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Our Cisco.com Homepage: 5 More Insights

In mid-June, we shared how video and live steaming perform on our Cisco.com homepage, particularly during Cisco Live. Well, since then we’ve continued to test and learn along the way on our Cisco homepage. It receives more than 2.5 million average monthly visitors and it’s truly a melting pot with 58% of visitor traffic coming from outside the US, so it’s a great place to innovate.

Here’s my latest top 5 insights about the Cisco.com homepage:

1.  Big is not always better.  We like to call our large banner ads on the homepage our “ hero” ads. They make a big bold statement and the hero ad in the number-one carousel spot receives the highest traffic on the page. That said, after analysis for several months, our smaller “feature” ads toward the bottom of the page actually receive more traffic and engagement overall per month. They seem to drive more value and are perceived as less marketing-oriented, at least that’s our theory for now. Read More »

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Bridging the Gap Between Social and Digital Media

October 22, 2014 at 12:13 pm PST

I’ve come across many articles touting the differences between digital and social media. Here’s one, for example, that suggests the words have lost their meaning entirely. It raises some good questions. What does digital even mean, anyway? And isn’t all media basically social in nature? A great take on it comes from Cisco’s Vice President of Digital, Mark Yolton, who provides deeper insight into “What is Digital?”

As marketers, we must think beyond social media and consider how digital components like web, mobile and video can further enhance the user experience and boost the perception in such a way that ultimately leads to a purchase. That’s exactly what we’ve done at Cisco. We did it by aligning social, web, mobile and video capabilities under one organization so that we can offer customers, partners and influencers an integrated experience. Clearly, social media is a huge part of today’s digital journey.

mobile apps concept

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Focus on ROI, Data Preparation, Communication for Success : Takeaways from Predictive Analytics World, Boston, 2014

The recently concluded Predictive Analytics World 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts, was chock full of insights from organizations who have successfully implemented analytics in a variety of settings. A few points stood out and I will attempt to capture them here:

1. Focus on ROI measures:  This is spoken of very often, but frequently in an attempt to develop the “right” or “perfect” model, the focus on ROI sometimes begins to waver. Being driven by ROI implies understanding which variables are controllable by the business, which data observations are of real interest and sometimes making adjustments to accomplish that. This may mean considering variables that are otherwise not significant, or oversampling certain data observations and so forth. But a relentless focus on ROI will yield the desired results.

2. Eschew Complexity: Seek simpler models, fewer variables, and explanations that make sense. Given results, the human mind will find ways to explain it -- so do not rely on interpretability as a defense of your models. But let the sheer simplicity of models tell their own story.

3. Ensure algorithmic Data Preparation: As all practitioners know, Data Cleansing and Preparation is 80% of the effort -- but what is sometimes forgotten is that Data Preparation is not a one time effort, but is subject to the algorithms being considered. Understand not only the assumptions, but the limitations of the algorithms being considered -- and do for the algorithms, what the algorithm cannot do for itself.

4. Consider Ensemble Techniques: Ensemble methods such as Random Forest, Gradient Boosting and others have proven repeatedly to provide stable and usable results. Master these techniques and more.

5. Simulations are often a good Communication technique -- All practitioners understand that the ultimate success or failure of their efforts depends upon successful communication of their findings. Leverage simulation of your results, and the likelihood of success or failure of your model in real situations to help further communicate and define your findings.

And incidentally, if you wish to understand the analytics maturity of your organization, visit this link at the INFORMS website!

Automation and Ambassadors. Smart Move?

October 7, 2014 at 9:00 am PST

In today’s marketing world we’re bombarded with automated solutions to help us meet our goals. For every objective we set there are ten platforms ready and waiting to assist. Ambassador Programs are no exception, and when vendors show you all their sparkles and bells and whistles it’s tempting to jump on board. But how do you know if you’re making the right decision? What do you look for when you’re shopping for a solution? In this article I’ll share three important guidelines to use when exploring Ambassador Program platforms. But first here are two important lessons I’ve learned. Read More »

The ABCs and 123s of Social Listening

October 2, 2014 at 12:38 pm PST

The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” This is an important adage to embrace, especially with social media marketing programs. Listening enables you to understand what people expect from your brand and how they feel about your products. It can also give you valuable insights to guide your strategy and develop deeper, more meaningful relationships with your customers.

All too often, a common failure with brands is that they speak twice as much as they listen – or worse yet, they don’t listen at all:

  • 56% of customer tweets to companies are being ignored (source)
  • 70% of brands ignore complaints on Twitter (source)
  • 39% of companies do not track their social media responses at all, and 55% ignore all customer feedback on Twitter and Facebook, largely because they have no process in place to respond (source)

Companies who fail to listen are losing an opportunity to satisfy and engage customers, and they also miss out on other strategic benefits. Listening delivers great value during the strategic planning process as well as in tactical operations. It can help you:

  • Identify emerging trends
  • Provide competitive insights
  • Discover product issues and concerns
  • Manage crisis and mitigate risk
  • Uncover sales leads
  • Find influencers and advocates
  • Guide your content marketing strategy

Sophisticated listening guides our approach at Cisco. We implemented a Social Media Listening Center (SMLC) to visualize conversations that are relevant to us. Our listening center started out as a single-screen display outside of our CMO’s office. Now, it is a multi-screen experience that enables customized visualizations in real time. It features conversations related to our brand, trends, influencers, and sentiment, as well as short-term activities such as new product launches, major campaigns/sponsorships, and our annual customer conference, Cisco Live.

But listening alone is not enough. Today’s social media savvy customers expect companies not only to listen, but also to respond. A study by Edison Research found that 67% of people want a response within 24 hours or less. This is where the “ABCs and 123s of Social Listening” comes into play.

ABCs

Step 1:  Action-Based Conversations (ABCs)

Cisco is mentioned 5-7K times a day and roughly 3% of those conversations are actionable. Using our listening tools, we developed a process to help filter out the noise and identify the ABCs. These conversations are then categorized into one of the six categories below:

  • Support – Request for help resolving real-time issue
  • Question – General inquiries and product questions
  • Critic – Conversations that merit brand management consideration
  • Buzz – Praise from Cisco fan or advocate
  • Lead – Pronouncement of near-term purchase decision
  • Idea – Request to enhance a product with a new feature

Step 2:  123s

After we identify and categorize the ABCs, we then prioritize them into 3 levels. Priority 1 conversations typically have a 24-hour response time, and priority 2 conversations have a 72-hour response time. Priority 3 conversations fall in the discretionary response category.

Step 3:  Route and Respond

Once conversations are tagged, they are routed through our social content management platform to the appropriate team members and experts who can provide a response within the designated time frame.

Step 4:  Measure and Evaluate

As with any marketing program, it’s extremely important to measure your results and set targets for success. At Cisco, we began by tracking baseline metrics such as the number of action-based conversations and replies. Now we also track reach, revenue from listening for leads, average response time and adherence to SLAs (i.e. response posted within the recommended time period). We monitor these performance indicators and make adjustments to the program as needed to ensure continued success for Cisco and our customers.

Listening isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth the effort. The more you listen and interact with those who are talking about your company, the greater opportunity you have to build connections and increase the visibility of your brand. Having a formal program in place to not only listen, but also respond offers many rewards ranging from increased customer satisfaction to positive brand perception to new revenue opportunities. Just remember your listening ABCs and 123s, and you will be well on your way to creating meaningful relationships with your customers.