For some marketers, every day is Halloween since the social media landscape is filled with monsters waiting to destroy their business. With one out of every five minutes online spent on social media networks and blogs, social media is here to stay. Therefore, it's time to shine some light on these fears that are holding your marketing back.
Here's how to take the scare out of five social media marketing monsters:
We have to accept that consumers own our brand based on their perceptions. Going back to Trout and Ries, two great Mad Men, branding is grounded in positioning, which takes place in the mind of your customer. The reality is that consumers have always owned your brand. The difference is that you can hear what they're saying about it and proactively engage with them directly to influence and change their brand perspectives. The challenge for marketers is that, with the ever-expanding use and proliferation of social media tools, consumers have greater means for sharing their point-of-view with other consumers. Further, consumers are also influenced by how a firm acts as a corporate citizen and their transparency. Translation: consumers care about how you do business. Metrics to track: Use traditional brand metrics such as brand sentiment and intent to purchase to assess how effective your branding efforts are and where you need to make modifications. Also, monitor sentiment related to how your corporate actions are perceived since this influences consumers' brand feelings.
We have to create and distribute content for free when and where customers need it on social media platforms, not push promotional information. While marketers like to use every media channel to deliver marketing promotions, you must understand consumers' shopping-related needs have evolved. They now want and access information before, during, and after they make a purchase. With U.S. smartphone usage at 40 percent, it's critical to offer customers the information they want and need wherever they are in the purchase cycle and physically (since they may be in your store or your competitor's).
To help your customers, create useful content that supports them at every step of the purchase process and answers their questions. Improve your tracking by incorporating a contextually relevant call-to-action and unique promotion code. Metrics to track: Monitor visitor use and engagement with social media content as well as purchases made with the call to action and promotion code. Your goal is to find out which content is resonating with your prospects and which isn't.
We have to listen and respond to customer complaints and issues voiced on social media platforms. Customers will use any entry point to get heard by a company. To this end, it's important to get your customer service department involved in social media efforts because it's useful to respond to these customers to keep PR crises to a minimum.
Research by Altimeter showed that PR crises are projected to increase. By listening to your customers and the public, you can respond quickly to a brewing problem. For example, Scott Monty averted a major social media blowup for Ford by actively engaging and tweeting with those involved. As a result, he built relationships and diffused the problem. Metrics to track: Track potential issues and questions raised across social media platforms. Go further and assess the effectiveness of your response to handle the challenge.
We have to allow negative comments about our brand, company, and products to appear on our sites and social media. When it comes to shopping, 60 percent of consumers still turn to the web to research their purchases and consumer reviews are top on their list of the information they seek, because for them the trust is gone.
Further, Cone Inc. research found that consumers check both positive and negative comments equally. Therefore you need to allow negative feedback to appear in the product reviews on your site or prospects will leave your site to check other sites to find out the dirt on your products. Further, you must respond to negative comments where appropriate and fix any problems. Therefore you have to be vigilantly engaged across all customer review sites including your own. On the bright side, when you address customer issues, these customers often become strong fans. Metrics to track: Ideally, you should be monitoring the environment for business, brand, product, and senior executive mentions. Additionally, track the number of complaints and/or negative comments and responses. Is there any change in customer perception overall?
We have to pay an employee to handle our social media marketing, not just use a college intern. Take away the fact that most college interns need to be paid based on local law, you can't leave your marketing to someone who has limited marketing experience and/or understanding of your brand. Metrics to track: Employee time spent on monitoring social media and engaging with prospects. Assess the number of consumer engagements, especially those where your manager made a difference in how your brand, company, or product was perceived. The reality is that these efforts are often small, incremental, and difficult to measure at one time.
While your firm's social media demons may seem scary, instead of ignoring them and hoping that they'll go away, you're better off assessing the challenges with each one and finding appropriate marketing tactics to make the issues manageable so that they work to improve your offering, brand perception, and increase sales. This way you'll be able to get them to remove their monster costume and get your marketing on track.
Are there any other social media demons that you're facing? If so, what are they and how are you removing the issues for your marketing? Please include your response in the section below.
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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.