Three Social Marketing Strategies you Need to Understand

In the last blog article, I examined social media and the IMC [Integrated Marketing Communications] marketing model to make three important points.  1] Most companies are executing social strategies which do not provide any identifiable ROI to their company.  2] Successful marketers don’t focus on all markets but only on market segments which produce high returns for the company (high value markets).  3] Social media has three characteristics which makes it unique as a potential marketing channel.  These are:

  1. Social networks are different from social communities – Networks are for connecting with every one of your interests while communities are self-forming and focused on one particular passion or to address a key life trigger event.
  2. Social communities interact on many different types of social media – blogs, forums, video sites, aggregator sites, and many others.
  3. Private communities dwarf open communities – most communities require a log-in to become a members

These were emphasized in the first blog because they are critical to identifying the best social media strategy for your company.

Today, there are three strategies companies are developing and deploying using social media.  While I recommend you will use all three, it is important to understand the roles each of these strategies will play in growing your market share and in building stronger relationships with your current customers.  In this final article, we will examine each strategy and identify the roles, strengths and weaknesses associated with each one.

Strategy 1 – Social Networking Strategy

Most companies are using a social networking strategy.  As social media usage grew across all demographic groups, it just made sense to join in the conversation.  After all, it was easy to start.  Create a company Facebook page, same with Twitter and, perhaps, LinkedIn.  Customers and prospects will find you and, if you develop some content, you could engage them in a conversation.  Fast, simple and, if you did it right, you would soon have hundreds, if not thousands, of friends and re-tweeters. 

The strength of this strategy is that it is fast and easy to deploy.   Creating sites on the major social networks takes a couple of hours and you are in business.  Post occasional articles on your new products and services or key topics of interest to your customers and prospects and your friends will grow. 

But there are problems with this strategy.  The most critical is that the relationship between you and your visitors is, for the most part, anonymous.  While you will get to know some of the more active people from their names, companies cannot database them or measure key relationships.  Because we cannot link social networks to our marketing and sales systems, we can’t really tell if an individual is a prospect or a customer, the value of the relationship, or whether our social initiatives are creating new purchase activities.  In other words, we don’t have hard numbers to support whether our social networking investment is creating new revenues and profits for the company. 

Another problem with the social networking strategy is all of your best and worst markets are online at your site at the same time.  As a result, brand positioning and tailoring messages to each unique high value market is impossible.  Creating content or discussions with one segment might alienate another, more valuable, segment.  It is impossible to talk to everyone in a focused manner on Facebook or other social networks. 

As a result, social networking strategies are, for the most part, used by companies much like mass media was used in the past.  In a 2012 Social Habit survey conducted by Edison Research, the survey found most people follow brands on social networking site for sales, discounts, and coupons.  And this makes sense.   These types of offers and engagement devices are perfect for a marketing channel which cannot tailor to the needs of individuals or differentiated market segments.  With coupons, for example, you can place them on Facebook and the visitors can either use them if appropriate to them or ignore them if they are not.  Much like a mass marketed TV or magazine ad, either you are interested or you are not.  There is no targeting…that is left to the reader or the visitor.

One final note on developing a social networking strategy.  Keep in mind that the ease of building a social site you experienced also applies to everyone else.  This means while you have people visiting your official company site[s], they may also be visiting sites from your employees, disgruntled employees, external experts and others who will be talking about you, your products and your brands.   In fact, at 2012 study by the Altimeter group found most medium sized companies have 178 different social “facings” – some official and some not!  This makes it even more difficult to market using a social networking strategy.

Strategy 2 – Social IMC Strategy

The Social IMC marketing strategy is designed to achieve very different end goals.  It is designed to engage with communities of high value to your company, move them to a community site you develop to help them achieve their objectives, and acquire [database] them.  It is designed to link your social activities with your sales and marketing databases to track these high value individuals from first social interaction to final product purchase.  Companies deploying a Social IMC strategy are able to answer key questions like “What is the ROI of our social investment?”  “Are the individual attracted to our social programs customers or prospeccts?”  “What is the first product purchased and when does it occur?”  “What does each member like on our community site and how frequently do they visit it?” 

What is required to develop and deploy a Social IMC marketing strategy?  While it is complex to develop and requires a deep knowledge of social monitoring, social levels, and other social tools, it is easy to explain.  The Social IMC strategy requires companies develop the following components:

  1. Identify High Value communities – Identify the high value markets for your company and, using social monitoring tools, identify the communities they use to discuss their passions, needs, and wants.  In this phase, also identify the influencers and key “super connectors” at the center of each community
  2. Become Exceptional – Develop a plan to do something exceptional for community members.  Do this right and your concept will go viral
  3. Community support site – Create a private community support site requiring community members to register with you.  Use their registration event to learn about what they want from the community and also give them total control of your marketing process [opt-in].  Design ways to link their registration to your marketing database system.
  4. Create a viral marketing plan – Create a marketing plan to engage community members with the exceptional event to move them to the community support site
  5. Be there when they are ready to buy.

Want a quick example?  Look at the Members Project by American Express.  American Express wanted to sell cards and increase card usage in younger adults.  But selling through traditional channels is costly.  American Express looked at these individuals and found they were passionate about improving their local communities through environmental, educational, and social activism.  They used this knowledge to create the Members Project.

They created a site dedicated to helping the young activists achieve their goals…not selling cards.  It is a “think globally … act locally” site where you can recommend local causes and add them to the site.  You can then “vote” for your causes by donating dollars and time.  If you get an American Express card, you get additional votes.  Same if you use it.  The card is not the center of the strategy…just an enabler of community members to achieve their goal.  Does it work?  They got 1,7MM members in year one and it has been going since 2007. 

Strategy 3 – Big Data Strategy

Big Data is a very broad concept and is in its infancy in terms of its impact on marketing.  To a great extent, marketers today are awash in data.  We have data flowing in from our marketing database systems, our social activities, our website, our sales and CRM systems and even from social monitoring systems.  For the most part, these new marketing sources of data are real-time, non-integrated, and provide us with insights and opportunities we need to respond to NOW.  In many respects, marketing is moving from a look-back, lifetime value, predictive modeled look at market to a real-time interaction with people who are indicating they are ready to buy your product and service.  While we aren’t there yet, there are Big Data strategies being developed now that will impact marketing in the future.

Non-aggregated Marketing Systems

A major computer component manufacturer sells its products to businesses and consumers.  One of their major concerns is how to learn of manufacturing or service problems as soon as possible.  If they can address problems quickly, they can proactively address the situation before it becomes a major problem for their customers.

To accomplish this, they use the three non-integrated systems highlighted in the equation above.  They use social monitoring software to monitor social chatter for their specific products.  These social monitoring systems [which we develop at Marketing Synergy] use very focused social monitoring to identify changes in sentiment by product.  When they detect a shift from positive to negative sentiment, they quickly examine the social sources to determine the nature of the problem and if there is a specific geography affected.

When a sentiment shift is detected, they then begin scanning their customer service system to detect the problem.  They want to know when business or consumers begin calling in with the problem.  At the same time, they look at their manufacturing systems to see if the problem might be with the product – especially if there is a geographic skew – or if the problem is a customer support or application issue.

From these various sources, they quickly can pinpoint the problem and develop a response to it…before more than a few calls are received by customer service.  They proactively manage their markets using a combination of social, marketing, and other corporate systems.  Rather than react to problems, they can increase customer satisfaction by addressing problems before they become viral issues.

Now for the key question – Which strategy is for you?

The answer is simple – all of them.  Social networking is great for broad based discussions appropriate to all markets, addressing customer service issues, and distributing coupons and sales offers.  While it will – for the near future – be an investment and not a profit center for a company, it is necessary because of its wide use by your customers and prospects.  In addition, when you deploy a Social IMC strategy, social networking sites can “funnel” high value community members to your specially developed sites.

Social IMC is the way for marketers to do that they do best.  Build relationships with high value market segments, database and learn from them, and move them from prospect to customer.  The key is it must be done differently on social.  However, once you understand the process, it gives you the entire test and learn and analytics capabilities of all other marketing channels.  In fact, using Social IMC allows you to measure social like all of your other marketing channels.

Big Data is an area you need to monitor for the future.  Early applications have proven very successful for B2B and B2C marketing organizations.  As marketing managers and C-level executives, you need to begin moving from a marketplace where you control everything to a social world where you need to engage with your high value markets as they address their needs.

Thank you for reading this two part blog.  If you enjoyed it, send it to others and feel free to link to me to discuss any points of interest to you.

 

Randy Hlavac is CEO and founder of Marketing Synergy Inc – an integrated and social marketing company located in Naperville IL.  Founded in 1990, Marketing Synergy works with companies to build measurable, highly profitable marketing programs and the database and analytical systems to drive them.  Randy works with B2B and B2C organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 firms.  In addition to Marketing Synergy, Randy has been a Lecturer Professor of Integrated and Social Marketing at Northwestern’s Medill IMC program for the last 21 years.  His graduate and undergraduate courses focus on the development of high impact Social IMC marketing programs and many of the course “graduates” work in social marketing today.  Dialog with Randy on Twitter @randyhlavac or discuss social issues with this hash tag #NUSocialIMC.  Randy can also be reached through his company website.

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Randy Hlavac
Randy Hlavac is a marketing futurist who – since 1990 – has worked to integrate new technologies into the marketing strategies & tactics of B2B and B2C companies.

December 2012
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