Tag Archives: ROI eCommerce

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

Digital Marketing Budgets

Internet marketing is concerned with creating a Digital Footprint which serves the organisation’s marketing needs. It consists four distinct elements

  • Providing information and education to the various stakeholders, whether they are potential customers, journalists, future employees etc. on the website;
  • Brand building through developing on-line communities, creating digital profiles etc;
  • Other on-line collateral to enhance “findability”; and
  • Direct response advertising.

Budgets need to be divided along the same lines for the best results.

Budgeting for a website

The budget for a website is normally informed by the website strategy as it translates from the organisational strategy. Most of us have built brochure websites in the past, and budgeting is relatively straight forward. The following components should be found in a website budget.

  • Scoping and specification in order to ensure that the site is fit for purpose and easy to use;
  • Design and development;
  • Hosting;
  • Software – there is some question of whether the software budget belongs with Marketing or IT. My suggestion is that if it is a discreet web based software that only relates to marketing, for example a bulk mailing app, then keep it in the marketing budget. However if it is an enterprise software like Microsoft’s’ SharePoint, budget for it in IT and reallocate the relevant portion to marketing, in that way marketing can quantify its returns more effectively;
  • Technical maintenance;
  • Content development and management – this is usually where most website’s fail, because this part of the budget is included in technical maintenance and allocated to the web company who it maintaining the site. Content generation and management is a marketing function, not a technical function and should be allocated to an internal marketing resource or an outsourced content management partner;
  • SEO – budget for the time for developing and tweaking the meta-data which is associated with the web page so that search engines can identify what your website is about and whether it is useful; and
  • Constant and never ending improvement, the modern website is in a constant state of flux and the organisation reacts or pro-actively engages with its environment. The website must be budgeted for in such a way that it can be dynamic and serve the organisation’s best interests.

Budgeting for Brand Building

On-line brand building is the use of social media to create communities, whether they are fans on Facebook, followers on Twitter or registered members of specialist communities such as the Pampers’ mums who blog and message each-other about all things baby.

These communities are used by marketers to create positive associations with the brand, to make the organisation more accessible to its target market as well as to educate them as to the brand attributes etc.

Brand building, while quantifiable is difficult to relate directly into sales generation and so we see fixed marketing budgets in this area. The budget can be determined as a percentage of sales or at the discretion of a pro-active marketer. Marketers do, however, need to understand that the investment is not only a Rand investment into design and development, but there is a far higher investment in terms of human resources. Maintaining healthy brand communities is a labour intensive activity and requires dedicated time to be allocated to the community. It is important to remember that on-line brand building creates a launch platform for enhancing the effectiveness of direct response marketing and increasing conversion rates, as such it is an essential part of the on-line marketing strategy.

Budgeting for “Findability”

A large part of creating a digital footprint is concerned with “Findability”, in other words, making sure that the brand is served up to the potential consumer on-line, at the point when they require the brand’s products or services.

The additional on-line marketing collateral that enhances findability includes blogs and thought leadership articles on specialist forums, the personal profiles of prominent employees on social media such as Linked-in, on-line press releases etc.

The budget for these activities is mainly concerned with the time that people spend on creating the content on the web which ensures that your organisation is found by the right people at the right time. There will be a direct financial implication if you outsource the management of any of these aspects to a professional content generation firm, in the same way as you can outsource your PR.

So far, the on-line budget has been very straight forward, it has included the financial aspects agreed to with the executive and the cost in terms of human resources who are allocated to these highly labour intensive marketing activities. But when it comes to budgeting for direct response advertising, we see an entirely new budgeting pattern starting to emerge.

Budgeting for Direct Response Advertising

The modern web offers numerous ways to create demonstrable and predictable ROI from direct response advertising activities. Well thought-out Internet advertising campaigns produce highly quantifiable results. The big opportunity for business is to recognise that a positive ROI from an advertising campaign means that profits should be maximised by investing more into the campaign.

Progressive marketers should not be constrained by limited budgets, rather, they should be accountable for revenues and net profits and any budget should be informed by the desired outcome. This is set to change the static, set-piece budget battles that marketers have had to fight with their financial counterparts in the boardroom.

In the past 5 years, advertising has been turned on its head by the rise of social media. This new media enables us to contextualise on-line brand messages and calls to action within our audience’s digital environment. According to Forrester Research, interactive marketing will represent 21 percent of all marketing spend by 2014. Those who understand and exploit the new marketing opportunities should not be constrained by a “percentage of sales” budget and be empowered to drive increased profits through marketing programmes that deliver predictable and demonstrable returns on marketing investments.

Advertising is becoming more complex and harder to execute. Audience fragmentation has accelerated making mass market targeting irrelevant to all but the largest brands. The democratisation of content in social media has replaced print, radio and TV as authoritative contexts where product advertising and endorsements drive sales and market share.

Direct response advertising is targeted and measurable. We can determine, with accuracy and predictability, the marketing ROI by campaign. It is the marketer’s job to quantify financial expectations and monitor the results very carefully. If you know you are going to make a profit from your campaign then the constraint is not a budget but the supply of profit drivers. On-line advertising enables CMOs to figuratively buy R100 notes for R50 each, by investing in on-line campaigns that create demonstrable profits at a predictable and repeatable rate.

Building marketing programmes with predictable and reliable profits is the original promise of Internet marketing. High performance marketers start with the premise that advertisers will reach the right customers (i.e., those who are in market with a demonstrable interest in the product or service). This enables advertisers to pay only for the action (click through, register, fill in the form etc.) that is positive proof that the potential customer is in the market and considering their particular offering.

In direct response marketing, the potential customer is interested in a product or service, the advertiser only pays for the click, proof that he is interested in the product or service. With the click, the conversation between advertiser and consumer begins. As long as an advertiser understands the profitability of each sale and the conversion rate from click to sale, he knows the value of each search click (Value of a click = profitability of sale X conversion rate of click to sale). As long as the advertiser is buying clicks from the likes of Google for less than the value of each click, he is guaranteeing a profit on his direct advertising spend. The new limits on marketing spend is no longer the budget, but rather how much can be spent while maintaining the conversion and sale values, or the capacity of the advertiser to deliver products and services.

While the principle is simple, execution is hard because online programmes have many key success factors. These include:

  • Managing a portfolio of multiple, evolving social media types with different conversion characteristics.
  • Purchasing the media so as to limit advertiser risk (e.g., CPA, CPC, CPL);
  • Targeting to ensure conversion rates and sale values stay satisfactory;
  • Developing creative for all consumer touch points (both advertising and user experience) that drive conversion;
  • Capturing, qualifying, and converting customer data. Advertisers need the right tools to transform customer information they gather into sales;
  • Responding rapidly to initial interest. According to an MIT study, responding to consumer interest within 5 minutes versus the following day increases conversion 100-fold!; and
  • Continuously optimising – Direct response advertising takes place in a dynamic marketplace, successful marketers will continuously optimise their media, creative, target segments and sales process to maximise profits.

For advertisers that understand well the value of a sale and how their advertising converts into sales, the marketing budget has been replaced with innovative, integrated marketing programmes that invest every Rand that drives a positive ROI possible.

The Internet has made marketing much more complex. But at the same time, it’s also much more measurable and accountable. Because CMOs can determine which parts of the marketing portfolio provide the greatest ROI, they can demand more from their marketing spend. Successful marketing is becoming less about bigger budgets and more about delivering ROI. Marketing requires being ruthlessly focused on delivering measurable profits.

Future winners in the on-line marketing space will understand that success means investing in continuous improvement that provide increasing and demonstrable profits.

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 is technology agnostic and partners with great technology companies in order to ensure that our solutions are fit for purpose and deliver on organisational strategy.

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. Her skills include innovation and growth through marketing, communication, collaboration, knowledge management, human capital, performance management, process engineering and BI.

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 eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Semantics, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Enterprise 2.0 and the High Performance Organisation


Social networking tools can enable enterprises to tap into the collective potential of employees, partners and customers enabling better, more productive business practices. Social networking isn’t going anywhere and it’s not just a way for kids to make new friends or for those in the business world to build professional relationships either. Social networking in the business world is evolving into an organisation-wide communication and collaboration phenomenon called Enterprise 2.0

The vast benefits of Enterprise 2.0 reach into every aspect of the business – from customer driven product development and employee collaboration to community driven customer service and more.
When business is faced with mergers, restructuring, global locations and telecommuting, connecting the right people at the right time can be a challenge.

Enterprise 2.0 can address that challenge by helping people locate expertise, share information and expand their professional networks to accomplish more in less time. In fact, these applications are so effective that some employees are using external social networking sites for work related tasks, potentially putting corporate information at risk outside the firewall.

Enterprise 2.0 is designed to empower people to be more effective and innovative by building professional networks of co-worker, partners and customers. Users can find and collaborate with experts; easily locate people and information; build closer partner and customer relationships; and foster bottom up, community-based innovation.

Normal document management strategies are rarely embraced by employees, yet there is a voluntary sharing of knowledge and networking using online Enterprise 2.0 applications. The power behind Enterprise 2.0 applications is that users are able to bring this into an enterprise and capture it in a secure knowledge environment.

An integrated Enterprise 2.0 user experience can be used with the email, instant messaging and portal applications that users already deploy.

Enterprise 2.0 applications should incorporate five key components designed to work together to create an integrated, collaborative environment that is both secure and scalable:

* Profiles – enhancing the company’s directory structure creating a rich online persona of employees by adding elements like photos, interests, skills, work associates and even reporting structures;

* Blogging – a handy way for matter experts to share their project and work experience using forums frequented by other employees. Searchable blogs ensure the expert information is readily available to anyone across the enterprise. Blogging enables knowledge transfer and collaboration within the enterprise, and is a means for an enterprise to harness and archive the collective employee knowledge base;

* Social Bookmarking – provides a means for subject matter experts to share their prequalified internal and external tags, which are searchable by person or subject;

* Communities – provide a way for employees and external people to become part of a community that shares similar interests. A secure platform enables these groups/communities to collaborate around these interests. The power of this tool is that it is owned, defined and managed by the collective experience of the community members;

* Activities – During the course of a business activity, information is accrued in many forms – email, instant messaging, presentations, documents and other means. Activities is the central conduit to present, in an orderly manner, this information to the participants for their shared use.

Because Enterprise 2.0 technologies are so intuitive, they are easily adopted and can form useful portals for the adoption of other enterprise applications such as CRM or BI tools. Employee performance management gets personalised through dashboards on individuals’ portals.

The new interactive Intranet, web and extranets are changing the very fabric of our business landscape.

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 is technology agnostic and partners with great technology companies in order to ensure that our solutions are fit for purpose and deliver on organisational strategy.

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. Her skills include innovation and growth through marketing, communication, collaboration, knowledge management, human capital, performance management, process engineering and BI.

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 Enterprise 2.0, Macroeconomics 2.0