that will be surprising in the next couple of years is the number of providers of identity will swell again.
There is this common belief that Facebook is everything and that everyone else is losing, and I think there is a valid case to be made that the number of providers of identity and social data will broaden and get more specific.
I think you will see banks and telcos and maybe healthcare providers, or even other companies, start becoming a social provider, or an identity provider, in their own right because they own a certain set of data attributes that may be unique, or they have relationships with a large number of users.
(For example) if you think about a bank or a cell phone provider that has a billing relationship and knows a lot about you, or using that maybe behind a firewall for a B2B case, where you know an employee wants to use their employee ID to access an insurance site or some vendor relationship that is specific to them.
Yesterday’s blog post featured the thoughts of Larry Drebes, founder and CEO of Janrain, a social user Web management platform, on the social media channel and marketing over the next six to 12 months.
Today we have insight and advice from Loren McDonald, Vice President of Industry Relations, Silverpop, an email and marketing automation vendor.
Loren will be joining us next week at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012, and will participate in the innovation panel Wednesday afternoon, February 8th.
Social media marketing is an important channel for both B2B and B2C marketers, and Loren offers up a valuable perspective on the topic and some actionable takeaways to maximize that channel over the rest of this year.
This chart illustrates Silverpop research on where all marketers are utilizing social media:
Here are Loren’s thoughts on social media marketing:
MarketingSherpa: What is going on in the social channel in terms of marketing?
Loren McDonald: 2012 is going to be the year where a lot of companies move from social media marketing being a hobby to being core to their business.
Where the C-suite and marketing management recognize that no matter what stage they are at in the social media marketing world — that it is not a fad and it requires significant attention and resources. This is a phenomenon that is really much deeper than marketing; however, it is now core to business success.
What social is about is if we build great products and provide great service, then our customers will actually do the marketing for us. Obviously, however, there are a lot of aspects of social media marketing that are truly campaign driven — such as creating a multi-channel Twitter, Facebook and website campaign. The reality is that what a lot of marketers are forgetting, and I think many of them will realize this year, is that enabling your customers, prospects and the influencers in the community that you operate in to actually do the marketing for you – is really the name of the game.
A lot of companies are used to trying to own and control their messages to the marketplace. They have to wake up and rethink their business and approach to marketing. It is not about controlling the message; it is about delivering great products, customer service and value. When you achieve this, then much of your marketing efforts will switch to facilitating your customers marketing your business and products for you.
MS: What are some of the different approaches for B2B and consumer marketers?
LM: I think one aspect of the difference is really just around the type of content. You know it is kind of stereotypical, but in the B2B world, because you have long sales cycles, and you have people who are looking for tips, best practices and guides and help and tools and things like that. B2B social media marketing is a match made in heaven for B2B marketers.
You can basically take content that you have been creating for years — everything from white papers and webinars and FAQs and calculators — and take those and repurpose the content and engage your customers and prospects on channels like Twitter, LinkedIn communities, blogs and Q&A forums.
On the B2C side, I think we are still trying to figure out that sweet spot of how to engage customers in social channels. A camera manufacturer can use social channels to educate consumers on photography tips, photo sharing and enable hobbyists to share experiences. If you sell ketchup, you probably have to work a bit harder and be creative. In general, I think B2C social marketing at this stage is much more driven by typical brand multi-channel campaigns, whether it is doing things like sweepstakes or some sort of fun campaign on Facebook, and then tying it into a FourSquare check-in and a YouTube video.
I think there are clearly a lot of similarities (between B2B and B2C on social media) but the scale, tactics and platforms are different. Facebook is not necessarily a big B2B channel yet, although it certainly can work. But, I think we are going to see channels like LinkedIn and Google+ emerge as key B2B platforms.
MS: How do you see the intersection of social media and privacy?
LM: One of the things that is really interesting is the emergence of social sign-in registration capabilities – whether Facebook Connect or multi-network options. I actually don’t hear a lot of marketers talking about social registration, though a lot are deploying it. Even the Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann campaigns are using Facebook Connect.
While consumer adoption of social sign-in is growing, I think a lot of consumers haven’t woken up to realizing how much information about themselves is being passed over to a brand. So what is hard to predict is will consumers demand more control over the specific types of data they will share with individual brands, or will they simply be passive like we are with not reading privacy policies?
Consumers are willing to trade some of their privacy, and say, “I am okay with giving you a lot of information about myself in return for some value.” That value could be speed, it could be efficiency, and it could be more targeted marketing. I think we just don’t really know yet where that line is going to move.
If at some point when you check your Gmail account and it is clear to me that Google is serving ads that are tied to a post I made on Google+, or a video I liked on YouTube, are we going to see a backlash over that? It is presented as, “Hey, we are giving you more relevant content,” but the reality is in those cases the ads may be out of context.
MS: How about the impact, or maybe the integration, of social media and email marketing?
LM: I call this concept “mocial,” the idea of social, mobile and local working together in an integrated fashion with email. There are several things that I think are key for social and email marketing and how they work together.
Social — at this point in its stage of existence — what it does best is being an acquisition vehicle where people come and they follow you on Twitter and they like you on Facebook. It is a great way to bring people in, then engage them in dialogue and conversation, and actually market to them through content, tweets, posts, news feeds, sweepstakes, etc.
Email, however, is still the king of the conversion, so for now at least, social drives the conversation and email delivers the conversion.
These channels are not competing with each other. They actually work together and support each other.
For example, you have a customer that is not opted in to your email program, but they are a fan of your brand, and they like you on your Facebook brand page. By simply adding an email opt-in form on your Facebook brand pages, you can get some of them to opt in to your email program. What this allows you to do is touch that person across more channels, and we know the more channels that you touch a customer, the higher their ROI.
Social provides a great vehicle for dialog and conversation. Email’s advantage as a messaging platform is that it enables behavior-based triggered programs such as remarketing to abandoned shopping carts, or sending recommendations within purchase transaction messages. Try doing that in a 140-character Twitter DM message.
Another impact of social is that email has to become more human and more personal, and it has to incorporate that more “human side” of marketing. People are used to having dialogs with real people behind those tweets or the Facebook posts or blog post comments. That approach needs to spill over into email where the content is literally a face of the employee having this dialog and engagement. We are seeing a lot of companies doing this where they are using their employees as the mouthpiece, just like they do on Twitter and Facebook.
The other really obvious integration of social and email marketing is social sharing and enabling email subscribers to share email content out into their social media streams. Unfortunately to date, most marketers have not done a very good job of leveraging this opportunity. Many email marketers simply slap a link in their emails that say “Share on Facebook or Twitter,” but then in the email there is little to no content that is worth sharing. Marketers have to ask, why would a subscriber want to share this email with their friends and social connections?
But I’m hopeful that marketers are going to get smarter about this sharing aspect in 2012 and realize that they have to create and design emails from the ground up — if they want them to be shared in a meaningful way.
Two action items for social media marketing
To finish our conversation, I asked Loren for actionable advice for the social channel and he provided two interesting ideas.
He prefaced the answer with, “The speed of these new channels that are emerging is nothing like we have ever seen.”
Budget for the channel, not campaigns or platforms
With that in mind, Loren suggests marketing departments should earmark a certain amount of the budget for social media — not particular campaigns, efforts or even platforms, but just for the space in general to be able to react to new platforms as they deploy.
He added that making an investment in a platform that eventually fails, or just becomes a poor marketing vehicle, is not a sunk cost.
For an example, he mentioned any companies that invested in MySpace may no longer be marketing there, but what was learned at MySpace can now be applied more efficiently to Facebook. Or if for some reason FourSquare became no longer available, some new location-based platform will almost certainly take its place.
Spend time and money on social media training
Loren said another point marketers should address is training users across the company in using social media.
“I think that social media training across the organization is going to be something that really emerges this year,” he says. “A couple of our own sales reps have reached out to me this week asking for help asking, ‘Hey, should I blog?’ and, ‘Should I Tweet?’ and, ‘How should I do it?’”
Loren continues, “I think we all know that most employees probably do it wrong, and they get too promotional and they try to be sales-like and that just doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter how good your social media team is if you have a thousand employees out there doing it wrong.”