OH: Every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question "How do we tweet?" the second by the question "Why do we blog?" and the third by the question "Where shall we have the next social campaign?"

 

We are here to see humans move from why to where!

The “Love a Local business” Story

If you have used TurboTax, Quickbooks, Quicken and now Mint, then you are an Intuit customer. Intuit has grown to over $3.2B in revenues from its humble beginnings over a quarter century ago, and is arguably a market leader in personal and small business finance solutions.

Background:

Following our case studies on Emerson Process and Indiana Public Media, we chased down @kirasw (Kira Wampler) during our spring break visit to the silicon valley last month. For the past four years, she led teams that developed Intuit’s much talked about social media marketing campaigns targeting small businesses.

One thing was clear from the very onset that Intuit lives and dies with small buisiness. In Kira’s words: Small businesses are our oxygen at Intuit.

In the early part of the last decade, accountants were thought to be the core influencers for small businesses. Based on research findings in 2006, Intuit realized that 22MM out of 27MM small businesses are so small that they do not talk to accountants, either because they cant afford them or they don’t need them! Hence, Intuit needed to engage with small businesses directly .

The first initiative that Intuit took was listening into the discussion around its brand and products on emerging social platforms like blogs, yahoo groups, online forums in 2006. This was followed by listening on Twitter by early 2008, and the launch of @QuickBooks in the spring.
The knowledge gained from the above led to the key customer insight that small businesses felt alone, with no one to support them, and became the basis for Intuit’s 2007 “Just Start” campaign and 2008 “Small Business United” campaigns.

The current campaign “Love a local business” is what we will go in to the details of. The charge on Love a Local Business is led by a Kelley Alum, Gretchen Harding.

Love a local business:

letting communities vote to decide who deserves some love – in the form of small business grants from Intuit. Anyone, including business owners, can vote by sharing a brief comment about why they love a local business.

From the marketing point of view, Love a local business was initiated as a pull campaign with a goal to capitalize on what is most important to a small business: the local customer. Endorsements of a small business from their loyal and local customers on intuit’s platform was the recipe to making Intuit synonymous with small business success.

From an execution point of view, the beauty of this campaign was that, much like a lean startup (using the term loosely), the campaign was designed to be iterative in nature and plan to scale up when milestones were achieved.

Stage 1) It started with a blog post explaining the grant competition. The conversion metrics for this case were defined as the number of small businesses nominating themselves. Interestingly, there was a very high conversion rate and it increased with the increase in traffic – touching 40% ( for all vistors, i.e. business owners and fans. Yes we know thats unheard of.)

Stage 2) With such a high conversion rate the next aim was to increase traffic. The high conversion rate, along with consistently achieving a weekly benchmark goal of actual of small business leads, led to the decision to move the campaign off the blog and onto a separate website for Love a Local Business. Since the campaign proved it could consistently generate leads, it enabled the marketing team to make a case for integration with the Intuit Business Directory, replacing the Google Local directory. This was driven by a customer need – 1 in 5 businesses were not found in Google’s directory, and there was no streamlined way to add them, without asking them to leave the grant competition site, which was confusing. By integrating with Intuit’s own directory, small business owners could add their business to the directory while nominating their business for the grant competition in a seemlessly integrated process.

Stage 3) The site was refined before the launch of a cross promotion with a chain of radio stations, which dramatically increased customer acquisition.

Stage 4) (Current) it is clear that the conversion rates are high. What Intuit needs is driving end consumer traffic to the site to share their love. Intuit is approaching this by integrating into the already existing solcial graph on facebook and twitter though by integrating gigya onto the site. More importantly, intuit has been able to integrate with foursquare and if a users signs in with foursquare credentials they can automatically port in the local business they visited! This makes the process of selecting a business much easier for the end user. Will these new social initiatives produce the anticipated traffic, is still to be seen.

At a high level Intuit’s social media efforts can be mapped to the bottom line as follows:

Moving forward:
– Conversion is not the problem for intuit; the problem is driving more end consumer traffic to the campaign. There is no major incentive for end consumers (not small businesses) to engage with these campaigns.Figure out a way to drive more traffic to love a local business, small business united, quickbooks community etc.
-Based on the cyclicality around the tax season for businesses, the revenues for the last four quarters ranges from $474MM to $1,434MM. This presents a challenge unlike for marketing which is unlike others. Timing and execution of any or all marketing campaigns has to ramp up and ramp down at the right time.


Posted: May 3rd, 2010 | Comments: No Comments »

Redefining Communities

Community engagement – a key growth factor for Public Media

Introduction

Indiana Public Media (IPM, but it has other, more popular names) is a non-profit organization based in Bloomington, Indiana. Their growth over the last few years in light of growing pressure faced by the industry has been an interesting story, part of which can be attributed to their So.Me. efforts. We met with Adam Schweigert, new media director at IPM and tried to put our hands around the elusive notion of community engagement.

source: http://indianapublicmedia.org

As a major media outlet in Indiana, IPM has developed great content and knowledge from what Bloomington and Indiana University have to offer, both in terms of specialized local news and generic, globally relevant content. It is important to note that the majority of funding for IPM comes from donations and grants.Online advertising revenue, has shown some growth, but is still quite small compared to costs. :

Growing through social networks

The public media industry, in general, has a great repository of relevant content, both past and current. In order to leverage it, most of the players, including IPM, have embarked on the process of making that content digitally available during the last decade. Search engines have made this content highly accessible, from anywhere across the globe. With the increasing penetration of social networks, content has become a great asset for building inbound traffic. The problem with social networks is the competition for attention, not only among the media outlets themselves but also with the users friends and activities.It boils down to the question of engaging bigger communities across geographies.

There are two approaches that can be taken in building an online community presence. The first one is mimicking the organization’s community presence in the real world and the second is to align and build a presence withing “topical online communities”. The word topical implies communities based on a certain common interest, value or mission. Although the first approach is easy to initiate it has limited growth potential; the nature of the medium (So.Me.) makes the topical communities less bound by real world limitations emerging from geography, political policy or social stigma.The IPM story provides support to the case in point:

Addressing the Local community:

In 2008 IPM’s social media presence began with a local WFIU group on facebook which to date has 175 members! realizing that consumers expect WFIU to be a constant source of information, the organization introduced local fan pages which provided constant updates (WFIU 684 fans, WTIU 212 fans). Similarly, early twitter accounts were geo-targeted. The weekly radio audience in Southern Indiana is abround 42,000. Following the traditional growth path through this geographical alignment (i.e. maximizing reach in the local market), IPM seems to have reached a ceiling around 2007/08.

Reaching Beyond the local audience:

Because of their geo-targeted nature, the local community accounts had a ceiling on the number of people they could engage. This led Adam and his team to explore community building around topical themes. His team experimented with several topic ranging from culture/religion (@Muslim Voices) to gardening (@FocusOnFlowers). These platforms not only provided a means to market content to audience beyond the local population but also an avenue to leverage the treasure trove of past content. Looking at the number of Twitter followers across their  various accounts a few interesting facts come across :

  1. Occasionally the topical accounts become key figures inside passionate communities with a “mission”. In IPMs case they were Earth Eats, Muslim Voices and Kinsey Confidential™. None of the local accounts were able to reach such a scale in audience.  (about: Earth Eats : on local food and sustainable agriculture. It is one of the most followed twitter accounts based in Indiana. Muslim Voices: is a project of Indiana University dedicated to promoting understanding and dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims. Interestingly, despite having no Muslim team member tweeting, they won the Brass Crescent Award for the best tweeter in the Islamosphere. Kinsey Confidential™ is a sexuality information service designed to meet the sexual health information needs of college-age adults.)
  2. The age of the account doesn’t really have an effect on the popularity. This is a broad statement. @SoMeCasestudies would like to pursue it as analysis in latter studies.
  3. Not all topical accounts or communities will grow into mission based groups. Most of them plateau at a certain follower/community size. It then becomes a question of how large a community has to continue to be supported.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Has this transformation and evolution into social endeavors helped the IPM from an ROI perspective? This is a very hard question to answer at this point in time.
There is a greater opportunity to run successful micro-fundraising campaigns driven by the community members, similar to Wikipedia fundraising campaigns. The execution of such campaigns will need efficient use of technology (mobile payments) and good marketing. Increase in viewership outside of Indiana and outside of the US from 2008 to 2009 is a clear indicator of a return from the social media initiatives. The challenge is to convert this increase in traffic into more donations to support and grow IPM’s initiatives which help the community in more than just the ‘social media’ terms.

The single biggest focus in IPM’s SoMe model is Awareness, which increases conversation as well as translates into an increase in brand equity. The second major component is listening, not only to IPM’s current community members, but also for new product ideas (topical ideas). Moreover, keeping an eye on competition can also lead to new product innovation and uses of content. These pieces contribute to the number of of listeners and viewers. These listeners and viewers are the treasured asset of IPM.


The right hand side of the above diagram operates on the assumption that more viewers and listeners would contribute to more donations and grants. The cloud represents the fuzzy and non-quantifiable nature of the state of returns.

Sustainability & Risks

The biggest issue for Indiana Public Media is that all these initiatives are not the primary projects for Adam’s team. Moreover, accounts, like KinseyCon compete for attention with the personal brand owners, like Dr. Debby Herbenick. Any change in personnel could potentially lead to a lag or discontinuity.

  1. How can sustainability be built into the organization?
  2. How to resolve the conflict of interest with personal brand vs. mission based community? (UrbanTurbanGuy vs. SoMeCaseStudies)
  3. What are the incentives for new experts to come on board to help develop a mission?
  4. Do these mission based communities need to have a long-term strategy and execution plan?

This is a similar question that we raised in our first interview with Jim Cahill, because Jim’s personal brand is driving his blog.

Conclusions

  • Pre-existing organizational structure might not be the best one to mimic in online communities
  • Community following is built by aligning with common values and missions (topical)
  • Not all topical initiatives will be successful, but they stand a better chance of success
  • Clear definition of incentive structures and succession planing are important for long term sustainability of communities

Posted: February 23rd, 2010 | Tags: , , | Comments: No Comments »

Success factors for a B2B blog: Emerson Process Experts

“Process Control and Industrial Automation” is the last place to expect social media tools being used for marketing and research. The Emerson Process Experts blog with 40,000 monthly visitors, more than 1000 RSS subscribers and most importantly 10-15 prospective sales and information inquiries a week is an instructive example of social media engagement in the B2B systems and solutions industry. These numbers are very important for an industry with sales cycles that hover around 2 years! We spoke with Jim Cahill the person behind this blog, about what worked. Here are a few of our takeaways for B2B social media initiatives:

1. Define goals

A key purposes of a “Brand” is to reduce the search costs for the end consumer. “Share of mind” is a major criteria in the CPG arena, but, in the high stakes B2B world, we are dealing with buyers with more search tools than just their memory. To reduce their search costs sometimes means to literally reduce their Google search costs! This was the premise that Jim Cahill started with in 2004. Just a few keyword searches on Google made it evident that buyers looking for Emerson’s services were ending up on blogs and websites that Emerson had no control over.

If you look at the diagram below, Emerson Process Experts goal can be defined as Building Awareness and online presence to route inbound traffic. Putting Emerson’s talent out in front of the world, on a leading tech blog, would slowly but surely build Emerson’s brand equity.

2. Perseverance

Jim felt that Emerson was not only a market leader, but also a thought leader. That is where the idea of the Emerson Process Experts blog, a content based platform to bringing together Emerson experts, customers and the industry experts, was born. Everyone appreciated the idea but in in Jim’s words:

Nobody was saying no, but nobody was ready to give a go ahead for the blog !

Emerson Process competes in a very ‘traditional’, ‘safety driven’ and ‘standardized’ industry, therefore, the first major hurdle from the execution point of view was to convince the management and the legal teams at the corporate office that a blog would not be “the end of the world”. Initially, there was a fear that two-way discussion through blogging might be detrimental for a marketing organization that worked only in broadcast mode. On Steve Rubel’s advice they introduced blogging software on there intranet. The Google bots that crawled the intranet showed expert blogs at the top for most internal search results. This was the push that they needed to get the green light for this initiative.

3. Content

As Jim began the process to build a resource library to share Emerson Process’ expertise, across various domains, the initial goal was to have 2-3 content driven blogs per week sharing presentation, podcasts, as well as contact information for these ‘Experts’. The initial success criteria established for the blog was to rank among the top searches for keywords that their clients were expected to use. Selection of the right blogging platform goes a long way in publishing content that is optimized for the search engine.

“Mention in the Wall Street Journal and popular social media book like ‘Groundswell’ really helped in the process.”- Jim Cahill

4. Soft Metrics

From a measurement and ROI perspective ,the first few months were a calibration and benchmarking period. The team monitored the visits and RSS subscriptions. But the real question was how to quantify it. The 40000 monthly hits or the 1000+ subscribers were not the answer. As the blog became the face of the organization Jim began to receive a dozen or so weekly prospective emails and calls, this eventually became the soft metric for measuring success. In Jims own words:

What’s Golden is something like the email I got from a major Oil Company talking about :
“I didn’t realize that you guys did greenfield work on main automation contractor project. If you are not too busy, could you send somebody to discuss?”
In the oil industry with its large capital projects and multi-year sales cycles, to be able to sit down with the clients from the very inception of a project is very different from responding to a specification where one of the competitors has set the vision and we try to respond to it.

This visibility in the new media channels has naturally brought Emerson more coverage in the trade press, communities and other traditional PR vehicles.
Another notable soft metric: Jim spends more than 40% of his time creating content, listening to the response and engaging with the community. In other words blogging is not a side activity that would happen on its own, it needs to be one of the primary measurable responsibilities for a marketer, as the old adage goes “what gets measured, is what gets done.”

5. Sow the seeds for Groundswell and be ready to be surprised

The visibility of the Emerson Process Experts has been a catalyst for the groundswell within the organization. The team also provides support in terms of software installation and advice to other blogs within Emerson (Modeling and Control, Global Life Sciences,Process Control Musings etc.) that have come up over the years.
With the benefits of being at the surface becoming clearer within the organization, employees on their own initiative are participating on twitter, facebook and LinkedIn groups to listen to what customers and other experts have to say. The diagram bellow tries to illustrate the interactions that Emerson Process Experts seems to have catalyzed :

Finally, to most of us, process control and industrial automation is not the sexiest of industries out there, but leveraging social tools can change perceptions ;).

You know what is the difference between you and me? I make this look good.
– Agent J, MIB

Jim Cahill is the “Chief Blogger” for Emerson Process Experts.

Emerson Electric Co. (EMR) is a diversified industrial conglomerate with FY2009 revenues of $20.9B and net income of $1.7B. Emerson Process Management is one of the eight business segments of Emerson, accounting for 29.6% ($6.2B) of the revenues in FY2009.


Posted: February 17th, 2010 | Tags: , , | Comments: No Comments »

Update 1

The response we have received for the project has really overwhelmed us. We hope to live up to the expectation ! Today was out first interview with Jim Cahill from Emerson Process Experts.

You will be hearing more from us soon.


Posted: February 12th, 2010 | Comments: No Comments »

Social Media Paradigms

If everything goes as planned this is going to be our last semester as MBA students. We (Gagan & Umair Qayyum) were planning to cap it off with something interesting and representative of our passion for Social Media in Business. (Social Media = SoMe)

The plan is to propose a hypothesis connecting social media with business objectives. This process will involve documenting campaigns/initiatives by a wide variety of businesses.The aim is not to impose this diagram onto the case studies, but rather this diagram would act as a starting point. We hope it would look much different by the end of the study.

This is the initial pictorial cause & effect diagram, which will serve as the basis for mapping the case studies:

Social Media Paradigms

For example: if a company is passively monitoring social chatter, it is able to react and minimize the negative impact of a conversation that might be harmful to the brand. This would be mapped as follows:

Social Media Paradigms - Media Relations

The current plan is to document these case studies in a blog format, keeping true to our SoMe theme. We have started work with an initial set of 5 companies, which range from a local non-profit media provider to a $25B B2B manufacturing conglomerate. You would hearing more about them soon!

If you or your company is open to participate in this project, please feel free to contact us at Gmail: UrbanTurbanGuy or Twitter: UrbanTurbanGuy. The burden-time would not be more than one hour.

Gagan & Umair


Posted: February 12th, 2010 | Comments: 1 Comment »