Is your firm still sitting on the sidelines debating whether it should jump into the social media fray? If so, chances are your discussion is probably centered on the wrong issues. On social media platforms, your organization should focus on how you can support and enhance the social media community, not your firm.
On social media, consumers tend to be interested in themselves, their family, and friends. For marketers, this means you need to get over yourself! People are on social media to socialize, not get bombarded with your marketing messages. Marketers have followed them to social media for the same reasons they use any other media platform: because it's where consumers are and advertising requires large numbers!
Consumers tell marketers what they want but…marketers aren't listening [Research].
Don't take my word for it, here are five pieces of research that show social media content is just social engagement.
1. Consumers just talk on social media. Princeton researchers, Felix Ming Fai Wong, Soumya Sen, and Mung Chiang analyzed sentiments expressed in tweets about popular new movies and their ratings. While focused on whether Twitter could be used to predict movie sales, their results revealed most of the Twitter content about movies was neutral.
2. Consumers indulge in social media to satisfy their own desires. People are on social media for their own internal motivations, which aren't fully known to them and aren't always positive! Based on JWT's research on Social Media's Seven Sins, people crave social media attention. They feel their lives would suffer without constantly checking what's happening in their social circles. They're also jealous of others with more social connections and status and we want to show others how awesome we are.
3. Consumers are becoming more selective in terms of the people with whom they associate on social media platforms. While about two-thirds of Americans are on social media networks, according to Pew Internet Research, members are getting more savvy about their public, social media presentation. As a result, more members delete friends from their networks and remove comments. This translates to increased selectivity across social media platforms including Facebook.
4. Consumers associate with brands on social media to get savings. It's like going out with someone just to eat out not because you want to be with them. Almost 70 percent of consumers expect some form of coupon or discount for following a brand on Facebook, according to research by The CMO Council and reported by eMarketer. The second reason is that they want to engage with other customers.
5. Consumers who like your brand aren't necessarily more likely to purchase from you. While about 60 percent of Facebook users "liked" a brand in the last six months, according to research by eVoc Insights and reported by eMarketer, don't think you can take these results to the bank. For slightly less than half of respondents, the act of "liking" a brand had no influence on their purchase decisions.
If consumers are inwardly focused on social media, what can marketers do to break through?
While you may want to forget about social media and run in the other direction, the reality is social media occupies one out every five minutes online and social media sites are among the top sites visited. It's a media and attention opportunity most marketers can't ignore. To help your organization craft a strategy that responds to these hurdles while enabling you to be active in this engaged media, here are five social media marketing tips.
1. Have social media guidelines. Regardless of whether your firm decides to get active on social media, develop a set of guidelines to lay the groundwork for what your employees can do when they represent your firm and what they can do when they're acting as individuals.
2. Train your staff to be able to respond in a timely manner when needed. It's critical to educate your employees on how to respond to prospects, customers, and the public on social media. Even if you don't plan to use social media as part of your marketing or customer service, make sure that your staff can respond using a variety of platforms in the event of an emergency, whether it's social media based or not. Remember, many individuals use social media as a communications tool.
3. Do your homework to know whom you're addressing. Before implementing a blogger outreach or answering comments on your firm's social media site or blog, take a moment to look the individual up. While it shouldn't stop you from responding, it can shed some insights on where they're coming from or what they're asking. Further, you can get some idea of how influential they are.
4. Take a chill pill before you respond. The worst thing you can do is to respond quickly in anger. If the comment or issue will irritate you, take a brief walk to calm down. You won't help the problem by addressing it under a full head of steam.
5. Have a PR crisis plan ready in case of emergency. Since you never know if you'll have an issue, be prepared with a back-up plan. Go one step further and ensure that it is up to date with everyone's cell phone number.
The amount of time spent on social media, particularly Facebook, means that these platforms are important to marketers. They provide the context for public social discourse and are a form of media customers can't get enough of. To maximize your impact, meet customers on their turf, on their terms.
What has your organization's experience been converting fans and followers to buying customers?
This column was originally published on April 2, 2012 on ClickZ.
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.
Heidi is also a popular speaker on current industry topics.
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