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Connecting the Social Web and Your Business

  |  November 17, 2010   |  Comments

Tapping into the social Web and connecting the source points of traffic with specific offers is the next wave you want to be riding.

Let's focus on a very specific - but too often overlooked - aspect of social media-based marketing: integrating the social Web with your online (and by extension, offline) marketing conversion process. Creating an online presence is a "Step 1/Must Have" for most businesses now, and right behind that is carving out a space in the social outpost for brands, products, and services whose customers and business objectives indicate a social presence. For the record, I'd argue that this means "most, if not all."

The missing step? Connecting the two. It sounds simple enough, but consider the marketing context: for many marketers, individual marketing channels are often treated as standalones, with an overall level of coordination (only) around the message and objectives. This is a hold-over practice that grew out of traditional media planning and creative, and it makes sense from efficiency and overall awareness campaign management points of view. However, from the vantage point of those learning about your product or service through collaborative interaction on the social Web, the experience is obviously much less compartmentalized.

The first step in creating a solid connection between the social Web and the balance of your marketing program is in the design of your overall conversion path - the series of steps that lead a visitor from interest to purchase, or to whatever your specific end-goal happens to be. Colleague and fellow ClickZ columnist Brian Massey has an entire practice devoted to optimizing the conversion process, and the integration of social media is definitely a component in that optimization process.

In particular, Brian makes the point of understanding the specifics of your "conversion marketing stack," the ordered set of steps that lead to successful conversion. One of the central elements is content, and this applies to your involvement on the social Web: what content are you creating, who is it for, and what is the action that you expect as a result of interest in that content? Take the time to map out your conversion path, and then design your content so that it drives the traffic you really want.

For many businesses, Facebook has specific relevance, so let's look at how this idea of connecting the source and conversion might play out in this context, and specifically at the combination of Facebook's ad platform and a well-designed business page. If you're wondering what "well-designed" really means, Mari Smith provides straightforward advice that shows you "the what" and "the how." Note that again conversion planning is part of the process that Mari lays out.

To connect your conversion process with your business presence, Facebook provides an excellent set of starting tools: you'll find the complete set of Facebook plug-ins and notes on how to implement them in the Facebook Developers section of the site. From the now-common "share" button to the more recent "Like" button and other plug-ins, Facebook offers a set of connecting technologies that make it simple for people visiting your site to see who among their friends also likes the content they are viewing right now. This provides an automated, meaningful indication to your visitor's Facebook friends that these friends like this content as well. The impact is dramatic given the power of the typical social graph for Facebook members.

Here's an example: go and visit the Levi's "Friends Store" and you'll find a very well-designed Levi's plus Facebook implementation. (Disclosure: While Levi's is not a client of mine, I have been wearing its jeans exclusively for over 40 years, and the 501 brand in particular for nearly all of them.) Take a minute and visit the site: choose "Friends Store" and "OK" the connections to Facebook. Then, check out the number of your own friends who like Levi's jeans. "Like-minder shopping starts here" as it says on the site. You can see the Levi's Friends Store in action in the short video post from Digital Examples.

As you begin to build a traffic flow from your social points of presence, you'll want landing pages that are tuned not only to any advertising that you are doing - this is a long-standing best practice - but also to the specific social media content and sources from which this traffic originates. A great new tool that helps you do just this is "Smart Content." Smart Content has a rich rules engine underneath its super-simple and well-architected user interface: it's a snap to create rules that present content blocks on your existing landing pages that are specific to visitors arriving from particular locations. This makes it possible to create a unique experience that ties your social content into your conversion path, and that measurably boosts conversion in the process. Using Smart Content, the city of San Antonio measured and documented a +49.9 percent conversion rate improvement by using content that was specific to the visitor - including the social source point of that traffic - versus static content. That's impressive.

My long-time colleague Susan Bratton - an expert in landing page design and campaign development - introduced me to ObjectiveMarketer, a tool set that combines social campaign definition and management with customized landing pages. ObjectiveMarketer provides an end-to-end solution that links social and online marketing. Like Smart Content and your Facebook ad program and business page, ObjectiveMarketer also provides the metrics needed to track performance. Check out this interview with ClickZ's Anna Maria Virzi as Susan explains the ins and outs of ObjectiveMarketer and how a connected social strategy can positively impact conversion.

Looking forward, expect to find the same opportunities for direct integration of mobile plus social with your conversion process. Facebook continues to roll out its mobile tools, and established tools from Foursquare, Gowalla, and Layar are increasingly finding their way into integrated marketing campaigns. This brings the marketing challenge full-circle: defining your conversion process so that it recognizes not only the particular stage in the buying process of a potential customer, but also presenting an offer that itself is based on both the social point of origination for that traffic as well as the physical location of that person! Tapping into the social Web and connecting the source points of traffic with specific offers is the next wave you want to be riding.

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Dave Evans

Dave is the VP of social strategy at Lithium. Based in Austin, Dave is also the author of best-selling "Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day," as well as "Social Media Marketing: The Next Generation of Business Engagement." Dave is a regular columnist for ClickZ, a frequent keynoter, and leads social technology and measurement workshops with the American Marketing Association as well as Social Media Executive Seminars, a C-level business training provider.

Dave has worked in social technology consulting and development around the world: with India's Publicis|2020media and its clients including the Bengaluru International Airport, Intel, Dell, United Brands, and Pepsico and with Austin's FG SQUARED and GSD&M| IdeaCity and clients including PGi, Southwest Airlines, AARP, Wal-Mart, and the PGA TOUR. Dave serves on the advisory boards for social technology startups including Palo Alto-based Friend2Friend and Mountain View-based Netbase and iGoals.

Prior, Dave was a co-founder of social customer care technology provider Social Dynamx, a product manager with Progressive Insurance, and a systems analyst with NASA| Jet Propulsion Labs. Dave co-founded Digital Voodoo, a web technology consultancy, in 1994. Dave holds a BS in physics and mathematics from the State University of New York/ Brockport and has served on the Advisory Board for ad:tech and the Measurement and Metrics Council with WOMMA.

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