Posts Tagged ‘social networking’

Building inspiration with Houzz

By Building Experts Team

Just as the social sharing site Pinterest has taken hold of consumers, comparable sites tailored to design andHouzz logo Building inspiration with Houzz remodeling audiences like Houzz have gripped pros and DIYers.

Houzz bills themselves as the “leading online platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world.” (more…)

By McGavock Edwards

Some say, “Any publicity is good publicity.” Those folks are obviously not today’s strategic public relations practitioners.

With the growth of social media, the 24/7 news cycle and a rise in citizen journalism, PR professionals will attest that what people say about a company and its products, how they say it and where they report can sometimes be anything but good. Negative sentiment – whether in the media or online – can change partnerships, damage stock value, and hurt employee recruitment and retention. It can negatively affect sales, harm overall reputation, and much more. And as a recent study by the Altimeter Group shows, brand crises, particularly social media crises, are on the rise.

Opportunities And Challenges For Brands

Sure, today’s online environment and “news of the minute” attitude provide tremendous opportunities to share company news with more people than ever before. We can engage customers and educate influencers about products, quickly and efficiently.  And, the word can spread…like wildfire.  But with opportunities also come challenges.

When an organization or its products come under fire, whether in truth or not, it’s critical to respond, always with intention and appropriateness. What’s amazing is that many companies are not simply ready. In fact, according to recent Crisis Preparedness study by Burson-Marstellar and Penn Schoen Berland (pdf) conducted with global businesses, only 20 percent are considered well-prepared for possible risk.  What’s considered well prepared?  They have a strategic crisis plan, they understand its importance and they review it periodically.

How To Approach Crisis Preparation

At IMRE, we encourage all of our clients to be prepared for issues that might arise. From an unfavorable product review to a manufacturing accident, a full-on reputation attack to a security failure, a problem quickly can become a crisis, especially if you’re not equipped.

The number one success factor in crisis communications is to plan ahead. While it’s unlikely you’ll be able to foresee every risk, having a plan of action will provide one of the most important factors in a crisis – a clear head.

While there are nuances to every situation and every organization, there are a few lessons we’ve learned over the years that every organization should keep in mind:

  1. Plan and Prep – These days it’s hard to commit resources to something that doesn’t immediately provide ROI. But smart executives know that being prepared for a crisis will provide great value – triple-fold – if ever a reputation management issue comes to play. Sometimes it’s a matter of business ultimately recovering…or not. Once you’ve committed to creating a plan, get the right people in the room – executives, communication professionals, sales managers, distribution personnel, and HR staffers – to provide a holistic view of your business inside and out. It’s also a good practice to enlist outside counsel who can assure all insights are considered and all avenues are accounted for.
  2. Acknowledge – When an issue arises, whether inside the building, out in traditional media, or online, it’s important to acknowledge the concern, especially if someone has been harmed. It’s true that legal concerns sometimes prevent conversation outside of a courtroom. But we believe it’s critical to acknowledge a concern.  This is where it’s especially helpful to have messaging (holding statements) at hand and a clear communication matrix to follow.
  3. Get the Facts – Know the facts before you speak.  It’s that simple.  It’s not okay to provide conjecture, opinion or half-truths. Even if you have to provide multiple updates throughout a situation, give out known information only.
  4. Put a face on it – It’s so easy to use “corporate-speak” and hide behind a logo or brand recognition when a crisis arises.  But remember it’s that brand you’re seeking to protect.  Know (ahead of time) who your spokespeople will be, and get them out front immediately. In planning, choose a group of organizational personnel who can speak to a variety of subjects and train them annually to be ready for speaking in public or to the media. You may also want to leverage relationships you’ve built outside of the organization.  Having someone else (an industry trade association or a topical influencer) speak on your behalf can lend third party credibility that can be powerful in a crisis situation.  But be ready ahead of time. Your corporate communications or public relations team should identify and build these critical relationships as part of an overall planning PR strategy for your company and/or product. Then you’re armed, if and when you need to make “an ask” for support.
  5. Own the message – With planning behind you, you have a playbook and you’re able to focus on the situation at hand.  Don’t let internal conflict or differences of opinion hold you at bay.  But don’t move ahead with knee-jerk reactions like Rupert Murdoch seemed to do last month when faced with the News Corp crisis mentioned here. This can cause more speculation and then rumors, instead of the facts, begin to take control. Armed with the facts and key messages, put your spokespeople to work and own the message – first to key stakeholders and then others. Only you can speak confidently about your organization and your products. So own it. Fast.
  6. Be transparent – Commit to transparency in all of your communications – before, during and after a crisis.  Today’s consumer is more curious, aware and informed than ever before, so your ability to be open and transparent could mean an easy road to rebuilding your reputation, or the ability to even repair it at all.
  7. Be available – Don’t speak and then hide.  Own the message, share it and be willing to speak again and again as needed.
  8. Put social media to work – While the growth of social media can be a thorn in a communicator’s side, its measurement is one of the best things about our jobs today. As soon as a crisis arises, get your social media team up to speed on the issue, and initiate tracking.  Working shoulder to shoulder, social media and media relations experts can see how an issue is being spread online and in the media, and uncover critical insights for how to adjust what you’re saying, how you’re saying it and where you’re communicating.  Leverage all available channels to create the appropriate response and to engage audiences appropriately. Here’s an example of how the U.S. Geological Survey utilized social media to communicate and crowd-source during last week’s East Coast earthquake.
  9. Measure and learn – After the “fire” dies down and you’ve breathed the collective sigh of relief, don’t forget what you’ve been through. Utilizing your crisis plan, tracking, coverage, and your audiences’ behavior, take a holistic look at the issue from the other side. Evaluate response times. Put a critical eye on the messaging. Update processes and procedures. Learn from the past and plan again for the future.

As you plan for all the opportunities and challenges your team faces in 2012, take some time to contemplate what could go wrong (here’s another case study to review) and prepare – strategically – to face what’s ahead.

What do you think? Do the new communications opportunities offered by social and emerging media outweigh the higher risks of engagement? What steps has your brand taken to prepare for brand crises? Comment below.

By Social Marketing Team

The short answer? Nothing.

The long answer? Get ready for a game-changer.

Since Google launched Google+, its new social network on June 28, the social marketing community has produced a tidal wave of coverage and commentary about the search engine giant’s first successful step – leap really – into social media.

Why? Because within three weeks Google+ has surpassed 10 million members and is demonstrating a strong capacity for prompting users to share content in a way that drives referring visits to top-tier news sites.

Let’s streamline things, shall we? What does Google+ actually mean to brands looking to build or extend their social marketing presence? Let’s start with the basics.

What is Google+?

Google+ is both a social network in its own right, and a socially-powered layer overhanging Google’s existing web services, namely Google Search, Gmail, GoogleDocs, YouTube and Google +1, but soon to include GoogleApps, Picassa, GoogleReader and the dozens of other services Google provides to users.

What’s the value proposition?

Google is attempting to bring a new philosophy to social connectivity, combining the popular features common to social media (friend networking, link sharing, location-sharing, object rating, etc) with a new emphasis on privacy, context and integration; three areas where the leading social networking giants like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare often struggle. The concept is abstract, but powerful nonetheless, as shown in this video from Google announcing the launch of Google+:

Where are the opportunities for brands?

Officially, there are none right now. Several brands, most notably Ford, pounced on Google+ invites in the first week and immediately started publishing updates. But Google quickly put a stop to this, explaining to brands that Google+ profiles are for individuals only, and that a comprehensive solution for their needs will be launched as soon as the Google+ user base has grown to a reasonable size.

To smooth things over with prominent brands and keep anticipation high, Google released a video articulating their belief that: “The business experience we are creating should far exceed the consumer profile in terms of its usefulness to businesses. We just ask for your patience while we build it.” They also offered brands the chance to take part in a pilot program to test out whenever the Google+ business solution is launched. The video below states Google’s official stance towards brand participation in Google+.

What action should brands take on Google+ right now?

Google+ represents a potential – and I emphasize the term potential – watershed for social marketing. In only three weeks, the service has demonstrated:

  1. An extraordinary capacity to grow its membership virally, as the social network will likely reach 20 million members by the time it turns 1-month old. At its current rate of growth, Google+ could rival Twitter in size by early 2012.
  2. An exceptional skill at driving referring traffic to top-tier websites. Google+ members are sharing over 1 billion items each day, and many leading news outlets have already seen Google+ crack their top ten sources of referring traffic.

That being said, Google+ is still in its infancy. There are many serious obstacles that it must surmount over the next few months to demonstrate that it is even sustainable as a network, to say nothing of being valuable to brands, profitable as a business or a rival to Facebook.

At IMRE, we are counseling our clients to take two initial steps with Google+:

  1. Devote time to learning about what Google+ is offering is individual members. The new social network certainly has an appeal, and studying how users interact with it and what draws them to the service can reap huge rewards down the road when developing a social marketing strategy for the platform.
  2. Begin to set aside time and resources for a thorough review of Google+ in late 2011 – Just in time for the social network to mature and the 2012 budget planning season to start. Tell your social marketing teams and agencies that you want to assess the viability of Google+ in late 2011, and that you want to see a clear recommendation about whether or not the new social network will support your core business and marketing strategies.

How Should Brands Assess Google+?

At IMRE, we always encourage our clients to assess a social marketing channel using six criteria, and an analysis of Google+ should take the same format:

  1. Audience – Is your target audience on Google+? What are they using it for? Is there an opportunity to add value to the conversation? Is there a threat to engaging with them?
  2. Connectivity Tools – Does Google+ offer audiences the tools necessary to share your content with others? Who will they share it with? Is their sharing and engagement measurable?
  3. Connectivity Barriers – Where does Google+ limit your brand or the ability of your audiences to share your content? Are these barriers surmountable? How?
  4. Functionality – What will Google+ allow your brand to do on the service? Will you be provided with the features necessary to forge a strong connection with your audience? Can your other marketing initiatives be extending into Google+ without risk and with maximum benefit?
  5. Terms of Use – What will Google+ not allow your brand to do on the service (contests, sweepstakes, direct messages)? Are these restrictions deal-breakers for you?
  6. Analytics – Will your Google+ marketing strategy be measurable? What insights will Google+ provide you? Are these metrics more or less helpful than those offered by other social platforms?

Are You Positioned for Success?

By Shawn Draper
 Are You Positioned for Success?

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Watching the Olympics on television is fascinating. You listen to the commentators explain how important, or even critical, it is for the athletes to be in the right position during the events. The figure skaters must coordinate their hands, feet, and bodies to assure the success of a spin or a jump. The skiers speeding down the mogul hill need to keep their knees and hands in the proper position. Even the curlers know that the position of the stones is paramount to winning. The importance of proper positioning is just as important for your business, which begs the question, “Are you positioned for success?”

Within the home and building industry, sustainability is the fastest growth segment in a slow growing market. Do you know or understand the position of your company within the sustainability market? The sustainability market place is slated to grow 146% by 2013. In real dollars, this is growth from $52 billion to more than $128 billion. This is nothing to sneeze at. Do you know how your competitors are positioned within the market? What does the market think of your company in the context of sustainability? Where is the opportunity for your company to succeed? Knowing where your business stands within this highly scrutinized industry may mean the difference between a good year or another down year.

msp success key 300x213 Are You Positioned for Success?

Social networking will have a strong impact on your business in the near future. Is your business positioned to take advantage of this sea change or will it wash ashore? The ability of manufacturers and service providers to engage directly with their customers – trade and consumer – and influence their decision making will change your business. You need to decide if your business is positioned to succeed or fail with social networking. Is your business dependent on the relationships your distributors have with your customers? Do you pay a premium because of these relationships? With social networking, you can begin to engage these customers directly, gain first person insight, and reduce your risk of dependence on your distributors.

Finally, it may be time look at the position of your business within the category you historically serve. Is there an opportunity to re-position yourself to reflect new capabilities, services, and products? Has the market landscape changed to the point where your business may be able to differentiate itself based on this change?

At the end of the day, how you position your company defines your business, what’s makes it unique or important or valuable, and why your customers should buy from you. So, “Are you positioned for success?”

By Shawn Draper

Often the eternal optimist – I still vote for people running for public office – I look back on 2009 with a feeling of success. The housing market is righting itself after two years of decline. Strong, resourceful home builders, remodelers, contractors, and manufacturers used this past year to better hone themselves and, in turn, put themselves in a favorable position to succeed moving forward.

Now this is not to ignore the fact that many good people are out of work and that credit is still a big concern as we move forward. We still have much more work to do as we enter the New Year. This work is the next opportunity to do something significant in the year to come.

In 2010, I foresee social networking – the current term for one to one relationships – will change the landscape of building products distribution where manufacturers will be able to develop direct relationships with the trade and consumers to help them make product decisions. Social networking will lead the trade and consumers to help manufacturers develop better products and services. Of course, the manufacturers need to get on board the social network in a meaningful, strategic way today.

The New Year will have our industry move from green products and marketing to sustainable and high performance products, services, and marketing. No longer will it be good enough to simply reduce, reuse, and recycle. In 2010, we will look to life cycle management and high performance standards for our products. Ultimately, high performance products and building will be the standard where today it is the opportunity.

2010 will bring about a return to strategic marketing for all involved with the home and building industries. More than one manufacturer has shared with me the realization that the strategic marketer has been lost through downsizing. This is critical at a time when new media is changing decision-making and new building standards are producing growth in our industry. Add the demand for greater measurement, return on investment, and more aggressive competition across multiple industries, and 2010 brings opportunities to the businesses that see this turn of events now and put themselves into play.

So here is to the things we learned in 2009 and to the things we will accomplish in 2010. Happy New Year everyone!

 One Step Back and Two Steps Forward: Goodbye 2009, Hello 2010

Flickr user 2composers

By Shawn Draper

Building products distribution, in general, appears to be in disarray as a result of the great recession.  Distributors and dealers are closing their doors, or at least putting their businesses up for sale.  As a result, the relationships with builders, remodelers, plumbers, electricians, roofers, insulation installers, and general contractors to building products manufacturers that rely on them to sell their goods is at risk.  Fewer distributors and dealers leads to lost relationships with these key purchasers.  Ouch… or maybe not.

Recent reports of conversations with professional building tradesman (AKA research) show they are active participants in today’s social network.  This makes sense since they historically rely on references and referral for new products, services, and ideas.  Here is the opportunity for the building products manufacturers to overcome the disarray of distribution and mitigate the risk of losing these important trade relationships through social networking.

Manufacturers enter conversations with professionals within the social networks they are using most to begin to build direct relationships.  The questions that these professionals once asked their dealer can be answered in a forum.  Code updates that affect both the professional and the manufacturer can be shared through Twitter.  Special insights and promotions can be shared on a Facebook Page.  The same type of things manufacturers and professionals rely on distributors and dealers for can be managed online with an open and/or a controlled network.

Now we know it is not as easy as creating a Facebook account or beginning to Tweet.  Research on where these professionals are talking about specific products is required for success.  Having the know-how and a plan to be welcomed into these communities are critical.  Understanding the legal implications and responsibilities of participating in social networks as a commercial entity requires a commitment just like that of working with distribution.  The difference is the direct relationship you can create with the people that often determine your success or failure in the market.

The current distribution model continues to play a vital role in getting the physical products into the field and multiplying the efforts of the corporate sales force in an efficient and effective manner.  While distribution works through the impacts of the recession, building products manufacturers have a real opportunity to increase success through developing direct relationships with the professional trade in a low cost, highly effective way.

Shawn Draper is partner and senior vice president at IMRE.  For more than 20 years Shawn has been guiding the marketing strategies for national home and building companies, including multi-year tenures, prior to IMRE, with Andersen Windows, Weather Shield Windows and Doors, and Woodcraft Supply.

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