Archives for posts with tag: mission control

Tickrnew001

At long last, we can finally unveil our new baby: Command Center. We’re super excited to finally be able to share this with you.

What can you expect? More power, more data and more screens, for starters. More search and monitoring customization too. Command Center basically takes Tickr and gives it… well, superpowers.

You know what though? We’ll get down into details of how to use it next week (we’ll also be launching a contest that will let you use Command Center to help you tell your story to the world). Right now, check out our revamped website and this quick one-minute demo of Command center‘s key features, how it works, and what it can do for you. (Click here or on the image below.)

Tickrnew004

See? Digital monitoring and social business intelligence just got 100x simpler, slicker, and more powerful. (You’re welcome.)

Cheers,

The Tickr team

Also feel free to join our growing digital community on Facebook and on Twitter and tell us what you think. (We won’t spam you. We promise.)

In our last post, we talked a bit about leveraging social media to drive demand and lead generation. Today, let’s start talking about the basic mechanisms behind that. It’s a pretty big topic and we want to try and get down to actionable how-to stuff for you, so we’ll have to do this in three or four parts. Today is Part 1.

1. Start with a great product.

Sure, this seems so simple that it goes without saying, but… well, it is overlooked more often than you think. Corners get cut, things get rushed, budgets fall short, companies miss their window of opportunity and the result is too little, too late, and the burden falls on marketing, PR, sales and the social media team to make it all work anyway. It happens every day and no company is immune, so we don’t want to pretend that it doesn’t happen.

Here’s the cold hard truth: if your product isn’t really valuable to your market, it’s just going to sit there on that shelf. It doesn’t matter much how much “social media” you put behind it. All that money you are spending in marketing and advertising to “build awareness” for your brand and product is being wasted on trying to put lipstick on a pig. What are the odds that you’ll actually be able to pull it off? How much money are you willing to throw at a problem that no amount of marketing or social media can fix?

More to the point, what happens when your newly acquired customers finally move from awareness to desire to purchase and… your product isn’t as great as they expected it to be? Do you think that more Facebook activity will help? (It won’t.) More digital monitoring? (Nope.) The best marketing and social media program in the world won’t save you if your product isn’t a winner. So before you put too much work into your social media program’s lead and demand generation strategy, make sure that you have something worthwhile to drive people to. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and ultimately working to turn people off.

What makes a product a winner? It depends. It could be design. It could be price. It could be reliability. It could be the aura of quality that your brand provides, even if the product itself is only slightly better than your competition. It could have more to do with great customer service and shopping experiences than the product itself. It could solve a problem more effectively than anything else out there. It might just look nice, weigh less, work better, boot up faster, have better ergonomics… We could literally go on and on and on about what might give a product a definitive market advantage. The point is that it needs to have at least one, and the more of them, the better. Before you launch into a social media campaign, figure out what you want to talk about.

2. Make sure you aren’t focusing on the wrong outcomes.

We learned yesterday that 83% of B2B organizations using social media use it primarily to raise awareness, but that less than 35% use social media for demand generation. That’s shocking, so let’s change that right now.

You should know by now that beating a “like us” and “follow us” drum isn’t getting anyone very far. If you like giving away iPads and 20% off coupons, great. Do it. But be aware that a like drive on Facebook or a “follow us” campaign on Twitter don’t exactly focus on generating leads or demand. They focus on generating likes and followers. So before you spend a lot of time on convincing volumes of people to “like” your Facebook page even though many may never become your customers, spend some time thinking about the outcomes that these likes and follows are meant to drive. Remember that you aren’t on Facebook to attract likes. The value of a like to your business is precisely zero. A million likes on Facebook don’t alone drive the slightest bit of demand, so don’t kid yourself for one second about that.

If, however, you focus on attracting customers to Facebook so you can interact with them in a way that is valuable to them, then you will be able to convert some of those likes into actual dollars. Your business needs you to drive leads and demand, not likes and followers. It isn’t to say that your business shouldn’t try to grow its communities on social channels (it absolutely should), but remember to stay focused on the key business outcomes that your social activity will be driving.

3. Make the customer journey an integral part of your social demand generation program.

Understand where your fans, followers and subscribers are in their customer journey. The easiest way to do that is to divide them into three basic categories: a) not a customer yet, b) new customer (not loyal yet), and c) loyal customer. The types of behaviors you want to drive from members of each of these three groups are different, which means that the focus of your content, conversations and interactions will be different depending on which of these groups you happen to be targeting at any given time. (And yes, you will always be targeting all three simultaneously.)

Put simply, the core of your activities in social media (and elsewhere) will be split into three areas: a) customer acquisition, b) customer development and c) customer retention. Do you see how just by doing this, you change the focus of your social media efforts from likes and shares and clicks to actual business-focused outcomes?

Do a quick test: right now, are you able to select ten random likes (fans) on Facebook or ten random followers on Twitter and tell me where they belong on that a/b/c scale? Which ones are prospects?  Which ones are new customers? Which ones are long-term, loyal customers? If you have no way of determining that right now (no way to connect your CRM database to your social accounts or no account teams who can connect the dots for you), you need to fix that as quickly as possible. If you don’t, you won’t be able to legitimately generate demand and leads from your interactions across social channels.

One last tip: Don’t focus all of you efforts on like/follower and customer acquisition. Focus at least as much on customer development and customer retention. THAT is where social media channels truly shine anyway (mass media and traditional marketing often do a better job of creating quick mass awareness than social channels), and driving business from existing customers is a lot more cost-effective than driving business from new customers. How much more effective? Here is your answer (courtesy of Bain & Co):

On average, it is about 6x cheaper to drive a sale from existing customers than it costs to drive new business through customer acquisition. The question you have to answer now is “where are my money and attention better spent: on acquisition, or on development and retention?”

Think beyond the acquisition piece. It’s only one third of what you should be focusing on. Build value. Build relationships. Build loyalty. Build word-of-mouth channels. Work smarter in the social space.

We will revisit the topic of acquisition, development and loyalty again (and in more detail) in Part 2.

4. Make sure that you aren’t trying to drive the wrong conversations.

“Check out our latest blog post” is going to pull some traffic. And if you tweet about it every 78 minutes from 8:30am until 2:30pm, you will probably double the traffic you would have gotten had you not tweeted about it. Multiply that by 3-5 posts per week for over 50 weeks every year, and your blog’s “content strategy” (even if it efficiently rolls through the social media expert, journalist, PR maven, oversharer, affiliate community member, agency guy, blogger, SxSW speaker wheel of interest) is going to get old fast. What can you possibly write about almost every business day that will actually be of interest to your community? Your products don’t have that many features. Your office’s cupcake parties aren’t that interesting. There might not be a blizzard outside your HQ for another three months. So… how are you hitting all the right notes?

Here’s a tip: Listen. Listen to your community. Listen to online conversations. Browse comments in blog posts that relate to some problem your products help solve. The more you listen and read relevant content that isn’t your own, and the better you become at it, the easier it will be to figure out what you should be talking about, asking about, publishing and chatting about. Here is a short list of some of the things you should be listening for:

  • Complaints about your products and/or company.
  • Complaints about your competitors’ products and/or companies.
  • Wishes. (“I wish that my [insert product category here] would do [insert new value-add feature here].)
  • “How do I” questions relating to keywords relevant to your world. (If you are an airline, “what’s the best way to book a flight from my iPhone?” is the kind of question you want to look for. It prompts conversations that can help you introduce a prospective customer to your awesome smart-phone app.) Hint: help people solve problems. If you can’t solve them yet, work towards a way that you will be able to in 3 months. Or 6 months. Or a year. Listening to their problems and questions will help you build new centers of value that will in turn help make you more attractive to new and existing customers.
  • Comparison questions. (“iPhone or Droid?” tells you that someone is looking to buy something. If you’re a Samsung reseller and you look for those kinds of product mentions across a variety of social channels, you can reach out and perhaps influence a decision.)

Also look for discussion groups, user community groups, relevant hashtags, etc. It might take a little trial and error, but you will figure it out quickly enough. And if we can help with that piece of the puzzle, even better.

We might have to revisit this specific topic in more detail at a greater date, but you get the idea: Set up a listening practice whose purpose (at least partial purpose) is to look for demand and lead opportunities. If a question or topic comes up often enough, write a blog post or two about it. Produce a few videos and post them to YouTube. Create an infographic or a presentations that you can post to Pinterest or Slideshare. That way, every time it comes up from that point on, you can just link to it. Aside from the time-management piece and the SEO benefit of doing this, you will be sure that your content addresses actual questions and issues that consumers are dealing with in the real world. That’s valuable, and if you do it right, your social channels can become valuable all day long, every day of the week. So from now on, don’t just push marketing content on social channels. It isn’t enough.

Stay tuned for Part 2. We’ll get a little more tactical.

In the meantime, come by and say hello on Facebook, check out our no-spam zone on Twitter, and of course, check out our Tickr monitoring dashboard. (There’s a free version, a pro version and an enterprise version, so we have you covered.)

 Cheers,

The Tickr team.

Eloqua recently published the above infographic to highlight certain key elements of a study they conducted with B2B companies in regards to social media. We gloss through our share of data and infographics here at Tickr, but this one caught our eye for several reasons. The first is that it focuses on B2B, and that is always a plus in our book. Most of the studies being done on social business focus on B2C organizations, and folks who work in B2B tend to get the short end of the stick when it comes to running into solid case studies and informative data about social business in B2B. So before we go any further, let’s give Eloqua a hand for doing this. (And doing it well.)

Second, the study doesn’t stick to just asking the usual questions. It manages to dig a little further than most and get to actionable insights. That’s what we like to see. (data is nice, but if you can’t really use it to do something better, faster, cheaper or smarter, what’s the point?) The first thing that caught our eye wasn’t that 34% of B2B companies STILL don’t use social media or that 83% of social media use is aimed at “increasing awareness.” (We’ll come back to that.) No, what first caught our attention was this: 26% of respondents said PR/communications owned social and 11% said the web team owned it. Remove that 37% of PR/Communications/Web, and you’re left with 63% of something else. Though the report states that only 23% of companies surveyed stated that social is being shared by departments, our hunch is that the number is far higher than that. This is good news.

Even if that 23% number is accurate, it means that the trend towards operationalizing social media usage across the organization is moving in the right direction. The days of social business really meaning “social marketing” are coming to an end. Organizations are learning and adapting to the reality of social business: Since it can be used for lead generation, business development, market research, PR, Marketing, user community management, etc., the management of the company’s social accounts has to be shared across departments. This is indicative of a natural evolution in the B2B social business space. Organizations are learning and adapting to these new channels and technologies. That is a very good sign.

The second thing that caught our eye was the fact that only 35% of organizations are currently using social media for lead/demand generation. 12% responded that they don’t know. That leaves 53% of companies not using social media for lead generation. Given the connective nature of social channels (and for B2B, we want to stress the importance of channels like LinkedIn), we found that surprising. Eloqua looked a little closer at this issue and found that 43% of B2B companies do not currently have a social media-friendly demand generation strategy in place.

43%.

33% of these same companies seemed to be unsure that social media can even be used for demand generation, and 25% responded that social media is simply not applicable to a demand generation funnel. 18% went as far as to say that they don’t have the tools.

These numbers surprised us. Why? Because 100% of B2B companies that currently use social media should be focusing their social media efforts on demand generation. And the 34% of companies that don’t should be looking into figuring out how to incorporate social channels into a demand generation model. So why is this not happening?

The clue might come from one of the first things we talked about today: 83% of the focus from B2B companies in social media is to “raise awareness” for the company or brand. In the same vein, 56% drive social sharing (to further grow that awareness). 55% focus on growing followers and likes, believing that this will increase trust in their brand.

Only 32% are using social channels as demand generation channels (although 35% responded that they are using social media for demand generation).

This tells us that when it comes to social media, B2B organizations are a) still focusing on the wrong things, and b) not leveraging social channels properly. If awareness is the focus of their activity but demand generation isn’t, they are still mostly doing marketing and PR on social channels. They are not truly engaged in building social business practices yet.

Another hint might come from the Top 3 channels part of the graphic, which tells us that 80% use Facebook and 78% use Twitter, but only 51% use LinkedIn. (Eloqua reminds us that LinkedIn has been shown to be 3x more effective at lead generation than Facebook or Twitter, so the impact of this slow adoption rate is compounded by that difference in effectiveness between channels.)

We will revisit the topic of lead/demand generation in a more “how to” format, but for now, here are a few quick takeaways:

1. If you have not yet incorporated social activity into your organization’s lead/demand generation mechanisms, you need to change that right away. Especially if you expect to be able to have a legitimate ROI discussion with the CFO or your sales managers at some point.

2. Use monitoring tools to listen for mentions of your brand, your competitors’ brands, your products, their products, and any keyword that is relevant to your category. Do this on as many social channels as possible. Listening for these mentions will open up a world of opportunities for you, ranging from market intelligence to (yes, you guessed it…) lead generation. This is how you will discover user communities, associations and discussion groups made up of people you need to be engaging with, and leave you open to product feature ideas you had not yet considered (to gain a market advantage) and possible partnerships that were not until then on your radar. (Distributors, manufacturers, service providers, OEM partners, new resellers, etc.)

3. Focus less on marketing and building awareness on social channels, and more on identifying opportunities to make meaningful connections with people and organizations whom you can have a mutually beneficial relationship with. Again, these may be new customers, sure, (though advertising and marketing may be more effective means of increasing your reach than social activity) but don’t underestimate the impact of connecting with existing distribution, manufacturing, reseller, technical and user communities. Find them and join them. Then use these communities to further connect people to each other (and your products). That is where the true value of your social activities lie, and where the seeds of true demand generation will take root.

4. Whether or not a B2B organization ends up using tools like the ones offered by Eloqua (by the way, how would you rate their use of social sharing to drive awareness and demand generation? See what they did there?), the opportunity to build a digital mission control center around a digital monitoring + brand awareness + demand generation + sales & conversion measurement practice might serve a B2B organization far better than… just having a Facebook and Twitter “awareness” strategy.

 Focus on the right things. Rethink your use of social media channels. Look beyond awareness. What is that awareness supposed to drive? Business. What kind of business? New business and existing business. Is your content driving demand? Are your interactions with people on social channels driving demand? Are your monitoring, response and engagement activities focused on driving business? If the answers to the last 3 questions aren’t “yes,” it’s time for a quick reboot of your social media program and get it back on the right track.

We’ll be back with more. In the meantime, why not check out the free version of our Tickr monitoring tool? If you weren’t yet monitoring with purpose, or if your monitoring tools left you a little confused, ours might make things easier and clearer for you. Let us know what you think.

Cheers,

The Tickr team.

 One of the perks of working in the social monitoring and social business worlds is that we run into all kinds of cool new apps and tools on a quasi-daily basis. Most of the time, we just file away that knowledge for future use, but today we figured we would share a few of the latest nuggets of social media tech you might have missed. In no particular order…

1. TweetBeat: Sentiment heat maps of the twitterverse. 

SGI has been working on a project they call the Global Twitter Heartbeat. Basically, think heat maps that convert sentiment on Twitter around the globe in real time. Applications for this range from seeing where natural disasters and political disruptions are taking place to being able to (eventually) see how Twitter users react to a campaign or particular message by geographic area. Easier said than done, but… SGI seems to have done it, and they do make it look easy.

Check them out here and sign up for their webinar/demo. There’s a video too.

2. Cloud.li: Quick contextual word cloud searches for twitter.

Want to figure out what types of conversations people are having about your company or product on Twitter? Cloud.li lets you quickly enter search terms and creates an interactive word cloud for you in real time. Click on any of the terms, and the next word cloud layer takes over. Think of it as a daisy chain of purposeful word association. Uses: campaign monitoring, digital reputation management, lead generation, community development. Simple, free, fast and super easy to use. Not a bad way to be quietly alerted to shifts in conversations (topic and volume) regarding your brand or product.

Check it out here.

 3. Trendsmap: See what is trending on Twitter… everywhere. Or anywhere.

How you approach the geo piece is up to you. You can look at trends by country, city… or even globally, if you feel particularly ambitious. Breaking trends are tagged with a little red tab that says… wait for it… “Breaking.” Trending topics with a little more history come with a handy 7-day history graph and an activity window that lets you see who is saying what and where. (You can engage users directly from that window by hitting “reply.”) Trendsmap now also supports Youtube videos and Instagram as well, so you won’t be limited to Twitter chats. We keep finding new ways of using this tool, so we’re pretty sure you’ll like it too. It’s worth dedicating a screen to, especially if you are a reactive organization that monitors news and trends. Not a bad way to monitor the effectiveness and virality of a campaign.

Check it out here.

 4. Social Collider: Discover quantum cross-connections between conversations.

Okay, this one is a little off the beaten path, but we really like it because it’s so… well… different. In its team’s own words:

The Social Collider reveals cross-connections between conversations on Twitter. With the Internet’s promise of instant and absolute connectedness, two things appear to be curiously underrepresented: both temporal and lateral perspective of our data-trails. Yet, the amount of data we are constantly producing provides a whole world of contexts, many of which can reveal astonishing relationships if only looked at through time.

 This is a pretty unique tool that helps you (if nothing else) expand your networks and locate otherwise invisible points of connection between you and either potential new communities to tap into, or more directly, net new lead generation where you least expected to find it. Probably not something you need to dedicate a full time screen to, but worth checking into if you are having a slow week or your community development trending is down.

Check it out here.

5. TweepsKey: Visualizing and understanding your network.

Here’s how it works -

The X axis: The more tweets a follower has tweeted the more the tweep will be displayed to the right on the x-axis. The scale of the x-axis is logarithmic. When two “dots” (eg. followers) have similar values the graph will reposition the dot second dot as close to the first one in a random angle, on the next space available.

The Y axis: The more “friends” the follower has (“following”) the higher the tweep will be displayed on the y-axis (vertical). As with the x-axis the scale is logarithmic.

The Z axis: The size of the dots indicate the amount of followers for each follower. The bigger the dot is the more followers. Again on a logarithmic scale.

The color of the dots: Colors of the dots range from light-blue to green. The color is defined by the ratio followers/friends.

You can scroll over any of the dots and an interactive user profile appears. Slick and simple. Handy little visualization and community engagement tool. We wouldn’t necessarily dedicate a screen to this one, but it’s worth a look on a regular basis, so give it a shot.

Check them out here.

6. Tori’s Eye: Not the most practical Twitter visualization tool, but pretty as all get-out.

Tweets about your topic or brand appear as origami birds flying across your screen. Scrolling over them stops them in mid-flight and unveils the tweet they carry. Definitely not a quantitative tool, but if your digital control center has an extra screen and you feel like bringing a little life into your setup for a few hours, this will liven-up the joint a little. Other uses: Good for triggering serendipitous engagement points with Twitter users. Kind of like spinning a wheel, but with a lot more style. Bonus: it’s kind of relaxing, having this run on a screen amid all those graphs, pie charts and boxes.

Check it out here.

Okay, that’s it for today. We hope at least one or two of those will be helpful, especially when used along side… ahem… you know… Tickr.

If you’re only now discovering us, take our free version out for a spin. (It’s super easy.) If you’ve already done that, make sure that you follow us on Twitter and Facebook. (If not for our awesomely curated feed, to be among the first to hear about the new product we are launching very very very soon. It’s going to blow you away.)

Cheers,

The Tickr Team

In Part 1, we talked a little bit about the complexity of big data, digital/social monitoring, and the inevitable rise of mission control centers. Today, let’s talk about how to stay on track and avoid shiny object syndrome.

Why the most important question is always why?

First, let’s acknowledge that discussions between revenue generation-focused executives and budget-spending focused executives about how to measure ROI can be difficult and sometimes problematic. Command centers, in order to be worthwhile, have to demonstrate value beyond “wow, that looks cool.” Here, we run into the same types of discussions about value (and more specifically ROI) that we were having three years ago in regards to social media:

1. What is the value of having a digital mission control center? What will be the benefit(s)?

2. What will this help us do that we can’t do without it?

3. What will this help us do better?

4. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

A quick word about value:

Next step: Defining value for the entire organization. At its most basic level, the value of building a command center is twofold:

1. Built properly, it serves a real-time funnel for market data and consumer insights.

Examples: campaign management, product launches, competitive analysis, brand sentiment, message virality,  complaints, technical questions, lead evaluation, etc.

2. Managed properly, it becomes a catalyst for operational efficiency. (Though mostly, it adds velocity to consumer-facing response functions.)

Examples: customer service, PR, reputation management, crisis management, technical support, sales, etc.

Don’t just guess at the potential value of a DMCC. Sit down with every team and/or group in your organization and ask them how a digital command center could help them do their jobs better. Start with customer service, product management, marketing, PR and sales/biz-dev. They won’t just help you map out the operational value of building a DMCC, they will also tell you exactly how it should be managed, and by whom. (This will be the topic of Part 3.)

A quick word about command centers and the marketing function:

The primary function of any marketing-related endeavor is to help grow your customer community. That translates into three areas: customer acquisition, customer development, and customer retention. One way to address this particular focus is to link a portion of the activities enabled or supported by a command center to effecting changes in customer behavior. (Hint: When customer service monitors social channels, it begins to own a big piece of the customer development and customer retention parts of the community management equation. Add word-of-mouth to the customer development and retention mechanisms, and now customer service becomes a source of lead generation.)  Having a well thought out DMCC structure and building processes around it, a company can leverage real-time monitoring and turn data into insights, insights into opportunities, then seize upon those opportunities in real time.

A not so quick word about data, market intelligence and insights:

Hundreds of millions of people talking about stuff on the internet all day isn’t just data. It’s market intelligence. Throw in some simple programming that captures certain combinations of letters and numbers, and what you have now is the ability to track and capture mentions and keywords across dozens – no, hundreds - of channels. If someone mentions the word coffee in the interwebs anywhere in the world that isn’t behind a firewall, you can capture that. You can capture how many people are talking about coffee right now versus five minutes ago or an hour ago or a month ago. You can also look into how they are using the word coffee. Are they craving it right now? Are they asking for recommendations after a bad experience turned them off a particular brand? Are they simply comparing coffee to their personal preference? (Tea, for instance.)

You can even disambiguate: maybe they were talking about a color or a candy flavor. Maybe they were referring  to a commodities report or citing economic data from Colombia. You can see where in the world they are, you can look into their wants and likes and habits, you can see what they take pictures of, what TV shows they tune into, even track their movements by observing their check-ins. You can even divine some measure of their digital influence by using tools like Klout and Kred – however controversial they may be. If you sell coffee, that sort of thing might be pretty important.

Ten years ago, companies had to pay market research firms big bucks to be able to do that, and even the most sophisticated among them couldn’t provide this degree of specificity, this breadth of data, and certainly not in real time. Today, companies can bypass market research firms altogether and create their very own in-house market intelligence operations (at least when it comes to digital). In most cases, they will spend less and get more. But even if some feel like spending exactly the same amount of money they used to, they will still capture considerably more data and insights today than they could have ever dreamed of just a short decade ago. So it’s no surprise that digital monitoring has become a thriving industry. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a software vendor that sells some sort of digital monitoring, tracking management or measurement solution. And it’s been a while since I’ve run into a PR firm or ad agency that doesn’t offer some sort of social/digital (digisocial?) intelligence, expertise or service.

This brings us back to the new wave of digital command centers being erected at pretty much every digital agency and brand headquarters in the US today.  Some are still pretty rudimentary (one or two computers with a few screens running a handful of digital monitoring and management tools), while other setups rival mission control rooms like the ones you might expect from NASA and CIA. Even though it’s still early in the game and we all understand the capabilities open to us with these new technologies, the cost efficiencies brought to market research and business intelligence, and the quantum leap in effectiveness of this type of data and insight collection, it already seems that building digital mission control centers is becoming… a fad, something new and cool to do, the next play in digital services. We haven’t even gotten into this yet, and we’ve already forgotten why we were here in the first place. That’s the danger I want to address today.

Shiny New Object Syndrome – When style erodes function:

Pre-fad, the thinking around social media was this: “This could really help us fill marketing and marketing research gaps. Let’s figure out exactly how.”

Then, when ‘Social’ became a fad, the thinking switched to this: “We need a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Oh, and a content strategy.”

See the difference?

Pre-fad, businesses looked at investments in social media and social activity in terms of opportunities and outcomes: “How do we acquire new customers? Can being here help us figure out what they like and don’t like about us and our competitors? Can we use this to improve customer service  experiences? How can this take cost out of my model? Etc.” Once ‘social’ became a fad, the questions shifted to “how many new fans, likes and followers did we get this week? What’s our Klout score? How do we get more comments on the blog? How many visitors came from Twitter last month?”

What seems more valuable and business-focused: Pre-fad or fad?

We are now confronted with a similar problem with mission control centers – at least potentially: Pre-fad, a company considering an investment in its own digital command center would look at it in terms of concrete value. The evaluation might initially be driven by a question like “how does this help us do X?” (Campaign management, reputation management, customer service, consumer targeting, market research, sentiment tracking, ROI tracking, crisis management, community management, product marketing, lead generation, etc. Good stuff that will keep your hands full all day and then some.) But when the development of digital mission control centers becomes a fad though, what we shift to is this: “Can you build us the same kind of command center company XYZ has? How many screens can we fit on this wall? Should we paint the walls black?” (I’m not joking.)

“Cool” starts to trump function. Having a DMCC becomes a badge of honor, a status symbol, a digital marketing pastiche meant to impress visitors, clients, executives, investors and even potential hires more than serve a purpose. And you know what? There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. If the purpose of a DMCC is mostly to look cool, impress clients and make everyone at corporate feel pretty good about their investment in digital and IT, that’s fine. Aesthetics matter. If anything, it’ll boost morale across the company to have a state of the art digital Batcave. In a way, it’s no different than having an impressive lobby and gorgeous receptionists. BUT, wouldn’t it make more sense to also use that investment to drive more business? To increase customer loyalty? To know exactly what product gaps to fill in the market? To spot PR crises early, before they spin out of control? Doesn’t it make more sense, then, to focus on function before style? You know the answer to that question.

I am sharing these observations with you for a few simple reasons:

  1. To warn you of a common pitfall that comes with every adoption phase: Cool new toys can and will distract you from what really matters if you let them. As my friend Tyler would say, “this is why we can’t have nice things.” My hope is that if you understand how you might screw up, (and know the signs) you will hopefully know how to stay focused.
  2. To let you know that you can have a super cool DMCC that would make the producers of Jason Bourne movies and TV shows like Strike Back and not have anything concrete to show for it.
  3. To remind you that function defines design. Build a DMCC, but never lose sight of why. The why drives the how.

Stay vigilant and keep your eye on the ball. It’s easy to get distracted.

In Part 3, we will talk in more detail about operationalizing all of this and turning your DMCC into your organization’s secret weapon of awesome. (Yep, it’s a technical term.)

*           *           *

In case you haven’t added Tickr to your list of digital mission control center apps yet, give it a test drive.

You can also follow us on Twitter and hang out with us on Facebook (we’ll be your friend, even on the weekends if you want).

Let’s say that you are a brand manager, an agency working with a brand, a journalist following a brand (or just an ardent fan of a brand,) and you need to know what is being said about that brand, where it is being said, by whom, and when. Obviously, Tickr takes care of that for you, but let’s look at how easy it is to use.

Let’s start by building a simple brand page in the basic trial version. For the purposes of this post, let’s pick Nike (iconic brand, lots of content, and Nike was in the news this week because of rumors of its new shoe’s pricing and the Lance Armstrong decision).

By now, you’ve created an account, logged in, and you’ve built your page by just typing “Nike” in the box. If you haven’t done that yet, start here.

After a few seconds, here is what your basic Tickr page for Nike should basically look like:

First, let’s get situated. Top left of your screen is your page tab. (See below.) If you are using the free trial version, you only get one page at a time. If you have signed up for the pro version, you can have several tabs per page. So what you could do there is do comparative analysis of say Nike vs. Adidas, or deeper analysis of the Nike brand by refining your use of keywords. For instance: Nike, Nike Football, Nike Soccer, Nike Shoes, Nike retail, etc.

Next, look to the top right of your screen. (See below.) Though when your page launches, it will default to automatic scrolling, you can switch to manual scrolling, either by clicking on the up and down arrows or the on/off button. Your choice.

You can also easily share your page with friends and colleagues, edit your page, and there is also a help page that will help you navigate all of the elements of the page in case you have forgotten how to do something.

Now let’s look at the content being displayed on the page.

As you can see, each source of data is clearly displayed and color-coded so your eyes can easily discern between blogs, news, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Here is how each source timeline further breaks down: the boxes of text and the images you see at the top of each timeline are called content windows. They are there to give you a sense for what kind of content is being shared and create context.

The gray blocks below the content windows make up the activity graph. You can interact with all of these elements at any time just by clicking on them. (See below.)

So for instance, if you click on the blogs feed’s content window featuring the “Just Do It – Four Steps to Filmmaking,” you can pre-select it. In the top right of that window is a little symbol with a box and an arrow. Click on it and you will access the page that the original content came from. (See below.)

In that particular instance, the link took me to Garrett Robinson’s blog (hi Garrett), where I can read the full post.  (See below.)

Now, if I were a community manager for Nike, I might decide to do nothing with that information… or I might reach out to Garrett and thank him for the mention, or make Nike resources available to him, or decide to share his content on a community blog, Facebook page or via Twitter. The options will vary depending on your role, your objectives, the opportunities and risks presenting themselves, but the point is that this feature allows you to go beyond simple content discovery. It allows you to drill down into stories, mentions and content, explore them fully, and interact with them at will.

What about the activity graph? Same thing. Click on any bar you want, and you will be able to drill down into a summary of the activity for that time frame. (See below.)

Once the window for that time frame is open, you can scroll up and down (or move to the previous time frame or the next without having to close the window, which is kind of handy).

Top right of each item in the summary window is a hyperlink, allowing you to go straight to the source if you want to. Same as with the content window. The feature also works with the Flickr feed:

See? Super easy.

On the macro level, a Tickr page works as a visual ticker that aggregates then organizes data from a breadth of relevant sources. Dedicate a screen to it in your office, lobby or digital mission control center, and you will immediately get a sense for the volume of conversations and mentions going on about your brand, what category of channels these conversations and mentions are taking place on, and what the nature of these conversations and mentions is. The page’s design and automated updates can therefore alert you to shifts in attention, to the impact of breaking stories, the possibility of looming PR crises, the effectiveness of a campaign, the stickiness of a message, etc. (We’ll get into those and more in upcoming posts.)

On a micro level, the ability to drill down into the content summaries then track mentions directly back to their source 1. allows you to understand then analyze mentions and conversations, 2. choose who you want to interact with and where, and 3. gives you complete control over the degree of engagement you want to have with your audience and/or community.

Combining Tickr’s macro and micro capabilities makes for a pretty powerful social media monitoring and management tool.

We’ll focus on more advanced features in future posts, so stay tuned. (There’s a lot more to talk about.)

In the meantime, feel free to try Tickr’s free trial version, and if you haven’t yet, unlock some new features by creating an account (recommended).

And as always, don’t be shy: share your thoughts and feedback with us, either in the comment section below or by contacting us.

We hope this post was helpful to you.

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The social web hasn’t just revolutionized communications between people (and communications between brands and the public). It’s also revolutionized the way organizations operate when it comes to monitoring conversations that relate to them, their industry, their products and their campaigns.

For the last few years, digital agencies and brand management teams have been leveraging social media platforms like twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, Google + and others to monitor conversations and mentions of their brands. This alerts them to shifts in popularity, perceptions and sentiment, overall mindshare, market relevance, the effectiveness of their customer-facing efforts, and an increasingly long list of insights that help them gauge the effectiveness of their activities.

Gone are the days of lengthy, expensive, labor-intensive 3rd party market research programs. Most of what happens in the real world of brick and mortar stores and cash registers and physical products that people can touch and feel finds itself projected online, primarily through social networks. If someone buys your product and loves it, they will share what they love about it with their friends. If they hate it, you can be sure that they will share that as well. Every experience relevant enough to be shared will be, because it can be. This is the new reality of the digitally connected consumer. Good or bad, this phenomenon yields its share of advantages for brands seeking to identify areas of positive influence on the market and areas where they still have a little work to do. Knowledge, after all, is power. And the kind of real-time, multi-channel monitoring available to brands today makes brings with it a tremendous amount of actionable knowledge.

If a consumer is particularly connected, the entire path from product discovery, shopping, purchase, unboxing and usage will be systematically documented across a breadth of platforms. At any given time, a photo of your product or retail location may be shared via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram or Pinterest (to name a few). User reviews, whether positive or negative, will invariably turn up on blogs, consumer-facing websites, and in the social stream of online retailers from Amazon to Overstock. If your brand reaches enough people, thousands of micro-mentions relating to you will flood the internet every hour. Making sense of it all, organizing the noise into some kind of manageable signal, takes a bit of deliberate focus. You need tools that will help you both quantify and qualify shifts in positive and negative perceptions, for instance. You need to build internal mechanisms that will help you sort through that mess of mentions and identify valuable insights and triggers like customer service opportunities, product improvement recommendations, and possible Public Relations crises looming on the horizon, for starters.

The complexity of this task increases with the reach of the brand. Here, size (of the market) matters. For some, the process can be relatively simple. For others, entire departments have to be mobilized (or created outright) in order to address this brave new world of brand intelligence and brand response needs. You need qualified people. You need big computer screens. You need specialized  software. Before long, what started as a loose collection of laptops and digital displays starts to grow into a formalized mission control center. This is the natural evolution of brand management in the social business age. Still somewhat novel in 2012, mission control centers will be part of every organization’s infrastructure by the end of the decade.

This raises a lot of practical questions: how do we build something like that? What will I need? Where do I start? How much will it cost? What tools should I use? These are all excellent questions, and over the next few installments of this series, we will try to point you in some helpful directions. For now though, the best thing is to look at what some companies are already doing in the mission control space, and see what we can learn from them.

If you want a couple of places to start, look at what Dell, PepsiCo and Edelman Digital have done already. They are among the first organizations to have embraced and experimented with the mission control concept. In fact, check out this video from PepsiCo showcasing Gatorade’s very own mission control center. (Disclosure: Gatorade uses Tickr.)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InrOvEE2v38&feature=player_embedded]

If it all seems a little complicated for the average company, don’t worry.

1. The video was cut to look complex and exciting.

2. Most brands don’t need that degree of complexity (at least not yet).

3. (And this may be the most important reason not to fret…) while some tools can be complicated, expensive and difficult to use, others are designed to simplify the monitoring process rather than making it more difficult (or pricey). We understand the need for both, but we prefer to fall in the easy to use category. Less headaches that way.

One of our goal at Tickr, for instance, is to provide a tool that requires virtually no training but offers our users powerful, easy to digest, relevant information on one screen and in real-time.

Sure, you can drill down into tweets and sources, or run reports when you need to, but the idea is to give you a clean, actionable snapshot of conversations and content being shared about your brand right out of the box. Our design is purposely simple, our features deliberately easy to use, and the entire user experience behind the tool built to be as intuitive as possible. You can use Tickr as a stand-alone monitoring dashboard or as an integral part of a more complex monitoring ecosystem like Gatorade’s. It’s entirely up to you.

If you’ve been a little gun shy when it comes to building a social media mission control center from scratch, an easy way to get over that hint of tech anxiety is to take a few minutes to test-drive the most basic version of Tickr: our free trial. (Yes, it’s free.) You won’t be able to create multiple search tabs or access every single source or menu item in the free version, but it will give you a pretty good feel for what Tickr can do and how easy it is to use. Once you’re in Tickr and building pages of your own, it won’t take you long to figure out why it is already a staple of mission control centers for digital agencies and brands: it’s simple, slick and powerful  but really simple. Nothing overwhelming about it. The Pro and Enterprise versions are loaded with additional features, but just as user-friendly.

Take a test drive and let us know what you like (or dislike) about it. We’ll take it from there.

(To be continued.)

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