10 Ways To Introduce Yourself to a Prospect On Twitter
Did you know? Dolphin teeth are used for grasping, not chewing. They have no jaw muscles for chewing.

10 Ways To Introduce Yourself to a Prospect On Twitter

It can be awkward to introduce yourself to a prospective customer on Twitter. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

On Twitter, millions of people ask for help and advice every day. That’s why Twitter is such a great place to meet new customers.

But Twitter isn’t like LinkedIn, where you connect through people you know. 

Twitter functions more like a big business convention, where you share common interests with thousands of people attending the show, but you don’t know most of them. And you aren’t connected with most of them professionally (yet).

Like a big convention, there’s a lot of noise on Twitter. And way too many people to talk to.

So how do you prospect on Twitter?

Well, first you need to find the few good prospects to connect with. This is where search tools like NeedTagger, HootSuite and Twitter Advanced Search can help.

After you find them, introducing yourself is the next step. That’s what this post is about.

But there’s a lot of room for misunderstanding in a 140-character message. You need to be careful, too. Twitter may suspend your account if you violate their Rules

Since launching NeedTagger in 2012, we’ve helped more than 5,000 business owners, sales executives and marketing professionals  introduce themselves to sales prospects on Twitter.  

The good news is that according to our customers, customer prospecting on Twitter really works.

In this post, we share some of the best and worst types of introductions we’ve seen so far.

No, go out there and make a great first impression!

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, join 10,000 social selling professionals on our Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

10 Low-Risk Ways to Introduce Yourself

There are at least 10 proven ways to introduce yourself to prospect on Twitter.  As you will see, all are similar to the types of introductions you use today, just adapted for Twitter.

Some of the techniques we’ve seen work well include the following:

1. Ask for their opinion

People love to be asked for their opinion, especially if the request comes from an expert.

The types of questions that make great conversation-starters include:

  • “Which would you chooose, A or B?”
  • “Where can I learn more?”
  • “What do you think about X?”
  • “Where did you find that?”

This method usually solicits a live conversation. If you find an opportunity like this, jump on it.

2. Share a link to helpful content

Discovering new content is why many people use Twitter.

If you or your company have created or shared content that might help someone solve a problem, then by all means share it one-on-one with them!

This is one of the best ways to prospect on Twitter.

If you can share you own company’s white paper, video or presentation, then send a link to your company’s lead generation landing page – but tell them this in your tweet, “short signup req’d”.

Another, newer method is to use Twitter’s new Lead Generation Cards (paid ads) to capture contact information without asking them to leave Twitter.

3. Offer your advice

If you don’t have a link to share but can offer a quick answer or piece of advice that could help, then send it. You might be surprised at how grateful people can be on Twitter.

4. Follow them

Following someone is the simplest, lowest-risk way to connect with a prospect on Twitter. It’s the online equivalent of sharing your business card. So make sure your profile includes a way to contact you.

5. Retweet or Favorite their message

This is another low-risk way to engage with a person on Twitter. At the very least, re-tweeting or favoriting a message shows that you share a common interest. Most of the time she will notice your interest, and sometimes she will thank you. There are no technical limits on the number of people you can retweet or favorite each day. However, if you have a large number of active and engaged followers, then you should limit your retweeting to to 20%-30% of your daily posts, or people may start unfollowing you due to a lack of original content.

6. Forward their post to someone who can help

If you know someone else on Twitter who might be able to answer a question or deal with an issue, then by all means forward their message on to that person with a quick “(hope this helps)”.

7. Agree with them

Look for statements that you honestly agree with, then give the author a “high five” by declaring your support for their position.

People love to hear others say, “Exactly!”, “That’s what I thought!” and “You nailed it!”.

But don’t fake it, because you might be asked, “Really? exactly what did you like?”.

8. Correct a factual error

If you see someone post an inaccurate statement or a misconception about your company, don’t argue! But feel free to correct the inaccuracy with facts (preferably in the form of a third-party link). Most people respect a company that listens to and respond to people who talk about their brand.

But never argue in public, it’s always a bad idea.

9. Compliment them (honestly)

This is another no-brainer. People love an honest compliment.

Just make sure you are talking about something that you actually liked, or your compliment could backfire.

10. Address her correctly (using @name)

This one is  important.

A lot of people don’t know how to use the @name address correctly on Twitter.

When you begin your tweet with a prospect’s @name, it tells Twitter that only your prospect and your followers should see your tweet.

If you place their @name anywhere else in your tweet, then ALL of your prospect’s followers will see your targeted message, too. This simple mistake can lead to an embarrassing situation – especially when you are trying to help someone resolve a “sensitive” issue.

For real-world examples of these methods in action, check out our Pinterest Gallery.

pinterest gallery of marketers connecting with sales prospects on Twitter

NeedTagger’s Pinterest Board of Customer Examples

5 Ways to Make a Bad First Impression – And Get Your Account Suspended

Social feaux pas like the ones listed below will cause you to lose followers and might even get your Twitter account suspended. So whatever you do, avoid making these mistakes:

1. Automate Your Introduction

We all use some automation in social media. But if you care about making a great first impression, then you need to tailor your first message to your prospect’s unique issues, situation, location and language. Automating your introductions can also get your Twitter account suspended or permanently banned.

There are two ways this can happen:

  1. You may be flagged by your prospects. Most people can smell a bot from a mile away. If too many people flag you as a spammer, your account will be suspended. Twitter doesn’t provide information about who blocked you or how many people flagged, etc.  You just get suspended.
  2. Twitter may flag your account for violating their Terms of Service. The only acceptable way to automate introductions on Twitter is to pay Twitter for advertising (Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts, et al).  If you use any other service to automatically follow, favorite or send messages to people you don’t know, then you are violating Twitter’s Terms of Service and your account can be suspended, ghost-banned (hidden from search) or banned forever. Twitter continues to crack-down on providers and users of these services.

Caveat emptor.

2. Send an Unsolicited Commercial Offer

There are some exceptions to this (like offering a coupon to a hungry restaurant seeker), but for the most part people don’t like unsolicited offers interrupting their conversations.

3. Brag Excessively

Does this really need explaining? Focus the vast majority of your personal social time on finding problems and on sharing solutions – not on explicit marketing and advertising. That said, it’s totally fine (and smart) to post 1 or 2 messages a day from your account informing people of a new product, blog post or even a special deal.

4. Criticize Your Competitor

Unlike politics, in business attacking your competition won’t get you anywhere – especially in a court of public opinion like Twitter. In fact, you might want to consider complimenting your competitors when they deserve it (just released a new cool feature/product, did something important for a customer, shared a valuable insight, etc.)

Not to brag or anything, but this is something we like to do from our @needtagger corporate account. We think it’s important that our customers know about the state of the art in social customer prospecting – even if we aren’t the ones leading the charge on that particular day.

5. Send Them a Link to a Signup Form and Describe it as “the help you’re looking for”

This leaves a bad impression, to say the least. It’s amazing to me how many marketers think this practice is OK.

Look, if you are going to send me to content that will help me, then when I land on your page I should see that content (or at least a useful portion of it). If you are going to send me to a form first, then tell me this upfront (“short signup req’d”).

It’s all about being honest and respecting the other person’s time.

You, too, can leverage Twitter to build a low-cost network of prospective customers – as long as you know how to make a good first impression.  We hope these tips will help you achieve that.

We are interested in your experiences – leave your comments below!

NeedTagger helps you find sales prospects on Twitter in minutes a day.  Try it now – for FREE.

 

 

How To Find Insurance Leads on Twitter
Did you know? Killing a dolphin in ancient Greece was punishable by death.

Many agents and brokers use Twitter to identify new insurance leads to help build their book of business. We have dozens of clients doing that on NeedTagger, today.

However, we’ve learned by working with our agency clients that prospecting on Twitter for insurance leads is something that requires a more nuanced approach than simply searching for the keyword “insurance”. If you’ve tried that simplistic approach, you know what we’re talking about!

Monitor Twitter For Life Events

Seasoned insurance agents know that personally-important life events such as buying a new car, having a child, moving or changing jobs often cause people to purchase insurance or re-think their insurance needs.

Well, people are people, and the same principle applies to Twitter conversations.

While it is true that some people will discuss their insurance needs explicitly on Twitter (see our “Automotive / People discussing Car Insurance” pre-tested stream for an example), most agents will get more leads by searching for people who discuss their life events. Because people talk a LOT more frequently about these sorts of things – just like they do in the real world!

The instructions below explain how you can create intent-filtered streams on NeedTagger to surface more leads from Twitter for your agency.

NeedTagger Settings for Insurance Leads

NeedTagger can be used to identify people discussing their insurance needs and/or their major life events.

Listed below are the StreamBuilder settings for identifying several classic insurance buying signals, plus an explicit search setup for car insurance.

Changing jobs

When people change jobs, they often have to change insurance providers. It may be because their new employer requires it, because they moved to a new state or simply because their financial situation has changed. Moving to a new city is a big life event trigger for insurance!

Here are the NeedTagger settings to find people discussing changing jobs on Twitter:

  • Industry: “Other”
  • Pre-Tested Stream: leave blank
  • Conversation Type: “Planning to leave job” (note: there are more job-related filters you can try, as well)

classic insurance trigger event - changing job

Addition to the Family

Having a new baby? Congratulations! You’ll need to update your health insurance. And perhaps buy some whole life.

Here are the NeedTagger settings to find people discussing new additions to their family, on Twitter:

  • Industry: “Health”
  • Pre-Tested Stream: “Pregnancy: people expecting a baby soon”

classic insurance trigger event - pregnancy

Change in residence

Try the following setup. Note the keyword and negative keyword selections (in blue).

classic insurance trigger event - moving

Buying a car

People buy cars all the time, and they need insurance for every one. However, buying a new car can also be related to a larger life event such as getting a new job, heading off to college, getting married, having a child or graduating college. In all of these situations, insurance needs change.

Here are the NeedTagger settings to find people discussing the purchase of a new car on Twitter:

Try the following setup. Note our use of a pre-tested Keyword group for “Automobile Makes and Models”.

classic insurance trigger event - buying vehicle any type

Car Insurance

Now that you’ve mastered the more subtle approach, why not monitor Twitter for people simply talking about buying car insurance?

Here are the NeedTagger settings to find people discussing their car insurance needs on Twitter.

Try the following setup. Note the inclusion of brand names and alternative keywords in the “Keywords” field. Select many Conversation Types.
needtagger setup - car insurance
With a Free account, you’ll only be able to try one of these set ups at a time. See if one of these works for your agency, then upgrade to Pro to cover all of your bases.

Build Relationships Over Time

Once you identify an in-market prospect, you’ll want to monitor their conversations and look for natural opportunities to to connect & build a relationship, over time.

To do this, add each prospect you find in NeedTagger to a “Prospects” list you’ve set up your Twitter account.

Note: you may want to check the “Number of Tweets” statistic in their Twitter bio/profile before adding them as a Twitter prospect – to make sure they post on Twitter frequently enough to actually have a conversation.

When connecting with a prospect for the first time, try to react to something they just said that sincerely interests you. This can be anything they say that you might have in common, such as:

  • local sports
  • local events
  • volunteer opportunities
  • great places to shop or eat
  • professional associations and clubs
  • etc.

The key is to build relationships through natural conversations – just like you do offline!

Your Twitter Profile is Your Landing Page

You might be asking: OK, it’s nice to talk to people – but when do I ask for an in-person meeting? when do I bring up the subject of insurance?

Tip: let your Twitter bio/profile page do the heavy lifting. On Twitter, your bio is your business card and your landing page. But it’s better than a business card, because it’s interactive.

Prospects will click or call you when they like you and are ready for insurance. So make sure you put  your phone number and website link on your bio!

Here’s an example of an insurance agent’s Twitter profile done right (note the regulatory disclosure link):

Don Lilly Agency example

We hope this brief overview will help you use Twitter & NeedTagger to identify and connect with more insurance leads in your market.

Happy prospecting!

How To Use Promoted Tweets To Shorten Your Sales Cycle
Did you know? Dolphins don't drink water. All of their hydration comes from the food they eat.

Twitter recently announced Keyword Targeting for their Promoted Tweets ad product.

Performance marketers rejoiced,

Now we can generate leads and sales from social networks using native, keyword-targeted ads!

Maybe…

As Forbes pointed out in a recent article, the jury is out as to whether keyword-targeted advertising in social media will deliver search-engine level of performance. There are good reasons to doubt it will. The biggest difference? on Twitter, you are often interrupting conversations with your content, not responding to personal inquiries for help.

While you can definitely sell stuff on Twitter, it’s clear that most of Twitter’s marketing value (impressions) lies in top-of-funnel branding, prospecting and lead nurturing activities, where Twitter’s real-time content-sharing and interest-based relationship-building competencies shine.

Can Twitter Be Used To Generate Leads At Scale?

Absolutely!

Twitter’s real-time content marketing advantages can be leveraged to capture warm leads, build email lists and shorten sales cycles. This is because Twitter is uniquely awesome at getting the right content in front of the right person at the right time – in real-time.

Now, with keyword targeted Promoted Tweets available to everyone, Twitter has made getting your content to people who need it a whole lot easier – because now you can automate your outreach marketing (the most frequent request from our users). Yes!

This post describes a simple process you can use to generate leads and to shorten your sales cycle using Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets.

Here’s a deck we put together that explains the method in detail, along with a few lessons we learned along the way:

 

The cool thing about using intent-targeted Promoted Tweets is that it gets your best content in front of your prospects when THEY need it.

It’s like having a dedicated direct marketing team monitoring Twitter for leads, 24/7.

Even better: you don’t have to sit in front of the screen all day to monitor and respond!

Of course, you have to pay Twitter for the privilege of automating your content marketing. But for many marketers, it’s well worth the price.

The Strategy: Target Buyer Needs With Helpful Content

The strategy we recommend is to promote your most helpful content – FAQs, videos, blog posts, infographics, spec sheets, whatever – to carefully-targeted prospects during specific moments of need they discuss on Twitter.

If you don’t yet have high-quality, buyer-issue-focused content online, then go out and get some right now.

Presenting your most helpful content to prospects near their ‘moment of need’ can shorten your sales process in three important ways:

  • You will knock-down more sales obstacles, faster.
  • You will build your brand as a helpful provider of solutions and content – not a cold-calling machine.
  • You will respond to your buyer’s needs in real-time, in a non-threatening manner. Being timely can make a huge impact on engagement, CTR and lead conversion rates.

Tactically, you will be placing solution-focused Promoted Tweets in front of buyers discussing issues. Your Promoted Tweets will contain links to helpful content on your website.

To target your potential buyers, you will use conversational keywords that indicate purchase intent.  These keywords are what they actually say on Twitter during their moments of need.

OK, enough of the strategy – here is the process, starting with campaign planning.

Campaign Planning

Preparing for a sales-focused Promoted Tweets campaign is straightforward and consists of four steps:

  1. Compile a list of the questions and issues that your prospective customers and active leads commonly face.
  2. Gather links to helpful content you have already produced that address your prospects’ key issues.
  3. Create a landing page for each issue in 1.
  4. Post at least one tweet from your account with a link to each landing page in 3.

The first step is to compile a short-list of the most important questions and issues that commonly stand between an uninformed prospect and a sale. The best way to find these issues is to ask your sales force or your direct marketing team, if you have one. If you target multiple types of buyers or personas, then you will need a list of issues for each persona.

The second step is to gather together (or create) links to blog posts, videos and other forms of high-quality digital content that addresses each key buyer issue. It is best if the content is yours, but it’s not required: plenty of people will click on your bio and follow you if you share helpful content. The important thing is that the content you share addresses the issue and is helpful.

Next, you will create at least one landing page for each issue or group of similar issues. Place your content behind or on these landing pages and generate a unique web tracking code for each. Each landing page should provide a way to capture lead information like a social login, an email signup form or a full-blown lead capture form.

Finally, you will prepare one or more Promoted Tweets for each issue. This is because on Twitter, your tweet is your native ad.  In your posts, be natural, use a 1-to-1 conversation tone and keep it brief (like you normally do on Twitter).

For promoted tweets, we like to combine a short buyer question with a simple CTA, for example:

Trouble With Malware? Learn 3 ways to eliminate it from your life: http://ntag.it/5vbcxr

Now that you have your marketing assets in place, you are ready to launch your first intent-targeted Promoted Tweets Campaign.

Campaign Execution

Setting up a campaign on Twitter is easy.

You will want to create one Promoted Tweets Campaign per buyer issue addressed. This way, you can see how well you are addressing specific pain points and how good each type of issue is at delivering sales-qualified leads.

Setting up a keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets campaign to address a specific issue in your buyer’s journey is easy to do – if you know what keywords to use. More about that in a second.

You’ll enter your keywords into the campaign panel below. You can choose from Broad Match, Phrase Match or Negative Keyword match for each keyword entered.  There is a practical user interface limit of about 300 keywords, although the system can actually handle more.

twitter keyword targeting

twitter keyword targeting

So… how do you identify the right conversational keywords for an issue-focused campaign?

Selecting the Right Keywords: Not The Same As Search

To come up with the right keywords for your campaign, the first thing you should do is take a few minutes to listen to what your prospective buyers actually say on Twitter.

Use Twitter Advanced Search or a specialized tool like NeedTagger to filter Twitter for people discussing the issues on your list. Take note of the verb phrases (intent markers), topics and hashtags that are commonly mentioned.

For example, this guy has an issue with malware and might need some anti-virus software:

Malware example tweet Snapshot 9:25:13 7:54 AM

Verb (intent) markers include: “ruins your day” and “fml”.

Topics include “malware” and “browsers”.

As you can see from the example above, the words people use to express intent on Twitter (conversational keywords) are often different than the keywords they might enter into Google to find a solution (search keywords).

To illustrate just how different, what sort of solutions do you think Clinton might find on Google if he entered the keyword, “ruins your day malware fml”?

Just for giggles, we tried it – here’s what we got:

ruins your day Snapshot 9:25:13 8:02 AMWhere’s Norton AntiVirus when you need them?

Selecting the right conversational keywords to target is a potential stumbling block for anyone who wants to augment their Google AdWords PPC campaigns with keyword-targeted social media campaigns. Especially if they are performance-marketing oriented, which means they want to target purchase intent (mostly).

To help bridge this gap, we’ve been working on an automated way to identify the right conversational keywords to target, for NeedTagger customers.

Currently in private beta, NeedTagger can now automatically generate a list of the top-performing conversational keywords for your intent-filtered stream.  (ask us about the beta if you’re interested).

Here’s how that works:

needtagger converts keywords Snapshot 9:25:13 8:45 AM

 

 

An alternative way to generate conversational keywords is to use a keyword combination tool (Google AdWords has a free one) and combine verb phrases and topics together, as follows:

SEO keyword combination tool Snapshot 9:25:13 8:29 AM

Measuring Results

Twitter provides a great set of analytics that help you understand how effective your ad campaigns are and in how people are engaging with your Promoted Tweets.

Analytics compared Twitter vs NeedTagger Snapshot 9:25:13 12:39 PM

Twitter does not, however, provide a way for you to A/B test your landing pages and messages against a target audience prior to launching a paid campaign. Using a tool like NeedTagger is a great way to test your messaging in real-time with real prospects to see how well they work – before you start paying to promote them.

In our Insights tab, NeedTagger also provides the actual number of needs we find each day for your intent-filtered stream of conversations. We cannot guarantee 100% alignment with what Twitter targets for your keywords (we use different algorithms), but Insights can give you a pretty good indication of how much opportunity there is inside of Twitter for your campaign, before you start paying.

We also generate daily email alerts that will keep you on top of your market.

Optimizing Your Campaign

Twitter offers several cool features and media types that can help you maximize results. We won’t go into depth on them here.

One does deserve a mention for lead generators, however:

Twitter has been testing a new Lead Generation Card that simplifies content sharing and lead capture from prospects who like your helpful content. The way it works is really simple (see screenshot below).

Twitter Lead Generation Card

Twitter Lead Generation Card

Lead Gen Cards are great for building email lists!

Just understand that this is all you will get – an email address. To mine those leads, you will need a decent marketing automation platform.

In summary, Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets product is a powerful new tool in a performance marketer’s kit. But you’ll need high quality helpful content and know how to identify the right conversational keywords to make it work for you.

To learn about more ways to leverage social media for lead generation, check out this excellent presentation prepared by Marketo:

 

Have you tried Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets?

Tell us about your experience, by leaving a comment below.

Does Online Influencer Marketing Really Impact Sales?
Did you know? Dolphin teeth are used for grasping, not chewing. They have no jaw muscles for chewing.

This evening on Google+, I came across the following video of Sam Fiorella, courtesy of his business partner, Danny Brown.

Source: http://www.senseimarketing.com/customer-decision-making-processes-and-influence-marketing/

If you don’t know who they are, Sam and Danny are experts in the science of “influencer marketing”.

Their just-released book is a challenging view of how influence actually works in today’s age of multi-channel, socially-connected marketing.

I deeply respect Sam and Danny for the work they are doing to unravel this complex subject.

So far, however, I am unconvinced that online influencer marketing makes much of a meaningful impact on sales.

At least, not at an ROI that compares favorably with other marketing options available today.

To be clear, I’m not saying you can’t sell on Twitter – our customers have proven that you can, a thousand times over.

What I’m saying here is that it’s not clear you can recruit other people to sell for you. At least, not at any sort of affordable scale.

Offline Relationships Still Matter

A big open issue regarding the influencer marketing trend concerns the relative importance of offline and online relationships between the same two people.

The issue is best explained by asking this question:

If an offline relationship existed between a buyer and seller prior to an online interaction, should the online interaction be counted as the only driver of the sale?

Of course not!

Yet, this is exactly what metrics like Klout and PeerIndex are being used to claim. To be fair, the metrics companies themselves are quite clear their numbers shouldn’t be taken out of context. Nevertheless, this is exactly what a lot of marketing teams are doing – this morning!

Until someone does a decent job analyzing both types of influence in the same study, I think every marketing team should pause and ask the same question.

My personal hunch is that offline relationships are where most sales influence actually lies. If you ask any sales person about this – including social selling pros – they will tell you ALL about the importance of building offline relationships.

Online Purchase Intent: Search vs. Social

Even if we restrict our view to purely online channels, it appears to us that personal intent signals like Google search queries are at least one order of magnitude better predictors of purchase intent than social signals such as: Twitter & Facebook search queries; influencer scores like Klout & PeerIndex; and relationship vectors derived from social and interest graphs, et al.

For the record, please note that I am the CEO/founder of a social customer prospecting platform.  We don’t take this stuff lightly 😉

And, again, the world of marketing cannot be boiled into a single number. I’m sure there are exceptions. I just haven’t seen any that we well-documented, yet.

For both personal and professional reasons, I’d love to see a rigorous study (or three) that proves online influencer marketing drives incremental sales with a positive ROI (at scale) – this would be an incredibly important insight.

But as a trained engineer, I am forced to ask myself: where’s the proof?

Causation is Not Correlation (or something like that)

A lot of what I am saying here is based on our experience running a social customer prospecting platform and my own analysis of studies to date.

For example, we’ve run dozens of tests comparing Twitter organic and paid marketing campaigns vs. equivalent search engine organic and paid campaigns to understand how the two channels compare in their ability to drive sales.

Every influencer marketing study I’ve read so far has basically been a statistical correlation of online data – not a scientific analysis of human behavior.

Before I read yet another blog post about “the power of influencer marketing”… I’d love to read just one that lays out a little scientific method, so we can find out what’s really going on!

For example, I’d like to know:

  • how do online and offline communications actually influence purchases?
  • what is the hypothesis we just tested?
  • what is the design of our experiment?
  • how did we control our experiment for independent variables?
  • what were our expected results – before running the experiment?
  • how did our actual results differ from expected results – with a thoughtful analysis of the probable reasons why?
  • please provide a detailed description of the mechanisms, systems and processes involved in converting our dependent variables into independently verifiable results.
  • what are the possible sources of error and their magnitudes?
  • please provide a thoughtful comparison of prior study results vs. ours?

I don’t think I am asking too much.

For years, the best search marketers have been using this type of scientific rigor to optimize online sales.

Yes, search geeks lean on statistics – a LOT. But they also base their experiments and hypotheses on detailed observations of human behavior using heat maps, eye tracking, et al.

So why aren’t we doing this type of primary research in social media / influencer marketing?

After speaking with Danny Brown on Google+ a few months ago, I know that he and Sam Fiorella understand the differences I’m talking about here.  In fact, they are working on a more rigorous way to measure the types of influence that really matter to business.  I applaud their efforts.  It’s a huge challenge, and it’s where we need to go.

But for now, I can’t help but be skeptical about what we call “influencer marketing” today – which is mostly just a new type of PR outreach.

I hope my skepticism is off-base. Because proving that influencer marketing drives sales (profitably) would be an incredibly important thing to learn.

The bottom line is: if we are going to claim that influencer marketing is a meaningful way to drive sales at a positive ROI – then the onus is on us to prove that it actually does.

I look forward to seeing more evidence as the story unfolds.

For now, consider me a “hopeful skeptic”.

NeedTagger helps you find and engage with people who may need your business right now.

Creating a stream of engagement opportunities for your business is easy.  If you’ve ever used an advanced search tool like those offered by Twitter or Google, you can use NeedTagger.

Video Tutorial

Most people use NeedTagger for three things:

  • Meet New Customers
  • Manage Your Reputation 
  • Market Your Content (to People Who Need It)

This 10-minute video shows how to configure these three types of streams for your business, using examples as a guide.

 

 

Using NeedTagger in HootSuite

Do you use HootSuite for social media listening and engagement?

Then you might be interested in the following live demo that shows how to use the NeedTagger app in HootSuite to monitor Twitter for three types of business opportunities.

  1. Sales prospects – 1 stream per region
  2. Customer complaints – 1 stream per product line
  3. People who need your content – 1 stream per topic or blog post

In this video, we compare NeedTagger results against native keyword-filtered streams in HootSuite, to give you an idea of how our streams differ in quality.

 

Note: NeedTagger is FREE to try, but you will need a paid plan to use more than one stream at a time.

 

How To Build a Custom Stream Using StreamBuilder

The step-by-step guide below illustrates how to set up an intent-filtered stream using StreamBuilder.

Find customers and prospects on Twitter

The Settings

There are two ways to create a stream using NeedTager:

  1. Select a Pre-Tested Stream for your Industry (really easy).  Choose a stream that matches your type of business.  Then edit the keywords, audience settings and location settings to narrow your focus.
  1. Create a custom filter by telling us what you’re looking for.

Three Key Settings & How They Work Together

To create a custom stream for your business, you’ll need to enter at least three pieces of information into NeedTagger’s StreamBuilder search panel (see screenshot above):

  1. select the industry you operate in
  2. select the conversation types (intent) you are interested in, and,
  3. enter the discussion topics (keywords) that are relevant to your business.

These settings work together as if they were used in a sentence that describes the audience you are trying to reach, as explained in the slide below:

How the settings work 2013-01-07-103245

In addition to these settings, you can target your audience by location and profile using advanced targeting options. Expand the blue bar at the bottom of the screen to access them.

5 Most Common Stream Types

Most of our customers use NeedTagger to meet 5 business objectives.

The chart below shows how to set up each type of stream for your business.

Optional Settings (to narrow your focus further)

Pre-Tested Streams
Over 70 pre-tested prospecting streams have been created by the NeedTagger team for our customers in 13 industries.

Pre-Tested streams contain extra settings (green lamp indicator) which are not visible, because they cannot be easily mapped into the StreamBuilder interface (we leverage more intelligence than you see in the search panel).

You may edit a pre-tested stream; however, if you change the Conversation Filters setting, the “extra stuff” lamp will turn off and the filter’s quality will diminish.

 

Keyword Groups

These are common, pre-tested topic groups for an industry.  Eliminates the need to enter long lists of common keywords.

 

Location (Profile) 

About 40% of Twitter users declare their residence in their profiles.  To narrow your geographic focus, select the state, city and radius to limit posts coming from people who live within that region.

 

Location (Message) 

Only about 1% of tweets today note where they were posted from (geo tagged), so use this one sparingly.  Select the state, city and radius to restrict your stream to posts made from a specific location.

Target Audience

Enter keywords to search Twitter profile descriptions (see red box below) for people who mention specific job titles, family roles, hobbies, professional certifications, etc. in their profiles.

Profile Filters 

We’ve assembled pre-tested Twitter profiles that look for common job titles, interests and social roles. Specific to an industry.

 


Tweak ‘Em ‘Til You’re Satisfied

After you save your settings, your stream will update itself automatically and present itself for your review.  Up to 30 days of history will be shown.

Edit-and-Save your settings as many times as you’d like… until you get the stream quality you want.

Once your prospecting streams are setup, you can sit back and watch the opportunities flow.

How To Use Social Media to Trigger Actions In Your Marketing Automation Platform
Did you know? The maximum age for bottlenose dolphins is between 40 and 50 years.

This is the final post in a 3-part series that addresses the future of real-time, multi-channel marketing and the critical, driving role that social media plays in it.

 

In our first and second posts, we discussed how real-time social data can make an enterprise more agile and responsive, and we discussed the critical role that marketing automation platforms play in making this possible.

 

In this post, we’ll show you how to get access to real-time social data, extract meaningful signals from it and leverage them in your marketing automation platform to trigger emails, score leads and improve marketing performance.

Social Triggers: Like Any Other (but different)

Most marketing automation platforms can leverage online behaviors to trigger a variety of marketing actions today. For example, many will let you automatically send an email to a contact when they visit a certain page, or launch a drip campaign after a successful lead capture.

Social signals of intent are another class of behavioral trigger that many leading MAPs can leverage today (with IT assistance) to trigger emails, send internal alerts, launch campaigns, score leads – pretty much anything your marketing automation system can do.

By “social signals of intent”, I mean social media users who are asking questions about, complaining about and explicitly buying your type of products and services.  These are just three examples – there are actually dozens of types of social signals of intent that can be leveraged to trigger marketing actions.

Using social signals to automatically trigger marketing actions offers several advantages over web- and other behavioral triggers, including:

  • more behavioral triggers per contact: your socially-active contacts are publishing a huge amount of data about their likes, interests and feelings in social media.  More signals means you have a chance to interact more often, around very specific topics.  This shortens sales cycles and keeps your prospect engaged with you.
  • higher-quality signals of intent: a traditional marketing trigger is really just a guess about someone’s intentions based on an action like downloading a white paper or clicking on a certain page. A person’s words provide much more information about their intent.  In fact, some social signals are extremely explicit requests to buy!
  • eliminate the ‘creepy’ factor in social media marketing:  if you identify a person complaining about a competitor on Twitter and then send them a tweet, it can be kinda creepy.  But if you send them an email pointing out the differences between your products and your competitors,  the “stalker risk” is basically eliminated from the equation.

This article explains how to build social triggers you can use in your marketing automation system, in four steps.

Note: you do not need to be active in social media in order to to use socially-triggered marketing, because it does not require a response in social media.

Step 1:  Get Real-Time Social Data For Your Business

The first step, of course, is to get real-time social data for your business.

  • By real time, I mean pulling new data in every hour or so.
  • By social data, I mean grabbing posts published on the social networks, forums and blogs your contacts & prospects use the most.
  • By for your business, I mean gathering posts published by your existing network of prospects, customers, followers and contacts PLUS gathering public posts containing keywords related to your business.

gnip logodatasift

There are several places you can obtain real-time social data for your business, including:

  • from the social networks themselves, using their Open APIs.

  • from third party social data providers like Datasift and GNIP

  • from your existing social media monitoring platform, such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Oracle Social Relationship Management.

Depending upon your business objective, the data you acquire may be for your followers only (Facebook fans & Twitter followers); all public posts about topics that matter to your business (Twitter, blog comments, forum posts); or, both.

Step 2:  Mine Your Social Data for Signals That Matter

Next, you will need to mine your social data for suitable trigger signals.  In our experience, about 3-5% of all tweets contain some form of commercial intent (about 300 million events per month on Twitter / English language alone).

Your options for identifying trigger signals in your social data include:

  1. Manually classify your social data (ie, monitor and flag for action).  This is the most common and most precise method available, but there are serious drawbacks. First, you can only scale this method by adding people. Second, your recall (market coverage) will suffer whenever your labor is tapped out or off-duty – meaning you will miss some opportunities.  Third, you may struggle with the timeliness and consistency of your results, which means you will miss more “windows of opportunity”.

  2. Machine-classify using keywords and/or text analytics: Some companies use a combination of natural language processing (text analytics), Boolean keyword expressions and/or sentiment classification to approximate “intent”.  This method can be automated, which saves time. Unfortunately, to get results anywhere close to useful, you will either need to become a boolean keyword ninja or employ expensive linguistics experts to build natural language filters for your business. Otherwise, the precision and recall of text-mining methods will not be very good.  This means you will get a lot of signals that aren’t what you’re looking for, and you will miss a lot of opportunities. Most customers we’ve worked with who have tried keyword-mining approaches have been unhappy with the quality of results.

  3. Machine-classify using a specialized intent-mining platform like NeedTagger.  Intent-mining platforms offer better results than keyword and text-mining approaches in terms of cost, precision and recall – but they are still not as precise as human beings. Some platforms like ours leverage more data than text to classify intent, which is what creates the precision advantage.  NeedTagger also lets you create your own ‘intent filters’ for any need and test them in real-time against Twitter.  Other vendors that offer intent-classification services include LeadSift, Solariat and Aiaioo.

Machine Detection of Intent: NeedTagger’s Social Signals API

We’ve developed an API that mines your social data for signals of intent. It works with any short-form social posts, in real time.

NeedTagger API example

NeedTagger API: sample input & output

Out of the box, our API identifies more than 70 signals of intent, which are grouped into four basic types:

  1. 14 conversation types: Asking Questions, Buying, Wishing, Complaining, etc.

  2. buying signals for over 60 common product & service types: buying a car, getting a mortgage, applying for college, etc.

  3. Life Events: moving, recent pregnancy, a new job, etc.

  4. In addition, you can build custom social signals for your business in minutes using our self-service app (no other provider offers this flexibility).

Every post submitted to our API is analyzed for the four types above. Results are provided in seconds.

Our API is optimized for Twitter, but it classifies any short-form social media like the kind you find on Twitter, Facebook, blog comments and more. Right now, we are limited to the English language.

Create Custom Social Signals For Your Business

Using our Social Signals API, you can build custom “social signals” for any type of need or requirement and immediately gain access to them from our API.

The diagram below explains how this works:

NeedTagger API how it works

Creating a new social signal for your business is easy. Our StreamBuilder tool lets you create a custom signal filter and view the types of posts it finds, in real time.  StreamBuilder works a lot like Twitter Advanced Search, just with more search options.

If you’d like to learn more about our new Social Signals API, use our API Inquiry Form or send an email to info@needtagger dot com.

Step 3:  Get Social IDs for Your Marketing Contacts

In order to take full advantage of the signals you receive, you’ll need to know the social IDs for the contacts in your database, so when a social signal comes in you will know who posted it.

Most MAPs today allow you to maintain social ids for contacts.  If you are doing this religiously, then move on to Step 4.

If you aren’t maintaining social IDs for your contacts, you can leverage third party services such as Social123Fliptop and FullContact to maintain the social data for your contacts, automatically.

fliptop logosocial123 logofull contact logo

Couple of cautions, though:

  • no provider can map social IDs to email addresses with 100% coverage.

  • the mapping process works 1-way: you can retrieve social account IDs for email addresses & social IDs, but you won’t be able to retrieve an email address for a given social ID.

To keep your contact database fresh you will need to send all new contacts through your provider’s API immediately, and you may want to build a polling routine to update existing contacts every month or so.

Step 4:  Create Social Triggers In Your Marketing Automation Platform

The final step is to create social triggers in your marketing automation platform that can be used to send emails, score leads or whatever you think is appropriate.

marketo lead scoring setup

Marketo lead scoring setup

Some MAPs are better than others in utilizing external data to trigger events. Silverpop and Marketo are two that can do this today (with IT assistance).

The process of building social triggers is the same used to create any other type of trigger, except the trigger signal is from social media. Each MAP has its own process for creating a marketing trigger, so I won’t go into that in detail.

hubspot email trigger setupFrom this point forward, your social triggers will work like any other trigger – email, web hook, landing page, whatever.

Cool, huh?

The “social triggers” discussed above can be implemented today with some packaged marketing automation platforms. If you use an in-house marketing automation system, you will need IT’s assistance, but it can be implemented today.

We hope this article has opened your eyes to the new marketing automation capabilities that real-time, social data can provide for your business.

 

NeedTagger Logo

NeedTagger Releases Intent-Mining API for Social Media

New API mines social media data for over 70 types of commercially important posts. Self-service app lets developers to customize intent filters for any requirement.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRLog (Press Release) – Jul. 10, 2013 – PENSACOLA, Fla. —  Today, NeedTagger announced immediate availability of the Social Signals API, a unique self-service data-mining platform that identifies buying signals, questions and other expressions of commercial intent in social media.The API provides application developers with programmatic access to NeedTagger’s intent-mining platform, used by thousands of social marketing & sales professionals to connect with sales prospects, market their content and manage their reputation on Twitter.

Machine Classification of Commercial Intent
For many companies, identifying the people and posts in social media that truly matter to their business is an expensive, slow and error-prone task. To date, manual monitoring and classification of social posts has been the only reliable way to accomplish this.

As NeedTagger’s CEO, Vernon Niven, explains,

Mining social networks for meaningful opportunities to engage with customers and prospects is a huge challenge for many companies. The volume of social data available online is almost doubling every year, but in our experience only 3-5% of it is commercially relevant. While no machine can detect business opportunities better than a skilled professional, automated intent-mining services like ours reduce labor requirements, improve an organization’s responsiveness and open the door for entirely new types of applications.

By automating the discovery of commercially important posts, businesses can:

  • respond quickly to customers asking questions, complaining and requesting help
  • identify new sales prospects and potential leads during critical moments of need
  • market content directly to people expressing a need for it
  • better understand the behaviors and intentions of an audience
  • build new social applications to address very specific needs.

 

For Real Time Social Applications

Social Signals is a modern, cloud-based RESTful API that is highly scalable and suitable for use in real-time applications. It is designed for marketers who want to take their social media programs to the next level.

Potential customers for the new API include a wide range of organizations that consider social media a strategic channel, for example:

  • social media monitoring teams
  • agencies and social ad platforms who want to target social ad campaigns by intent
  • third party social data providers, to leverage social intent data in their offerings
  • marketing automation providers, to use social data to trigger emails and score leads
  • app developers building marketing, customer support and content apps
  • market research firms seeking deeper behavioral insights from social media
  • equity and options trading desks, to mine social media for market demand
  • direct marketing firms seeking to upgrade social media listening capabilities

 

Self-Service Text Analytics

NeedTagger’s API is a unique offering in the fast-growing social text analytics industry that includes pioneers NetBase, Clarabridge, OpenAmplify, Attensity and Lexalytics.

Vernon Niven explains how Social Signals API is different:

“Our goal is to provide natural language processing that anyone can use and benefit from. Not only is our API easy to understand and use, it’s also easy to customize for any application using our self-service app. I’m excited to see what developers will do with it! ”

Social Signals API - sample output

Social Signals API – sample output

Social Signals offers several advantages over other text analytics services, including:

  • 100% self-service, cloud-hosted platform
  • High-speed, rules-based classification suitable for real-time applications
  • Build, test & tweak filters against Twitter in real time
  • Easy-to-understand classification tags
  • No ontology work, machine training or post-processing required
  • Classifies Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other short-form social posts
  • Optimized for Twitter
  • Excellent precision and recall

Out of the box, the service detects 14 basic types of intent, 8 life events and buying signals for 60 common products and services in any short-form social media data (supplied by the user). Custom filters can also be created using NeedTagger’s self-service Twitter apps. The NeedTagger team is available to engineer custom filters for any need.

 

Pricing

Pricing is tiered according to daily API call volumes and starts at $1,000 per month. A Free 30-day trial is available that processes up to 1,000 social posts per day.

To learn more about NeedTagger’s Social Signals API, visit http://www.needtagger.com/api/ .

Source: NeedTagger Releases Intent-Mining API for Social Media

Photo: http://www.prlog.org/12172202/1

Marketing With One Eye Closed: Closing the Gap Between Social Media & Marketing Automation
Did you know? Dolphins sleep by resting one half of their brain at a time so that one eye is always open.

Marketing with One Eye Closed

For many months, I’ve been stewing about the obvious lack of integration between social media monitoring software (SMMS) and marketing automation platforms (MAP).

I’ve been thinking about it because NeedTagger’s users are evenly split between marketing and sales professionals. Both use our tool to connect with customers and prospects on Twitter (for different purposes).

Popeye-pipe-logoEvery day, I see how disconnected social selling pros are from inbound marketing and lead generation teams. At times, it’s like they live in two different worlds. 

That’s unfortunate, because both teams are trying to communicate with the same people for basically the same reason. It’s also unfortunate for the prospect or contact being targeted, because the messages they receive can be redundant, conflicting or downright confusing.

As a social selling professional, I need to know what our marketing team knows about the person I’m talking to right now, for example:

  • what were the last few marketing emails we sent to them?
  • what marketing content is available to share with this person?
  • what content are we sharing today from our key social media accounts?

Likewise, marketing automation platforms send emails to contacts all the time without considering important information available in social media, such as:

  • what is our history of social interactions with this person?
  • what recent signals of purchase intent – positive or negative – has this person demonstrated in social meda?
  • are there any outstanding questions or complaints posted by this person on Twitter?

Perhaps this disconnect persists because social media is so new that marketing automation platforms haven’t caught up. Or maybe it’s because social prospecting and selling tend to be more of a “grass-roots” initiative by sales reps, whereas marketing automation tends to be a top-down budgeted program.

Whatever the reasons, real-time, cross-channel engagement with individuals is a bit of a mess from the customer’s point of view – so we’d better clean things up!

Of course, our company sells a social media monitoring/prospecting tool, which means we own 1/2 of this problem.

During the past couple of months, I’ve reached out to leading marketing automation consultants and platform providers to discuss the gaps between our types of solutions and to identify ways we might integrate our apps and data with their platforms. This post is based on those conversations.

This is a long read because we address a number of related topics:

  • why seamless integration between social media and marketing automation technology is a must, moving forward.
  • how social media and marketing automation solutions are evolving to adapt to the new world of the real time customer
  • what gaps must be closed between social media and marketing automation platforms
  • where the software industry stands today re. closing these gaps. 

Marketing’s Future: Real Time, Personal & Data-Driven

Marketing professionals are under increasing pressure to master the art of real-time, data-driven personalized marketing in all channels.

As a member of a real time marketing team, you are – or soon will be – charged with listening to your market and engaging with prospects and customers “in the moment”. Your responsibilities may include:

  • monitoring social media and the real-time web for engagement opportunities

  • engaging directly with prospects & customers in real time

  • activating influencers

  • recruiting & rewarding brand advocates, and,

  • creating, curating and publishing reams of fresh content to take advantage of trends.

In his recent response to Salesforce’s acquisition of ExactTarget, Phil Fernandez, CEO of Marketo, explained where the pressure is coming from:

Twitter_Phil

Phil Fernandez

We believe that marketing is undergoing a deep transformation driven by large-scale trends such as the rise of self-directed consumers and broad and instant availability of information online. This means marketers must fundamentally change how they engage with prospects and customers.

 

And this in turn requires a new kind of technology solution – one that helps them to create relationship-building dialogs across fragmented channels, one that helps them think holistically about the entire range of responsibilities of the modern marketing professional, and one that is powered by deep insight and analytics.

For those who step up to the data-driven marketing challenge, the good news is that there is no shortage of real-time data to mine for opportunity. Especially in social media, the world’s largest real-time customer database.  

But mining data is only half the story.  Marketing in a social world also requires getting personalThe importance of real-time, personal engagement was highlighted when HubSpot CEO, Brian Halligan, discussed why they released their new 1-to-1 social media monitoring and engagement panel, Social Inbox:

Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot

Brian Halligan

Over the last five years, social media marketing has been far from lovable; in fact, brands were typically using social media to push out contests, sweepstakes, and promotional content—tactics that are impersonal for customers and ineffective for marketers. HubSpot Social Inbox allows marketers to create, share, promote, monitor, respond, and integrate social media into their overall marketing approach. Social Inbox is a powerful vehicle for marketers that results in a singular narrative for customers.

Not many organizations are experts at turning real-time social data into personalized marketing and selling actions.

But that’s starting to change.

Social Listening Moves From Analytics to Action

First-generation social media monitoring platforms like Marketwired (Sysomos) and Salesforce (Radian6) led the social data mining charge by helping marketers convert social data into useful insights. Social media monitoring and analytics are still powerful ways to monitor and learn about your market.

The problem is that in most companies today, social data is not being mined in a systemic way to generate sales, leads and customer satisfactionInstead, most of it is still stuck in analytics for market research, branding, PR and advertising. 

When it is leveraged for action, social data is recirculated within social media marketing silos – we see an opportunity on Twitter, so we respond on Twitter – as though our customers only live on Twitter! Very little social data is being leveraged to drive actions in the channels that we know work best – be that email, direct mail or a telephone call.

Radian6 Dashboard

Radian6 Dashboard

But times are changing.  Social data mining is moving past its role as an analytics tool into driving results in real time.

New targeted ad products from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are examples of how social data mining can drive bottom-line performance. For example, Twitter just launched a new lead generation card.

Twitter's New Lead Generation Card

Twitter’s New Lead Generation Card

In addition, new data mining and social selling tools have arrived that makes it easier to spot business opportunities & to engage with prospects in social media, in real time.

Using NeedTagger to Mine for Customers in HootSuite (live demo)

New social data mining APIs (like our new Social Signals API) are making it easier for marketers to listen for buying signals in social media and take action in other channels – in a fully automated way.

Yet another example of data mining for action is the new crop of predictive sales intelligence applications like LatticeEngines that analyze your customer data, then scan social media and the web to identify high-probability prospects for your business.

Clearly, social data mining has moved into the “action zone”.

But is it producing results?

Social Media’s ROI Problem

Wimpy - well fundedMany smart people claim that social media marketing will never pay like we think it will. That it may never generate sales and leads. That it’s all about “top of the funnel”.

Their claims ignore a large & growing body of evidence that social media marketing actually does generate sales, improves the performance of inbound marketing and can reduce lead costs by more than half. Those of us who serve customer-facing professionals with social media technology know the ROI is there.

But to be fair, the skeptics are correct that it has been really difficult to impossible to prove social media marketing impacts sales and lowers costs in a consistent, reliable way.

Why is this so? We think for three reasons:

  1. Harvesting social media for leads and sales is mostly a manual process today: finding business opportunities in noisy social networks is an expensive, error-prone task. Record keeping is abysmal. Better advertising options are coming along, but they are siloed within each social network.

  2. Social media marketing systems remain mostly disconnected from other marketing and CRM systems. So, the full range of social interactions with a given person isn’t being tracked.

  3. Sales attribution is a mess across all digital channels, anyway. Before social media it was really hard to know what specific actions drove each sale. Now, it’s harder. Let’s face it: “last-click” attribution is not an accurate way to measure social media’s impact on sales.

In other words, a lot of Social Media’s ROI problem is due to a lack of integration with other customer systems of record.

Obviously, we need to clear up this confusion. But how?

Marketing Automation’s Future: Real Time Demand Generation

Like other CEOs of marketing and sales technology companies, I believe that the real-time and pervasive nature of social media is forcing enterprise marketers to integrate the best features from their social media listening platforms, CRM and marketing automation platforms into a real-time demand generation platform.  By hook or by crook, we’ll all have to get there.

The real time demand generation platform of the future will serve as a company’s system of engagement with a wide variety of external stakeholders – not just email contacts and social media followers. More specifically, it will do at least six things well:

  1. listen and respond to individuals on a 1-to-1 basis, in real time (in any channel): to do this, we have to manage and track every type of communication, marketing action and selling interaction we have with each person, in real time. This is not a recommendation that we should respond to every signal in real time, nor that every engagement needs to be personalized – that’s not scalable. But we do need to keep tabs on people in real time and be ready to respond in a personal way & in the most appropriate channel, when needed.
  2. listen to every person that matters in our market (not just our contacts & followers): maintain real-time intelligence on every person that matters to our business: prospects, customers, contacts, influencers, advocates and partners. Social media’s strength lies in its ability to not only listen to everyone that matters, but to leverage social relationships where possible to spread the word. In contrast, most marketing automation platforms restrict our market reach to email contacts & followers.
  3. completely inform every engagement and action we take with every person: capture a complete & accurate view of each person’s behavior, profile and history of our interactions (manual or automated) throughout the lifecycle of our relationship with them. Then, make this profile available to every automated system and to every employee that might interact with that person.
  4. select the right channel for every engagement and automated action: marketers should be able to leverage all of the intelligence we have on a person to take action in the channel(s) that make the most sense for each interaction.  We should be able to listen in one channel and act in another – seamlessly.
  5. automate as much work as possible, reserving the hardest problems & most sensitive interactions for our most valuable resource (our employees): using a blend of predictive analytics, natural language processing and human expertise, we should automate as much predictable work as we can, so we can spend our scarcest resource – skilled labor – on the most important people, events and exceptions.
  6. provide analytics suitable for A/B testing cross-channel, real time engagement with individuals: support agile, data-based decision making regarding the owned, earned and paid media investments we make, down to the individual person or persona where needed. Content, contacts and market segments will be shared across multiple channels and across owned, earned and paid media. We need analytics that can deal with this complexity.

Note: some MAP vendors call their vision, “Revenue Generation” – but unless their system is closing the deal and taking the order, I think that’s stretching it a bit.

Putting aside the jargon, I think it’s easy to understand why we’ll need marketing technology like this in the future.

It’s because our customers are pressuring us to get our digital act together – and real-time, personalized engagement is what they increasingly expect. Social media makes it too darn easy for people to share bad experiences, so you must respond to people and address those issues in real time if you want to compete in the public marketplace of the future.

I am a customer of many brands myself, and I would love it if the brands I do business with would behave in such an informed & responsive manner. Wouldn’t you?

Of course, I am not the first to point out what we need. Lots of visionary technology leaders led the way. Some of them are putting their words in to product.

If you attended Marc Benioff’s keynote at last year’s Dreamforce event in San Francisco (“Business is Social”), then you heard this integrated vision in spades. With lots of emphasis on “social”.

Bill Nussey, CEO of Silverpop, describes their company as a enabler of Behavioral Marketing, which is:

Silverpop CEO, Bill Nussey

Bill Nussey

…real-time, cross-channel, insanely relevant campaigns to one person at a time automatically driven by analytics of their actions, preferences and profiles.

 

 

Silverpop’s Director of Product Strategy, Bryan Brown, further explains how real time behaviors can, and should, drive better performance:

Marc, Phil, Brian, Bryan and Bill all seem to agree that marketing is going to be real time, personal, social and data-driven. They also understand that more social media marketing features must be integrated within their platforms (see update below).

Of course, implementing this real-time demand-gen nirvana will take time and effort. There are challenges we have to overcome – starting with where we will store all of our real-time data about people.

What’s Missing: A Complete System of Record for 1-to-1 Engagement

One thing I’m sure we need (soon) is a single system of record (SOR) to house all of the data about the people that make up our market – especially social data, which is the largest data resource available about people.

Some of my colleagues in the software industry might argue that we already have this system of record – theirs – but I disagree. We’re not there yet.

So what type of enterprise platform should house it? In the enterprise software world, there seem to be four candidates:

  1. a social media monitoring/management system (SMMS): HootSuite, Sprinklr, et al
  2. a customer relationship management (CRM) system: Salesforce, SugarCRM, NimbleCRM, et al
  3. a marketing automation platform (MAP): Marketo, Eloqua, ExactTarget, Hubspot, Responsys, et al
  4. a new type of real-time marketing/customer experience platform (RTM/CEX?):  lots of startups chasing this right now

I don’t think there are any social media monitoring systems out there that are capable of serving as a single system of record for multi-channel digital marketing and engagement, so I’m not going to analyze the pros/cons of doing that.

Some think the best system of record for real-time 1-to-1 engagement is a CRM system like Salesforce.com. There are good arguments for doing this. And, there are new “Social CRM” platforms like Nimble CRM (which we use) that provide much better 360-degree views of your interactions with a person online.

Today’s SocialCRM platforms work well for on-the-ground social selling and relationship management, but there’s still that nagging issue that each person’s marketing context is missing. For example, we don’t know what emails our marketing team sent to that lead. And, we don’t know what sort of content they’ve clicked on in Twitter. It’s easy to ruin a good sales opportunity when you work like this.

While it’s theoretically possible that some of the new crop of startups focused on real time advertising and marketing in social media will take the lead, I won’t address that group here because I think it’s too early to know.

Besides, this post is long enough! There are many new companies focused on parts of this problem – just in social media (chart courtesy LUMA Partners):

Social LUMAscape

Social LUMAscape

Another potential system of record for 1-to-1 engagement is a marketing automation platform (MAP). 

Using a MAP as the system of record for real-time demand generation makes a lot of sense to me for several reasons:

  • we maintain our marketing contacts there
  • we measure cross-channel digital marketing performance there
  • we analyze and score our leads there
  • most social media engagement and marketing activity is top- (or middle-)of-the-funnel
  • most MAPs are already integrated with that other important system of record, CRM. 

If you use a MAP & a CRM platform today, then using your MAP as your marketing system of record is a “duh” conclusion.

But half of businesses haven’t made that leap yet. For them, here is a quick overview of what a marketing automation platform does:

WHAT IS A MARKETING AUTOMATION PLATFORM (MAP)?

Marketing automation platforms reduce the cost of acquiring customers by automating and integrating digital marketing tasks that companies traditionally perform in a solo’d fashion, including:

Marketing Automation features by Marketo

Marketing Automation features (by Marketo)

Marketing automation is also referred to as inbound marketing (Hubspot), behavioral marketing (Silverpop) revenue performance management (Marketo and Eloqua) and revenue marketing (The Pedowitz Group).

An important side-effect of integrating so many marketing activities around a single contact data base is that you get much better insight (and hard data) regarding how well your marketing investments are paying off in terms of leads, sales and satisfied customers. As long as all channels are integrated with your MAP, that is.

More than 20 vendors offer full-featured platforms for various industries and company sizes. Most marketing automation platforms were designed in the early- or mid-2000s, before social media came on the scene. They were designed to optimize web content management, SEO and email marketing activities. So, naturally, that’s where most of their capabilities lie. 

And business is good – demand for MAP technology increased by more than 50% in 2012.

Enter the new kid on the block, social media marketing.

In just a few years, social media marketing has grown from an experiment into a legitimate digital marketing channel that competes for billions in budget with search engines, display and email.

Closing the Gaps

mind the gap

For most digital marketers today, it is obvious that their social media data and applications must be integrated with other digital marketing efforts (eventually). Otherwise, we’re just marketing with one eye closed.

Likewise, most of the marketing automation industry executives I’ve talked with readily admit their platforms will need to integrate with many social media marketing activities.  Many are working to accomplish this right now.

But how, exactly, should these two worlds come together? what are the specific gaps that need to be closed?

Integration gaps exist on both sides of the divide: within social media monitoring and marketing platforms; and, within marketing automation platforms.

In social media platforms, for example, users do not have access to critical information about customers and prospects stored in CRM and MAP platforms. As a result, many social media teams lack a complete view of the company’s relationship with a person during an engagement. This is not a good thing.

On the marketing automation side of the house, there are at least four integration gaps with social media platforms that need to be addressed:

  1. most MAPs treat social media as a content publishing (broadcast) channel, rather than as a place to engage with people directly (which is what it is). For example, most MAPs lack social media prospecting tools, social customer segmentation, social lead scoring and real-time 1-to-1 engagement panels. Hubspot’s new Social InBox product stands out as an exception.

  2. most MAPs limit your social marketing reach to existing contacts (email contacts and followers). This flies in the face of the reality that very few brands are directly connected to more than 10% of their socially-active prospects on any social network. If you limit your reach to fans and followers, then you’re ignoring 90% of your prospects!  Act-On’s Twitter Prospector tool, LoopFuse’s Nearstream tool and Vocus’ Buying Signals offering are recent attempts by marketing automation providers to close this gap.

  3. MAPs rely on keywords to identify social media posts that matter. Analyzing people and posts for commercial intent is extremely important in social media marketing because that’s how we identify actionable events, prioritize our work & save time monitoring. Unfortunately, due to the conversational language of social networks, searching posts for keywords is not a reliable way to surface commercial intent in social media. Leading social media monitoring platforms offer natural language processing options for this reason. To get a feel for the difference, watch this video in which we demo keyword-filtered streams next to intent-filtered streams inside HootSuite.

  4. MAPs don’t incorporate enough social data in their analytics. Hubspot’s Megan Kearney recently wrote an excellent piece about the gaps between SMMS and MAP platforms, in which she commented on the social analytics gap:

By integrating social media into full marketing analytics that pull data from all channels, more and more marketers are starting to be able to understand how many leads, customers, and dollars their social media efforts are generating and what type of content generates the highest quality lead.

The Race To Integrate Is Underway

salesforce-exacttarget

Oracle’s recent acquisitions of Eloqua & Collective Intellect and Salesforce.com’s acquisitions of Radian6 and ExactTarget/Pardot are clear signals that more MAP-social integration is in the cards.

It will take time for these products to be integrated, but it’s pretty clear that real-time demand generation platforms are on the way.

Another sign: leading marketing automation providers are now adding native social media marketing features to their offerings, for example:

Nice progress, but a lot of integration remains.

Which begs the question: what can a marketer do today to bridge the social-MAP gap?


NOTE: If you had the patience to get this far, then I’ll let you in on a secret: this is the first of a series of three articles. In our next two posts, we’ll explain how you can tap into the massive amount of social data created every day to improve the performance of your marketing automation systems – even if your organization doesn’t use social media that much.

How To Mine Twitter for Prospects & Customer Issues using HootSuite [video demonstration]
Did you know? Dolphin teeth are used for grasping, not chewing. They have no jaw muscles for chewing.

Do you use HootSuite for social media listening and engagement?

Then you might be interested in the following 11-minute demonstration video, which shows how to use the NeedTagger app in HootSuite to monitor Twitter for three types of business opportunities:

  1. Sales prospects – 1 stream per region
  2. Customer complaints – 1 stream per product line
  3. People who need your content – 1 stream per topic or blog post

 

Note: NeedTagger is FREE to try, but you will need a paid plan to use more than one stream at a time.

 

NeedTagger is an intent marketing (filtering) platform that helps you find and connect directly with people who need your content, products and assistance right now.

Our apps help front-line sales and marketing professionals save time and stay focused on social selling, content marketing and customer support activities.

Our API-based data processing service (in private beta) helps marketers gain deeper insights into their market and extract actionable events from noisy social streams.

Already use NeedTagger?  then:

 


For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling"
  Check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

The Flipboard Effect: What If They Never See Our Content?
Did you know? Marine dolphins see quite well both below and above the water.

It took Google thirteen years to fill the online marketplace with search-friendly customers and web-enabled vendors.

Today, blogging, social sharing and marketing automation are filling the marketplace with content – and most of it is crap.

In response, your customers and prospects are starting to use apps like Flipboard to filter the crap out of their media streams – then sharing only the best with others.

What is your strategy for dealing with this shift in buyer behavior?

For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, "Social Selling" For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

 

Content Marketing Takes Off

During the past five years, content marketing has become a respected field in marketing. Spending on content marketing technologies is surging – dramatically:

  • The Content Marketing Institute reports that 45% of marketers will increase their content marketing budgets in 2013; the CMI now has 38,000 subscribers
  • eMarketer says that content marketing has become the top digital marketing priority for 2013
  • AdAge reports that 81% of marketers have content marketing in their budgets for 2013

The adoption of content as a marketing tool is a big reason that marketing automation vendors like Hubspot, Demandforce, Marketo and Eloqua (now Oracle) are growing like weeds:

  • Hubspot recently announced that sales of its all-in-one inbound marketing suite rose 82% in the past 12 months to $52 million. Total customers increased 42%, indicating strong pricing power.
  • In Marketo’s IPO filing, just released, they reported 80% growth on $58 million.

All of a sudden, it seems that companies of all stripes are hungry to learn content publishing, targeting and distribution practices.  Their aim?  to create and market timely, quality content in a coordinated fashion across multiple digital channels including email, web, mobile and social. So customers find them, instead of the other way around.

Blame It On Google

Google started all of this when they launched PageRank and created the first content marketing industry: Search Engine Marketing.

For the first time ever in a public setting, Google offered a convenient way to both find the content we need and to market our content (website) to those who need it.

Today, Google understands and benefits greatly from the shift in behavior they enabled.

Google also knows that content marketing and social media are tightly linked during branding, shopping and research activities. This is why they continue to tweak their page rank algorithms to prioritize high-quality content that is frequently shared by others.  The Penguin release in April, 2012, focused on prioritizing quality content, and the more recent Panda release started incorporating social signals into search engine rankings.

Google’s adoption of social signals is huge. It forces businesses to start sharing ever-increasing amounts of high quality content in social media – or risk losing the attention of their market.

I think the recent Google algorithm changes is the biggest reason every business is now scrambling to get their content/inbound marketing act together. So blame them.

The End of Cold Calls?

It is clear that buyer behavior is changing in most industries. And the pace of change seems to be accelerating.

In our personal quest for economic independence (and better deals), we all seem to be choosing to rely more and more on web sites, search engines and social networks to guide our decision making.

Ask any B2B marketing or sales professional, and they will tell you that an increasing number of prospects are ignoring sales calls in favor of researching their options online.

Ask any consumer brand marketer, and they will tell you about the declining effectiveness of traditional media and direct mail.

Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for people who hate cold calls (on either side).

coldcallobjection

The Rise of Marketing Automation

To meet the demand for more efficient content marketing, over 20 marketing automation vendors including, MarketoHubspotEloqua and DemandForce now offer sophisticated platforms that help companies of all sizes manage email interactions, publish and track content and manage social media marketing in an integrated fashion.

Their common business purpose is to help marketers create and distribute high-quality content to the right audience at the right time, with lead capture features and metrics for every step in the conversion process.

But, as VentureBeat recently explained, there is a dark side to marketing automation: by making it easier for more companies to publish more content more frequently, every potential customer now now must sift through a LOT more content in social streams and in search engine results.

Social Sharing Ups the Ante

Due to the content-sharing behavior that buttresses most social networks, it’s only natural that social media marketing, content marketing and marketing automation are all joined at the hip.

Today, most marketers know that if you’ve published good quality content on your website or blog, then you ought to be sharing it in social media as much as possible.

But marketing content to search engines is quite different than marketing content in social media.

Search engines wait for someone to ask them a question; social media streams are endless rivers of content that flow fast. Keeping your message in front of a socially-active audience takes a lot of timing and publishing skill – and reams of fresh content.

In other words, social sharing has increased the content marketing challenge by at least one order of magnitude.

Harvard Business Review has even piled on, to remind us that Marketers Are Not Publishing Enough Content.

With social media marketing becoming a standard budget line item, marketing automation vendors are beginning to add social prospecting and social publishing features.  For example,

  • Marketo, Eloqua and Hubspot offer social media publishing and content sharing features.
  • Most marketing automation tools offer social network/account integration features like follow-me buttons in emails, one-click publishing of content to social networks and traffic analytics for social media posts.
  • Leading marketing automation vendor, Act-On, offers a keyword-based tool called Twitter Prospector that customers seem to love (see comments on blog post)
  • Hubspot recently released their Social Inbox tool that lets you follow your marketing contacts in social media, and when they use certain keywords
  • LooptFuse (a marketing automation platform) and NearStream (a social media lead monitoring tool) recently merged their companies
  • Hubspot and HootSuite recently announced #ClosedLoopSocial, a product integration designed to improve content marketing and lead generation efforts around existing contacts

How Much Content Can We Take?

Using marketing automation and content marketing technologies, now any business can be both a publisher and a distributor of content in multiple channels. In social networks, a single piece of content can get shared 100s of times a day.

But:  in a world where personal attention is limited – and the volume of content is exploding – how does one compete?

Velocity Partners recently published a humorous but spot-on analysis of where we are headed next in content marketing.  It paints a picture of a market FLOODED WITH CONTENT, where only the absolute best will attract attention.  The rest will be white noise.

If you want confirmation of this, take a look at what the most successful social media brands are doing today.

James Gross, co-founder of digital content-marketing startup Percolate, noted:

Red Bull is creating 100-200 tweets per day. It’s a leading indicator of where brands have to go. I’m fine with the newsroom metaphor [for brand marketing] if it leads us to brands creating more relevant content.

But here’s the rub for most marketers:  not everyone can create high quality content all the time.  Not everyone can be the life of the party.

Jane! stop this crazy thing!

Fast-forward this trend a few years, and it becomes clear that there will be waayyy more content flying past our eyes than we’ll ever have time to consume.

The implication of this crappy content conundrum is easy to see.

The long-term challenge for marketers is not to publish great content.  The real challenge is on the demand side:  how will we get our content through personal media filters?

In other words, you can push all the great content you want onto the web and out to customers via email, but if people aren’t searching the web or checking their emails for fresh content any more, it’s not doing you much good.

And this is exactly what’s happening.

jane stop this crazy thing

Get Ready To Be Filtered

The competition for who gets to filter media for our consumption is fierce.

Over the past 100 years, responsibility for filtering & curating the media we consume has moved all the way from the supply side to the demand side of the media supply chain.

Control over media has moved from authors; to publishing conglomerates,  distributors & retailers (Amazon & Comcast); and, to digital media aggregators (Huffington Post and Netflix).  Most recently, control has begun shifting to social networks (Facebook).

On established social networks like Facebook and Twitter, we are already past the content saturation point for most users.  Consider:  

  • If we actually saw all of the content shared with us by our friends and the Likes we have access to on Facebook, we would quickly be overwhelmed by our Newsfeed.  So, Facebook uses EdgeRank to throttle the messages we receive from our friends. 
  • On Twitter, power users receive thousands of tweets an hour in their stream. So they rely on tools like HootSuite and NeedTagger to filter the fire hose for signal.
  • To try and retain their position as media curators for their users, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook continue to re-design their interfaces to provide a more efficient media consumption experience.

Today, the consumer is assuming control.

The widespread availability of personal media curation apps like Pinterest, Tumblr and Flipboard are making it easy for your prospects and customers to filter and curate their own media streams.

Why go to ANY website for your content, when you can carry a media curation app around in your pocket?

Given the extraordinarily fast rise in users of these apps, it seems pretty clear that people like controlling what they read.

For example, take Flipboard.

(Full Disclosure: I am an investor in Flipboard).

flipboard 86174v5-max-250x250

Flipboard’s recent 2.0 release ups their game as a mobile-friendly way for people to filter (curate) any type of content, then share what they like best back to their personal networks (ie, stronger social signals). Using Flipboard 2.0, I can follow people I trust and subscribe to topical magazines published by professional curators to get all of the content I need – music, video, photos, short form and long form content, whatever. I can even shop there.

Personal curation platforms are booming as a category. Twitter (+200mm users in 7 yrs), Flipboard (+60mm users in 3 yrs), Pinterest (+40mm in 3 yrs) and Tumblr are redefining how people find and consume content in all its forms.

This shift in behavior is occurring really quickly, too. For example, Flipboard just announced they grew from 20 million to over 50 million users in the past 6 months.  Flipboard is a mobile-only app!

Perhaps most ominous is the fact that Google is clearly trying to eliminate the need for people to search for content (at all).  As evidence, check out Google’s announcements at I/O 2013.

google-io-keynote-167

google-io-keynote-2013 by Mashable

Google is clearly working hard to enable consumer experiences that are best described as serendipitous (one term for this type of technology is ambient intelligence).

Google expects us to all rely upon a select few web services who know what we want to deliver important content and information to us, when we need it. Without forcing us to search or ask for it.

Features like this are already embedded in many of Google’s strategy platforms such as G+, Google Glass, Google Now, etc.

How Should Marketers Respond?

In our opinion, there are three competencies that modern marketers must master to thrive in an era of customer-filtered content, as follows:

1. Content Curation: build strong in-house content curation (not just publishing) skills, so you can publish the Flipboard magazines and Pinterest Boards your target market wants to follow.

2. Customer Acquisition (Digital Direct Marketing): get very good at mining web apps, personal curation platforms and social networks for customers. This means getting really good at data mining (identifying prospects you want to target), maintaining an active presence on every network that matters to your business; and, buying native ads on the apps and networks your customers use most.

3. Real-Time Marketing Optimization: you must ensure that you rank high in the search-like web services that your target customers rely on for real time/personalized recommendations – services such as Google Now or anything built on top of Google Search, for example. Many of the principles of SEO will remain sound (great quality content, domain authority, etc.).  But traditional SEO will no longer be enough.  You are going to have to get to know each web service and social network on an intimate basis, and you’ll have to optimize each according to your unique requirements.

 

The age of content marketing and noisy streams has arrived. Your customers and buyers are finding new ways to filter-out your content. What is your strategy for dealing with this change in buyer behavior?

 

How We Can Help

NeedTagger is a customer acquisition platform that helps marketers sift through noisy social streams to identify meaningful customer engagement opportunities for their business.

Our approach is the exact opposite of “spray and pray”; instead, we help you find and connect with people who actually need your content, products, services and assistance right now.