On Tuesday, Janrain had the pleasure of co-hosting a webinar with Badgeville about “Secrets of Engagement – Leveraging Social to Unlock User Value on Your Site”. Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at Altimeter Group, presented his latest research on the evolution of the social corporate website, including a new framework for social integration (see below), and real world brand case studies and examples.
The framework presents five major maturity stages that brands go through to socialize their websites, beginning with a lack of integration. The next stage, Social linking, involves driving hard-earned traffic away from your website to social channels such as Twitter and Facebook. Owyang criticizes this strategy by suggesting that the last thing brands should want to do is send traffic away from the point of conversion on their website.
Social aggregation pulls in and curates activity from social networks directly onto your site, in addition to aggregating social login capabilities from multiple networks to streamline user acquisition and profile data collection. This stage brings conversations that are happening about your content and brand across the social web back to your site, in real time.
Social publishing fosters a viral loop of word of mouth marketing and referral traffic by encouraging users to share content and activities from a brand site to their friends on social networks. Consumers are increasingly looking to their friends and social feeds both to communicate and drive recommendations. As a result, social sharing becomes a powerful method to enable conversations about your brand and drive awareness and socially-referred new visitors back to your site.
Social context occurs when marketers personalize brand experiences on their sites based on a consumer’s online behaviors, demographics, interests, friends or other social data. For example, a commerce site might serve personalized product recommendations based on a consumer’s interests. Similarly, a content site might leverage a consumer’s social graph to stream activities from friends on the site. This philosophy of social proof makes web experiences more contextually relevant, and at the end of the day, facilitates increased engagement and conversion behavior on your brand site.
Finally, seamless integration refers to a future-state envisioned by Owyang where consumers play in an online environment with no tangible differentiation between your brand site and social channels (more on this below).
We had fantastic participation on the webinar with several questions about how best to integrate social media on brand websites. The questions sparked some vibrant discussion, so we thought we’d share a few of the most frequently asked questions and our thoughts.
- When will the final stage of Jeremiah Owyang’s social business website framework (seamless integration) become mainstream? Owyang predicts that the era of seamless integration between brand sites and social channels is years away. Despite the rapid evolution of the social web, Owyang observes that corporations often tend to lag behind consumers with technology adoption – Twitter and YouTube are perfect examples of this. Owyang hints that major players like Google, Facebook or Microsoft may one day develop tools that pull in and aggregate data from multiple sources and begin to assemble content on the fly. Owyang also suggests that integrating new social tools into legacy systems can take time, thus delaying adoption rates. That said, the growth of turnkey SaaS tools such as Janrain Engage and Badgeville, both of which can be up and running in less than a day, can dramatically reduce lead times for social integration.
- A few brands are investing heavily in growing their presence on social channels and even shutting down their corporate website to flock to Facebook. Vitamin Water is a germane example, having “outsourced” its web presence to Facebook. Do these brands put themselves at risk by placing their fate in the hands of Facebook?We recommend that brands employ a combination of social tools in concert. The most successful brands integrate key social components including social login, social sharing, comments, community, ratings & reviews and loyalty & rewards. But it is important to complement social optimization efforts for your website with a strong presence directly on the major social channels.
In the B2B space, reports indicate that Facebook is often most effective at promoting products or services, LinkedIn as a lead generator (which is more applicable in a B2B context), and Twitter as a traffic driver to your corporate website. There will always be great risk associated with placing all of your proverbial digital marketing eggs in one basket, and that includes outsourcing your corporate website to any third-party, including Facebook.
Used effectively in tandem, your company website and social network presence should form a closed loop, whereby consumers discover your brand on social networks, funnel to your website for further engagement while bringing with them their profile and social graph, and then broadcast content or their activities from your site back to their social networks. In essence, this forms a sustaining circle of awareness, engagement and conversion.
- What type of social data is available to websites that enable social login?Each of the social networks lets users share different profile data about themselves with websites during social registration. Email providers such as Google, Yahoo! and Windows Live provide an email address, name, gender and/or location. In addition to these core demographics, social networks like Facebook and MySpace pass the richest set of social data, including a user’s interests, hobbies, and friends. On B2B sites, the ability to share LinkedIn employment history data can be valuable. You can view a full list of available profile data by social network using our provider guide.
It’s important to remember that social login facilitates permission-based marketing because users must opt-in to approve sharing their profile data with your site. Marketers that leverage social login to collect and store this rich social profile data uncover opportunities to engage and monetize consumers through enhanced targeting, segmentation and personalization of content or campaign offers. At Janrain, we recommend that companies maintain transparency with consumers about how they will use this data or permissions to enrich the user experience.
- Will brands that incorporate social and gamification eventually see a backlash in the market?As Owyang notes during the Q&A, “social washing” may begin to happen in our space just as the greenwashing phenomenon swept the sustainability movement a few years ago. Privacy will be the most prevalent factor affecting the long-term viability of social tools and game mechanics for brands. That said, the most effective forms of social marketing are permission-based. Consumers that use social login must opt-in to share their profile data with your brand. Similarly, they opt-in to follow your brand on social channels like Facebook and Twitter.
A permission model lets consumers own control of the relationship, mitigating potential privacy concerns and giving your brand the prerogative to market effectively to consumers based on their interests or demographics. And stepping back from a philosophical perspective, the social nature of human interaction will continue to influence online behavioral paradigms – we are all social creatures and want to communicate and share with each other. That’s not going to change.
If you missed the webinar, an archived version is available for viewing.