Marketers can learn a lot about social media marketing by watching the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. To compete in the Olympics takes hard work, dedication, and resources, much of which is never seen by viewers. Breathtaking performances that appear effortless to spectators belies the many hours of practice required to compete on a global stage.
Social media marketing also takes hard work, dedication, and resources to effectively work as part of a well-rounded marketing plan that yields top results. Just like Olympic gold medalists, social media marketing rock stars like Chris Brogan, BL Ochman, and Lee Odden make it look easy. But a successful social media marketing program requires serious time and effort. Here are nine insights from the Olympic athletes that marketers can apply to their social media marketing to yield better results:
Have long-term goals. Olympic athletes spend their lives focused on winning their sport's gold medal. Similarly, companies must have goals for their social media marketing efforts. Generally, they include one or more of the following: expand prospect and customer base, support the purchase process at every step, aid search optimization, provide post purchase support, and/or build relationships with advocates.
Put in sufficient practice time. In social media terms, this means becoming a member of the community and helping others by contributing valuable information for your target audience.
Get strong support from home. In the social media eco-system, senior management acts like the parents who take their future Olympians to practice and coach them. Unlike other forms of corporate communications, social media requires active senior management buy-in, support, and participation. Social media needs senior management's human face and voice. They give employees the guidelines and resources they need to actively participate on behalf of their company in carefully selected social media environments.
Listen to your coach. For social media this translates into listening to your customers and other members of the social media community to hear what they have to say. Just as athletes watch videos of their performance to determine where they need to improve, companies must examine how the community is reacting to the content they contribute.
Marshal training and coaching resources. Similarly, social media marketing requires sufficient resources in terms of personnel and budget for content creation, execution costs, and support marketing.
Have a team behind you. No Olympic athlete makes it on their own. They need coaches and team members for support. Similarly, social media marketing requires more that just the one person who is the face of the company. It requires support across an organization. Among the departments that may be involved are marketing, product development, PR, customer service, market research, Web site, database, and analytics.
Learn from past mistakes. Be willing to fail. While competing, some Olympic athletes make mistakes or fall, but when they do, they learn from these missteps and improve their performance. The same can happen to companies that participate in social media. Given the dynamic nature of social media, sometimes companies make mistakes or their actions have unforeseen consequences (whether they're active in social media or not). It may take time and experience until a firm finds the combination of efforts that work effectively and achieves their goals. It's important for a company to understand that they can rebuild their relationships with customers and social media participants after experiencing a social media faux pas, but it takes a lot of effort and corporate patience and willingness to admit their failure publicly.
Perform in public. This is at the heart of Olympic competition. Similarly, every social media related action a business does is public, which is why social media requires transparency. This can be an issue for highly regulated businesses like financial services and pharmaceuticals.
Track progress to improve your performance. Just as an athlete may count the number of weight room reps or practice runs they put in to build up their endurance and perfect their moves, it's important for companies to monitor the impact of their social media marketing efforts. This includes:
Counting the number of followers and user engagements including comments, e-mails, phone calls, and letters.
Analyzing content and sentiment of consumer input to determine how customers feel about your products and company.
Measuring the amount of time users are engaged with your social media efforts because this equates to attention, a scarce commodity in today's world.
Assessing the value of earned media, additional impressions yielded by social media views, and pass-alongs.
Just as Olympic athletes must train and hone their performance, companies can't expect to become social media darlings overnight. Companies need solid goals and management support, including the commitment of resources. To develop an effective social media marketing program requires a willingness to accept that it's not necessarily a straight path to success. Rather, success is built by monitoring your progress and making adjustments to your marketing to get it on track. And once you have achieved a degree of social media success, remember you can't slack off. In such a dynamic marketing area, there is always something new coming along that will require your attention.
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Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.