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  • 06.27.11

Curating The Instant Deal With Millions Of Mini CEOs And CMOs

American Express just took out the U.S. Postal Service as a middle man for the coupon delivery strategy it started doing by putting offers on the backs of billing statements every month. But in order to work, social daily deals need large-scale curation strategies.

The news that Foursquare and AMEX have partnered on daily deals to card holders means the beginning of a new way to measure ROI for social media, but it also presents a challenge to number one ranked brands, who may not have such a flexible calculation strategy in place.

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Those brands–really, all brands–will have to move towards curation as a method for engaging with consumers, finding the millions of Lee Iacocca’s out there who are not the real CEOs, but can help manage the brand with their insights from the consumer’s point of view.

Jason Bennett,
a consultant at Xsilio Solutions, who specializes in search, says this focus on influence will become increasingly more important as the hubs through which brands and social media partners can create purchasing behavior, or just plain decision making behavior:

Beyond measuring things like influence, it would be evolutionary
to measure these “personal curatorial brands” in terms of tone, specialization,
length/frequency of post. I’ll bet that consumers cluster around certain
curatorial behaviors in researching a question or topic.

Brands are
“living” in a whole different kind of market era with this social Internet.
Though there are singular CEOs and thought leaders who wield a lot of cultural
power and can guide a company’s financial narrative, there are also literally
millions of smaller fish in the sea who hold a lot more sway over thoughts in
their pond.

Welcome to the
Era of Listening and Engagement, when a person with the right tone, the right
number of followers, and a savvy keyboard stroke can help change the direction
of a brand. Why do you think AOL bought Huffington Post for US$315 million?

Listening At Scale
Promotes Better Buying At Scale

Nothing has
changed in social media with deals like the Foursquare and AMEX partnership,
but many other things have changed–like how we now have a way of monitoring social
media interaction in a way that ties clicks to transactions and puts real value
in ROI in the space.

Before it was
about massive marketing, to catch a few fish. Now it’s about training all the
fish in the net to swim there happily.

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You’ve seen
sardines feeding, right? One bites, the other bites, three bite at a time. One
buys, many buy. We all buy more.

Content is the
trick to getting this happen.

The new trick,
though, is to get people to want to belong to a group of people who have first
click at a subject, a brand, or a free trial offer. It’s no longer just about
that old advertising methodology of making people psychologically want
something they perceive they lack.

Now it’s about
group behavior brought about by leveraging precisely geared content at scale
that shows both an understanding of the market (based on good listening) and
proactive engagement (based on being able to create content that keeps people
in their seats or drives them go shopping, or to select something), says Involver
SVP Jascha Kaykas-Wolff.

Kaykas-Wolff
tells me that up until the announcement of an
Involver-Klout partnership with Facebook
, there was no way to engage with marketers individually
but also at scale. The Facebook deal makes it possible to practice the old
school marketing of a small business owner with millions of people at once —
Granular Listening and Engagement at Scale:

We have not been able to connect with
the fans on Facebook in a way that allows us to treat them all differently.
This is the backdrop of our investment in a relationship with a company like
Klout. The missing ingredient in Facebook … on a meta-trend level is that Klout
is driving a passive score, an influence score, but also identifying lines of supposed
interest, or influence. You can layer that on top of Facebook and you get a
powerful combination of multiple relationships.”

While all agree
the influencers are important, some believe that there is too much credit given
to influencers-as-influential, like AOL’s social media director Matthew
Knell
. He believes the influencer graph is too top heavy and unwieldy. At the CM Meetup in New York City a
couple days ago he mentioned this, and it was picked up by PRNewser:

In agreement with AOL CEO Tim Armstrong,
Knell emphasized that social media in many ways is “distribution” for AOL’s
content, but that the brand also values engagement. “AOL measures success by
clicks, but they value engagement too. On Facebook we view clicks, comments,
and likes the same,” he said. “A lot of what we’ve been doing is trying to figure
out how to market our products via social media.”

This will be
something that needs careful attention. The barriers for media buying at a
hugely democratic level are very low now. There are wide channels, though they
are not necessarily deep.

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It is not that
we need now to find the influencers. We need now to find the influencers who
are really good at content, who can speak at more than the just the high level,
to other influencers.

Companies are
now going to become better and faster at doing what they always do, but
marketing and content production are going to be the means by which they do
this. “It is incredibly hard to go out
and find an incredible editorial director,” says Kaykas-Wolff.

I now as a marketer have to focus on
creating content, and using these channels to distribute this content. It’s an
evolution of traditional marketing that is coming into play now. We are very
much seeing that people with similar interests and influence are going to be
connected faster and more efficiently, and marketers can do that without
spending gobs of money.

In
other words, we are seeing the birth of “agile marketing,” a mash-up of a term
that first started in iterative software development. “In the next four or five
years, agile marketing is going to be a term that everyone talks about in the
marketing world,” says Kaykas-Wolff.

Casting Millions of Tiny
Nets to Catch Millions of Big Fish

In widely
reported news, American Express teamed up with
Foursquare to enable check-ins to deliver to American Express cardholders
valuable offers for spending a certain amount of money at retail outlets
.

Before we get
too excited about the Foursquare and American Express deal, it’s important to
put into plain language what it does and what it does not do.

It does not
change the American Express business model: helping people to buy things on
credit in the stores and venues of their choosing.

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What it does do
is provide a more efficient and immediate delivery of special discount codes and
couponing to more targeted list of users, who will act given that special
information and also delivering t to their friends.

According to
Luke Gebb, VP of Global Networking Marketing for American Express, this API
interaction with Foursquare is scalable and over time. “We are getting
reporting about what this online platform drove in the offline world. The
merchant will know exactly what kind of transactions and loyalty they have,”
says Gebb.

It has always
been difficult to measure the impact that social media had on sales,
transactions, and leads. Tapping into the Foursquare
API through a platform American Express has engineered means that there is now
a capability for measuring tangible ROI. No more fuzzy math. Says Gebb, “This
capability is competitively advantaged right now and is built to be partnered
with multiple platforms.” You can expect that this kind of marketing
distribution channel will be rapidly deployed for American Express users of
both elite and non-elite status. And the deals will increasingly become more
granular to the person, hints Gebb.

“All of that
value is the type of thing we want to port on top of any platform where our
card owners are interacting,” says Gebb. “We are building towards a scenario in
which the platform Foursquare or Patch, what have you, can query the Amex API for
a customized offer as well. That may be an offer that be available to you and
not to me.”

For reference: I
interviewed Klout’s CEO Joe Fernandez a few weeks ago, and in this post he
hinted that the company was still toying around with how to blend the
intuitive consumer-focused decision-making process with the scientific data
tracking needed to make pinpoint influence offers
.

About the author

Douglas Crets is a Developer Evangelist and Editorial Lead at the Microsoft BizSpark program. He works to tell the story of thousands of startups hosted in the Azure cloud platform built by Microsoft.

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