How Social Depth Strategies Can Impact Business Results

With the maturing of social marketing, the pressing question for marketers is whether a social strategy is delivering results. Is the strategy actually moving the needle?

To answer that question first requires fixing how the social strategy fits into overall business objectives. Whether social has been determined as a dominant, or secondary, part of a strategy (depending on audience targets), and where that strategy is focused. What part of the customer journey: reach, discovery, exploration, customer service? And what are the metrics being watched?

For example, a brand that is running in a highly competitive race, where it is known, but is trying to steal mindshare (and customers) from more dominant competitors, is likely to be focusing their time, and budget, on tactics that encourage positive and compelling brand exploration with a view to buying. The second most common way that audiences research and explore products (after search engines) is on a brand’s website. And that’s also the place where online purchasing takes place, too.

This is why we are seeing a significant trend of B2B and B2C brands deploying best practices learned on social platforms to add social “depth” to websites and microsites. (A quick definition: a social depth includes technologies that add social content and social experiences to brand marketing websites.) And social depth is moving all kinds of needles, from generating leads through excellent content marketing, through increases in time on site, to lifts in online sales. Social depth offers brands tools to make websites content-rich destinations that tell stories about the brand and its products.

A compelling example of social depth at work can be found on Sephora’s Beauty Advice community where conversations around beauty are enthusiastic and energetic. Sephora reports that community superfans are spending 10 times more than community members, who themselves spend two times more than their average online customer. Beauty products can be bought in many places. But buying from a place that offers expert and community advice in a social savvy environment appears to work.

The PGA Tour SuperStore took a slightly different approach to social depth by building a socially powered gift guide during its 2013 holiday season. Customers choose products by voting for their favorite holiday golf gifts. The results were impressive. The store saw a more than 40 percent increase in conversions from visitors, and those visitors spent an average of 21 percent longer in time on the site.

On the more business-oriented side, Friend2Friend recently helped the University of Oxford and The Open University deliver socially powered experiences. Visitors who log in with their LinkedIn profile see higher education programs targeted to their professional profile. Visitors are also connected to others in their network who have studied at the educational institutions, so the visitor can reach out through their own channels to ask for their experiences. This kind of personal, and social, exploration of a company’s products is very effective for offering a level of trust and insight needed when shopping for something as important as a higher education program. Results are also impressive, with well more than 20 percent of logged visitors requesting specific course information be sent to them.

Our digital audiences are now far more socially savvy. Social has trained them to be more dynamic, conversational, and comfortable reading reviews, submitting reviews, asking questions, and leaving comments – all inherently “social” activities learned on pure social platforms. These are all digital habits that brands and marketers can leverage on their brand websites.

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