Welcome, the real era of Social Media Marketing

29 Jan
January 29, 2009
I have been spending quite some quality time on twitter and reading useful blogs of others. As I am writing, I am still continuously trying to figure out what may be the correct focus to direct this post.
Social media has always been a very skeptical form of marketing for alot of traditional marketeers as there is no clear ROI or statistics which can be provided as a base for business. Especially in the context of Asia, where almost everything must be “seen” or “touch” to “believe”. However, this may all change with evolution of statistical tools on individual social networking platforms and most of all, the recent launch of Buzz Gain. If you need to get excited over something, then this must be it!

Currently in Beta stage (Free for limited period), Buzz Gain is a really simple web-based client that allows you to track over 100 social networking sites and search your keyword on blogs, microblogs etc. This allows a complete consolidation of data, including listening to all the important conversations about your product or business all in one site. Learn about who you should be tracking or following. And at the click of a button, analyze your demographics as graphs are created automatically to explain trends! Now you know WHO is looking and talking about you, WHO you should be talking to and WHAT are the results or outcome of the conversations. Finally a one-stop and affordable solution to all Social PR headaches.
Although I wouldn’t say the program is perfect just yet. Afterall, it is still in beta launch. One of the biggest turnoff is its speed. The program would have been close to a wonder if it loaded up nicely and promptly too. The beta version may be showing signs of lagging and delayed information. More insights of analysis and information can also be developed, hopefully at a later point of time. But at the very least, if you have no idea where start on your social PR, now here’s a useful assistant.

The service would probably have very large potential in Asia also, especially in China. With latest stats by Internet World Stats, China’s internet population leads the world with approximately 253 million internet users end December 2008. And we are looking at a merely 19% penetration of its entire billion population. Imagine how much this service could potentially do for clients wanting to enter the dragon’s gate? There are over 578 million internet users in Asia alone (versus 885 million in the rest of the world), where rising markets like India only has a 5.2% internet penetration currently. (Statistics are quoted from Internet World Stats) With the consumer market so saturated in Europe and America, brands and businesses are quick eyeing on the big piece of cake in the less-than developed far east.

However, Asia’s consumer behavior and internet trends may differ with those from the West, with their own specialised and isolated platforms (such as qq.com in China). And these are usually quite contained within their own communities. Hence services such as BuzzGain will need to obtain a better and more thorough understanding of the system to efficiently get it right. Even as a fellow Chinese, I’m finding it tough to keep up with the lighting speed trends of the China market. Their growth is tremendous and they are quick in developing tools that match those of the West. Moreover, the web structure in the east is not as organized and there are alot of “noise” to filter before actual contents and conversations can be read and analyzed. Hence adequate time will need to be invested to study the market in detail.

In the meantime, I would like to give a pat on the shoulder of the BuzzGain team. If you haven’t signed up for a demo, do so today. You’d be pleasantly surprised at the convenience it provides. And if you have a word to say to BuzzGain, feedback on how you think it could help you better, or just thank them for the wonderful innovation, give a BUZZ to @mukund on twitter. The fine man will be more than pleased to hear from you.

The screwed banks.

21 Jan
January 21, 2009
No, I really don’t mean to be rude, nor has this posting has anything directly involved with marketing either. I am simply personally fustrated with the OCBC bank of Singapore. I wouldn’t say they have a bad service because the telephone operators have been rather patient with me. But I’m just wondering what’s wrong inside?

The bank sent me a letter to inform me of some pending documents they need from me to facilitate a certain application. So, I walked in personally to a bank to verify the documents and submitted it on the spot, with the copy of the letter the bank sent me. The bank staff even took the letter from me as a reference. About 3 days later, I received an SMS on my phone to inform me the documents have been received and my application status will be informed via mail. So I assumed it is all in processing.

Just yesterday, I received ANOTHER letter to “remind” me to submit the “pending documents”, WHICH I already did more than a week ago! (maybe 2 weeks) I was baffled. So I called the call centre for assistance. And they said they’ll check. They called me back again today to tell me the relevant department has yet to receive my documents.

Hence, why did I recieve the text message? And why did I walk-in to the bank personally in the first place if it is redundant? And why would there be conflicting information from the same department in the same bank?

Did the recession drove the banks into turmoils and so the office is covered with flying papers everywhere? I don’t know… but OCBC had better look into its internal process.

AND another comment to ALL banks… please save your papers. You could potentially cut ALOT of cost from that. Why keep sending reminder letters in this era of technology? Do consider practicing some form of environmental friendly policies.

The strong waves of 2009

02 Jan
January 2, 2009
Happy New Year folks! It’s 2nd January 2009. I have to start practicing writing the right date. I tend to waste too many cheques in the first month of every year.
Today didn’t exactly start off on a fantastic note, when I had to give my intern a ticking as she was absolutely not paying attention to what she was doing. (it’s only a minutes for goodness sake, and I had to make her change it 4 times!) But let’s leave her to make the final changes for now.

Many people have told me, 2009 will come in a fiery big tsunami wave. It will sweep away anything that is in its way. The worse has yet to arrive, that’s what I’m hearing. Our Prime Minister made his traditional New Year speech yesterday indicating a forecasted -2.0 growth for Singapore in 2009. The annual budget has been pushed forth to January, hoping policies will aid individuals and companies to tide these fiery storms earlier. It hasn’t quite hit me directly yet, but from the look of it, it ain’t going to give a warning when it strikes. I am not an economic expert and I can’t tell you anything new from this post. Which I bet you haven’t heard anything new for a long time from anyone else either, that is.

Despite the crisis, it definitely isn’t the first time the human race has been hit hard. This can’t be tougher to survive than the world wars nor the Great Depression back in the 30s. Somehow, human are rare creatures whom can find and create opportunities in all situations. Even animals find their own way into survival.

The future holds a future in itself. So let’s anticipate an optimistic 2009 and may we brave the storms like warriors together!

Bridging blogs & advertisers.

30 Dec
December 30, 2008
Consumers used to be only on the receiving end, taking in whatever information advertisers wants to let out. But online media has opened a new path that allows consumers to be the source of information, to judge and decide what to say. We call this people, bloggers.
I stumbled upon http://blog2u.sg/ today, and out of interest, signed up as a member. However, I am rather skeptical about the system that goes in there. I would say there’s both sides of the coin to this portal. What it does, is that it links bloggers and advertisers together. The advertiser will have to pay (in monetary of course) to put a banner ad, a sponsored post or a sponsored review on the blogger’s site. It can also come in the form of an invitation to a product launch, event or link to partner’s sites etc.

Somehow, I’m just thinking, is this the best and most appropriate method to execute social PR? The primary objective of reaching target audience through social PR is to bypass advertising. But isn’t “banner ad” or a “sponsored post”, simply just advertising end of the day? And “paying” someone to write something simply won’t give you an honest posting. Hence, that defies the evolution of social media and its realiability in the long term.

PR is all about building relationships. The relationship should be transparent, honest and sincere. When identifying suitable bloggers to talk about a product, we should first be sure that these are trustworthy people who are not simply living off posted advertisements. And who are the people reading the blogs? Does the product simply want mass awareness? Or targeted awareness? We should remember that no one medium can reach out to everyone. This is especially evident on the internet, where freedom of choice rules the cyberworld. Hence, we should take into consideration power of multiplication. Is this target group we have chosen the best people to spread the word? How many tiers can it lead to? Which is more effective? Selling the technical specification of a product/event or selling the experience of a product/event?
I think http://blog2u.sg/ will be useful for many direct advertisers, who wish to save the dollars from a good digital PR agency. But I would still suggest, the internet has a long memory. Campaigns and good word can go a long way if the appropriate method is being explored by professionals. A hundred thousand dollars is money well-spent if objectives are met. But a dollar spent could be a dollar too much if it does not work at all.

Of course, I am not indicating that this site does not work. It probably does to a certain extend. Most of those bloggers link their posts to twitter and facebook and plurk etc. So there’s still some form of extension there. However, do also remember it’s probably the same people, the same links on all these different platforms.
Ask around your office, how many people (who are non-avid bloggers) uses twitter and plurk? Or even digsby? As far as I am concern, I only know of one other person who does apart from me.

Who’s reading?

30 Dec
December 30, 2008
There’ll always be a neverending debate on who’s reading what on the internet. Tell a client to use twitter as a marketing tool and they will response with a bang on the table as they give their money to a newspaper instead. True, it is hard to determine the returns, the risks and you can’t really control your demographics. But for goodness sake, I wonder who invented technology, it is capable of anything.

Found this blog from Guy Kawasaki’s tweets. The Brand Builder, written by Olivier Blanchard. It’s enjoyable to realise the wealth of knowledge one can find from these folks if you really take time to read them.
There’s a new article on social media stats and demos for 2008. It’s interesting to see who ranks the top 40 tweetcities in the world and at what a rate this tool is growing intensively. I can’t find Singapore on the list though, for plenty of reasons. One, we have a population too small, two we don’t exactly have a tweeting population. We are just too small for comfort.

Digital marketing is not likely to take off in Singapore or Hong Kong in a big way because people are sitting too close to each other. There are many modes of communications and traditional media still ranks the most popular way to reach out to target audience. Well, I have to admit even for me, I still read newspapers and watch the TV. Digital marketing takes up only 3% of the total media spending in 2007. Where about 1.6million people are online everyday on this island. The newspaper only circulates about 250,000. So that doesn’t really reaches a population of 4 million, does it. (Please refer to digital media report in my earlier posts). However, due to managable distance from home to town, people usually stay out instead of staying in. Hence outdoor media is the one channel that has been growing increasing popular in the past few years. More creative means are being explored from billboards to installations. Government rules have laxed to allow more room for advertising on public property.

However, that also means trying to get attention becomes harder. Many a times, marketeers tend to be successful in executing the “eye-catching” element but may not necesarily be achieving the objective on the movement, whatever that may be. Of course, clients should be realistic about the targets and how will the marketing effort translate into it. No matter it’s sales or awareness. As I am religiously repeating, pick the right channels to the right people.

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!

23 Dec
December 23, 2008

Hill & Knowlton and me

20 Dec
December 20, 2008
I am subscribed to Social Media Today although I admit I don’t read it very religiously unless something interesting catches my eye. Well, something did today. The blogger of the week featured Mr. Niall Cook, who is Worldwide Director of Marketing Technology in Hill & Knowlton. I don’t know Mr. Cook. But H&K caught my eye.

Sometime not too long ago, earlier this year, I was offered an interview opportunity with H&K. And although the result was negative, but this series of interviews were one of the most valuable lessons in my life. I had the pleasure of meeting the Managing Director of H&K China in Singapore. And I flew to both Beijing and Shanghai to meet with 13 business directors in all. I was also fortunate enough to be invited to an internal workshop on digital PR. The entire process opened a new perspective and worldview for me. It was quite an exciting and mind-blowing process. Although I’ve always knew PR is a niche by itself, but only then did I began to understand how in depth and what kind of expertise is required to be a successful PR person. It is all a very different ballgame from where I came from. And although the interviews lasted almost 3 months (it continued when I returned Singapore) but I must say it was a time and money well-spent. I couldn’t explain how rewarding it was, but I sincerely appreciated the opportunity.

H&K is somewhat very different from some other PR companies I know. I have friends who work for renown PR firms in Singapore and although I don’t know much about PR but the values they hold are very different. H&K has very strong integrity about their business and they strongly encourage their clients to anticipate and practice the same transparency. They also understands the importance of constant innovation and finding a new niche in PR with the everchanging technologies. And that the lines between advertising, marketing and PR are constantly getting blured and it no longer is about “traditional” or “digital” anymore. It is essential that each is integrated into one another to provide a complete solution for businesses. Every business director has a clear idea on the kind of team they want to groom and the vision of the company is very clear. Which is something I value alot because I find it impossible to contribute too much to a company I can’t seem to see the vision. Getting lost is simple in a mundane office life. Vision, values and positive culture in a company are some of the things I consider the most important when seeking a potential employment.

Someday, I still look forward to be a part of H&K. I think there is a wealth of knowledge and new worldview for me to apprehend from there. It is an organisation I will want to work for.

And here’s to share with everyone, the blog of Mr. Niall Cook.

More social marketing tips in the mid of recession?

17 Dec
December 17, 2008
This talk about marketing in recession seems to be going on forever since the credit crunch began in Europe. There are more and more marketeers discussing the topic and suggesting ways to keep business viable and marketing dollars make more sense in these hard times.

Perhaps sometimes, downturns are a good thing as it forces us to think harder, put in more effort and accept higher challenges. When times are good, all of us just turns into couch potatoes. So there is always both sides of the coin to every situation. Even when everything just seem bad.

Anyway, I’m here today to share Harry’s latest whitepaper on the Positive Side of Recession with you. There is always a way out of every sticky situation. It isn’t the first time in the history of mankind that we are dealt with such financial crisis. Hence, there will always be a solution to every problem. Whether or not you decide to venture in social media, or decide to stick with traditional advertising, or simply spend more time on creating your brand value, or cut your costs and lie low, everyone may have a different solution. Choose the one that works best for you, there isn’t just one solution.

Download the Positive SIde of Recession Here

Measuring Sponsorship’s Return

14 Oct
October 14, 2008

My blog never received fantastic readership judging on the frequency of the posts and value of contents in it. Glad I finally received a response from Nicholas, someone who happened to drop in and left some helpful comments. And naturally I made a visit to his link and found another wonderful site targeted at Sponsorship Marketing issues.

This is a very niche and specialised job and not everyone really understands the gist of it. For the most of us, sponsorship is “you give me the money, I’ll put your logo up big. The more money you give, the bigger your logo is.” However, that does not actually answers the questions your potential sponsors have for you. Or basically it won’t convince them to give you the dollars unless they have so much surplus they don’t know where to spend. (Which still happens sometime).

Especially with the context of Singapore, as with most Asian countries. We may want to look at sponsorship in a wider worldview and understand with better depth what it can potentially achieve and play a larger role in the greater marketing environment in Asia.


Measuring Sponsorship’s Return (Original Article – Sponsormap.com)

As a sponsor, is it necessary to measure the impact of a commercial sponsorship investment? After all how many of us believe that sponsorship is sufficiently tangible enough to be measured at all?

These are fair questions for the sponsorship industry, as the slower we pursue measuring the value of sponsorship, the quicker we may hasten sponsorship’s demise. If we do not provide fair and objective estimates of the effects of sponsorship, there may be less money available for sponsorship activities as marketing dollars are allocated elsewhere, perhaps to those areas of marketing that can demonstrate effectiveness.

Most of us believe that we can at least partly measure the impact of a sponsorship investment. We are generally free of the dark old days of sponsorship, when accountability seemed less an issue. This was when sponsorships provided senior executives the chance, to side up to big name stars or to have one’s company associated with a major cause or event, irrespective of the value of that alignment to the company.

Over the years, as sponsorship has grown in popularity and became more expensive, sponsors have examined various ways to quantify the value of their investment. One of the first techniques offered involved tracking televised logo time. One person viewing a logo at one time is an impression. One hundred thousand people viewing the logo over a period of time would provide one hundred thousand impressions. The impressions would be ascribed an equivalent media value and often compared to paid up advertising. Hence, a $300,000 sponsorship investment may have an equivalent media value of $1.2 million, this being the basis for deciding the sponsorships return on investment.

Not surprisingly, many marketing professionals have questioned the value of tracking logo displays as the primary means of evaluating a sponsorship. Although flashing a company’s logo during an event might be cheaper than running advertising during the event, the two are not interchangeable in terms of communication effectiveness.

Sponsorship is the most emotional of all communication mediums, no other medium can compare against the strength of emotional attachment that consumers have with the events and properties they so dearly love. It would seem that to simply rely on an equivalent media value for evaluating sponsorship, completely misses the uniqueness of this relationship.

Measuring the value of sponsorship’s return on investment is certainly achievable. As with other communication tools, sponsorship should be evaluated against clearly defined objectives that can be agreed prior to the commencement of the program. It is against these objectives that the success or failure of a sponsorship program should be decided. Obviously, they need to be set in such a way that performance can be fairly measured. These objectives are invariably given as the principal rationale for the sponsorship of any event whether it be for sports, broadcast, community, cause, arts, business to business or entertainment. The underlying goal is for organizations to obtain a tangible return through the link that is established between the sponsorship property and the company or brand.

The marketing objectives of commercial sponsorship are often based on the properties’ ability to build brand loyalty, awareness and to change/reinforce brand imagery. After all, sponsorship is about changing consumer perceptions and behavior.

When it comes to using sales as the main means of evaluating sponsorship, this is less frequently used. Primarily, it is very difficult to isolate sponsorship’s role in the overall marketing mix from the effects of price, competitor activities and so on. This is not to say that sales should not be used as an objective for the sponsorship program, after all, not many Marketing Directors would be able to convince a Board of Directors or CEO of the merits of sponsorship, if this was not the case. It is better to look at increased sales as an objective alongside other more tangible measures such as sponsorship awareness, brand imagery, customer loyalty and purchase disposition.

Consumer research offers one of the best means of measuring perceptions and behavior in the sponsorship arena. Typically, with the right research methodology we can use sponsorship specific measures such as Sponsor Recall, Passion, and Gratitude to measure against key brand metrics. These metrics generally include brand image, loyalty and purchase intention for example. Such surveys will often pick-up strong indications on how the sponsorship is paying off. It is also common to track sponsorship over a period of time, as this medium is more of a longer-term investment, compared to more traditional media such as advertising.

Besides marketing objectives, other sponsorship objectives may involve building corporate image, hospitality and motivation of internal staff. These also can be measured, as long as we agree that we are measuring attitudes and perceptions be they those of the general public, business partners or employees.

Marketing Directors, Sponsorship Managers and even CEOs are being challenged to justify their forays into event marketing. Whilst most might have clearly defined objectives, if they cannot be measured, how can they quantify the value of the sponsorship investment?

Many companies spend little or nothing on measuring the effectiveness of this important communication tool. This contrasts markedly with advertising where high levels of pre- and post- testing and evaluation are widespread. It would seem that measuring the contribution of sponsorship warrants more attention that it has previously received given its value to a corporation especially in these days of media fragmentation.

Considering sponsorship’s prominent role in representing the core values of the brand or company, surely it is something that we should expect to measure its impact on our consumers, business
partners, employees or the wider community. After all, sponsorship is not likely to continue to grow unless it can demonstrate its effectiveness and this means providing tangible measures of its return on investment.

The Worst Kind of PR (in my own words)

13 Oct
October 13, 2008
I made a very short remark on a minister’s facebook somewhere earlier this month on the topic. Apparently the China government did not learn very much about transparency from SARs 6 years back.

I was studying in Beijing during the SARs period. Just 10mins away from my school was the first hospital to be infected in the entire capital city. When it was finally isolated, we were told there were 134 cases of SARs within the hospital. A houseman later told us, there were double of the actual figures. Opposite the hospital were a row of restaurants we love hanging out at. The restaurants were only closed for quarantined about a month later. My lecturer himself contracted the virus when he went for a minor operation in the hospital. He was lucky to get out of it alive.

Somehow, this culture of secrecy and cutting off the truth may have been passed down through the generations from the days where Emperors rule and servants are silenced as the dead do not speak. The belief is “the only way to get out of the situation is that the situation doesn’t gets out”. And quite obviously in the modern day where technology thrives and global transparency is regarded as highly importance, it is no longer an issue of the backyard. Not when in this case, tens (if not hundreds) of international brand names are tainted and reputation tarnished by the food quality control of one single country.

After the bad word got out, panic was aroused and unfounded rumours began spreading from one to another. There was even a so-called “professor or doctor” who went on TV to say melamine can be removed from the body by drinking acid! The country has a vast rural landscape and the contaminated milk can still be easily bought in villages. These peasants cannot afford televisions, they can’t read and no one told them there was a problem. The country should have sent all the province heads to the village heads and carry out a large scale educational program to inform the public, even the less previlaged.

Of course, to dig to the bottom of the issue, it was not only a case of badly handled PR. But crossed over to the discussion of politics, education, health and food care. It was a case that shouldn’t even have happened in the first place. Crisis management measures should have been in place before the occurence of a crisis as such.

It proved to be a hard lesson, but whether is it a lesson taught, remains to be seen.