I just finished watching a great Hootsuite video that illustrates how social media can revolutionize local marketing by connecting businesses and consumers around simple, natural moments of opportunity.

The short clip paints a realistic picture of how social, local and mobile (SoLoMo) marketing can work together in a refreshingly simple way to drive business into the front door of any size business. Awesome.

 

click to view video on Hootsuite’s blog.

But from a demand generation point of view, this video left me wanting more.

I mean, what if our hungry young man doesn’t follow my coffee shop yet?  How do I use social media to get a shot at his business, too?  

Here is the response I left on their blog this afternoon:

Love it – awesome video! But let’s take this a step further:

What if our hungry gentleman could receive the same message… without having to follow the bakery on Twitter?

In other words,

What if he simply *knew* that tweeting out “I’m hungry for something sweet” would elicit a response (or an offer) from local bakeries… or maybe a helpful link from Yelp?

Got a solution for THAT?

 

The “Blind Spot” of Followers and Likes

Note that Hootsuite’s example requires that our hungry young man follow the bakery online before the message was sent.  Or he wouldn’t have received it.  Fade to black…

Unfortunately, only 33% of consumers follow a brand in social media today. The number is growing, but we are a long way from consumers following a large portion of the merchants and brands they care about.  And that’s just the brands they love. What about the other merchants in the neighborhood?

So, while the video is really nice and relevant to today’s business use of social media, in reality it only represents a very small part of what social media can do to generate demand for a local merchant.  After all, if a merchant’s primary marketing objective is to drive new customers through their front door, how valuable is posting “fresh cupcakes are out of the oven” if most of your market doesn’t follow you online?

This is one of the reasons we built NeedTagger. We believe that the most efficient and broadest possible application of social media to generate demand is to make it super-easy for merchants to listen for needs expressed by every potential customer (not just their followers), so the merchant can respond to those needs and compete for business in an open and transparent manner. Not by spamming, but by using social networks like they are supposed to be used:  to help people, to answer questions, to share valuable content and from time to time to offer something of real value in a moment of need.

And social-local-mobile marketing is all about finding and responding to real-time moments of need, as Hootsuite’s video so vividly illustrates.  We are just suggesting a way to get a lot more exposure to the market and to help a lot more people, while keeping consumers in control of the conversation at all times.  Mobile social apps are perfect mechanisms to enable this sort of marketing, if designed correctly.

 

The Intention Economy

Some are calling this concept, “The Intention Economy”.

One of the leaders of this movement is Doc Searls, author of the Cluetrain Manifesto and most recently, The Intention Economy – When Customers Take Charge (a compelling vision of the post-mass-marketing world of the future). The other day I had a short conversation with him on Twitter. Here is Doc’s reply to my question:

   dsearls    Jun 14, 8:38am via Web

@vniven: “if I tweet a need and a brand responds w/ help – is that part of the#intentioneconomy?” Yes, but there’s more to it.#VRM

I appreciate that Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) is not simple to implement – I was a procurement and sourcing consultant a few years back. This stuff is complex. That’s probably why there are a lot of really smart people working on VRM solutions.

But it doesn’t mean we can’t get started.

The Intention Economy will begin in earnest when consumers have a really good reason to adopt a new way of engaging with merchants that puts them in the driver’s seat. They need a clear upside with very little downside, in other words. It will also occur a lot faster if we can use the tools and social networks that already exist today, rather than waiting for a whole new generation of tools and standards to arrive.

As is true with most consumer behavior changes, it will help a lot if our merchants and advertisers play an active role. But they, too, need an incentive to change.

Leading brands and respected merchants can start changing consumer behavior today AND benefit if they would simply learn how to listen and respond to needs expressed by consumers in social media – especially on Twitter.

Let’s see how this type of listen-and-respond marketing system might work, using our Hootsuite video.

 

A Different Social Recipe – With Tastier Results!

Here’s what it looks like when we adapt Hootsuite’s script to use a listen-and-respond marketing approach – one that doesn’t rely upon people following a brand online:

<begin scene>

Hungry Young Man tweets out loud:

I’m hungry for something sweet…

Three local merchants and one service provider (Yelp) are immediately alerted to the local opportunity by a need detection service like NeedTagger.  

Within a few minutes, four messages arrive into our Hungry Young Man’s “Recent Offers” inbox on Twitter, causing it to flash.  Three offers are from companies that he doesn’t yet follow online:

@YoloDelights:  Our yogurt is 100% organic. And $2 off right now! bit.ly/gfjni4ijf

@Yelp:  See the bakeries and candy shops near you: ye.lp/fvjas85

@BreadNCoffee:  Fresh cupcakes are out of the oven.  $1 off if you arrive by noon. #delish

@CupcakeHeavn:  Fresh Red Velvet Smoothies are only $1.50 until noon. awe.sm/gbjh594

Hungry Young Man replies to @BreadNCoffee’s offer (the merchant he follows):

@BreadNCoffee:  Thanks for the kind offer – I’ll be there in 5! #loveuguys

This is a completely different scenario for our Hungry Young Man, isn’t it? Let’s break-down what happened here:

  • He initiated a latent bidding process using a simple, natural expression.
  • His offers were received in another folder, so they didn’t interrupt his current conversations.
  • He decided whether to review the offers or not.
  • He learned more about the tasty options in his neighborhood.
  • He saved money.
  • His initial “request” and his responses were just natural tweets – no special words or apps required.
  • He is literally attracting a cookie trail of personal offers as he tweets about whatever he likes/desires/needs – something that most people do on Twitter today.

To recap: lots of upside and very little downside for our hungry young man. This behavior is easy enough that it might become a natural part of his day – tweeting out needs and expecting merchants to make him offers. If he doesn’t like the offers or the way the merchants converse with him, he can just block them.

Now let’s look at how the local merchants fared:

  • Four companies had a shot at new business here (probably more when you count Yelp).
  • All merchants received a new opportunity to drive a new customer through their door – without requiring the prospect to follow them on Twitter.
  • By responding to his need, our hungry young man is now aware that they exist.
  • They competed for his attention and his business in a transparent and open manner, on his terms – something that any consumer would appreciate.
  • Maybe he’ll choose follow them on Twitter, now.

You might be thinking: yeah, sure, but what about @BreadNCoffee? Didn’t they spend a bunch to get our young man to follow them on Twitter? Perhaps. But the next time someone says they’re hungry for sweets, @BreadNCoffee will also get a shot at driving another new customer through their door – as long as they are listening and are willing to respond. If they continue to depend solely upon their network of followers, however, they will miss most of these new business opportunities.

 

Let’s Get this Party Started

There’s no reason we can’t be doing this type of intention-based, consumer-in-control marketing right now. Especially on Twitter, because it is a public network, it is social and it is perfect for mobile (local). This style of marketing certainly won’t work for all businesses, but for many consumer products and services it should work just fine. And believe us, there is no shortage of people tweeting about their food preferences right now.

NeedTagger is solving one of the key technical issues right now – identifying natural expressions of intent. We can identify intent with great precision in many consumer sectors.

Once merchants learn to listen and respond to these signals and consumers take notice, natural market forces can get moving. Social media marketing may never be the same.

Building new social connections between consumers and local merchants is a HUGE opportunity for Google, Twitter and Facebook – and for the consumers and merchants they serve. The size of the Intention Economy probably dwarfs anything we’ve done to date with content marketing, influencers, superfans, followers and likes. This fact isn’t lost on anyone in this business.

So, the question I want to ask our social media giants – especially Twitter – is:
What the heck are we waiting for?
NeedTagger connects you with people who need your content, products and services right now. No consultants or keywords are required.

I just finished scanning The Social Habit, a detailed survey of how Americans interact with Social Media today by social media researcher Tom Webster and his team at Edison Research.

Unlike some of the “infographic fluff” floating around today, this is professionally-produced research. Edison is the only firm authorized to perform exit polling for US presidential elections. The report is based on telephone interviews with 2,020 Americans over the age of 12.  Edison has been doing this type of behavioral research since 1998.

Here are some of the takeaways that I found most interesting – what are your thoughts?

 

1.  56% of Americans older than 12 have a profile page on at least one social network.

I find it interesting to compare this with Pew Internet Research, who recently reported that 66% of online adults (18+, not 12+) use social networking sites, 48% of them daily.  Does this mean that ~10% of Americans use social media but maintain no profile page…?   How is this possible?

 

2.  Americans aged 45-54 are the fastest growing demographic in social media.

The share of 45-54’s using social media (55%) is now about the same as the overall population.  This surprised me.  This has significant implications for companies in financial services, health care, pharma and luxury brands.

 

3.  33% of social networkers follow at least one brand on a social network – twice as many as last year.

This may appear like a clear validation of the value of building a presence on Facebook.  But think about it this way:  after 3-5 years of heavy promotion and 2 years of paid advertising options, more than 80% of brands and small businesses now maintain pages on at least one social network.  Yet, two-thirds of social networkers still don’t follow a single brand.  Will people EVER follow all of the brands they love?

The implications of this simple observation are profound in the social media marketing world.  What if most people simply never choose to follow their favorite brands in social media?  Or what if they follow to get a deal, then quickly unfollow them?  Paid ads and comments by brands aren’t working that well – what’s a brand to do?   (here’s a hint)

 

4.  Social Networkers don’t watch TV like we used to.

Compared with the population at-large, social networkers are twice as likely to view TV through alternative channels (streaming or downloads).  In addition, 36% of social networkers time-shift TV every chance they get.  Another 27% time-shift over half of the time. When time-shifting, 83% of social networkers skip every ad in the program.

Yikes!  If I was a TV ad man, this report would give me pause.

 

5.  Location-based marketing services such as FourSquare and Gowalla are in decline.

This one may be old news to long time users, but it surprised me. I thought I was just one of the slow adopters. My wife and I do use Facebook Places from time to time – mainly on vacations so my family can keep tabs on us. Apparently, I’m not alone – only 26% of Americans are even familiar with Check In services, and now they may be dying as a breed. Guess that’s why FourSquare just redesigned their service.

 

6.  Only 14% of the US population uses an online coupon service such as Groupon or Living Social; but 23% of social networkers do.

You can clearly see the viral impact of social networks on the couponing craze.

 

7.  Facebook’s rate of growth has slowed dramatically in the US.

I am not going to join the lemmings and talk about “the decline of Facebook”.  Mainly because (a) I have a friend who works there, and (b) I remain impressed by the amount of value they’ve created for me personally by connecting me with people I thought I’d lost forever – and with others I only met once.  Thank you, Facebook.  I mean it.

Nevertheless, the percent of Americans who maintain a profile page on Facebook now stands at 54%, only 3% higher than last year.

 

8.  The number of people using Twitter several times per day grew 61% during the past year.

At NeedTagger, we can vouch for this one.  The volume of needs we detect on Twitter continues to climb quickly (last check, about 5-10% per month).  Considering that our filtered streams contain almost zero spam, the increase probably is due to more engagement by real people.

 

I have a few theories about why this is happening:

  • Twitter’s recent integration into Apple’s mobile operating system iOS
  • The rise of social media aggregation/curation apps like Flipboard are making it a lot easier to read, share and comment on links shared via Twitter.
  • Younger people are moving on to Twitter, carrying their much-higher engagement behaviors with them.  There is new evidence that this is, indeed, happening.

What are the implications of Americans’ changing social habits on your organization’s marketing, sales and customer service strategies?
Data source:  http://www.socialhabit.com/