Archive for August 2010

Accenture’s report: High performance in insurance with social media.

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Image courtesy of shutterstock

Image courtesy of shutterstock

As I have a keen interest in social media for financial services I’ve been looking at the Accenture’s paper on “Achieving high performance in insurance through social media”.

It’s a great statement of intent by one of the major international consultancies, and another example that social media is now being embraced by more traditional corporate and business markets.

Accenture’s paper examines the trends in social media and highlights that insurers seeking high performance  should consider using social media within their customer, channel and workforce strategies. The paper also describes an approach for insurers to utilise social media to input into strategies for marketing, sales, services and recruitment.

With regards to inbound marketing, the useful statistic cited is that marketers who incorporate social media into their inbound marketing mix tend to spend 60% less per lead on average compared to traditional marketing methods.

But why should insurers bother to take note of social media? Three main reasons are cited in the paper:

  1. Social media helps customers pick through the high volume of information available online because they trust “people like me”, ie, other customers, to give honest, accurate information.
  2. Social consumers use social networks as their core navigation and search tool rather than search engines or portals.
  3. Social media is being used more and more by businesses as part of their overall strategy.

As the paper points out, “social media increasingly determines who customers trust” and Accenture highlight the  importance of establishing “Listening Posts”, or what we term social media monitoring,  so that insurers are aware of the online conversations that are happening around them. The paper also discusses the best “social media management framework”, or  social media strategy, for success, which consists of process, people, policies, and metrics.

It’s a considered and articulate paper that is probably targeted at large insurance businesses that need external help to establish their social media enterprise framework. It is notably absent of case studies, and while there are some interesting statistics in this well-researched paper, I suspect that key decision-makers in this industry will continue to look for more detailed ROI data to justify their budget spend.

I also feel the paper doesn’t really address the “hub-and-spoke” social media model as a means of being proactive in social media (i.e. a central social ‘hub’ that is part of the insurers website while also engaging with the social ‘spokes’,  like Twitter forums and blogs, where the other relevant influential conversations are taking place) .

What is interesting is that Accenture’s paper is less bullish in addressing the many positive benefits of a proactive social media programme, and that is probably as it should be given that it reflects the risk-averse culture of a cautious industry that is coming to terms with open customer dialog.

5 ways marketers could use Facebook Places

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Facebook

Image courtesy of David Armano

Facebook Places launched in the US last week laying claim to three major features:

1. It will allow users to share where they are with their friends.
2. It will allow users to see who is near them.
3. It will allow users to discover new places around them.

As a social media agency we’re always interested in what these developments could mean for marketers, so here are 5 ways in which marketers could potentially make use of Facebook Places:

1. Reach extension

Given that, by default, Places checkins will automatically go to a users profile and news stream (unless the privacy settings are adjusted) places can extend reach for marketers.

Not only will people be able to discover new areas or locations through Places itself but when people checkin from a venue they are broadcasting their presence at that spot to their entire Facebook network.

2. Advertising

As emarketer points out, Marketers want to reach consumers when they are close to making a purchase. Places will enable them to deliver a  targeted advert when consumers are at the point of decision.

This is very powerful as companies will be able to work out what consumers are interested in and deliver helpful advertising and compelling offers before consumers type a query into a search engine.

If ads can be pushed to people the moment they are engaged with something, rather than waiting until they take action and start a search, the ads become extremely powerful and can drive sales.

3. Location promotion

Yes this is a bit of an obvious one. But with around 1.5 million business pages on Facebook, businesses with an existing Facebook page can merge that page with their Places page by “claiming” it, or letting Facebook know that the business belongs to them.

Once it has been verified by Facebook, every time someone checks in from that location the business will inadvertently receive exposure from the check in.

4. Discounts and offers

Tom Bedecarre, CEO of AKQA, suggests that while Foursquare popularized the gaming aspect of checking in from physical venues (where people become “Mayors” for example), rewards could develop to become vouchers, coupons or some other type of discount  (eg, first 50 people to checkin at our coffee house get a free muffin).

With this in mind, Facebook Places could eventually be used as a way of distributing discounts and offers to people within a certain proximity. This would have the added bonus of putting an offer in front of someone when they’re in a place that allows for an immediate transaction.

5. Data

The data that you can collect on Places users and the number of times they checkin  could prove valuable in tracking customer activity, consumer personas and, indeed, competitor activity.

Also if people checkin to a certain venue or business and then leave any tips, advice or comments  then this information will be useful feedback for businesses.

It will be interesting to see how things develop with Facebook Places over the next few months, especially when it is eventually rolled out to other countries other than the USA.

How multi-channel search marketing has become more social

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Guest blog post written by Andrew Rayner, founder of internet marketing agency e-mphasis.Welcome to Google Places_1282572526342

The phrase “Multi-channel” has been a buzz word for some time now in the retail sector and this has led to 3 main changes in the market:

  1. With e-commerce capabilities accessible to even the tiniest of single-store independent retailers, the ability to shop across different channels has become almost universal.
  2. The consumer has became more confident shopping across channels (e.g. researching online and then purchasing in store,  or reserving online and then collecting in store) and is becoming increasingly demanding about their online  shopping experience.
  3. The use of social media means that consumers are no longer relying on the brand’s own marketing messages to make key purchasing decisions - they are looking to “people like them” (ie, other customers) to help make decisions.

Typically retailers have been working on a multi-channel strategy that ensures customers who already shop with them get the expected brand experience at every touch point. There has been little regard for those who have not yet committed to any one specific retailer or store. So what is the best way to capture these prospective customers?

The answer is to apply  multi-channel retail thinking to search and social media marketing. This means providing access to all channels from the moment when consumers start searching for products and services online, enabling the retailer to present a comprehensive search result to consumers that satisfies their exact requirements.

And with the consumer leading the purchasing decisions of their peers and influencing purchases through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and product ratings and reviews, retailers need to ensure they also tap into the social media as part of their multichannel strategy.

One approach to this could be to use Google Places Optimisation (GPO). GPO works for retailers because it returns results for location based searches. In excess of 43% of all Google searches return a local result and so the opportunity for businesses with multiple locations is phenomenal.

GPO also provides a great opportunity for multi-channel retailers as it can link to a retailers transactional website, and if that website allows it, the complete customer journey, from search to basket, can be tracked. It can also provide all other relevant information to the customer, including contact details, opening hours and even information like parking facilities or food outlets. Google Places will also contain that all-important consumer review and feedback information – a vital feature of the consumer decision making process in the age of social shopping.

Effective GPO will not only save SEO and PPC costs, but will also deliver more relevant impressions and enable retailers to leverage social media more effectively. And as most consumers searching the web for a product or service are often not brand loyal (yet), they do not have a destination store in mind. But by using GPO as part of your multichannel search strategy you will put all routes to market in front of shoppers who are actively looking to buy.

Social media campaigns and long-term engagement

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As social media is still regarded as a new form of marketing and engagement, lots of companies seem to be more comfortable “trying out” social media as a one-off campaign.

Social media campaigns are an attractive proposition as they can generate a lot of buzz and excitement and are usually the basis for a lot of the social media case studies you will find on the web.

Even though we’re a social media agency, here at FreshNetworks we don’t just focus on campaign work; we also look at long-term engagement through a sustainable social media strategy.

In our experience, social media campaigns are perfect for raising awareness on a short-term basis. They’re also a great way of getting exposure for brands, companies or products that might not be that well known, or have fallen from favour in some way.

Campaign work is high impact but due to the cost and resource involved it’s not good for driving value over a long period of time.That’s not to say that campaigns should be disregarded completely. In fact, they are very effective when used alongside a sustainable engagement strategy.

Campaigns generate the high level of buzz that brands so desire. However, if there is a long-term strategy for engaging with the people who have come across your brand or product as a result of the campaign then the impact won’t drop off once the campaign has finished. Using campaigns as part of a wider social media strategy will help you build awareness and drive value over a longer period of time.

In order for a sustainable engagement strategy to succeed it must be set up with the needs of both the company and the user in mind. The reason why single, one-off social media campaigns are often favoured by brands is that engaging with people on a long-term basis takes time and effort. You need to build up relationships and develop trust with your audience. However, it’s worth the time and effort as ultimately the people you engage with will become a valuable asset to your company.

The video below from Richard gives a brief summary about our approach to social media campaigns and sustainable engagement:

5 reasons why people follow brands on Twitter

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Follow us on Twitter

Image courtesy of Todd Barnard

As a social media agency we’re always interested in what makes people interact and engage with brands online.

We’ve already written about why people follow the UK’s top brand on Twitter, and a recent report from ExactTarget builds on this analysis  further by revealing why people follow companies on the popular microblogging site.

Here are the top 5 reasons why people follow brands on Twitter:

1. To get updates on future products

38% of respondents said that they use Twitter to get updates on future products or new product developments.

From a brand’s perspective, this shows that Twitter is a useful PR tool for creating buzz around a new product launch. It would also work well for innovative companies who continuously update their offering or for FMCG businesses where new products are frequently launched.

2. To engage with the company or brand

32%  of respondents said they wanted to stay informed about the activities of a company or brand, with a further 20% stating they become  followers to interact with, share ideas and provide feedback about services or products.

From a brand’s point of view, this proves the value of Twitter as both a customer engagement and customer feedback tool.

3. To save money

Saving money seems to be another key motivator for people to follow brands on Twitter. 31% of respondents said that they follow a company to receive discounts and promotions. A similar percentage of people also hoped to get “insider” information about upcoming sales, discount events and free samples.

This means that businesses could use Twitter to feed out discount codes and coupons in order to encourage brand loyalty and drive sales.

4.  For entertainment

For 26% of the people surveyed, following brands on Twitter was simply for entertainment and no other reason.

With this in mind, perhaps brands and businesses need to evaluate the way they engage people through Twitter and include more fun, interactive content, like videos and pictures, rather than just a news and updates, in their Twitter stream.

5. To display loyalty

23% of people surveyed said they follow brands or companies to show support. In other words, it is to show their loyalty to others.

For a brand or business, this type of user could be a key influencer and, as a brand advocate, if you engage them in the right way they will help spread positive word-of-mouth about your products or services.

It would be interesting to know why you follow brands on Twitter.