7 Feb 2010

Social Media Marketing - A simple guide

Social media marketing is earning a role in the integrated marketing mix, kind of. As a practitioner I know that social media marketing - SMM for short - is transforming every business division from the inside out. I'm less convinced that brands operating in hierarchical set-ups are getting the message.

Here in the UK a recent survey by Major Players concluded that organisations and marketers need to get a grip on the ins and outs of social media – fast.

Innovate and evolve

This is a recurring theme. Many businesses jump into Social Media without crafting a strategic plan rooted in goals, objectives, KPIs or an understanding of best-practice models. Questions like 'what will be the likely impact of engagement on the brand / organisations?' are rarely asked, let alone understood by senior personnel or the social practitioners and advocates involved. Social media is too often placed in a silo called 'digital marketing', as though it were a discrete part of the business with no relationship to actual processes, actions and reactions elsewhere. Big mistake!

So – here is a view of just some of the opportunities available, and to be avoided, when using the social Web. I'll refine and update these as I go along. . .

Create a survey of fans
Surveys are an effective way to garner feedback to continue to earn ongoing relevance to your existing and new customers. Surveys can range from satisfaction levels, behaviour around the prospect or act of referrals, votes towards new policies and services or be used purely for entertainment. At the simplest level, surveys inject variety into the Facebook stream to foster new opportunities for engagement and communication.

“Friend” recent customers with your corporate profile
Strictly speaking, this activity goes against Facebook’s Terms of Service so go carefully. Facebook periodically flags and deletes branded profile accounts as they’re discovered. Twitter is more open to this approach.

Use Facebook/Twitter user data to profile customers
Social media is nothing if not an experiment. Along the way it provides enormously useful insights into your users' psychography (their interests, passions and motivations – cause based connections for example). Examine your social graph to gain an insight into possible initiatives and trends.

Create a Facebook app around the brand
As the old adage has it – 'yup, there's an app for that', in fact there are often too many. Their lack of utility or longevity springs from their usually being, well, useless. Facebook apps are not guaranteed to earn an audience simply because they’re created. Users' adoption of new apps are related to their friends' activity rather than an allegiance to a particular brand. Make an app relevant, stimulating and ideally 'issue' or 'entertainment' based and you'll likely be on to something – it's that pesky psychograhy again!

Driving traffic to corporate materials through status updates
Where are you sending your users? Chances are your users are landing on a message-rich, yet lifeless and generic web page or company home page. So, you are using a highly interactive and social environment to drive traffic to a static dead-end. Hmmm, not good. Consider linking to issue / campaign specific pages and ideally captivating, interactive or viral content.

Buying targeted CPC ads
Targeted CPC (cost-per-click) ads on Facebook are only as effective as the intention and experience to which they’re tied (see above). Many businesses use these ads to increase the number of fans on a fan page or to promote corporate material. I would suggest using them to drive traffic to clearly pre-defined experiences. However, do bear in mind that buying ads is perhaps the least effective element of the mix.

Monitor Twitter/Facebook and other social media for PR problems in real-time
A PR problem can materialise at any moment, with little warning. Monitoring what your customers are saying about your brand (and to whom) enables you to be proactive in addressing the reported problems internally, in tandem with an external 'push' to correct the . . . . misapprehension. There are myriad free tools to help you monitor what is being said about your brand - Technorati, Blog Pulse, Google Trends and Alerts, Omgili, Tweetcloud and Tweetbeep . . . . . and way more besides.

Contact Twitter users tweeting negatively about the brand
As users venture into using social media in ever-greater numbers, so they are also learning that social media, like Twitter especially, can act as an echo-chamber for complaints and suggestions to brands. Brands that monitor this space are more likely to respond. OK, it could be argued that this encourages users to complain in a public forum. What would you rather? That they complained to you and your processes ignored the complaint or mis-handled it? Or are you assuming that no-one complains about your brand and services? Think again.

Contacting users tweeting negatively about your brand is a tactic shared between PR and customer service and requires solid work flow processes tied to it. It’s very easy to confuse who should respond to which tweets and who already did, versus which tweets require response.

Create 'events'
Too often I've seen people confine themselves to Twitter alone, or just Facebook, without considering using both in addition to LinkedIn and myriad other social options such as surveys and email invites to create buzz around an event. Not only does this provided great user feedback and engagement, it can help guide the tone and style of your event as well.

Provocative text drives clicks
Interesting. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” To earn attention nowadays requires a level of creativity that mirrors the methodologies of creative advertising and marketing fused with the grounding of strategic communications. Pay attention to planning and editorial programming to ensure relevance and appeal. Avoid the merely sensational or 'trending' as users will see through that pretty quickly.

Invite Twitter users who tweet positively about a brand to do . . .
Consider using positive tweets as the basis for an advocacy or official ambassador program. As this tactic becomes ubiquitous, consumers are getting wise to their power in social media. Consumers expect something for their loyalty. Consider this prior to engaging.

Time Tweets to maximise views
There is an art and science to what we tweet and when. When using social media think like a media programmer. Content, timing and promotional style will dictate the size of the audience and their expectations. For example Monday and Friday are a great time to Tweet. In the UK, the morning slot from around 7am to noon is perfect for local/territory based messaging.

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