Sramana Mitra: I think social media marketing is extremely complex and time consuming. The analytics part is getting automated more by players such as your company, but the actual marketing part is still incredibly manual. If you are doing consumer marketing or any kind of brand marketing that requires you to seriously use social media to get your distribution – which now is the reality of the lives of most businesses – you have to do social media marketing. It is a very manual process.
Kristin Muhlner: It is a manual process, and it is not yet understood how to measure success. I don’t think many of the tools out there are doing a good job of tying back engagement to particular campaigns. I think you see people measure the wrong things. You see companies creating goals like, “We are going to have one million followers on Facebook.” But what has that really done for you? You certainly see the issue right now with organizations that don’t understand goals to set or how to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. I feel that as we look at this, and we look deeply at the intelligence provided by the online conversation, using that to do much more personalization and marketing effort is a huge marketing opportunity.
SM: Also being able to distinguish between browsers and buyers. It seems there are lots of people who have a lot of time at their hand and are using the Internet to kill that time. They can become your followers, your viewers, your free riders, etc., but that is not exactly what you are looking for. How do you measure who is really in your target audience?
KM: There is some interesting work being done by organizations that look at buying intent. You also have some of the traditional click-stream behavior players doing things in terms of how they are influenced. Maybe a person is influenced by their friend who is a follower versus being a follower himself. Studies have come out recently looking at the hospitality market and conversions on online travel agencies. They show that there is far less price sensitivity than in the past because you have additional information available through online reviews, which you didn’t have before. As a result, people are less likely to use just the room rate and are much more likely to use information about the star rating and the comments. What do the comments say about the family friendliness of this hotel, for example. This whole landscape and the evolution of social data is changing. It is also pointing to the need of getting at the essence of what the online conversation is so you know how to engage with it the right way. I think for a lot of businesses this is going to be the next bridge to cross: “How do we learn what people are saying, and how do we generate authentic and good conversations? Because that is going to drive more buyers than anything we could potentially do on our own.”
SM: As a result, you see all of these very low conversion rates – 0.5% to 1% conversion rates. Apparently you have lots of visitors. But people who actually convert into business are really low. I would like to see how tools and technologies can help zero in on the real prospects and deliver 10% to 30% conversions, as opposed to catering to this very broad audience who doesn’t really convert.
KM: I agree. One of the things we find fascinating is that one of our customers is now in the process of completely rethinking their loyalty programs. They are just fundamentally flawed. They just don’t work anymore. To a certain extent, the online social revolution has completely blown up loyalty. In the past, I didn’t necessarily know where else to go, so I would return to the same place – the same hotel – because I knew I had the experience before. I agree with you. I think there is a huge opportunity here.
SM: It was very nice talking with you. Good luck with your company.
KM: Thank you so much. Take care.