Study: Social Media Gaining on Email in Popularity with Small Businesses

I’ll be honest; I found this rather surprising. eMarketer reports:

Social media has quickly moved up the ranks of top marketing tactics among small and medium-sized business (SMBs). April 2011 research from Pitney Bowes indicates that by some measures of desirability, it’s in close competition with email.

When asked why they used several marketing tactics, US SMBs were most likely to say they chose social media marketing for its cost-effectiveness (54%) and ease of use (53%).

Respondents were still more likely to rate email as cost-effective and easy to use, but the older online marketing channel was ahead by less than 10 percentage points. No format besides social media approached it in these dimensions.

SMBs also tended to feel nearly as comfortable and knowledgeable with social media as they did with email, ahead of other channels.

Social media fell behind two other marketing tactics—direct mail and advertising—in “proven effectiveness,” however.

Still, its value for money spent has helped social media adoption rise quickly among small businesses. Pitney Bowes found that social media was used more frequently than direct mail, though still behind email and advertising overall. And it was the marketing tactic most likely to have been adopted in the past year, with 20% of respondents having taken it up in that time.

Email marketing software firm Constant Contact also found in April 2011 that usage of social media marketing was more popular among small businesses than direct mail, and behind only email marketing, a company website and print advertising. Four out of five respondents to that survey said they had increased their use of social media marketing in the past year.

Within the social realm, respondents were most likely to use Facebook, and rated it most effective of any venue.

Customer Loyalty Programs: Don’t Forget to Follow Through

Most of us are in some type of customer loyalty program or another. I have more rewards cards jammed in my billfold than David Blaine in a Hold ’em tournament. But here’s an interesting survey revealing that most customers don’t really feel closer to businesses that have these and other customer loyalty programs. I guess the theme is that if you do have one, be sure to go the extra mile and let the customer know you’re grateful.

You’re about to slide your card through the credit card reader when the clerk asks, “Are you a member of our rewards program?”

It’s a simple enough, but determining the value of these customer loyalty programs is not easy.

Do these rewards programs work? That’s what ACI Worldwide sought to answer with a recent study.

In short, no—these programs don’t benefit the consumer and can actually hurt customer loyalty for the retailer.

Here are some takeaways from the study:

  • 44 percent of consumers have had a negative experience from a loyalty program.
  • 27 percent of Americans have received a loyalty program reward or promotion that made them feel valued as a customer.
  • 81 percent of American loyalty program members are enrolled in a program that they don’t completely understand.
  • 85 percent of members report that they haven’t heard a single word from a loyalty program since the day they signed up.

Getting a ‘Trustful’ Business Boost with Proper Advertising

Sometimes it’s the simple things that make a difference. Researchers found that including 10 words at the end of an advertisement can help a company’s perception with its customers.

After using the statement, the business was rated higher in the following categories:

  • Fair price, up 7%
  • Caring, 11%
  • Fair treatment, 20%
  • Quality, 30%
  • Competency, 33%

And those magical 10 words: "You can trust us to do the job for you."

Dealing with Haters on Facebook

Some good advice here. Many Hoosier businesses likely now have Facebook pages. While it’s a great way to reach out to customers and supporters, you’ll also get the occasional basher who uses your page to constantly "refudiate" (that’s Palinese) everything you try to do. The blog Journalistics takes a stab at how you can deal with it:

Few things are as gratifying as positive feedback from your Facebook Fans. Unedited commentary from your viewers can be both the greatest gift social media has to offer and your worst nightmare. While all the story ideas and friendly interactions make it worth all the effort, there are always those fans who find pleasure in being argumentative, disruptive, disagreeable and otherwise as negative as possible.

Some might argue that you need the negativity to balance things out in your social community. I think there’s an obvious difference between offering your honest opinion and being negative. Regardless of how you feel, if you manage your Facebook Page or another social community for your newsroom, you need to know how to deal with negative feedback from haters, potty mouths, know-it-alls and more. I’ve categorized the most-common negative personality types I’ve seen across a lot of different Facebook pages and have provided some suggestions for how to deal with each one.

The writer then dissects each category (below) further, so read the entire post:

  1. The Haters
  2. The Know-it-Alls
  3. The Pottymouths
  4. The Uninvited Guests
  5. The Spammers

Leadership Lessons from “Mad Men”

Even if you’re not a top-level executive who once stole a deceased man’s identity to build a new life for yourself, you can likely relate to at least one character in "Mad Men" or at least the hit show’s fictional advertising firm. As this season wrapped up, Fast Company gleaned some leadership lessons from the program’s key characters. Here’s an example:

Roger Sterling, Jr. – Sr. Partner, Head of Accounts

The best that can be said of Roger’s work this year is that he managed to avoid having a third heart attack. It wasn’t entirely his fault that the company lost Lucky Strike, which accounted for more than two-thirds of its billings. But Roger committed a grave leadership sin when he decided to keep the bad news to himself, let the other partners learn about it via the Mad Ave grapevine — then lied about flying down to Raleigh to patch things up.

Roger has been distracted and petulant, focused more on his memoirs and his disastrous affair with Joan than the account which was, so far as we can tell, his sole responsibility. Let’s not even mention the racist outburst that nearly scuppered the company’s chance at the Honda account. Had he not been so entitled, he might have seen that American Tobacco was bound to consolidate its accounts over at BBDO someday. The most damning judgment on Roger came from his old partner Bert: “You didn’t take yourself seriously, so neither did they.”

LESSON: No matter how bad the news is, share it with your fellow leaders. They can handle it better than you alone.

McDonald’s Foursquare Campaign Yields Positive Results (How Positive is Still Being Determined)

If you’re like me, you’re not a big fan of location-based social media. My general view is that unless you’re my child (or dog, in my case), I’m hoping to rob your home or I’m stalking you, I don’t need to know where you are or what you’re doing. However, some businesses have been using Foursquare as a way to engage loyal customers via discount offers and rewards. Case in point, McDonald’s recently gave it a shot and generated as much as 33% more foot traffic:

With so many brands trying their hand at location-based marketing campaigns, one has to wonder: is Foursquare really effective as a platform for bringing in new business? McDonald’s seems to think so; the company’s head of social media Rick Wion recently spoke of the fast food giant’s big wins from a spring pilot program using Foursquare.

At the Mobile Social Communications conference yesterday, Wion shared that McDonald’s was able to increase foot traffic to stores by 33% in one day with a little Foursquare() ingenuity. McDonald’s total cost for the successful campaign was a measly $1,000.

Econsultanty reports that McDonald’s, with Wion driving campaign direction and strategy, opted to try and take advantage of Foursquare Day (4/16) to bring in more business. The company used 100 randomly awarded $5 and $10 giftcards as checkin bait to lure in potential diners. The bait also worked to attract the media’s attention and resulted in more than 50 articles covering McDonald’s Foursquare special.

The campaign worked in both digital and real world capacities. Patrons flocked to McDonald’s restaurants for the chance to win giftcards in exchange for checkins, and 600,000 online denizens opted to follow and fan the brand on social media sites.

“I was able to go to some of our marketing people — some of whom had never heard of Foursquare — and say, ‘Guess what. With this one little effort, we were able to get a 33% increase in foot traffic to the stores’,” Wion explained to conference attendees.

A company of McDonald’s size spends millions on advertising every year, and yet a simple $1,000 Foursquare campaign netted the company measurable success. Of course, the metric here was checkins (not sales), and there were likely several other factors contributing to the campaign’s success, but it’s still a story that many an agency should pay heed to.

McDonald’s is not alone in their Foursquare success. Earlier this year, Domino’s UK attributed social media, and its Foursquare pilot program in particular, as a primary factor in helping the company increase profits by 29%.

But NOT SO FAST, says ReadWriteWeb. The site asserts McDonald’s claims are a bit, shall we say, super-sized.

Advertising: Make It Count offers some thoughts on how to keep your advertising effective. Some valuable suggestions here:

4. Focus on faces
The face is the center of our being, the barometer of a person’s health and beauty. It’s also how we evaluate whether we like somebody, and the place to check if we distrust what we’re being told. Fake smiles don’t fool us; everybody’s a natural facial coder. For instance, ‘surprise’ that lasts for more than a second isn’t genuinely felt surprise; it’s canned, another case of ‘spin’ and is intuitively rejected. Our results show that the casting alone can account for a 30% swing in consumers’ emotional response to an execution that is otherwise identical in format and messaging.

5. Make It memorable
Ad agencies too often set a pace that feels like a blur to consumers. Their clients can meanwhile be foolishly blind to the need for an ad that achieves an emotional peak. People notice change; a solution where the ‘pain’ of the status quo isn’t conveyed adequately means the solution isn’t perceived as valuable and the storyline just drones on.

6. Relevancy drives connection
‘Us’ and ‘me’ is everything; attachment and self-esteem are the motivations that work best. Differentiation from rivals doesn’t by itself deliver anything on behalf of your target market. In Latin, the words ‘motivation’ and ‘emotion’ have the same root, i.e., to move, to make something happen. Without emotional engagement, you’re dead.

7. Always sell hope
Meaningfulness is the key to sustained happiness. Create a powerful context, a way to enhance confidence and security, or else you’re merely selling a product or service instead. When we’re happy we embrace a branded offer, and are inspired to solve problems at a clip that’s as much as 20%faster (with superior results). In other words, happiness isn’t ‘soft’.

8. Don’t lead with price
Price has only to be heard to be pigeon-holed, short-circuiting the emotional connection. In contrast, value gets assessed over time, based on the build-up of brand associations and experience of the offer. Make money by building a relationship. Loyalty is a feeling, after all, and when it comes to price it depends on overcoming people’s natural aversion (disgust) about surrendering cash to purchase a company’s goods.

Keep Your Business Innovative to Separate You From the Rest

Interesting blog here from Copyblogger about how to keep your business from getting stuck in the mire of routine (and see today’s earlier post on GAP). All too often, businesses can fall victim to doing things like they’ve been done in the past, with little thought of what can be different in the future. Hopefully, these tips can get us all thinking in those terms:

Keep the innovative ideas flowing
Finally, it’s easier to keep the new ideas flowing in to your business if you have a structure in place that allows cross-pollination to happen on a regular basis. Here are some techniques:

Create an informal Board of Directors. Gather a group of 3-5 people who are willing to support your efforts. Meet with them in person or by phone at least four times a year. Update them on your goals, the progress you’re making, and your struggles. Let the ideas flow, and take good notes.

Join a Mastermind group. Many groups meet monthly, some more often. Some Chamber of Commerce organizations coordinate them, but you can also find virtual Mastermind groups with a quick web search. The group supports each member, so you’ll both offer and receive encouragement and ideas.

Join a virtual private community. Sites like Third Tribe are great places to connect with like-minded people and to generate exciting new business ideas.

Consider working with a coach. Because business coaches speak to many different clients, they’ll naturally cross pollinate your conversations with ideas they’ve picked up from helping other people.

GAP’s Groupon Earns Company Some Extra Bank

Ever heard of a Groupon? Well, you have now. See how GAP’s week got a whole lot better when results from its discount push started rolling in last week:

Groupon is having a smashing day, likely generating over $4 million in net revenue, thanks to a deal with the Gap.

Today’s Groupon gives users a $25 discount at the Gap if consumers spend over $50 at the store. If you think it sounds like a good deal, you’re not alone.

CEO Andrew Mason tells us that as of 4:43 ET, Groupon has sold over 300,000 Gap deals. That puts Groupon’s gross revenue for the day at $7.5 million ($25X300,000).

Mason wouldn’t say how much Groupon keeps, but previously we’ve heard it’s around 50%. So, Groupon’s net revenue could be $3.75 million already, and the day’s not over yet. It will keep selling deals and it will generate much more than $4 million today.

TechCrunch thinks Groupon could do 700,000 sales today for gross revenue of $17.5 million.

And the Most Annoying Winner Is …

Most surveys produce interesting results. Depending on the size of the sample, those findings may be statistically valid. Even if that is not the case, they are often, well, as I said, interesting.

Marist College (upstate New York for those not familiar with the school probably most famous around here for producing former Pacer big man Rik Smits) polled about 1,000 people to test words or phrases that are most annoying in conversation. The responses for the five phrases under consideration:

  • Whatever — 47% (55% among Midwest respondents)
  • You know — 25%
  • It is what is is — 11%
  • Anyway — 7%
  • At the end of the day — 2%

Why was this the subject of a Marist College poll? You know, it is what it is. Anyway, at the end of the day, it’s simply whatever. Wow, put those five together and we’re really talking annoying.

What words or phrases bug you the most? Let us know.