Marketers have become quite adept at managing and messaging consumers according to a calendar that matches brand needs. In general, marketers work to maximize their efficiency by staying top-of-mind with consumers along the product lifecycle, but particularly when sales or other desirable events are most likely to occur. Brands control the timing of ad campaigns, content launches, new product introductions, and other budgetary expenditures, like sampling, to fall mostly in this productive window, but they now have a new challenge in timing social interactions. How do you plan a calendar of social interactions when the brand cycle is off or down but consumers aren't?
This may not impact every marketer, but many products and services have seasonal cycles that drive their planning and spending. If you are a ski resort or an allergy brand, for example, then your product or service may be out of sight, out of mind for a portion of the year. But the connections you make in social can't be dropped when convenient for the brand and then picked up again without paying a price. You can cycle with the seasons in social interactions; you just can't drop off completely. There are some things you can focus on to help smooth out your year and maintain the connections, buzz, and engagement that you worked so hard to earn.
Adjust cadence and goals. Recognize that consumers might not be in the mood or mindset for you right now, and adjust both the cadence and content of your interactions. Fewer contacts might be more appropriate and productive just now. Above all, adjust your goals and expectations. While during your "season" you are rightly focused on conversion goals and measuring your CPAs while optimizing intently; during your customers' off-season you might have softer goals like delivering reminder messaging or gaining additional levels of opt-ins, gathering insights, testimonials, or even testing new messaging, new products, or new branding elements within the relatively safe environment of your own communities.
Leverage brand extensions. Does your ski resort become a mountain bike resort in spring and summer? Keep in mind what you are best known for and what motivated the interactions in social to-date. Hopefully you have some knowledge base and a database that segments your community members by origin or interest.
Use content tie-ins. What other brand associations can lead to content generation during the downcycle? Charity tie-ins are a great way to extend the brand story in off-season months but there may also be other stories that your audience may find of interest. If you have a likable real or animated spokesperson, perhaps they can be fleshed out with a variety of stories and events that bridge the gap months.
Look for audience-relevant content. Aside from direct product or brand content, a seasonal brand should be very aware of what other types of content their social media audience responds to or wants. Your research may peg your audience as ripe for environmental or celebrity news or a year-round fitness angle. Feed them content that they'd consider relevant, that reflects positively on the brand, and that keeps you top-of-mind.
Segment audiences by season. Not every season occurs simultaneously or is tied to weather. Use geographic segmentation to hit the seasons as they occur in various parts of the country. If you can market internationally, look for markets around the globe that are in season. Holiday seasons vary by the holidays particular audiences celebrate.
Warm up your audience pre-season. Make good use of the period in advance of your season to warm up your audience and get them thinking about your product or service. Engage them with quality content so that your primary touch points aren't always sales messaging.
Tempt your audiences even in the off-season. Don't disregard the aspirational value of off-season images and messages. People who are avid skiers are probably motivated by gorgeous ski photography no matter the season. For long-lead-time purchases you aren't truly off-season and can use discounting and promotions to keep users in the loop and thinking about your brand. This is a great time for less frequent but longer-form storytelling. Solicit customer testimonials or do case studies and highlight a few with some images.
Differentiate and prioritize. Don't treat all communities the same way. If your most active, productive, and engaged audiences tend to congregate in one place, then prioritize limited resources in that direction.
Use the off-season to gather content. Use your downtime to prep for uptime. If your offering is visually appealing then use your downtime to build up a stunning visual library that you can then selectively leverage on Pinterest or other properties when the timing is right. Or use your time to establish connections with the right bloggers and organize events that can kick off at more optimal times.
The biggest mistake you can make with a seasonal business in social media is to assume that seasonal high months are the only ones you need to plan for and to ignore all of the adjacent opportunities for good interactions and good content. How have you leveraged a seasonal business in the off-season in social media?
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.
Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.
March 19, 2014