Smart and successful web marketers spend their working hours determining how their efforts can drive more traffic, traffic that will result in higher volumes of customer conversion. But the smartest of these marketers get the most out of their budgets by developing online campaigns that target their most desired customers.
How? Demographic Targeting (DT) allows marketers to focus online ads on subscribers with their desired demographics (i.e., profession, industry, company size, gender, age group, household income, ethnicity, et cetera).
Kibibi Springs is a communications specialist with 13 years of experience in business marketing.
In order to cut through effectively, the experience must derive from a sound strategic insight relevant to the brand. While handing out fun premiums might drive traffic, it rarely builds brand loyalty unless it extends the conversation and reinforces what the brand stands for. When my company's client, Panasonic, wanted to engage action sports enthusiasts, they needed an insight that gave them permission to "hang" with this otherwise skeptical crowd. The insight they found was that capturing and sharing tricks was an inherent part of the action sports lifestyle. Since Panasonic made the video and still cameras that captured the tricks, and the TVs to see them on, they had a legitimate reason to "Share the Air" with this community.
Panasonic's Share the Air program featured a camera loaner program at each of the five stops of the AST Dew Tour. With the swipe of a driver's license, attendees got their hands on a new video or digital still camera to record the cool tricks that they saw during the day's competition. And to make the experience memorable, participants could take a Panasonic-branded SD card home containing all of their pictures. The Share the Air microsite kept the experience alive, allowing attendees to blog with their favorite athletes on a daily basis, and deliver incentives to purchase Panasonic products at local dealers.
All of these elements combined to make Panasonic a brand of choice among action sports enthusiasts.
Ideally, an event will accomplish a variety of goals beyond informing and engaging an audience and generating buzz/PR. One essential function of an event is to drive prospects and customers to a complimentary online experience.
Not only will this help amortize the high cost-per-touch of an event, but also it will lead to a long-term customer relationship by extending the experience.
In a perfect world, a single agency should have the capabilities to execute these complimentary event and online experiences. This approach is the most cost effective and ensures consistency of look and tonality across all channels of communication.
The goal should always be to cut through the first time. To accomplish this, metrics for success must be established upfront. Marketers need to set benchmarks via pre-event research to compare with post-event data.
In addition to tracking event attendance; time with brand and perceptual changes and sell-in and sell-through, consider adding Net Promoter Score to your measurement arsenal. NPS is a simple and reliable way to measure the likelihood of someone recommending your brand to a friend (i.e., word of mouth). Since NPS can be measured online as well, it will also help you understand if your online experience is as strong as the offline one.
Additional online metrics, including unique visitors, time-on-site, pre/post NPS and online commerce data (if relevant), will help complete the tally, ensuring you know which elements should be cut and which cut through.
Obviously, not every brand needs to reach out to specific subsets of an audience in China, but even for those with sites in the U.S. alone, they stand to benefit from clear goals and selected demographic groups that they wish to engage. Using social sites like Mashable, it's possible to research niche audiences and find social networks tailored to a particular demographic. While the numbers are smaller, it will be an audience much more focused on the particular needs of the organization. For example, Quepasa, a social network targeted to Latino audiences, offers a specific niche and opportunities for brands interested in that network.
Performing this research should not be guesswork. One of the greatest strengths of social marketing is the ability to gather insights in real time. What used to require weeks if not months of ethnographic research and quantitative survey can now be completed in short order through social monitoring tools. For firms with a larger budget and a dedication to social media, software packages such as Radian6 or Sysomos can provide meaningful insights in real time. Smaller organizations with a smaller spend might do well to try packages such as Lithium. Use tools like these to understand what is being said about a brand, who is saying it, and where it's being said. It might be a surprise and yield insights about where to focus social media spend.
Look for other ways to amplify the message in the social space
At times, brands are all too quick to focus on Facebook or Twitter, and ignore other channels, such as blogs. This can be a significant miss, as these outlets can provide many of the same benefits at lower costs. For example, a large consumer packaged goods firm reached out to bloggers and simply familiarized these writers with the brand. It was a relatively low-cost affair, versus building an app, where they found prolific bloggers who were a solid demographic fit with their core audience and invited them to a party. The simple creation of goodwill, without a targeted outreach or hard sell, led to this audience of influencers providing a positive response to the product and drove positive online buzz.
This sort of tactic can be replicated by searching for blogs with a solid following and engaging them on some level, for example sending an inexpensive sample to these individuals, or reaching out to them to ask for thoughts and opinions. Remember, reaching out in the social space is always accompanied by risk, and someone may not respond well to any sort of outreach. But it's the inherent challenge posed by social media. Generally, the audiences that a brand seeks can be found if there is a little diligent research done. For example, a brand reaching out to mothers would be well served to start at a site like Top Mommy Blogs to see what is available.
If a brand is willing to invest in the space, there is always the option of building one's own network. It is important to note that there are risks associated with this approach. First of all, social networks require a minimum number of users in order to thrive. Without that, it's going to do more harm than good, making the brand appear unpopular. Before embarking on this approach, perform significant analysis to determine if there are enough users who will engage with the brand, and figure out how to create content that is truly engaging. The first step is intensive research, and ensuring that users will actually want to associate with the brand. At a glance, it seems that American Airline's Black Atlas site lacks any meaningful associations. The content is posted by a limited number of users, and there are no comments around any of it. This leaves the site feeling empty and is a disincentive for users who are considering engaging the site. Moreover, the prominent calls to action to join AA and sell airfare make the site seem more promotional than focused on building community.
The second step in building out a social network is to ensure that it's easy to interact with the tool and find friends online. Apple's Ping service got it half right; it embedded the software in its popular iTunes platform with a huge audience of users. But the network was focused on selling music, more than connecting people, and lacked full integration with Facebook. Users never went to the tool, instead opting to use existing music platforms.
While there are successes in the space of building out proprietary social networks, their deployment is much more targeted in scope, and requires significant effort and investment.
Explore location based services
Location-based services are social networks that enable users to announce where they are and share the information with their friends. On their own, they are engaging but limited in scope. However, when combined with incentives in the analog world, they nicely tie together digital and physical. Timbuk2 Designs, for example, a popular bag company based out of San Francisco, offers a free product to customers who check in with Foursquare. While not a huge driver, it gets people to visit the retail location and reinforces popular brand sentiment for minimal cost.
Other fun examples can be found in higher education. Millennial students, on the cutting edge of the social web, are using Foursquare to create a digital map of campuses, highlighting great features, pointing out weaknesses, and leaving tips for each other. Harvard University embraced this, creating an official school program that helps students explore the campus.
While Facebook and Twitter are two incredibly valuable outlets for brands in the social space, they are not the only ones. To truly capitalize on the benefits that the social web offers, brands must research and explore other opportunities. The first step is to define concrete goals and conduct exhaustive research on users. Not only do the brand managers know they explored every possible avenue, but they can also be sure that no stone has been left unturned in the effort to take a leadership role.
Using existing software packages and traditional research, it is possible to target specific demographics and regions using the niche networks in which they congregate. Building a proprietary social network is always a possibility, but it is a highly risky and expensive venture. Finally, it is possible to pull the digital and physical worlds together using location-based services and leveraging what users are already doing.
At the end of the day, there are a number of great tools out there for brand marketers exploring social. With some careful thought and engaging execution, it's possible to reach across the spectrum and provide unforgettable touchpoints.
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