The huge marketing opportunity created by the social Web is a delicate balance, because brand promotion and commerce are not always the drivers behind one's social motivations. See how cool vendors in social marketing help digital marketers do it right.
In a digital world, positive sentiment about brands can be amplified to thousands, even millions, of people. As Visa's global CMO Antonio Lucio says, "Recommendations are the new advertising." Vendors such as Zuberance and Influitive help mobilize and scale these advocates.
Consumers tolerate marketing on social networks if it gives them opportunities for discounts, more relevant offers, or access to promotions, something Woobox helps marketers facilitate.
As more marketers request credentials in return for personalized content and offers, consumers struggle to keep their IDs straight. Janrain's social sign-in can ease the self-identification burden on the consumer, help deliver a targeted, personalized experience, and offer better data and insight back to marketers.
Digital marketers are learning that one's social connections don't necessarily form a qualified target (just because you drive a Volvo doesn't mean your friends want one). 140 Proof targets social ads based on the public interest graph, which leverages the stated, shared interests between individuals — creating a more highly qualified target.
If you haven't put structure and process around advocacy marketing, start now. One of the first discoveries that marketers encounter is that more than half their customers are willing to publicly advocate their favorite products online.
Incorporate promotions into your social marketing plans to increase or activate your follower base. Use test-and-learn experiences to help you understand the impact of promotional integration.
Determine the importance that secure and/or personalized digital experiences will have on delivering impactful digital campaigns. To the extent that this is a critical factor in your campaign delivery, explore social sign-in as an alternative to traditional credentialing approaches.
This research does not constitute an exhaustive list of vendors in social marketing, but rather highlights how five innovative vendors are helping marketing executives harness the power or social. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
When social media became an accepted marketing channel, digital marketers were encouraged to engage in two-way conversations with their digital fans. They adapted quickly, but began to wonder if they could do even more with their growing fan base. Two of our cool vendors, Zuberance and Influitive, help marketers do just that, by finding and turning advocates on social networks into an auxiliary sales force.
Two other cool vendors help marketers improve the customer's social experience. Woobox capitalizes on why consumers are willing to engage with brands on Facebook: to claim offers and discounts. Janrain simplifies the process of managing multiple online identities to remove the "digital hassle" often associated with the user's broad social participation.
Finally, there's 140 Proof, a social ad platform that targets users based on the public interest graph. The graph reveals what consumers like, what moves them, and what facets of their personality comprise who they are. These connections can be stronger and more telling than simply who they are friends with, leading to a more qualified target.
San Francisco, California ( www.140proof.com )
Analysis by Richard Fouts and Julie Hopkins
140 Proof began by parlaying the results of its social data analysis into targeted ads in social networking apps. It has since extended its technology with Native Ads for Social Sites, which lets advertisers run campaigns on blogging platforms such as WordPress and Tumblr.
Why Cool: 140 Proof's 140-character ads (and 140-second videos) are targeted to specific personas based on the public interest graph. Unlike the social graph, where targeted ads are based on connections between individuals that know each other, interest graph targeting leverages the stated shared interests between individuals (that don't necessarily know each other). 140 Proof was the first vendor to offer this type of scalable social advertising platform, which reaches more than 40 million social users with its Relevance Engine. 140 Proof supports a myriad of smartphone games, tablet weather apps, desktop utilities, messaging apps, browser extensions, and the place where digital advertising began, the website. 140 Proof also offers a full range of options for rich-media ads, video ads, and mobile banners.
Challenges: Success is highly dependent on the quality of the data modeling. 140 Proof's algorithms are challenged with managing a great deal of noise, since the quality of the ad is only as good as the strength of the social user's stated intent (an auto enthusiast follows BMW, but may have no intention of ever buying one). So, the quality of the target is only as good as the authenticity and strength of the audience's intent. Nevertheless, vendors such as 140 Proof are in high demand, as marketers seek ways to capitalize on the social user who is eager to connect with others when making purchasing decisions.
Who Should Care: Brand marketers and digital agencies committed to targeted, relevant advertising, as well as the gold mine the social Web offers should consider vendors such as 140 Proof. Although the creep factor associated with the "Orwellian" nature of targeted ads still exists, it's taking an interesting turn. Consumers now report they are actually disappointed when the providers they've visited or have talked about online aren't serving up tailored ads. In fact, consumers are starting to accept re-targeted ads as a type of reminder.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada ( www.influitive.com )
Analysis by Richard Fouts
Advocacy marketing that harnesses the social Web is often seen as a consumer marketing tool, while B2B marketers are thought of as reference sellers. We include Influitive — and its flagship advocacy product AdvocateHub — because of its exclusive, laser beam focus on the B2B marketer. Reference programs, while effective, are time consuming and expensive to sustain. With 50% of all B2B purchasing decisions coming from informal peer recommendations, Influitive went to work putting consumer-style advocacy marketing into the hands of the B2B marketer.
Why Cool: Influitive boldly designed a platform specifically for the B2B marketer who wanted to extend reference programs into the greater power of large-scale advocacy. B2B buyers have a stake in the long-term success of their vendors, who are often central to their strategic intent. Influitive's AdvocateHub lets customers participate directly in the marketing and sales campaigns of their favorite vendors (and be recognized for their efforts with innovative gamification techniques). Influitive recently acquired Engagio, a platform it is integrating to manage, follow, search, and discover Web conversations from commenting platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, Disqus, Foursquare, YouTube, Wordpress, Stack Exchange, Angie's List, and StockTwits.
Challenges: Influitive's platform disrupts the existing advocacy practices of its clients and prospects; practices that reach across customer reference programs, product launches, referral programs, events, social campaigns and field marketing. Advisory boards, user groups and Net Promoter Score initiatives add even more complexity to the advocacy activities of B2B marketing organizations. Influitive will need consulting and advisory services to help its prospects and clients bring advocacy together under a single initiative to fully realize its impact. This will be challenging to scale.
Who Should Care: By now, all B2B customer reference managers should be extending their programs into digitally enabled advocacy marketing. In B2B procurements, references are pivotal to closing large deals. But in the digital age, where so many customers are willing to advocate for their favorite providers, B2B marketers must get behind the advocacy marketing movement with the same zeal as their consumer counterparts.
Portland, Oregon ( www.janrain.com )
Analysis by Julie Hopkins
Any social marketing technique that helps convert an unknown visitor to a known customer can be lucrative. Unfortunately, "password fatigue" inevitably sets in for consumers when faced with another registration form — increasing abandon rates.
Why Cool: Janrain's pioneering work in the OpenID protocol helps users log in and register at any site using an existing social identity (Facebook, Google, Twitter and 30 more), making it vastly more productive for brands and their customers to interact with each other. Its "social login" solution can be deployed across multiple platforms (Web, social, mobile, and desktop apps), and can play a significant role in helping increase registration rates. The company does this all while communicating back the profile data that marketers need to create a rich, personalized experience for users. Janrain has acquired an extensive customer portfolio across a range of industries.
Challenges: Janrain must continue to promote the benefits of social login and single sign-on technologies to brands and consumers. Partnerships always mean some loss of control, so a company that agrees to partner for social login with Janrain (and thereby with other providers), must be clear on the benefits of doing so (increased registration rates, improved customer insight) versus the costs (for example, another brand owning this part of your registration process or exposure to their own handling of security). Spreading the social login message will be aided by competitor Gigya, which also cites significant monthly usage statistics, but it is also a threat. Janrain needs to continue its expansion, while aggressively protecting its share.
Who Should Care: Any marketer whose success requires identifying and understanding consumers should be actively exploring social login and talking to Janrain. This is especially true for any marketer whose target user is heavily entrenched in social technologies and, thus, views the social profile as core to its digital identity.
Vancouver, Washington ( www.woobox.com )
Analysis by Julie Hopkins
Buyers cite access to discounts or giveaways as a leading reason to connect with brands on Facebook. Social marketers agree. Sweepstakes, giveaways, and contests (complete with the ever popular voting round) are effective in building a fan base, or engaging with current followers. Organizations can struggle, however, to understand how to build these capabilities themselves. Or, they may overreach by working with traditional promotion providers or agencies whose offerings are compelling, but may not be required by many organizations.
Why Cool: Woobox gives marketers access to these social activities in an easy-to-deploy format for as little as $1 to $249 per month, then scaling up based on the size of the fan base. Brands accustomed to higher-cost custom implementations are especially attracted to Woobox functionality, as it gets them access to fan-building, high-engagement features without long development timelines or serious impact on social budgets. Recently announced support for offers delivered through Apple Passbook gives marketers even more ways to economically attract more fans. The company's ability to access the "long-tail" market through low-cost solutions is definitely significant. Self-funded and profitable, Woobox actively innovates by collaborating with its client base.
Challenges: Promotions seem easy to execute but are quickly complicated by legal or operational issues. Challenges brought against companies around issues with winner selection, manufacturer or retail offer fraud, or improper handling of brand logos or trademarks are common issues in the structure and execution of promotional programs. Large providers in this space combat these challenges with history and significant back-office support on their side. As a smaller and newer player in this space, Woobox has less history in this aspect of helping brands protect their reputations and must vigilantly monitor rules of engagement on social platforms, because promotional rules change quickly and frequently.
Who Should Care: Digital marketers looking to boost engagement on a limited budget should explore Woobox and its range of offerings as part of a larger promotional program or test pilot. With limited budget exposure, Woobox can help the digital marketer learn how to engage a community with these types of programs, while assessing the effectiveness of Woobox at delivering the promotion.
San Carlos, California ( www.zuberance.com )
Analysis by Richard Fouts
As early social media advocates, the founders of Zuberance created a platform to help CMOs turn their own advocates into an enthusiastic sales force. Many vendors would soon imitate the Zuberance model, helping marketers not only to find their advocates on social networks, many of which they didn't know they had, but also to harness their untapped ability to influence others.
Why Cool: Zuberance was the first vendor to put infrastructure, process, and scale around a new type of platform that helps marketing executives implement digital advocacy. Following its 2007 launch, a string of speaking engagements, webinars, and industry events made Zuberance the "poster child" for new ways to implement advocacy marketing in the digital age (that could be deployed quickly, often in a day or two). The Zuberance platform is flexible and scalable, helping marketers amplify the advocacy of hundreds, or even thousands. It just reported its best year and continues to satisfy clients in hospitality, food services, health and fitness, and consumer electronics.
Challenges: When Zuberance validated the concept of mobilizing advocates from social networks into marketing programs for new customer acquisition and retention, it also paved the way for competitive offerings. Although Zuberance was early to market, it is being threatened by fast followers that are adding new ideas for engaging advocates. Zuberance needs to continue to innovate to sustain its lead, something it is doing with its support of rich media and wealth of publishing venues: advocacy reviews and testimonials, advocate answers and advocate offers.
Who Should Care: Social marketing managers, particularly those from consumer and retail sectors, should consider Zuberance to mobilize consumer word-of-mouth on social networks (including the blogosphere). Marketing executives wanting to educate their staff in word-of-mouth should take advantage of the company's rich set of educational resources including white papers, webinars, videos, and events.
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Nielsen studies revealed that 92% of buyers trust word-of-mouth recommendations, even from strangers, more than they trust marketing and salespeople. Only 53% trust companies' websites and 33% trust online ads, proving that what your customers say about you has more impact than marketing copy.