Tag Archives: Customer Loyalty

Social Media Optimisation

A few weeks ago, in an article called Man verses the Machine, I wrote about the search algorithm (as used by search engines, for example Google) verses digital curatorship (whereby the people using social media like Facebook drive the information and content delivery, through posting, sharing and liking). Here are some more thoughts on the subject

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a critical strategy for driving people to your website, but it is only one aspect of the modern digital strategy. With social media there are more meaningful and effective ways of bringing in audiences. The term for this is social media optimisation (SMO.)

SEO uses algorithms to rank top search results. SMO uses audience behaviour to determine what’s important. SMO differentiates and distinguishes individuals, making sense of their specific content wants and needs. Real people articulating real interests eliminates the algorithm as middleman.

The social network is starting to replace the search engine as the average web user spends more time on Facebook than Google. We need to reengineer our approach driving traffic to our content and building our digital brands. Here are some elements of an effective SMO programme.

Find out and evaluate what the audience wants

SEO is based on pandering to search engines to bring you more audiences, by using key words and metatags. But with social media, the new formula is to grab people’s attention in such a way that they will bring you more audiences.

The first step is winning the attention of the audience and knowing what it wants. The key question is, who are they, what do they want from you and when and how do they want it? Fortunately, this data is abundant. You can find it in your social media sites, analytics system, in customer research, in your competitors’ wins. The trick is to make use of that data and experiment to find these insights.

Knowing what the audience wants means asking and observing them and then delivering value that they want to be associated with. Then track what gets consumed when and by whom.

By asking the audience you also get people immediately engaged in the conversation.

Build your community

The tactics of SMO will change over time, in much the same way that social media will change. Today, Facebook and Twitter are the two significant social media platforms.

An effective SMO strategy is about getting the community started. Set up a marketing drive to bring your fans to your community page. Use Facebook’s advertising platform to help make potential friends aware of you. Use viral networking to get people to invite their friends. Build a base of influencers to a size that approaches critical mass, so that you are fully connected within the social network from the beginning, rather than sitting outside just looking in.

Create content worth spreading

Once you know what your audience wants, and you have a community to appeal to, now comes the part that great marketers are good at. Designing for sharing is much more than just designing for consumption. In some instances the practices that help marketers succeed in SEO are deadly in SMO. If you stuff a page full of keywords, match the URL to the keywords and keep the content readable by algorithms, you will that find a boring website which falls flat on your users and they will not distribute.

Instead, publish content that is worthy of being shared and wrap it in experiences that your users can’t wait to share with their friends — with pride — which is the emotional fuel that powers the “Like” button.

Package to get attention

These days you’re competing for attention in a Facebook feed or Twitter stream.

Facebook and Twitter are networks and so their value is to be found in quantity (the more there is the more value to each user) but for successful marketers it’s about quality. Standing out in the crowd puts the focus not just on what you say, but on how it’s said. What are the iconic images and headlines that appear in a Facebook feed?

Design for virality

Viral distribution is about much more than the content itself — it’s also about an experience that promotes sharing. Your site, your experience, and your Facebook page all need to be designed for virality. Turn content into interactive features with sharing. It starts by making sharing easy:

  • Include the familiar “like” and “share” icons;
  • Place them in obvious places next to the article you want them to share; and
  • Pull social conversations relevant to your content in as a live feed on your website. Let people see what other people are saying on your Facebook page and Twitter and let them participate in the conversations right from your site.

Previously I have written about The Porous Web where your audiences seamlessly osmosises from areas of low value to high value. Doing all of these things provides a tightly integrated social experience.

Engage and reward your audience

Get involved in the conversation to stimulate dialogue, talk alongside your users and ask them what they want. Engage your audience like a community member not a marketing executive.

Validation is all about appealing to people’s emotional desire to look and feel good. Rewards for these people are intrinsic to the sharing itself.

Measure and experiment

On every page measure how many people viewed it and shared it, and how many more people that brings. You can test and vary every element, from the tools that promote sharing, to the content itself. Test rigorously and learn what works for your website, community and your audience.

These are just some of ways that SMO can be effectively deployed. The most important thing right now is recognising that SEO is important but that social media is changing the rules.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

 

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Facebook, Google, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Six principles of social media management

Many of my clients want to create a page on Facebook, because they see it as a free way of exposing their products and services to potential customers. How many times have you been asked by someone you are friends with to “like” some arbitrary page? You do it out of a sense of politeness, in the hope that they are not going to pee with the exuberance of a puppy all over your news feeds.

Many pages start off enthusiastically and the dwindle into the metaphorical attic, never to see daylight again, but at least “we have a Facebook page – check social media box”.

The ability to post on social media is a right, stealing your audience’s valuable time and attention is not.

There are no hard and fast rules, but in my experimentation I have developed six guidelines to effective social media management. The list is by no means finite.

1.         Be the DJ

For those of you who listen to the radio, you do so to be entertained and informed. Consider who you or your company are and entertain your audience in the same way as radio DJ’s do. What would they find interesting? Why should they see what you put out there? Are they really interested in being spammed with product price lists?

If you keep them entertained, they will look forward to seeing your posts in the clutter that is social media. You will be top of mind when they are in the market for your offerings.

2.         Take a strategic approach

Just because it is on Facebook doesn’t mean that your brand is frivolous. It actually means that you are even closer to your (potential) clients. Decide why you want to use social media; is it to position your brand in a certain way, or to enhance your relationships with your clients?

You cannot allocate a junior resource to manage your social media brand. This is particularly true if you have a knowledge brand like universities, ICT’s, media, pharmaceuticals, finance houses, management consultancies etc. You need someone with the experience and strategic insight to represent your brand in real time on line.

3.         Not everyone is going to like you

It is impossible to be all things to all people, but you can improve your relevance to the groups of people who follow you. Experiment with your posts and see who “likes”, “retweets” what.

Your audience consists of real people. Divide them up by demographics or into other groups that make sense and try different things. Some people respond to comedy, others to interesting articles. Look at what other people are doing and who responds to them. This will let you improve the value you provide your audience.

Of course you can’t see the lurkers who just watch what you are going, but then that is the nature of the beast. There will also always be people who don’t appreciate your efforts. If they are not your target audience, it is OK if they go. If, however you find yourself losing friends and followers who you would like to keep, you need to question the quality of your work.

4.         Reciprocate

Comment on what other people are doing, retweet and like what they are saying. People like responses and validation. The magic of social media lies in your ability to have conversations.

5.         Be real

Organisations are not people. The choice of your digital presence depends on who you are. Are you your brand or is it a separate entity, an amalgamation of the people behind the brand?

The people within the organisation should be visible behind the brand if you decide to create a company page.

Organisations can make announcements about events and competitions, but real people should ask questions, joke or comment.

6.         Be present

Decide what the optimum number of posts should be and be prepared to put the time in. Make time to engage with your audience regularly.

Social media is an incredibly powerful marketing tool, but it is not necessarily an easy one. It takes time, effort and strategic insight to reap the rewards. It doesn’t replace your real world marketing, but should seamlessly complement your physical engagement with your customers.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Blogging, Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Facebook, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Ensuring that employees have the web tools they need to manage an interactive website

The modern website is a critical tool for engaging with and serving customers and other stakeholders. We need to ensure that we equip our employees with the right tools to continue their day to day actions to manage the organisation’s relationships and support the brand.

A website essentially serves three functions:

  • Provide information
  • Automate processes; and
  • Deliver services.

In order to ensure that the right tools are available, we start by looking to the organisational and divisional strategies asking questions like

  • What is the vision and mission?
  • What does the organisation do?
  • How does it do it?/What are the key process?
  • Which competencies and skills do we have?
  • What products and services do we offer?
  • Where are our markets?

Having examined these key areas, we then start to translate the answers into a Digital Strategy, by asking questions like:

  • Where can we enhance these products and services using the web?
  • What processes can be automated?
  • What digital products could we provide?
  • What are customers looking for?
  • Are there any additional markets and geographies that we could serve through the web?
  • How does our brand translate digitally?
  • Which other technologies (Geographical Information Systems, Enterprise Resource Planning Systems etc.) do we have which can enhance our digital offerings?

The we look at what web tools could be created to assist the employees to enhance their work through the web and what do they need to be able to do? For example:

  • If they need to be able to post events to a calendar, should there be various views, by event type, by date, month, day etc.
  • If events must be created, they need to give the date, an expiry date (after which the event won’t be visible in the current view) a title, a description, a date, a venue, key words/tags so that the event can be searched, RSVP, share on social media sites, the ability to synch into the viewers’ Outlook calendar etc.
  • Press releases need headings, introductions, the body of the text, release date, meta-data for searches, downloadable pictures etc.
  • Blogs need a heading, the body, meta data, tag clouds, share on social media sites, defined audiences using key words such as type of audience, geography, interests, profile etc, who can comment. Wiki’s could be similarly designed.

There are many universal tools that can be made available to employees who should be allowed to use them using permission based access.

When enabling employees to interact directly with customers, the same care must be taken as in the real world to make sure that they act in the best interests of the organisation. With the web we suggest that policies and procedures, content architectures and on line brand iconography guidelines be developed.

The core processes need to be mapped or redefined for the web. Examine who requires the automated process (could we use Geographical Information Systems or Profiling to customise his view?), where they will find it (what meta data will help in the search?), where other technologies will be integrated (Where do we get data about an account e.g. SAP?), how do we route queries? Should we use SMS’s or eMails to let the user know how far we are in the process? etc.

The next phase is to review our services. Could we create additional value for our audience by providing digitised products such as templates, calculation tools etc.

The modern website provides endless opportunities to surprise and delight our stakeholders, by giving it some careful thought we can also enable self service and reduce our costs of delivery.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za

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Filed under Blogging, Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Digital Conversations – Science or Art?

One of the things that I find so fascinating about social media, is that it transcends the traditional artificial barriers that we have erected in business, letting us do things we never thought possible, or that in the past were more trouble than they were worth.

For example, an Interactive (web 2.0 enabled) Intranet means that now a marketing project can span the boundaries between HR, Marketing, Finance, Project Management and Operations, because they can all collaborate with each other on the success of the project, not just report to each other on their progress.

Social media also negates the barriers between organisations and employees. Employees are becoming an integral part of the corporate brand and customers are interacting more directly with the individuals in an organisation. I have direct relationships with many of my business partners and clients on Linked-In and we IM each other on Facebook, rather than going through the company switchboard.

Social media transcends the barriers between the public and private self; your private behaviour on-line is now part of your professional brand. When you Google someone you can find out a lot more about that person than his professional profile on the company website.

We can micro analyse niche groups and still have to contend with the “law of big numbers”, which means that mass community behaviour is not an aggregation of small communities of interest.

When communicating with our customers on-line, we can participate in their conversations. Their behaviour and personal networks are much more explicit than in the past. We can experiment with certain triggers to see what influence they have on consumer activity and we can analyse and detect quantifiable patterns and improve our product design based on what our customers are doing and saying on-line to whom etc.

But our ability to do things we have not done in the past brings about a requirement for a new type of skill, we have to become generalists, rather than specialists, both right and left brain thinkers. Although our ability to measure initiatives and behaviour on-line has greatly improved, because of the breaking down of barriers and the fact that our customers are dynamic and participating in the market on their own terms, we are going to have to find ways to skill ourselves up on understanding the intangibles, like behavioural drivers and the psychosomatics of our audience too.

Social media requires us to become both artists and scientists, an interesting challenge which I look forward to.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication and manage brand conversations with consumers.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

The power of viral expansion loops when building robust social networks

When we build social networks we are gathering groups of like-minded people together for a reason. That reason may be that we want to monetise that social network by advertising to them, or to sell them widgets, applets or products on line. Another reason that we build social networks is to manage relationships with people around a common interest, this may be brand building for a motor vehicle brand, or employee relationship management for a large bank. Whatever the purpose, a social network will be most successful when we have the highest penetration of suitable members possible, active within the social network.

The concept of the “network effect” relates to the fact that the more members there are in a network, the more value that network has for the individual member. The quintessential example is the phone. If only two people have a phone, the phone has less value to you than if thousands of people have phones, because you can contact so many more people.

Online social networks are subject to the network effect, if there are too few people in the network it will not have any value to the individual member and they will abandon the network pretty quickly. Therefore when we build social networks, we want to populate them as rapidly as possible, so that people can derive value by networking, sharing, communicating, collaborating or conducting business.

Viral expansion is when the members of a community actively recruit new members and is an extremely effective and cost efficient way to build powerful social networks.

A “viral expansion loop” occurs when virality is incorporated into the function of the product, in other words a company grows because each user begets new users, just by using a product they spread it. This concept is explored in detail in a fantastic book by Adam Penenberg (2009), called “Viral Loop The power of pass it on”. In the book Penenberg says “What’s the sense of being on Facebook if nobody uses it?”. The value of the community is inherently incorporated in its size.

Tupperware was one of the first viral businesses. When one housewife hosted a Tupperware party for six of her friends, they were each given the opportunity to host a Tupperware party for another six friends and so on. This viral distribution network proved more effective and created more sales for Tupperware than any organised retail chain.

One of the ways to build robust social networks is to focus on the “viral coefficient”. The viral coefficient is the ratio with which community members attract new community members. In other words, on average, how many additional members does each network member recruit?

If the social network’s viral coefficient is less than one, it will be self contained and very soon will stop growing. For example if the viral coefficient is 0.5 and there are 20 people in the network, then they will invite an additional 10 people who themselves will invite another 5 people who themselves will invite 2 people who invite 1 person. We can see with a vital coefficient of less than one that the network plateaus very rapidly at 38 people.

If the viral coefficient equals one the, 20 people invite 20 people who invite 20 people and we see a linear growth pattern from 20 to 40 to 60 to 80 in total in round four.

The real secret to growing social networks is to cultivate a viral coefficient of greater than one. Let’s assume that the viral coefficient is two then 20 people invite 40 people who themselves invite 80 people who invite 160 and so forth. By the fourth round, we have 300 people on board. We see exponential growth in viral networks with viral coefficients higher than one, and the higher the coefficient the exponentially higher the growth. Just by doubling the viral coefficient from 2 to 4 we see that the social network grows by 80 to 320 to 1280 and in the fourth iteration we have 1700 members. In other words having a the viral coefficient is the equivalent of compound interest in the world of social networking.

So how do we increase our viral coefficient? Well there are basically three ways;

  • Make is useful for members to spread the message;
  • Make it easy for them to spread the message; and
  • Make them look good for spreading the message.

Making it useful for members to bring more members on board

Offline examples of this include multi-level marketing such as Amway, online you could create products where members actively encourage their friends to come on board in order for them to sell more. An example could be a charity whose members actively recruit more people to donate money to a good cause, or a political party raising funding for a campaign.

Making it easy for members to bring more members on board

There are a number of ways to do this, clearly an “invite friends” button which automatically eMails friends the link to the social network is easier than expecting the person to type in the URL.

At Digital Bridges we have a saying “The more virtual you are, the more real you need to be”. The same holds true for social networking. People still network socially in the real world, you could use a real world networking tool, such as a business card, to bring people into digital communities.

There is tool called a poken which does exactly that. It is a sort of electronic business card which looks like a memory stick with a receiver and transmitter built into it. When two pokens are touched together they exchange information which has been pre-populated onto the poken. This information includes the standard name address and contact details, but it also contains data pertaining to the social or business networks that people participate in. When the poken is plugged into a computer it automatically populates all contact details and links people within the various networks that they are members of.

Making the member look good for spreading the message

This should be the easiest part if you have bespoke special interest social networks. You need to create content and encourage your users to create content which appeals to like-minded people within the network and let them share it with their friends, peers and colleagues. So for a scientist social network you might post some provocative comments about the Hadron Collider which they can respond to and share with their friends. On a joke website they could forward the latest joke to potential members.

A word of caution

It is important to remember that particularly in South Africa, we don’t have sufficiently large, digitally literate communities to become self sustaining and that although we need to focus on maximising the digital coefficient in order to approximate saturation, we also need to have dedicated resources managing these social media networks to reduce churn at the same time as raising the viral coefficient.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Interactive Intranets, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Forget Social Media for Social Media’s Sake – Your website is a strategic asset

There is much talk of how websites are moving away from being brochure sites, designed to communicate at the target audience, towards them being web applications for engaging with the audience. This is the natural logic which follows on from the interactive power of web 2.0, but perhaps the pendulum has swung too far.

Throughout the years companies have needed marketing collateral to position their brand to their best advantage, this includes brochureware, presentation folders, inserts, boilerplates on press releases, the website etc. and there is no reason why this should no longer be the case. Organisations need a strategically defined brand which acts as the fundamental backbone for all marketing and communication.

The website might be a manifestation of the brand because it contains the corporate messaging and the logos, but it is also a tool which the organisation can use to tell the audience where it thinks it is and what is important to the company. While the brand is a collection of experiences, we cannot expect our audiences to divine our purpose simply from their exposure to our employees, and as such, carefully written brochureware is a critical tool in the brand management arsenal. We also need to tell people what it is we think we are and why we think we are better and what better opportunity than through our marketing collateral?

At the same time, with the power of the modern interactive web and the advent of the knowledge worker, businesses are no longer about the buildings, logos and balance sheets etc. They are being perceived as a collection of individuals who provide services and ensure that operational requirements are met, whether they are legal financial, technical etc. As such, we expect to speak to people and feel justifiably aggrieved when we are forced to talk to a call centre operator or run up against obstinate individuals who hide behind company policies. It is at the touch points of an organisation that we experience the brand, whether through the sales process, service in fixing a problem, collection on payment or delivery on service.

Unfortunately with the world becoming obsessed with web 2.0 and using social media  to engage with audiences, we see a proliferation of unnecessary social media tools on so many websites. It’s as though people are adding Facebook and Twitter links for social media’s sake, without thinking about their strategic objectives; blogs stand sparsely populated, links are broken and wikis left unattended. Why do I want to become a “Fan” of some arbitrary photography shop on Facebook? What is the point of being a “Fan”, all I get is some self-serving drivel, or worse still a price list, from someone who is married to his business. There are no interesting conversations or people to meet, the owner merely has access to Facebook and thinks that web advertising is free.

The choice of the social media format that you select for your website is dependent of your organisational strategy, the types of employees, what your brand stands for, the depths of relationships that you need to form, and the investment that you are prepared to make, both financially and in terms of time and your business environment. There are a multitude of permutations, here are three examples.

  • Let’s say you are a night club and audience interaction will lead to more clubbers on a Friday night, then you do want your audience using the website as an interactive application for networking with each other and you. Your website could be developed as the point of engagement and the audience equipped with a range of social media tools such as blogs, posts, wiki’s along with the usual eMail addresses and telephone numbers with which to communicate or engage with you. They should be able to be a fan and post interesting comments about what happened last week from your site to Facebook.
  • On the other hand,  if you are a conservative bank which trades on its proud legacy of serving clients for one hundred and fifty years, you probably want to manage your engagement with the public in a more measured way, so your website would be a collateral site with certain mechanisms in place such as avatars and IM to manage communication and your online reputation. In this instance, you do not want every employee to have their own social profile as a representative of the organisation, although you most certainly want your executive to have a pretty robust digital footprint. Your website should be a piece of organisational collateral which everyone recognises as such, enhanced by some direct communication tools and the necessary individuals who make up the executive should build up their individual profiles using other social media tools such as Linked In, Facebook, industry forums etc.
  • If you are a Management Consultancy, an Executive Head-Hunter or a company that trades on the IP of the individuals who work there  then the website could be a hybrid where it becomes a repository for both the organisational collateral and the collective intellect and thought leadership within the organisation. Depending on what the user is looking for, he can choose to “find about us” XYZ Corporation, or he can “find out about me” Bryan Mole, Head of Performance Management Solutions at XYZ Corporation. The potential employee or client has the choice of how he manages the relationship by, for example, taking the conversations into cyberspace on Linked In, becoming part of the Bryan Mole’s network, or following him on Twitter.

Social media may well have changed our ability to communicate with our environment and the way we do business, but fundamentally, the rules of engagement and marketing have stayed the same; relationship management and brand building are still all about delivering on the organisational objectives and contributing to the bottom line and as such, the planning of our web presence requires an investment in strategic thought.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Web 2.0 and the Brand

Marketing is evolving toward a new thought-framework where the intangible experiences, transactional processes and relationships are becoming central to the brand and the customer has become a ‘co-creator’ of the brand rather than simply just a ‘user’.

The logic of branding is shifting from the conceptualisation of brand as the collection of attributes determined by the organisation, to the brand as collaborative, value creation between all stakeholders including organisations, employees and customers. This shift in logic is important when considering the Internet as a brand-building medium because its modern interactivity or web 2.0 places the user as a co-creator of the content and therefore the brand.

A strong brand provides a series of benefits to both buyers and sellers, simplifying the buyers’ search process and simplifying some of the sellers’ tasks, and enabling competitive advantage through preferential pricing.

Branding is defined as the process of creating value through the provision of a compelling and consistent offer and customer experience that will satisfy customers and keep them coming back1 . Companies are beginning to realise that brands are among their most valuable assets.

The Internet has had a transformational impact on business shifting the balance of power from companies towards customers  adding further complexity and dynamism to branding strategy. These days brands are socially constructed by consumers who are actively involved in brand creation.

Consumers respond to brands within communities, where the members of the community have a sense of shared consciousness, personal stories, morals and traditions that are all associated with a branded good or service. A great example of this is the new mums community on the Pamper’s community platform. Their brand conversations are not limited to nappies and creams, they are part of building the Medical Aid brands as they share experiences and provide advice on which Medical Aid to choose.

Brand communities have the ability to influence members’ perceptions and actions and can lead to a socially embedded and entrenched loyalty. Although negative implications involving brand communities exist, such as the ability for negative rumours to pervade the community, competitors gaining information through the community’s internal communication and normative community pressure, brand communities offer an effective method for building brands. Companies are able to advance customer engagement with the brand, foster the creation of stronger brand relationships and in so doing mitigate customer exit barriers resulting in increased competitive advantage.

The development of a strong brand community significantly influences brand loyalty and as a result positively impacts on a company’s financial performance and competitive advantage. Online community members potentially have stronger commitment to the brand and are more likely to buy the brand repeatedly, spread more positive word-of-mouth information and provide useful information to the company.

Web 2.0 simplifies the development of an online brand because it facilitates the creation of user-generated content by the community and the interactions of its members around this content.

1 Aaker, D. (1991) Managing Brand Equity: Capitalizing on the Value of a Brand Name. New York: Free Press

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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