The Ideas Project: Advertising & Personal Data

A year ago, I was thrilled to contribute an idea to the wonderful Ideas Project regarding how marketing is changing and this week I’m excited to contribute to the project again with a question of the week. Here’s the question:

Can you describe a future in which you would voluntarily share your personal data online in exchange for truly relevant advertising?

Please go here to register and write a response on the ideas project or Tweet a response with #ideasproject.

Some Background

I’ve spent much of the last year thinking about online advertising and how it’s changing. There is a clear tension between giving consumers information when/where they want it and the need to reach large numbers of consumers. The first approach is in line with what I refer to as Marketing 2.0 and is focused on finding consumers where they self-organize to provide them with useful information that they pass along if they choose to. The latter approach is much more traditional and is focused on reaching as many consumers as possible.

Behavioral targeting sits somewhere between these two approaches and works by planting browser cookies that allow advertisers to follow consumers across the web in the interest of presenting them with more relevant information. Thus, if you have a cookie in your browser that has tracked you from a car website to a baby products site, you’d be likely to be shown an advertisement for a baby car-seat.

Behavioral targeting does improve ad performance but it’s not super effective because cookies capture everything we look at whether it’s related to work or play. And, if you’re not the only user of a computer they are even less effective. There’s also something sneaky about cookies that consumers don’t like. They are squirreled away in our browsers and the process is not fully transparent. On some level we know that there are companies buying and selling this data and we’re not getting any part of it.

By way of digging into this topic more deeply, I’ve included this short video from the Ideas Project by Andreas Weigend, former Chief Scientist for Amazon. He explains that advertisers have the potential to present consumers with highly relevant information based on access to consumers’ personal data. The challenge is that advertisers will have  to prove to consumers that they can return real value while respecting privacy. This is a huge obstacle because advertising as an industry has overwhelmed consumers with irrelevant and interruptive messages.

While behavioral targeting does offer  advertisers -and consumers- value, because it can help them present consumers with more relevant content, it is very limited as a methodology. Therefore, it’s unlikely that this approach will be effective at convincing consumers to voluntarily share their personal data in exchange for truly relevant content. Somehow advertisers need to convince consumer to share more/better personal data and then advertisers have to use this information respectfully/appropriately to return real value. Can you imagine how that might work?

Would it require a third party service where you tell advertisers the kinds of things you’re interested in? An improved “advertiser” setting area inside you Facebook account? Something that you set in your browser? Or, something else? I’d be thrilled to hear your ideas so please visit the Ideas Project and post them to the community or Tweet your response using hash tag #ideasproject.

Managing The Social Media Mix

You’ve probably heard the term “marketing mix” before, it was originally coined to explain the balance of resources applied across the 4 P’s (placement, price, product, promotion) of traditional marketing. I’ve written about this in more detail in an earlier post here. Today, I’ll be writing about the social media mix, which takes the balancing concept and applies it to social media.

Many people I talk with are overwhelmed by the amount of growth and evolution taking place in social media. It can be a struggle to build the case for portfolio adjustments when you’re too busy to keep tabs on the latest developments in social media and maintain perspective on the related trends. It’s true that what’s happening is complex but it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it may first appear. This post aims to put some structure around how to approach your social media mix and provide some tools to develop an online communications strategy. You should be able to run through step #4 in a few hours with your team. At that point there is some research to do, after which you can probably finish up in another few hours.

Step #1: Gather Your Social Media Portfolio

Start by doing a quick inventory of the social media channels that you already use at your organization. Write down each channel onto a sticky note (i.e. Twitter streams, Facebook pages, company blogs, newsletters, etc). A common early discovery during this process is that different channels have been set up, and are managed by, different people at your organization. The result is that communications may not be well coordinated, may duplicate efforts and/or under-serve parts of your community. For the moment, don’t worry about any social media channels that you think you want to use in the future, we’ll get to those later.

collect

Step #2: Collect Your Content

The next step is to do an inventory of the types of content that you currently distribute through social media channels and the types of conversations you’re trying to foster (i.e. product ideas, white papers, case studies, events information, customer service). Start a list but instead of making stickies at this point, simply list each content type on a page with one type per line. You’ll use this as the first column of a table in the next step (frequency & formality lens).

content

Step #3: Look Through 4 Social Media Lenses

Not all of the following lenses will be appropriate for your organization, but they represent a range of perspectives that should provide insight into your situation.

lenses

1: Consider Frequency & Formality
Frequency and formality represent two key qualities to parse how content types relate to each other. Take your list from step #2 and draw out two additional columns, the first should be labeled frequency, the second formality. Frequency and formality tend to be inversely related such that more formal messages go out less frequently. Of course, this depends on the specifics of your business. If you’ve got ten content types, then rank them from 1-10 on each scale. You’ll use this table in a later step.

2: Consider The Condensing Funnel
With this lens you’re looking to see if content is being funneled through your communication channels. For example, your organization might twitter absolutely everything it does, blog about many of those things, and use a newsletter to present only the best stuff. It’s rarely the case that any organization’s messaging will be this simple, but this lens can help highlight how and where content gets redistributed in a condensed format.

3: Consider The Waterfall
As you go through the previous step, you may find that there is a waterfall of content that runs through your channels. For example, some tweets lead to blog posts, and some blog posts might turn into white papers. You want to highlight this because it can help set up some content development practices once you have an online communications strategy in place. More on this in step #8.

4: Consider Subscription Size
Looking at social media channels based on the number of subscribers is important because it will have a huge impact on your ultimate strategy. It takes time and effort to transition communities across social media, and there is often significant attrition when you do it. Thus, it can be helpful to rank channels by their number of subscribers. Add the subscription ranking to the channel stickies from step #1.

Step #4: Connect Content & Channels

The next step is to start grouping your content types under one of the channel cards from step #1. If one content type goes under multiple channels than make a duplicate sticky for it and don’t forget to record the related formality and frequency rankings on each sticky note.

A couple things to watch out for at this point, you might find yourself putting all content types under each channel. Resist this urge! As a general rule, people tend to respond best when receiving a specific type of information from each channel they subscribe to. With this exercise you’re trying to distill what types of content are best suited to each channel. Limit the number of times you assign a content type to different channels. The limit will depend on how many content types and channels you have, but aim to have no more than three channels for each content type.

Consider this, organizations use Twitter in many different ways. Some use it to send out information about where their staff is traveling and presenting. Some use it to send out a stream of interesting industry links. Some use it to share quick ideas, or questions. These are all valid uses but each is most effective when used alone because it offers subscribers a consistent experience they can count on.

One final note on this step, it’s likely that you’ll have one social media channel whose function is to serve as a digest of all the other channels. This is completely normal, and a good thing. The key is to figure out whether that channel is a blog, a twitter stream, a newsletter, Facebook page, or something else. Limiting each content type to two or three channels will allow you to distribute content (or meta-content) through a digest and at least one other channel.

Step #5: Distilling The Essence Of Each Channel Through Consolidation

Ok, you’re half way done. Take a look at your groups of stickies as they sit under each communication channel. Add up your formality and frequency rankings separately, and calculate the averages. Now organize your groups from left to right with informal on the left and formal on the right. If there are two rankings that are the same, place the group with the greater frequency ranking to the left.

Now, look at the kinds of content in each group and see if you can articulate the essence of that content. For example, if you use twitter to share insights from conferences,  quick responses to articles, and product feature suggestions then you might say the essence is about “thoughts”. Your blog, however, might be where you explain upcoming product features, offer short form analysis of industry publications, and tell product stories, thus it could be about “ideas”. Ideas are less formal than white papers or case studies which may be better suited to a website channel about “intellectual property” (i.e. fully baked ideas). Finally, your newsletter might feature summaries and links to your best content, thus serving as a “digest”.

The next step is to assign a value to each channel. From the above example, Twitter might be about fostering community, your blog might be about brand awareness, and your newsletter might be about establishing credibility. These values will help as you start comparing channels.

match

Now that you’ve got your channels organized with distilled descriptions, related types of content and values, it’s time to compare them to each other. What you’re looking for is overlap between channels. If you find significant overlap, you should consider combining the channels into one. If the channels aren’t next to each other in your table, feel free to rearrange. You may find that frequency/formality is not the best organizing principle for your channels. If this first approach fails  organizing by value may work better for identifying consolidation opportunities.

consilidate

When you consolidate columns, you’ll save resources that can be applied to other under-served parts of your community. This is where knowing the number of subscribers can play into your calculation. For example, it may not make sense to foster two separate community groups if there is a great deal of overlap with respect to value and content types, especially if the subscriber base on one is significantly larger than the other. You may get more return on your social media investment by prioritizing one, and putting a placeholder at the other that directs people to your active channels.

You work so far should point you in the right direction, but you’ll want to validate your predictions through research. At this point you should have a solid understanding of your existing social media mix, where it’s falling short, and how it might be improved. This is enough information to develop an online survey that can be distributed via your existing channels. I don’t want to get into a detailed discussion of online surveying in this post, but everything you ask should tie back to an actionable change in your mix. In the case of the community group question above, you might ask a series of questions to understand what types of content your subscribers are interested in receiving from these channels, if they are aware of your other channels, if they subscribe through both channels, and if they would consider migrating from one to another?

Step #6: Filling In The Gaps

With online survey data in hand, and an understanding of consolidation opportunities, you should start getting a sense of any parts of your community that are under-served or not served at all. Most of the time, your community will tell you what kinds of social media investments they’d like you to make. Individuals in your community will know the landscape better than you do, so listen to them for clues about where social media can take/bring/foster your community.

At this point, I recommend running a structured ideation process with your team to generate additional ideas. I won’t get into a detailed discussion of structured ideation here, but I do want to share two quick pointers.

  1. Be Crazy – ideation works best when participants feel comfortable contributing any idea they have, no matter how crazy. Encourage outside-the-box thinking.
  2. Generate Quantity – Don’t focus on quality, it’s about quantity. This is not a finesse game at this point, the best ideas arise when you generate lots of ideas.

Next, look for similarities and differences between the ideas you’ve generated, and converge on the ones that are the best fit for your organization. At the end of this step you should have a list of ideas for where you’d like to take your social media mix. The next step is to prioritize them and structure them into a strategy.

Step #7: Building Your Strategy

Strategy starts with the process of prioritizing those initiatives that with return the greatest value for your investment. I’m not going to go into depth here about the strategy process because I’ve already written a post about that here. In this post, I share a prioritization tool that will help you identify which investments to make based on their impact and how feasible they are to complete. The second tool is focused on managing how you get from where you are today to where you want to be by tieing specific tactics to your strategy. Please go check that post out, and come back. If you run through the two exercises, you’ll end up with a road-map for an online communications strategy.

Step #8: Sketching Your Content Flow

This is the final step, and a really important one because it will show the results of all your hard work to your team in a visual way that they can easily understand. Think back to the waterfall lens from step #3, remember how you identified which channels feed into each other? This is the place to sketch out what the flow looks like. Having a picture will help your team stay on track when they’re ready to share content with your community.

flow

It may be helpful to start by putting your digest channel at the center of your diagram and working from there. What are all the inputs to the digest? How does it drive subscribers back to the original content? Spur conversations on your blog or in your networks and groups? Where does IP ultimately get spun off?

In the quick sketch above, I was working with the idea that the e-mail digest might also be where you launch your latest white papers. Perhaps initially distributing white papers through your e-mail newsletter will foster subscription growth (i.e. subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest IP before anyone else). There are obviously many tactics you can use to tune up or down specific channels and how you do it should tie back to your research findings.

Finally, all the content that you’re distributing needs to be accessible on an ongoing basis for your community. Making content accessible will also  improve your search engine optimization. Following this, changes in your marketing mix are likely to require changes to the format of your specific communication tools (i.e. website navigation, newsletter layout, etc). You can refine these changes through A/B or variance testing as you implement your strategy.

I hope this post is helpful, and I’d appreciate any feedback you have on how to improve it.

The SIVA Model for Customer Focused Marketing

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the difference between traditional marketing and Marketing 2.0, and this post will talk about how the latter interprets the “marketing-mix” as articulated in the SIVA model (proposed by Chekitan Dev and Don Schultz in the Marketing Management Journal of The American Marketing Association).

What Is The “Marketing Mix”?

The term has origins going back to 1948 when James Culliton said that a marketing decision should be a result of something similar to a recipe. Neil Borden interpreted this concept in 1953 in his American Marketing Association presidential address by referring to the recipe as a ‘Marketing-Mix’. Later, E. Jerome McCarthy, proposed the famous 4 P’s classification in 1960.

What Are The 4 P’s?

I’ve talked about the 4 P’s in an earlier post here, they are:

  1. PRODUCT: This refers to what’s being sold, whether it’s a product of service. Traditional marketing served as one of the key drivers of product development through market research.
  2. PRICE: As the name suggests, this is about setting the selling the price of the product. Again, this was traditionally driven by market research and economic theory.
  3. PLACEMENT: This refers to where the product is sold and how it is distributed to target markets.
  4. PROMOTION: This represents all of the communications that a marketer may use in the marketplace. This traditionally focused on advertising and public relations.

This model has been modified by various people over the years to include additional P’s, such as “people”, in an attempt to make it for customer focused. These efforts have largely failed though because the articulation of each element reflects the top-down approach of traditional marketing. Of course, marketers have always conducted market research to understand the market, but the idea that customers build brands as much as companies is not consistent with this approach.

How Is The SIVA Model Different?

The SIVA model attempts to rearticulate the 4 P’s in a way that is more consistent with the idea that in today’s market environment brand building power has shifted from companies to communities. This is an idea at the core of the Marketing 2.0 philosophy.

  1. PRODUCT becomes SOLUTION: The idea here is that what’s being sold is driven by consumer need. The community now defines that product instead of marketing. Marketing’s role is to understand and articulate user need to the company.
  2. PRICE becomes VALUE: Here pricing is driven by the value a product offers users rather than by economic theories. With new economic models there are more and more opportunities for customers to actually set pricing through services like Google AdWords.
  3. PLACEMENT becomes ACCESS: Again, rather than defining where the product will be sold, it’s about providing access to users when and where they want it.
  4. PROMOTION becomes INFORMATION:Rather than placing advertisements out in the world, this approach is simply about providing users with information about the product so they can determine if it offers value as a solution and is readily accessible.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your feedback.