Stop Experimenting With Social Media

Stop experimenting with social media! Social media has been around for quite a while now and many marketers have included it in their mix just to try it out. Now’s the time for putting social media to work to achieve your business goals.

At last week’s DMA:2010, the annual meeting of an organization steeped in measurable marketing techniques across platforms, the question on everyone’s mind was “How do I use social media in my marketing mix to drive trackable results?” Well other organizations are doing it and so can you.

Here are four ways to supercharge your marketing with social media and the related metrics to assess them. Bear in mind that you need to use best practices to make the most of your social media initiatives (to this end read my column on how to make your social media work harder).

  1. Partner with customers to co-create products. Get prospects and customers to participate in the product development process so they’ve a greater sense of ownership. This translates to higher sales, often with better margins and increased loyalty. Build-A-Bear Workshops have done this at retail. Online, Threadless, a t-shirt purveyor, incents designers who are paid for success and customers who vote on the t-shirts they like to participate in the development process. Another firm that does this is Shidonni, which provides creative tools for kids. It sells subscriptions for enhanced functionality and high priced individual stuffed animals designed by children. As a marketer, what aspects of your product development process can you involve consumers in? Think broadly in terms of accessories, designs, and new products. Metrics: Among the factors to track include the number of visitors, number of creators, conversion rate, information gathered such as e-mail address for future marketing, product purchases, margins, related products developed, new product ideas, and costs.
  2. Throw a party. Expand your reach with gatherings to extend your brand and enhance your reach. These events don’t need to be traditional marketing events. For example, the Roger Smith Hotel in New York uses social media to be the home base for social media rock stars like out-of-towners Chris Brogan by providing low-cost social media meeting spaces which make the hotel highly talk-worthy. Events are great for business-to-business offerings. For example, Thought Lead created the The Influencer Project for the world’s shortest marketing conference and Mashable initiated Social Media Day. What can you do for your business, regardless of whether it’s business-to-business or business-to-consumer? Use Meetups, Evite, and/or YahooGroups to extend your reach and support product usage. Alternatively, gather your prospects and fans on Twitter or another platform to meet virtually. One great use of this is Twitterchats. One of my favorite Twitterchats is Mack Collier’s popular #Blogchat on Sunday nights. Metrics: Among the factors to track include the number of participants, comments and related interactions, tweets and other social sharing, actions, earned media in terms of additional views, media stories, brand sentiment, sales, and costs.
  3. Share the love. Get customers to help sell your products. In old-fashioned terms, this is word-of-mouth marketing. Bear in mind that a significant proportion of chatter happens in offline conversations. Consumers do this in a variety of ways from sharing photographs on Facebook and Flickr, ratings and reviews on your site and third-party sites including Amazon, and social sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon. While many firms are nervous about reviews, consider that a mediocre review can qualify purchasers an otherwise lackluster product and help it sell. For firms with retail establishments, don’t overlook location-based services where customers can check in to and receive virtual and real benefits. From a marketing perspective, do you ask your customers to participate by sharing photographs and/or comments and reviews? Do you give them an incentive such as featuring them in your communications or giving them an offer for a future purchase in return for participation? Metrics: Among the factors to track include the number of participants, comments, other shared content such as photographs, related interactions, social sharing, actions, time on site as indicator of engagement, brand sentiment, sales, and costs.
  4. Reach out and touch someone. Use social media to extend your customer service to support the rest of your social media function. The poster children for expanding your ability to communicate with your prospects and customers in this fashion are ComcastCares and Zappos through their efforts on Twitter. One thing that surprised me as I walked the exhibit hall at the DMA:2010 was the fact that customer service providers weren’t ready to support social media interactions. To enhance your customer service reach, think beyond Facebook and Twitter. Use YouTube for how-to videos, where Will It Blend is a great example. Also, consider bulletin boards, forums, targeted social media sites like SpiceWorks, and Q&A such as LinkedIn and YahooAnswers. Metrics: Among the factors to track include the number of questions asked and answered as well as related sales, shared content such as video and photographs, social sharing, actions, time on site as indicator of engagement, brand sentiment, and costs (note these may be hidden in other areas such as customer service).

It’s critical to think broadly when integrating social media into your marketing plans. Social media is more than a Facebook and/or Twitter strategy; it’s about integrating all of the elements into your marketing plan so that they drive actions that lead to achieving your business goals. To this end, it’s critical that your marketing works in concert. There are many potential benefits to knowing where your audience spends their time and becoming part of their social interactions.

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