Ted Rubin

Are You Laying The Groundwork For Your Brand's "Infinite Moments of Truth"?

Moments of Truth are well-known concepts in the marketing world, from research (Zero Moment of Truth)… to shopping (First Moment of Truth) … to owning/using a product (Second Moment of Truth). Now, in a recent blog post, David Berkowitz introduces one more: the Infinite Moment of Truth (IMOT), which is all about sharing the experience of any (or all) of the other Moments of Truth.  Berkowitz suggests the IMOT is infinite in three ways:

  • the number of people a consumer can share experiences with
  • the ways they can share experiences
  • and the period of time during which they can share their experiences

Each of the Moments of Truth provide their own marketing opportunities, but the Infinite Moment of Truth is the one that can harness the full power of social media and start the “moment of truth cycle” again by influencing the choice a consumer makes at the Zero moment of truth.

The consumer purchases a product, uses it, loves it, and shares this experience with their networks… and someone in their network gets to the Zero Moment of Truth and says “I will purchase.”   In order to get to the sharing part of this equation, however, the consumer needs to have an impactful experience – and it is up to us (the marketers) to make sure our consumers have something to talk about, and have various simple ways to talk about it.

The secret to getting to this coveted IMOT is in building relationships with our consumers.  In the process of building relationships, we ask our consumers important questions, we pay attention to their preferences and needs, and we build an emotional connection with them.  All of these actions make the memorable impact that triggers sharing, such as the sharing of product recommendations….and recommendations lead to purchase.  Your ROR (Return on Relationship) here is strong!

The real value in sharing is when the same person shares more than once, and with more than one person, and in more than one way.  Actually, the possibilities are infinite, giving us the Infinite Moment of Truth.   The people who turn a one-time sharing into an IMOT (which often leads to purchase) are Brand Advocates.

Brand Advocates are the facilitators of the Infinite Moments of Truth around our products. As we put together our marketing plans, we need to start thinking in terms of how to spark IMOTs, or in other words, how to engage our Brand Advocates. 

Whether we talk about IMOTs, ROR, or WOM (Word of Mouth), the goal is the same: delight your consumer, then work as hard as you can to give them the tools and reasons to tell the rest of their worlds about your product.

-Ted Rubin, Social Strategist

Google+: A Platform, Not The Message

Google+ is here -- what do you need to change about your brand message to leverage this new tool? Nothing!

Now more than ever, your brand message needs to remain strong and consistent, and your focus needs to stay on building relationships.   Don’t let new tools (like Google+) distract you from your brand message!  As I continue to say, successful social media marketing is all about relationships, and the tools simply facilitate those relationships. Without the people and connections, the tools are meaningless.

I am not, however, suggesting that you ignore Google+, because it does have the potential to be a powerful social media marketing tool.  Make sure someone on your marketing team learns the intricacies of Google+ ... and by all means integrate this new platform into your social media marketing strategy in whatever way serves your brand message and your company goals.  There is an amazing opportunity for brands to build interactive two way engagement, interaction, and sharing within this platform, but consumers will have to adopt it to make worthwhile and only time will answer that question.

My main point here is a caution not to let the Google+ fervor take your focus away from your current consumer relationships.  You still need to offer your consumers consistent value through your products, services, and content, and you still need to engage with them through their current platforms, even as you may be looking to expand to Google+.

Your consumer/brand relationships are the fuel that make each platform work, so don’t neglect them when a new promising platform shows up.  You can actually turn this into a two-way beneficial conversation by asking your consumers what they think about the new platform, and asking them for ideas about how your brand could effectively use the new platform in a way that works for them.   This is a perfect chance to tap into consumer insights and show them you value their opinions.

Bottom line: new and old platforms will come and go... it is your message and strategy that count, so make sure they are clear, strong and consistent!

-Ted Rubin, Social Strategist

The Science of Social Media Marketing: Experiment, Experiment, Experiment!

There are no true experts or gurus in this social media space -- we are ALL still trying to figure this out. When I said that at the 140 Character's Conference: New York City (#140conf) the audience applauded... because we all assume that someone else has all the answers to social media marketing success. The truth is that social media is still too new as a serious business tool for any one of us to know all the best social media marketing tactics or even understand best how to leverage every platform.

So why am I (@TedRubin) the #1 followed CMO on Twitter (and been so for close to two years) with over 54,000 followers? Because I don't assume I know everything about social media marketing, so I focus my time on building relationships. Because I pay attention, respond to, and interact with my followers… and I am not afraid to experiment publicly to see what topics are most relevant to my network(s), and what content is most useful to them.

Think about it this way -- what do you do when you are on a date?  You get to know someone.  You try various "tactics" and see which ones delight your date.  And then you keep going with what works -- you don't stop interacting and you try to stay interesting and relevant.  You keep communicating and you keep building the relationship by asking questions and sharing information about yourself to build trust, all while making yourself available and easy to reach.  (By the way, don't forget our smart phones can actually make and receive PHONE CALLS!).

More than ever, marketing is about connecting to people.  Social media is simply a platform that facilitates the connection.  The different platforms will come and go, but the need to connect and build relationships with our audience members will only grow stronger. The more skilled we can become with building relationships, the greater chance that our brand will stand out in a crowd, both now and in the future.

Since all relationships are slightly different and there are no social media marketing gurus to tell you exactly how to do this, I highly recommend you ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What if you took a few days to experiment with your social media marketing approach – what would you do differently?
  2. In what ways would you reach out to your audience and your consumers?
  3. How would you court them differently?
  4. How would you experiment with delighting them?

…. then go DO it! Your customers, and prospective customers, want “relevant” and “valuable” – so why not figure out what that is and give it to them??

- Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

Don't Overlook the Baby Boomers!

If you think that the place to reach Baby Boomers (born between 1946 - 1964) is anywhere that does not include technology, think again!  Boomers in the U.S. are technology-savvy enough to comprise 1/3 of all TV viewers, online users, social media users and Twitter users.

If that’s not enough to make you think twice about where you’re putting your social media marketing dollars, consider that there are 78 million Boomers in the U.S., many who have “shown a willingness to try new brands and products.” In fact, they spend 38.5% of CPG dollars! (source: Nielsen).  You can’t afford to overlook them!

Online is becoming the perfect place to reach Boomers.  They are being neglected in brick-and-mortar retail stores which mostly cater to younger consumers -- with low lighting, loud music, and young employees.  This can easily be solved online, but few marketers are stepping up.  We have a huge opportunity to meet Boomer needs online… this is the perfect time to start!

We do need to make sure, however, not to just “go after the money.”  As with any social media marketing campaign, we need to take the time to build trust with our potential consumers.  Boomers likely won’t buy a product just for the cool factor, and aren’t drawn into each new hyped product, so it is especially important to focus on building a relationship with them and activating Advocates who will not only recommend the product, but actively encourage their friends and family to try it.

With the Boomer audience in particular, our guiding principle needs to be “Make NO Assumptions!”  Even if you are a Boomer, genuine relationship-based marketing requires that you make no assumptions.

Make NO assumptions about:

  • Their needs, and/or how they want their needs to be addressed
  • Their technical skills/experience
  • Their preferences (re: products, services, online tools, marketing contact…)
  • Their habits, relationships, work, etc., etc.

ASK first, LISTEN next, ASK again (for clarification), then ACT and INTEGRATE your learning.  That is the sequence that builds genuine relationships, and what will build Boomers’ trust and turn them into Advocates. We have an untapped Boomer market waiting to be served online.  How will you help fill that gap?

- Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

It’s Time to Give Your Brand Advocates a Promotion

Marketers are starting to realize that Brand Advocates are important enough to be part of our marketing strategies…  but in my view, we need to take this beyond our Advocates just being “a part” of what we do.  We need to value our Advocates enough to promote them – in both meanings of the word: to bring visibility to, and to raise up.

1. We need to help our Advocates be heard.

We need to get the word out about the value our Advocates add to our brand/ product/ service.  Advocates want – and deserve -- to be recognized, so you should be their microphone:  re-tweet their comments, post their insights on your websites, share their brightest ideas throughout your social networks and make sure to give them credit for all of their work.

As diligent as you are at making sure your Advocates hear you … that is how diligent you need to be about making sure your Advocates are heard by others.

2. We need to place our Brand Advocates in a position higher than the one they currently hold in our companies.

Are you treating your Advocates like prized members of your team? You should be... because they are!   Give them and their role a "promotion" in your marketing team so your team places even more value on their role.  More than an actual position promotion, this is a paradigm shift.  Advocates should be viewed internally as co-leads, with their opinions and insights informing and even directing innovation for your brand.

Promoting our Brand Advocates requires a willingness to give back to them in response to all they do for us.  This give-give cycle is the new marketing, so we need to allocate resources to building relationships with the people who believe in our brand and want to share it with their networks.

In your next marketing team meeting, ask each other about your Brand Advocates:  How do you position them? Is it time for a promotion?

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

The importance of brand “appeal”

More and more, I like the word “appeal” and its implications for marketing and facilitating the building of relationships. The definition of appeal” (according to the World English Dictionary) is “the power to attract, please, stimulate, or interest.” So, if we apply that to marketing, it means that brands that think in terms of “appeal” are more likely to try to attract, please, stimulate, and provide interest for the consumer -- all behaviors of engagement, which is the foundation of relationships.

Appeal” speaks to much more than just what consumers like…  "appeal” is about what draws them in, then keeps them returning and sharing the experience with their networks. This has important implications for creating Advocates, who in turn create sales.

  1. What does it take to attract someone to your brand / product / service?
  2. What does it take to please and stimulate (inspire to action) your consumers?
  3. What does it take to provide interest for your consumer?

These are all questions that marketers need to be asking not just when creating an overall marketing strategy, but also every day and with every task.

When you focus on attracting a consumer, you are constantly paying attention to their preferences and their needs, catching their attention by offering something they will LIKE/LOVE and/or something that addresses their needs. Remember, it is all about them, not you.

To truly please a consumer, you need to reach below the surface and connect with what is important to them. What do they believe in?  What do they long for?  What do they see as the answer to making their daily lives easier?  Find those answers, and then determine how your brand/product/service fits in.  If your brand doesn’t fit here, it’s time for re-work and innovation!   You need to be able to get “underneath their skin” so to speak (but in a good way!).

Stimulate in this case means something like “inspire to action.” You have attracted and pleased your consumer, but if they do not take action, your marketing efforts see no ROI (Return on Investment).  What you need here is to invest in the relationship so you can experience a significant ROR (Return on Relationship).  Use social media to engage with your consumers: ask them questions, clarify their answers, find out what they need, and keep the conversation going.   The more you inspire your consumers, the more likely they are to take action – like buying your product and telling their friends to do the same!

Then keep your consumers interested. Innovate, don’t stagnate. The marketplace is lining up behind you waiting to catch your consumers’ attention the second they lose interest in your brand.  You can’t afford to keep pushing out the same content day after day, so focus on the relationship and the conversations will naturally stay fresh, engaging, and interesting.

Don’t settle for mediocre.  Strive to appeal to your consumers and watch your brand thrive.

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

Does your company embrace transparency?

ZuberRants contributor, Ted Rubin, recently wrote about a fundamental value that every company should embody in today’s social world: authenticity. Last week, I attended the Social Media Optimization Conference in San Francisco during which a panel discussion touched upon another core value that every company must embrace: transparency.

During “How to Build and Leverage Your Social Graph,” the panel discussed what to do when an unhappy customer is blasting your company through social media on both their personal profiles and your branded profiles. Sally Falkow, President of PRESSfeed, advised to take the issue offline, or at least to email, and out of the public eye where you can quietly resolve the problem. Khris Loux, CEO of Echo, disagreed and said brands should do the exact opposite. Instead, keep the conversation online and in the social media world where people can see how you consistently and gracefully provide effective customer service.

I completely agree with the latter approach. We now live in a transparent world whether your company embraces transparency or not.

Even if you move the conversation behind closed doors, what is stopping that angry customer from quoting your email response and tweeting it or posting it on their blog for the rest of the world to see, comment, and fuel the fire?

And, let’s face it. No brand is perfect. There will always be disgruntled customers. But companies who demonstrate their swiftness in social media monitoring and can follow up with a solution to their customers’ problem, are capable of turning detractors into Advocates. In fact, a recent survey from The Strauss Group found that 95% of dissatisfied customers would do business again with a company if their problems were solved quickly and satisfactorily. Wouldn’t you like to show that to your entire community?

A few months ago I was one of these angry customers that turned to social media to vent my frustration with AT&T. Irritated and impatient from being put on hold for over 15 minutes, I tweeted (and excuse my French), “AT&T is on my shit list.” An AT&T representative immediately replied to me, asked that I send him my number via Direct Message, and then resolved my issue over the phone. (In this case, it made sense to take the issue offline due to efficiency.)

As an avid social media user, I was extremely impressed with their prompt response and appreciated that they solved my problem in a five minute phone call. They were able to turn me, as a detractor, into an Advocate. I even posted a follow up tweet, “Wow, @ATT is on top of their social media game. Thanks for your help!”

Keep the conversation on Twitter or your Facebook page so you can show both happy and unhappy customers that you are listening and value their opinion and satisfaction with your brand. Plus, your customer service experience will probably will make its way back to the social web anyway. Transparency is an inherent component of social media which simply cannot be ignored.

-Cara Fuggetta, Marketing Manager, Zuberance

Authenticity increases ROR (Return on Relationship)

“It’s not authentic if everyone loves you.” – Stephen Strong (Alberto Culver) at the Chicago Brand Advocacy Series. That is a message that every marketer needs to hear loud and clear, especially as the focus on social media gets stronger and recommendations carry more purchasing weight than ever before!  The term “authenticity” gets used a lot now, but how many brands actually subscribe to being authentic, not just saying they are?

True authenticity in marketing requires brands to change their public filters.  It used to be that a whitewashed image was the way to get consumers’ notice and buy-in (literally)…but now, if brands filter out any and all slight imperfections, consumers quickly get wary.  If the only product/service reviews you allow the public to hear are about how amazing your product/service is, you quickly lose authenticity points.

In today’s market, REAL trumps PERFECT because real is what creates TRUST ... and trust is what makes WOM recommendations work.  Consumers who trust your brand are much more likely to become Brand Advocates, knowing you will consistently deliver on your product and service promises.  In fact, 76% of consumers recommended companies they trust to a friend or colleague (source: Edelman).

One key way to gain consumers’ trust is to build authentic relationships with them. Give consumers ongoing chances to interact with you and your brand, so they can see that you always tell the truth. Don’t waste your valuable marketing time making things up because your consumers will sense that you are not telling the truth.  Do your products and services have all perfect recommendations, as your brand claims?  Maybe – but unlikely.  100% on-time delivery?  Maybe – but unlikely.

Of course you don’t need to announce your errors or be proud of performance inconsistencies, but if consumers bring them up publicly, consider NOT filtering those conversations out of the media.  Speak directly to any issues consumers have with your brand, and let your problem-solving conversations be public.  These authentic conversations are the ones that build ongoing relationships – the ones that create Brand Advocates.

In my opinion, our new marketers’ motto should be “LESS fabrication, MORE facilitation.” In other words, don't waste resources whitewashing your brand.  Put your resources instead into giving Advocates the tools to tell their truth about your brand…because that is what consumers trust and what they trust, they will buy.   “LESS fabrication, MORE facilitation” = a boost to your ROR (Return on Relationship).

True authenticity is one major thing that can set your brand apart from the rest of today’s highly competitive market.  How authentic is your brand??

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

What is Your Social ID?

Brand identification is changing right along with the other shifts social media has brought about.  It is no longer as much about  the company logo, the colors or whether we use our middle initial in visual materials or not; it is now about “Social I.D.” – our voice and the way we socially present ourselves online. What is your Social I.D.?  What identifies your brand (personal or corporate) throughout your social media interactions and offerings? If your answer includes the colors of your website, you need to think very carefully about where you are focusing your brand identity efforts.  I am not suggesting that colors and logos and graphical elements are not important, but I am suggesting that the way you interact with others online is the identification that will catch the most attention… and hold it the longest.

So what specific actions does a Social I.D. include?  No matter what your brand purpose is or what  products and/or services you provide, all of the following will influence your Social I.D.:

  • Responsiveness: How responsive are you in your communications?  Responding to inquiries, suggestions, and kudos should get as much attention as complaints do.
  • Thought Leadership: How innovative are your ideas?  Are you content to say what’s already been said, or do you share your unique insights to provide real value to your audience?
  • Content Creation: Are you just re-using the other guy’s information, or are you creating new content, in new ways, that your audience can USE, then re-use on your behalf? 
  • Relevance: Do you pay enough attention to your audience to know and provide what is relevant to them?
  • Demeanor: How do you come across to your audience -- are your interactions friendly, helpful, gracious and authentic, or do they suggest you are tired, annoyed, or not being genuine?

Every one of these areas is important because a positive Social I.D. fuels positive Word of Mouth and creates Brand Advocates. Your Social I.D. is about the interactive experience your audience experiences with you and your brand… and that experience is what your Advocates will talk about – so make it positive!

What value are you providing for those with whom you interact?   Think about it… and make any changes you need so your Social I.D. works “for” you, not against you.

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

Recommendations Are the New Advertising

Visa gets it – that the marketing world has changed significantly, and even the big players need to change along with it.  In fact, Visa’s head of marketing, Antonio Lucia, reported that Visa has increased their digital media investment from about 11% to at least 36%.

But Visa not just putting their money into digital media, they are also changing their approach to marketing.  Lucia said last month in his keynote at ad:tech San Francisco that Visa is now guided by three principles of social media, with one of them being “recommendations are the new advertising.

I couldn’t agree more!  Consumers are overwhelmed by ads, and even if a brand does manage to get consumers’ attention by traditional advertising, they have a huge trust hurdle to jump.  So consumers are turning now to recommendations (Earned Media) as their trusted information source.

When someone wants to know what service provider to use, or which brand provides the most consistently-performing product at a price that meets their budget, where do they turn?  Social media. They ask their friends, relatives, and colleagues… and even people they don’t know, but still trust simply because they are part of their extended social network.  The key being that another individual – not a brand promising perfection via one of its ads -- recommended a service or product.

Some marketers might see this shift away from traditional advertising as a negative shift, but I see it as a huge opportunity for marketers.   Recommendations are more likely to lead to action (a purchase or passing on the recommendation, for example) due to their interpersonal nature, and also because recommendations are often requested with the intent to purchase.

Our job as marketers then needs to shift from creating the most eye-catching advertisement ever to facilitating and nurturing relationships that lead to these powerful recommendations. It’s these relationships that create Brand Advocates – those people who are so delighted by our product/service/brand that they can’t wait to tell their friends and their whole social networks about their experience.

We need to make it EASY for Brand Advocates to make these brand-reinforcing recommendations. Give them the tools to interact with your brand so they can hear your consistent message, ask their questions, give you feedback, and then pass your message on to their network.  Those recommendations will catch fire in ways that traditional advertising simply will not.

Take a look at your marketing strategy – how many times does the word “recommendations” or “Brand Advocates” show up?  I bet there is room for more!

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist