Originally published December 19, 2012
Online advertising attracted the highest advertising dollars last year, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). On one hand, the leading brands are struggling to show how million dollar investments on brand websites and social presence are influencing brand engagement. And on the other hand, there are those that realize the immense potential in social, but in the absence of a structured framework and benefits focused tools have thus far struggled with defining and presenting a solid business case to their CFO. Coupled with this, the phenomenal growth in consumers’ use of social networks and the creation of user-generated content makes the digital channel the most sought after channel for marketers to tell their brand stories and engage with their customers.
With so much user-generated data available in real time, brands and marketers face a challenge: How do we reliably measure the pulse of our users, become more effective in our outreach, and engage customers to encourage brand advocacy as well as influence conversions/revenues?
One reason why social marketers still find it difficult to measure customer engagement in the new paradigm of everything social is the lack of a solid framework for analyzing new forms of social data in the context of their business objectives. The proposed framework suggested in this article would help marketers leverage social data to derive meaningful insights. The focus of this framework is to assess and define an ecosystem that will expand the boundaries for relationship management beyond the currently ubiquitous brand awareness model.
Levels of MaturityThe top row of the model outlines the various levels of maturity. As one moves across to the right, the level indicates increasingly tighter integration of business offerings, capabilities and social integration. For example, there are Facebook fan pages and Twitter tweets on the left but there also exists a thriving consumer/customer ecosystem.
Benefits & OutcomesThe benefits are in tune with the levels. While the lower levels of maturity primarily focus on brand awareness and getting the message out, the higher levels are responsible for generating higher retention levels, referrals for acquisition and a greater potential for both deeper and wider customer portfolios. These benefits are accrued largely due to the integration of product offerings and their presentment and treatment as per customer needs, not as per organizational convenience of hierarchy. The result from such an ecosystem is the avoidance of incurring a break in customer engagement by reducing the need for external reinforcement of the material offered for consumption.
Business Process & MarketingThe first of the two structural capabilities, the process view of the organization, will undergo significant evolution. As organizations mature, the most significant impact from a change management perspective is the organizational realignment to the needs of an increasingly customer-centric view of the world. Product offerings and cross-industry partnerships have to be reexamined from the perspective of how they work together to provide greater customer value, and how they are conceived, developed, bundled, sold and serviced. Similarly, channels and geographies must come together so the context of operations can drive customer engagement. The leading driver of this change will be the capability for community governance. The capability will simply not work if the business process, marketing and the enabling organizational silos are not realigned correspondingly. Cross-functional programs that bring together different silos and evolve the incentive structures over time are a great example.
Technology IntegrationThe other half of the structural capabilities, technology, will enable business process changes as well as set the stage for future evolution of business capabilities. Today, technology is leading business innovation. The possibilities offered by technology are generating greater value for business at a much faster pace because we are able to deliver faster and partner with greater authority on the manner in which new capabilities must be delivered. As we evolve, the business process changes. The need for greater harnessing of data is yielding several areas including process automation and integrated functional suites such as for marketing, which will finally stabilize the organization and enable it to launch newer capabilities from the resulting platforms. However, the CIO and CTO offices must step up the monitoring and governance of investments to ensure that the realization of the business benefits is not impeded through vendor lock in, product limitations and, in general, the capability and flexibility to change. As history has shown, no platform can be a gatekeeper to change simply because the future is not fully known. Likely tradeoffs will come from accounting treatments of capital expenditures as well as in-house versus outsourced process capabilities. Important mitigations will come from envisioning resilient enterprise architectures that rely on flexible, service-oriented models rather than monolithic architectures.
Analytics & Business IntelligenceThis is most likely the layer that will fuel the change for the future. The capabilities can be segregated into two major categories: