Search marketers, Internet yellow pages publishers, search engines and local destination sites descended on Silicon Valley last week for The Kelsey Group’s latest conference on local search marketing. The sold-out, single-track two-day event spoke to an audience -- with attendees from all over the world -- who had exactly one thing on their minds: unraveling the mystery of local search.
As usual, Kelsey’s show content shined bright with key players hitting on the hottest topics in geographically-relevant search -- like industry segmentation, product development, the role agencies might play in the space, evaluating local metrics, and two eye-opening sessions in which we heard local advertisers sound off on search. Here’s how it all came out.
Topping the list in our quest for understanding this space is separating hype from reality. In the conference opener, Kelsey’s Greg Sterling noted a need for the industry to separate useable information for advertisers from what makes headlines.
Case in point: Google’s local search product. Thirteen and a half seconds after the media launch blitzkrieg, at least nine advertisers wanted me to tell them how to advertise locally with Google. My answer: At this point, we are pretty sure Google is going to release some form of AdWordsTM with a local component.
Google isn’t the only one in the big buzz business these days. I noticed an interesting trend when providers were pressed to answer specific questions as to what they thought would drive the industry to the next level. Many times, I heard comments in the vein of reminding us the industry is very young -- in lieu of opening the door to possible tactical guidance. Funny, I don’t remember reading the “young industry” reminder in any of the press releases that crossed my desk recently.
Young? Yes, but is that an excuse for one to not keep up with one’s hype? Hogwash. I suppose in this manner of thinking, it’s ok to neglect potty training your child. You can cite the lack of practical water closet knowledge as a symptom of youth hoping the child will grow into practice on his own. Message: Stop slinging number two while trying to be number one to market.
Sterling offered the following hype-free bullet points on what has developed in local search in the last six months:
- AOL – Local results in search; “In Your Area”
- DexMedia – Keyword over YP data
- Google Local – Labs to “live” in about six months
- Overture – Local search (online/offline)
- SureWest – Premier guide-enabled
- Switchboard – Keyword (+ InfoSpace)
- Verizon SuperPages – Keyword + PPC
- Yahoo! – Yellow Pages in search results; SmartView
Highlighting the list are Yahoo!’s wicked-smart map application, DexMedia’s keyword-focused initiative and Switchboard’s nuptials.
Low to No Hype
In the grand Kelsey tradition of seeking out intelligent content, Switchboard’s Mark Canon had the audacity to help us define local advertiser need and mindset. Can you imagine the nerve of actually wanting to put the cart and horse in their proper functioning order?
Canon described the universe of small to medium enterprise (SME) segmentation in three ways:
- NationalLocal -- the most sophisticated of the bunch, a national or regional brand with local sales channels.
- SuperLocal -- advertisers with a geo-centric mindset who may just have their arms around return requirements and a sharp understanding of ad formats.
- LocalLocal -- the plumbers and picture hangers of the world.
Here’s how he broke it down visually (charts courtesy of Switchboard.com):
The most sobering moment of the show arrived near the end of Monday’s festivities. Kelsey orchestrated a focus group video session followed by a panel of local advertisers, which I like to call the chief-cook-and-bottle-washer session. The video depicted local businesses that did not currently advertise on search engines (non adopters) in a focus group format, and the latter contained five randomly-selected search engine advertisers (adopters) who agreed to come to the show and talk about their experience online.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the non-adopters.
Focus Group Moderator (FGM): What responsibilities do you have at your firm?
Local Advertiser (LA): I manage a four person sales force… also vice president of marketing… I do the accounting as well.
FGM: Why don’t you utilize paid search advertising?
LA: (art gallery employee): I just don’t use it because I don’t think it would work. If I sold Viagra online, then I would do paid search.
FGM: What do you use [print] yellow pages for?
LA: I stand on the book to help me change light bulbs out of reach.
FGM: How many people do you employ?
LA: [After some trepidation] About twelve.
About twelve? You mean you are not sure? If you have a something close to a thousand employees you can say, "about a thousand." "About twelve" means I feel small and insignificant and I am afraid to tell you just how overwhelmed I feel about this subject.
The key takeaway here is non-adopters may have high awareness of search, but they possess low intelligence about search marketing. Our lesson in Industrial Psychology 101 addresses another key question raised at the show: Whose responsibility is it to educate the huddled small business masses so they can adopt search beyond the category killing areas, e.g. plumbers and art gallery owners?
Panel members following the focus group video may have answered the question. I was blown away to see just how sophisticated a small advertiser could be. Even though search engine marketing to most of these advertisers meant buying listings on Overture and Google, most could make the distinction between paid inclusion, natural search and pay-for-placement.
At least one panelist really knew his stuff. John Burch, a dentist from Mountain View, California, not only understood the dynamics of search, he adjusted spending regularly to accommodate budget and ROI requirements as well. It appears the adopting masses have huddled and are now approaching the line of scrimmage well prepared for some bone-jarring sacks.
No Simple Solutions?
CitySearch CEO Briggs Ferguson said it well in his keynote address, when talking about the development of geographically relevant commerce search activity online, “Changing 100 years of consumer behavior is not going to be easy.”
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly our marketing world has changed in spite of consumer behavior. I remember attending Kelsey conferences more than five years ago, and at the time audience and attendees seemed to be dominated by the yellow pages industry family members. Today, Internet yellow pages are rapidly becoming local search.
The Kelsey experience definitely brought at least one issue to light for the newer players. Once again, as an industry we need to step out from behind public relations policy and embrace the horror that exists in a segment with both massive potential and confusion. No one ever said it was going to be easy— reminds me of an old Russian saying that goes something like this; on the morning you wake up and realize nothing is complicated, there’s a good chance you’re dead.
iMedia search columnist Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a “who’s who” in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. Kevin believes in sound guidance, creative thought, accountable actions and collaborative execution as applied to search, or any form of marketing. His principled approach and staunch commitment to the industry have made him one of the most sought after personalities in online marketing. Kevin volunteers his time with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization and several regional non-profit organizations. Did I get the old saying right, sunshine?
When considering commercial entrance into Second Life there are a few query sets that may aid in the decision-making process.
- Should I be marketing in Second Life (or in any 3D Virtual World) in the first place?
- How am I going to fully leverage this medium?
- What makes this medium unique?
If you are a creative, forward-thinking marketer, your answer to question one will invariably be yes, but how does someone who is new to Second Life answer questions two and three?
Here are a few points of differentiation and concepts to think about when planning a Second Life initiative:
- Second Life is 3D. Take advantage of the extra space-- the Z axis.
- Second Life can house various forms of communication (video, audio, PowerPoint, chat, 3D graphics and animation, et cetera) in one platform.
- Second Life is, in a sense, a "meta" social medium. It has the ability to aggregate other social media and social networks.
- The placement of "the self" in Second Life is unlike any medium before it. To my knowledge there has never been a platform (outside of certain games, and other virtual worlds) where users can see themselves as part of the content (think Andy Warhol’s "15 minutes of fame," only prolonged).
- Anyone (with programming skills) can learn LSL (linden scripting language) and create and own their content within the world of Second Life. Linden Labs' decision to grant ownership of content to its creator was revolutionary.
Infinite Vision Media’s Dell Island sim is one of the more robust builds in Second Life (it consists of four separate islands). Ordinarily, comprehensive navigation across its four islands could have been very difficult to facilitate. But IVM has created a transport pod that can get you to where you want to go in a hurry. The ability to blend the impossible (i.e., a flying white pod) with real world brands is a great example of how to leverage the unique attributes of Second Life.
Other examples of how IVM takes advantage of the power of Second Life:
- A larger than life virtual computer that you can fly through and explore
- A newsstand where you can read about what is going on at Dell
- The Dell Factory, where you can fully configure a machine that is right for you. You can then clickthrough to the 2D web for purchase
- A Second Life learning center, similar to the one that you reach when you first enter Second Life (the region is called Orientation Island).
By recognizing that many people who wish to effectively experience the Dell Island may not yet be comfortable with the Second Life platform and providing a way to brush up on their skills, Dell is adding value to the experience-- and ultimately adding value to their brand.
I would be doing my readers a disservice if I did not point out that there are brilliant agencies that specialize in Second Life content creation and marketing. One such agency is Reuben Steiger’s agency, Millions Of Us.
Millions Of Us has engaged in a number of initiatives that blur the boundaries between the real world and the virtual world:
- In a 72-hour build-a-thon, Millions Of Us protégé Versu Richelieu reconstructed her real-life surroundings -- Datavision, located on 39th St. and 5th Avenue in NYC -- to promote Intel's new Core Duo processor using an Intel-powered computer in Second Life. This was not only an amazing accomplishment but an effective PR/buzz-building initiative.
- It launched the first auto manufacturer in Second Life: Toyota. Millions Of Us helped Toyota Scion align itself with its hip, young consumer base by providing a truly unique and relevant experience.
Many brand initiatives in Second Life focus on the brand itself and not the consumer (see rule four on page three). Yet, creating social experiences will make your investment sustainable and keep people coming back. If you prompt consumers to engage with each other in addition to your brand, you will create a richer experience. By opening a forum for conversation you may also glean useful consumer insights.
Joseph Jaffe and his band of Crayonistas -- as they are called in Second Life -- are all products (and leaders) of the social media revolution. This is apparent in that Crayon produces a blog and a podcast from within Crayonville, their island in Second Life. While these tools are not indigenous to Second Life, Crayon is doing many conversation-based activities there, including:
• A CGC (consumer-generated content) theater has been built (although it is not yet launched) that supposedly will house consumers' creations.
• On December 14, 2006, Crayon held a Casecamp, where avatars were invited to share ideas.
By housing consumer content and holding an ongoing forum through events, Crayonville will certainly become a haven for forward-thinking marketers and advertisers. On a personal note, I have already made substantial business connections at Crayonville.
Don’t forget to foster and be a part of the conversation. Your brand will thank you for it!
Content is king!
How often have you heard that phrase? This statement has never been more valid than in the case of Second Life. One-trick-pony builds will not cut it in a world where almost anything is possible. If you want people to keep coming back to your Second Life environment, then your brand has to keep offering value in the form of content.
The Electric Sheep Company’s work with Sony/BMG provides an immersive experience for music lovers of all genres.
- Numerous screening rooms outfitted with video screens showing music videos allow for shared experiences.
- Lounges with streaming audio, live concerts and the ability to click to sample and buy music are some of the features you will find on this island.
The ability to create such a wealth of rich content adds to the sustainability of a Second Life initiative. While I have not seen the entire island, I have certainly enjoyed my time there and will no doubt return!
What is social media?
I know this is a bit basic for all the social media gurus in the audience, but it is important to lay some groundwork. I asked each of the respondents to give their definition in 140 characters or less (Twitter rules, of course).
Here are the responses:
- Liebling: Social Media is the creation, sharing, and commenting on digital content.
- Lazerow: The sharing of information between people.
- Berkowitz: Any form of media that allows for immediate, public consumer response that's incorporated into the content produced.
- Singh: Social media is media in any form for any platform created by, for, and with consumers.
- Perkett: Social media is simply talking *with* -- not at -- your constituencies (customers, friends, partners, prospects, etc.) & engaging them online.
- Holtz: Tools and processes used to connect, share, and to organize and collaborate with others.
For the search marketing fans and quant-geeks in the audience, I decided to take a look at the keywords used most in these definitions in order to extract the commonalities.
It is no surprise that the term "share" was mentioned the greatest number of times, followed by the three C's: consume, content, create. No real surprises here so far. While only used once, I think Berkowitz's mention of the word "immediacy" is extremely important. When dealing with social media there is an inherent element of immediacy (due to the speed at which information is disseminated). Given the immediacy of social media, one might think that a media agency is not equipped to do this type of work, as media agencies don't generally deal with crisis communications (and other forms of relating to the public) the way that a public relations firm might. Does that mean I think PR firms are best suited to handle social media? Not necessarily.
In the last year, what is the best example of an effective use of social media?
The next question I asked the respondents was, "who is doing a good job in social media, and what executions really stood out?" I told the respondents to feel free to reference their own work, as it would not be fair to ask industry leaders not to recognize their own work. Some took me up on that offer.
Some of the initiatives mentioned were:
- Mad Men on Twitter: Deep Focus was, in part, responsible for getting AMC to adopt this.
- Bud Light Party Cruise: Buddy Media
- Levi's 501 challenge: Razorfish
- @comcastcares: internal resources
- Ford Fiesta Movement: Undercurrent
- Kmart Holiday Shopping: IZEA
- TSA's "Evolution of Security" blog: internal resources
[Author's note: Many parties touch any given campaign. With the above examples, I've done my best to identify the lead agency]
The campaigns above were handled by a few different types of agencies. Digital agencies in some examples, in-house teams in others (where there may or may not be an agency involved). There are also two agencies that, for lack of a better term, I will refer to as specialized agencies: IZEA and Buddy Media. It is interesting to note that none of the campaigns above were driven by a PR agency. Sure, my question was only given to six individuals, but they are all very influential and opinionated -- I do not think it is unfair to say that this sample group is indicative of something substantive.
Am I trying to say PR agencies are not fit to handle social media duties? Not at all.
I can tell you through personal observation that it seems digital agencies are trying to get to the social media finish line faster than many PR agencies. That, however, does not mean they are doing it well. I think many clients turn to their digital agencies for anything that occurs online. At the time being, most social media occurs online, and the expectations by many are that this should be handled by the digital agency.
What competency does social media resemble most?
The lines between the various disciplines in our industry have been drawn, obscured, and drawn again. In reference to social media, it is hard to say which traditional discipline it resembles the most. At the end of the day, the best strategic thinkers will rise to the top, but it helps to know where to find these thinkers.
I asked the respondents a multiple choice question with the following options. What competency does social media resemble most?
- Public relations
- All of the above
- It depends, stop asking silly questions, Adam!
Here are the results:
I think it is safe to say that social media does not fall into the hands of the traditional advertising agency. It becomes a little more difficult when trying to determine whether social media marketing is a function that falls under the umbrella of marketing or public relations.
While I have remained fairly neutral to this point, I am now going to break my impartiality.
I believe PR, advertising, media, digital marketing, social media, and any other competencies in this arena are all subject to the will of "the market." Strategies need to be defined by consumer needs, stated desires, and forecasts. Despite any formal definition, it is my opinion that from a purely semantic point of view, all of these competencies fall under the umbrella of marketing. Perhaps my question was unnecessarily pedantic and merely lead to a mess of semantic entanglement, which does not help us solve the problem at hand. My statement, "all competencies fall under the umbrella of marketing" does not help solve the conundrum of who should handle the execution of social media marketing, but it does help set us up for the remaining pieces of this discussion.
Do I think the marketing department should handle all chores associated with social media? No. In the next section, I'll explain what I do think.
What type of agency is best poised to handle social media marketing chores?
I gave our esteemed panel a chance to rant about who they thought should be handling the chores associated with social media. Here's some of what they had to say:
Holtz: Public relations -- what part of 'relations' don't people understand? PR is not media relations; it's the management of an organization's relationships with its public.
Lazerow: Unlike traditional marketing, social media straddles several organizations within an organization, including marketing/advertising, corporate communications/PR, CRM, product development and HR.
Liebling: Smart ones. Nimble ones. Fearless ones.
Singh: I think a digital agency that touches all parts of a marketing organization and, more broadly speaking, a company's businesses, will be able to handle the chores associated with social media the best. The reason being is that you need to understand digital at its very core to do this successfully. You also need to understand and be a part of the paid media world as increasingly social media has a large paid media component to it. And you also need to understand a business's operations (and have deep credibility and expertise) to apply social thinking to other parts of a business like product innovation and customer service beyond marketing.
Perkett: I don't know that it's just one agency, necessarily. I think that at a minimum, the PR agency needs to be involved. But -- I think the best option is a creative PR or marketing agency that has digital talent; an agency that can also create content as well as develop messages.
While these are all great responses, only two take a firm stance in favor of one type of agency. Holtz is standing his ground on the fact that the PR agency is best poised to handle these chores, and Berkowitz is certain the answer is 360i (although they may have trouble servicing every brand in the world). Singh's answer is interesting, but he traverses various functions, from paid media to product innovation to customer service (I am not saying that I disagree -- but his response does not provide an easy answer. Can't anyone make this easy for us?)
It is becoming more apparent that we are simply not in a place to make any sharp judgment. I am of the mind that you will rarely find truth in absolutes, as there are very few of them. Still, I think that as an industry we are not where we need to be when it comes to defining who should be handling social media marketing chores.
Perhaps we are looking at this the wrong way.
Maybe the process of trying to give social media to a specific type of agency is the wrong approach; like putting a round peg in a square hole. What if the term "social media" is wrought with flaws from the onset? It was this thinking that led me to my final question.
Will "social media" remain relevant?
The final question posed was, "In two years, will the term 'social media' still be relevant?" The alternative being that all media will inherently be social, and ultimately treated as such. The multiple choices were:
- Yes, but I am not happy about it!
- I sure hope not!
I was shocked by the response. All but one of the respondents answered "yes." The outlier answered, "I sure hope not."
It is my belief that the term "social media" will still be around in two years, but I hope the industry matures to a point where we realize that all media is inherently social, and that what was once deemed "social media" is now part of a larger trend in media -- participation.
Let me reiterate: All media is social!
The word "media" itself involves two parties -- a sender and a receiver. The word "social" is based on theories that involve the co-existence of people. If two people co-exist in an ecosystem and one does not respond to a message, there is still information that is sent back to the point of origin (the information being, "for one reason or another, I am not interested in your message"). Given the advanced nature of our information technology, the excuse, "I had no way of responding" does not hold water, leaving us in a state where the lack of a response is, in effect, a response.
We live in a culture of participation. A culture where all mediated touch points are interaction points. The result is that all media becomes social, and subsequently, all marketing is social. This knowledge does not answer the immediate question asked in this article, but it does provide some directional guidelines on how you, as a marketer, can help move the industry to a place of better understanding (as it pertains to social media):
- For managers: No matter what area of the industry you work in, you should be teaching your staff social media/marketing best practices (and it should be done today).
- For individuals: The world has changed. It is up to you to make sure that you are personally ready to operate in this new world of participation. If no one else is training you, train yourself (the resources are out there, if you have trouble you can contact me).
- For clients: When looking for help with your social media marketing, make sure you are asking questions that evoke answers about core strategic beliefs, as opposed to tactical executions.
- For everyone: Whether or not you buy into the fact that all media is now social, remember that all media can be social if you want it to be.
- Remember: Participation is the new interruption
We have covered a lot of ground in this article; spoke to a number of thought leaders, got a lot of best practices and examples, but what is most important is what you think of all this, as this is a question that can only be answered by the industry as a whole. While no one opinion can set the course of an entire industry, your lack of participation in this matter will certainly not help things.
Even in this lengthy discourse, it is difficult to offer up a definitive answer. What we can do is offer a number of probes into relevant areas and give as many insights as possible. Maybe now we can answer this question together, as an industry. Speak up, friends.
Adam Broitman is partner and ringleader, Circ.us.
Most customers go to Facebook to hang out, not shop
A recent Booz and Company survey showed that 73 percent of customers would not shop on Facebook, citing privacy concerns. While this may be a factor, the big challenge for Facebook is that, while it may have lots of traffic, people don't go there to shop. Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research, puts this best when referring to selling on Facebook: "It's like trying to sell stuff to people while they're hanging out with their friends at the bar."
There have been a string of recent Facebook store front closures including GameStop, Gap Inc., J.C. Penney, and Nordstrom. What this illustrates is that Facebook storefronts are not a mainstream play. Why replicate your e-commerce store on Facebook? It just doesn't make sense to have a subset of your products, displayed with smaller images, on less real estate, simply because it's on Facebook.
However, for some sectors, such as music, travel, entertainment, and games, Facebook storefronts can make sense. Equally, launching new products with a microsite on Facebook can help to create buzz, and testing new products and ideas amongst your fans targets a captive audience. These types of engagements work best where there is an inherent social play to the business. For example, if a consumer is thinking about booking concert tickets, it may make sense to be able to share and socialize the idea among their friends.
However, when you compare successful Facebook commerce stores with their e-commerce equivalents, the more effective channel is really obvious. Take a look at these two Lady Gaga stores:
It's pretty clear that the official web store has a much richer experience, bigger selection, and more compelling content than the Facebook store.
Many Facebook promotions do not provide incremental sales lift
Promotions and contests are great for creating extra buzz around a brand and can make Facebook a really fun place to hang out. These tools undoubtedly give customers what they want -- the No. 1 reason why consumers follow brands is to get special offers and promotions. Contests can generate a sense of community and directly drive engagement. But when promotions are used to drive traffic to a Facebook storefront, often there's little or no incremental value.
You can use exclusive incentives to get people to shop on Facebook, but sooner or later, you need to ask yourself whether this makes sense. This goes back to the channel question: Why give away margin just to try and make a sale on Facebook, when customers can already shop on a full e-commerce site? Often, the same promotions can be used to drive traffic to your e-commerce store just as effectively, in which the buyer will most likely spend more than they would on Facebook. So far, there's little evidence that Facebook storefronts are additive and create incremental sales beyond sectors that are inherently social, such as music, travel, entertainment, and games.
Net promotions can drive engagement and give customers what they want, but you must make them cross-channel. Social media is about engagement and developing a rich brand experience, not selling.
Most e-commerce sites pay lip service to making shopping social
Let's think about how people shop. It's rare that a consumer stumbles on a new site and buys straight off. What's much more likely is that it takes multiple visits to a site, and possibly multiple touches across channels, before the customer is ready to buy.
Imagine that Mary is looking for a new cocktail dress. She will probably peruse multiple sites for options. She will probably visit her local mall. Maybe, she builds a short list of possibilities, each with their advantages and disadvantages. Most likely, she will discuss it with friends and get their take.
But few e-commerce sites make it easy for Mary to research alternatives, while she is in the process of deciding. Sure, if Mary is shopping only at Macy's, then she can compare Macy's selection easily. But in reality, Mary's choices will likely be much broader than Macy's alone.
This is where social networks like Pinterest become an intuitive part of the purchase process, making it easy for Mary to capture these options and pin them, and in doing so, to share them on Facebook or Twitter. For many, shopping is about deciding between alternatives, usually on different sites. It's an inherently social process of researching and sharing, but e-commerce sites don't recognize this. The big opportunity is to build these capabilities into the shopping process -- to make e-commerce more social.
Today, this is in its infancy. The Facebook Social Graph enables you to build in knowledge about your visitors, their likes, their friendships, and personal information, such as birthdays and email addresses.
You can start by leveraging Facebook Login, which enables consumers to log in to e-commerce sites using their Facebook ID. At the same time, the consumer gives the brand access to profile information about them and access to lists of friends.
Customers are more cross channel than merchants
The PwC study showed how important the brand experience is, and social media is a key part of today's brand experience. That means that brands need to be ready to respond to questions, accept criticism, and interact with customers via social media irrespective of the channel. Social media is inherently cross-channel, at least in the eyes of the customer.
Customers expect service to be channel neutral, and in many cases social media will flush out problems that would never have been raised in stores. How you respond to these problems will define your brand experience and are often moments of truth for customers. Unfortunately, many customer service responses on Facebook today are lame platitudes, rather than real service.
Favored status is granted to those retailers that can deliver consistent reliable service across channels. Nail this, and you will win loyal fans that will concentrate their spend with your brand.
Engagement counts, not fans
Having a million fans or "likes" doesn't count for much if ultimately they joined just to get access to a special piece of content or a special promotion. While membership promotions seem to be in fashion at the moment, let's take a step back and question their value beyond boosting the number of "likes."
For example, checkout this promotion by McAfee: A 20 percent discount on my antivirus subscription is an attractive offer, and "liking" McAfee on Facebook is so easy to do that many will take the offer.
But with this kind of promotion, you need to ask yourself what is really being achieved. A fan secured through an incentive-driven "like" isn't a real fan -- there's no commitment to the brand. It's just a meaningless mouse click given in return for a discount. The company's new fan is unlikely to engage with McAfee on Facebook or even visit the page.
The second question is whether this leads to an increase in sales. There is some evidence that when a consumer follows a brand, they are more likely to purchase brand products. However, where the "like" has been incentive-driven, this is significantly different than a spontaneous follow. In fact, the follow may be considered a signal of intent, but the key is that the consumer drives it, not the brand.
Of course, in the McAfee example, offering a 20 percent discount will boost sales, but in this case, there is a real cost. McAfee is effectively giving an $8 discount for each "like." Is each "like" worth $8? Maybe McAfee was planning a 20 percent promotion anyway and decided to boost "likes" at the same time -- that makes more sense than buying "likes."
Social commerce has proven to be a tougher nut to crack than many people imagined. In reality, it is in its infancy, and we are experimenting with ways that we can leverage the intersection between shopping and social. Facebook has become an incredibly important place to interact with customers, win fans, extend the brand, and drive buzz and excitement. However, despite a few exceptions, Facebook is not a channel to market in its own right.
Thinking about how you can leverage social across all channels is undoubtedly the right route. Consider how you can make shopping inherently more social, rather than cannibalizing sales from other channels by merely promoting a different storefront.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
"Grunge paper on wooden wall" image via Shutterstock.
Collide social and "non-social" work
You know the old building adage -- measure twice, cut once. Well, the opposite is true with social marketing. Everything you build can be leveraged across many places. It's true -- the format for Twitter is different than your email nurture database. And Pinterest needs a more visual approach than LinkedIn. However, you can and should re-use content. In fact, the busiest marketing professionals I know do exactly that. So by now you're saying, "Duh! I'm in marketing; I reuse offers, teasers, and ads all the time." But I find it surprising how many marketing professionals plan for reuse in traditional channels, but approach social as a distinct effort. In fact, one of my frustrations is that most marketing automation and monitoring tools do a poor job of integrating social and non-social activities. So instead, manually make those worlds collide. Each week I take a look at my to-do list. I carefully evaluate what needs to get done, and I toss to the bottom of the list items that are only to be used once. I physically write down what can be connected.
Here is an example from my own recent work that shows social and non-social worlds can and should collide. In the example below, I was attending an industry conference hosted by IDC called "Directions 2012."
Before, during, and after the event I connected my physical and online worlds. I shared learning across channels including LinkedIn, my blog, Twitter, and even hallway and session meet-ups. Lesson learned: Forget the notion of "separate" disciplines of marketing. There is no social vs. traditional, there is only marketing. Plan to maximize integration.
Lower your expectations
I gave this tip to someone the other day, and I swear they looked at me like I had three ears and a nose the size of a bread stick. What? Lower your expectations? But social media is the nirvana of engagement with our peers, customers, and prospects. This is true, but social engagement is a process, not an event. When we expect instantaneous results, we disappoint ourselves and take focus off the outreach. Instead, set realistic goals and celebrate success. In the example above, my blog link was retweeted by two IDC analysts. One I knew, another I had never met before. Everything else aside, I considered that a win!
If I only looked at blog comments as a measure of my effort (something a lot of marketers measure in isolation), I'd be sorely disappointed. My blog in general doesn't get a lot of comments. However, I do get a fair amount of engagement on my blog posts via Facebook, Twitter, and often through email and in-person engagements. Would I like to see increased commenting activity on the blog itself? Sure, that is something I'd like to work toward. But is the lack of comments an indication the blog has no value? Absolutely not. I have lots of other ways to measure the role blogging plays in my career. Not everything we do is going to go "viral," and that's OK. Accept it, and instead focus on developing an audience over time. Small victories really do count.
Have fun with social
There is a reason these communication channels are called social networks. People engage through networking because they enjoy spending time connecting with other individuals who share common interests. If you think of it only as "another to-do on my daily list," you're missing a tremendous opportunity to expand your world in new and exciting ways. Let yourself enjoy it by celebrating company wins, giving sneak peaks into your unique corporate culture, rallying around client causes, and showing your sense of humor. Trust me -- people want to know you, not just your company.
Social engagement is only going to grow in importance to the marketing profession. What other social habits will we learn? If you have other tips, let's start sharing!
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