In the rush to Facebook, marketers are discovering that different kinds of content drive different kinds of results — and different social networks respond in different ways. It was not that long ago that the experts warned that brands could not “sell” in social media, that the audience would rebel, and that social media efforts would fail. We have learned, however, that when done correctly, it absolutely is possible to promote goods and services to online fans and friends.
Top Performers are focused most heavily on taking advantage of the “social” aspect of social media marketing, indicating a begrudging acceptance of the current state of ROI measurement, Gleanster research reveals.
Following are seven ways that Top Performers are maximizing the value of their investments in social media marketing initiatives. The research findings are based on the experiences of 284 companies that participated in the Gleanster survey for the new benchmark report Social Media Marketing (currently available for free download).
1. Give consumers a good reason to want to share brand-related content.
Good community managers have learned over time that one of the keys to a successful engagement campaign is to provide quality content that is relevant to the brand but that does not necessarily promote consumption of the brand.
Marketers who run social media efforts for companies large and small need to remember that customers want to take the lead in advocating for the brand. Brands might point them in the right direction, but consumers will be most inclined to interact with the content if it provides value, solves a problem, or is just plain interesting.
2. Identify and engage top influencers.
The influencers and brand advocates that gravitate to a company’s online communities and social media sites are the holy grail for marketers. These are the people who will tell the brand story, rally others to the brand’s side, and speak up when the need occurs.
With the right social media monitoring tools, brands can identify these people without engaging in social media marketing themselves, but they’ll generally be at a loss to do anything about it without joining the social media universe, even on a small scale.
Influencers are a funny breed. Brands should foster a positive relationship with them, but should be careful not to “buy” their influence. Just showing them respect and attention, and giving them early information, should be enough to keep them involved.
3. Leverage the reach and multiplier effect of social networks.
Social media platforms work by allowing people to connect and communicate with circles of friends — each with their own circle of friends.
These overlapping and interconnected circles allow users to broadcast their stories to their networks, and also allow the information to creep into the larger networks.
Marketers who create interesting offers, content or apps for these networks can find that the social capital pays off by sparking a “me too” connection to the brand.
4. Adjust promotional tactics as needed, based on campaign performance.
Top Performers are outdistancing others by paying closer attention to the effectiveness of their social media marketing — and changing course when necessary.
Done right, social media campaigns can be pretty flexible in scope and design, allowing marketers to shift gears to reflect facts on the ground. In fact, because of the two-way nature of most social media, brands can win laurels for adjusting their efforts in the face of criticism or lack of response.
Either way, the ability to modify a campaign to make it more effective or to draw a larger response has clear benefits that are not as readily available in more traditional marketing campaigns.
5. Generate new content and conversation on campaign landing pages.
Content costs money, and marketing content can sometimes come across as, well, marketing content. User-generated content, on the other hand, is generally authentic and is perceived by the audience as trustworthy.
This user content can also make static pages seem alive, offering a constant stream of changes. Brands need to be willing to take their lumps, though, because these unvarnished and sometimes impolitic comments can be off-putting.
6. Host one or more branded online customer communities.
Branded customer communities can be an effective way to gain customer insights, marshal enthusiasm and develop advocates.
Communities generally have strong value in natural search. But they are no slam dunk. They require a lot of TLC, and are something of a slow build.
The challenge, frequently, is in keeping the focus on building the community long enough to actually build the community. Done correctly, branded communities can pay off in spades.
7. Integrate social media with other media buys and campaigns.
Social media marketing is seductive, because there’s the perception that you can do it on the fly — that you don’t need the kind of planning and back-end support as you do for email marketing campaigns or traditional marketing efforts.
More and more marketers are adding Facebook and Twitter mentions to their ads and marketing collateral. The callouts frequently are mere invitations to join or follow the brand on those sites. However, aggressive marketers are finding ways to bring value to the fan for taking the action.
They are offering exclusive content, special deals or early information. The comingling of social media marketing with other campaigns can have the effect of making the entire brand seem more in line with the sensibilities of today’s consumer.
Kevin S. Ryan is research fellow at Gleanster and former vice president of social media at Barnes & Noble. He can be reached at [email protected]. Jeff Zabin is research director at Gleanster and former research fellow at Aberdeen Group. He can be reached at [email protected].