The social media landscape is littered with band wagon jumpers, self appointed “experts,” bold but baseless predictions and, don’t forget the endless discussions that say absolutely nothing.
It’s time to End the Hype.
Social media could be considered one of the most fundamentally disruptive influences of the century. Those few thousand people and outlets that once controlled the information we received along with how we received it has dramatically shifted to a world where we all have the opportunity to share and gather information on an infinite scale. This shift to a Social Web is opening up new opportunities for individuals and organizations that were just not possible before. The rapid adoption of social media has fueled this Social Web revolution where technology has met a fundamental human need or desire – the need to
communicate, be heard and belong.
We are no longer restricted by geography, social standing or any other demographic factor. The Social Web is a great equalizer. If you have a computer or mobile device with web access, you can communicate with whoever you want no matter where or who they are.
As with most disruptive and revolutionary concepts, they eventually become commercialized for business use. There is certainly no difference here, except for the fact that most organizations are struggling with how to incorporate social media into their business models.
What today’s organizations need to keep in mind is that Social Media is more than overhyped tools and fancy buzzwords. When used as an integrated part of any marketing mix, it can inform audiences, harvest actionable data, build knowledge about an audience and impact bottom line results. The data and information
gleaned from social media is critical when trying to deliver best practices, services and even goods to prospective buyers. Used skillfully, it has the potential to be a revenue booster in the form of organic content and authentic conversations. Consider a June 2009 study from MarketingVox and Nielsen which found that 25 percent of search results for the world’s Top 20 brands linked back to user generated
Traditional channels have less influence on business results because consumers will get their perspectives out there first. From conversations on Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, branded communities, email, blogs and elsewhere, social media presents a unique way for companies to find out what’s making customers open their wallets or walk right past their store.
Ask yourself these questions. Is this just a revolution you need to participate in or is it just an overhyped fad lacking any true business benefits? While we may not be able to fully measure the difference between let’s say a press release impression and a positive customer recommendation on a community site or even the impact thousands of YouTube views has over a Super Bowl ad, organizations need to remember that its customers are spending more time than ever in those social media channels, and they’re not going away.
Now is the time to invest in understanding what each channel means for your target audience through profiling and segmentation. It will be different, but traditional marketing principles have not changed and
still apply. Don’t let those social media “experts” fool you. There is no secret social media sauce or silver bullet. It’s trial and error through testing and continued learning, just like with traditional media in the good old days.
How far are you in understanding social marketing and how much are you really investing? You need commitment and investment in order to see any results. Here’s why – your competitors are trying to friend your friends while your customers are joining your competitors’ communities and engaging with them and not you.
If you are just getting started in social marketing or an early adopter with a clear understanding of the value, this eBook contains information that can help you cut through the hype of social media and drive real usiness results.
Set Yourself Apart
The key for most organizations is to use social media tools in ways that work for them and their organization. No matter what you may hear from the hundreds of social media gurus, Social Media does not come in “one size fits all.” Your social media strategy needs to align with your corporate strategy and business objectives. As such, the mix of tools that works for one company may not work for another.
When all is said and done, the social web and its millions of users, present a golden opportunity for intelligent enterprises to connect with their audience in a way not previously possible. That said, leveraging the free social web (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) is only the tip of the iceberg. After testing these channels, organizations gain even more momentum through their own branded community.
For example, ASOS – the UK’s largest independent online fashion and beauty retailer – built an online community called ASOS Life to facilitate interactions and conversations between the brand and its customers.
Retail organizations like ASOS are making social media a critical component of the marketing mix because they understand the power community influence has on driving purchases. Eighty-three percent of online shoppers say they are interested in sharing information about their purchases with people they know, while 74 percent are influenced by the opinions of others in their decision to buy the product in the first place (Manage Smarter, September 2009).
ASOS Life builds on the enthusiasm customers have for the brand by connecting them with each other and ASOS Insiders (ASOS employees), to talk fashion, shopping and all things ASOS. By building on this information, they are rapidly becoming the market leader in the UK online fashion world. Their site, ASOS.com attracts more than 5.3 million unique visitors a month and has 2.3 million registered users.
For companies like ASOS, establishing clear objectives up front allow for clearer tracking of social media return. There’s no substitute for well-reasoned, empathetic marketing techniques, and when the distracting hype of social media fades, effective marketers will identify the real business benefits of these tools.
The Social Media Way
The business landscape is scattered with social media “experts” who promise impact and ROI. For the most part, these folks are passionate, energetic and many times, uninformed. Many trainers and pros advocate jumping into the social media ocean and abandoning your existing marketing strategy. While that direction may be advocated by many in the space, be warned: One of the most common “The AIR MILES community gives collectors a destination to share and exchange information and connect with each other and social media gives us the ability to engage in a dialogue that was previously not possible.”
- Neil Everett, Chief Marketing Officer, AIR MILES Reward Program. mistakes businesses make is leaping into social media without a plan. Without a plan and objectives clearly defined makes it difficult, if not impossible, to break out the actual costs involved, measure success and define a return on an investment. This leads to a critical question that many organizations are struggling with: How should companies decide how much capital to spend on social marketing activities if they can’t even define what it costs or what it will return?
Again, a focus on the end-user – your target audience – is key. Connect with your community and let them provide YOU with direction. Since you’re looking for returns—both in awareness and on the bottom line—you have a unique opportunity to leverage social media tools to connect and engage with people. The
genuine feedback provided by your community will temper the overload of hype.
The audiences with whom you connect can really lead your marketing efforts—in both traditional and new media. For example, take a look at how AIR MILES Reward Program — Canada’s Premier Coalition Loyalty Program – uses social media to connect with their passionate and loyal community. Using a multi-channel marketing approach that included both traditional and social media channels, AIR MILES informed their Collectors, or loyalty program members, of the launch of their online community. This included traditional channels, like direct mail, as well as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. As of Q4 2009, the AIR MILES marketing program attracted over 20,000 community members who were actively engaged in thousands of discussions.
The AIR MILES community, available in both English and French, features several sections that are designed to drive community participation, including a tips & tricks section that allows users to find and share information on how to earn more reward miles and get the most out of the AIR MILES Reward Program.
There is also a discussion forum that encourages members to begin conversations, ask and answer specific questions, and connect with fellow Collectors as well as AIR MILES Sponsors and the AIR MILES reward program. Users are also encouraged to upload photos within its interactive photo gallery to showcase everything from great vacations to testing out new products.
“The AIR MILES community gives collectors a destination to share and exchange information and connect with each other,” says Neil Everett, Chief Marketing Officer, AIR MILES Reward Program. “Social media gives us the ability to engage in a dialogue that was previously not possible.” Without an awareness of the investment, techniques and tools necessary to succeed, efforts are going to fall flat…hype or no hype… Regardless of how active and present an organization strives to be. But the tools CAN work when you start with an educated approach.
The Social Web World
The conclusion is simple. We are now part of a Social Web World. Your customers and prospects are migrating there at an alarming rate and your organization needs to be there too. There is no five point holy grail plan, no perfect return on investment methodologies. You need to do what you can to learn and accelerate your switch between traditional and social media. Don’t get frustrated. This is still a new frontier.
Go beyond the hype and establish a plan for connecting with every audience that matters to your success. We’re no longer in an environment where “push” and “interrupt” – driven media rules the roost. The methods today are truly conversations and connecting with your audience.