Over the past year, I've noticed a significant increase on overall adoption of social media by corporations. More importantly, I'm seeing overall sophistication improve, due in part to recent traction achieved by a new wave of internal social media marketing professionals and a growing number of agencies providing supporting services and tools. Unfortunately, a vast majority of companies are still underachieving when it comes to truly harnessing the power of social media. I aim to address that shortcoming in this article.
eMarketer recently conducted a study of social media tools and tactics favored by marketers. As if to validate my concerns about the general level of savvy and competency within corporate marketing departments, you can see below that the most popular efforts are relatively remedial and tactical (social sharing links and basic content). Measurement is equally lagging; most marketers are satisfied measuring gross quantities of "likes," friends, and followers (versus engagement or revenue).
In a recent article, "9 ways to lose friends and alienate people in social media," I outlined the most common mistakes corporations make in social media. My hope in writing the article was to highlight the chasm between doing social and doing it well. A few years ago, I wrote "6 social media platforms at a glance" and the follow-up, "6 socially savvy brands." I suggest newcomers to social media read those foundational articles before moving on to advanced tactics, as outlined in this article.
That said, many companies seem to be fairly well-versed in basic social media tactics, but they're refusing to go further. They are not adopting more advanced strategies, tactics, tools, and techniques. Thus, I've put together the following recommendations that outline advanced uses of popular social platforms as well as second-tier social platforms worthy of attention.
Let's start with the 800-pound gorilla of social media, Facebook. A significant number of corporations have created fan pages for their companies (if not dedicated pages for specific products, services, or geographies). That said, many companies are relying on a junior-level marketing person to create content (or worse yet, syndicating from a blog or Twitter profile).
There are a few key opportunities to consider when developing a more compelling presence in Facebook:
Dedicated landing tabs: Consider having an introductory page that outlines a value proposition that results in a "like." The tab should also take the opportunity to set expectations for the relationship and promote specific campaigns and offers.
Consumer insights and customer service: As I've outlined in past articles, social media is the world's largest focus group. So how are you leveraging the opportunity? For example, Lion Brand Yarn understands how to connect with customers and turn them into evangelists.
Advertising: First and foremost, Facebook offers one of the world's largest consumer databases. Facebook ads can be targeted so effectively and affordably that it is a strategy that cannot be ignored.
Integration with other social profiles: Twitter, YouTube, and blogs can all be fed to dedicated tabs within your profile page, further leveraging and integrating the social experience.
Immersive experiences: Use iframes to create customized Facebook experiences, including videos, animation, and even e-commerce. The Intel profile below is an excellent example of what can be done with a customized experience. Take advantage of Wildfire and NorthSocial apps to get the most from your Facebook presence.
The de-facto "status update" platform is well known, but not nearly as well adopted or immersive as Facebook. That said, Twitter does offer a few unique opportunities for corporations looking to take it beyond syndicated blog or Facebook updates. Here are just a few ideas:
Consumer insights and customer service: As mentioned above, Twitter offers an excellent listening platform for brands interested in learning from customers, prospects, and other constituents. Free tools like SocialMention and Twitalyzer offer relatively powerful insights, based on keyword and profile analysis, which help identify trends and influencers.
See the research below from eMarketer, which clearly illustrates the power of listening and responding to customer complaints.
Also, check out the (old) Cox Arizona customer service profile, which includes headshots of the tech support personnel, who sign each post personally. Cox also uses Parature, a customer support platform with social media integration.
Advertising: For whatever reason, very few audience members I present to on the topic of advanced social media ever raise their hands when I ask if they've advertised on Twitter. Considering there are three ways to target and promote your profile or messages to users, there is no compelling reason not to test it. You can see the three basic options below.
- Displayed on Twitter homepage
- Target most relevant users by who they are following and target keywords
- 50-cent minimum bid for cost per follower
- Average follow rate of 0.1-0.3 percent
- Shown on Twitter.com and other Twitter management tools (e.g., HootSuite) through search results and user timeline
- 10-cent minimum bid for cost per engagement (clicks, favorite, retweets, @replies)
- Average engagement rate of 1-3 percent
- Top global trend for 24-hour period
- Users click on trend and land on results page of promoted tweets
- Fixed price of $80,000 for 24 hours
- 70 million impressions on homepage
- 6-15 percent tweet engagement
Thankfully, I've already highlighted a majority of the most powerful features on LinkedIn in a previous iMedia article, "Advanced LinkedIn strategies for marketers." That being said, I do have a few noteworthy updates to share.
Company pages: While company profile pages have been available for some time now, LinkedIn continues to evolve features. Most recently, status updates were added (replacing the optional Twitter feed). Until social management platforms like HootSuite perfect the API plug-in, companies must manually post updates via login.
Another cool feature is the Recommend API, which is a snippet of code added to your product and service pages on your website, which then link to an associated description on your LinkedIn profile. The feature allows customers to review or recommend specific products or services from either location, which are then displayed in the company page. See the Dell example below.
Advertising: Far too few companies have taken advantage of LinkedIn's ad platform. But our initial tests clearly demonstrate the potential ROI. A few months ago, Anvil developed a LinkedIn ad campaign for Axway that generated a 25 percent conversion rate and the lowest cost per conversion in the history of the company. When building a campaign, make sure you have compelling content (white papers, research, demos, trials, etc.) that direct to an optimized landing page, or expect low conversion rates.
Google's effort to beat Facebook at its own game has come up short to date. But the rapidly evolving platform cannot be ignored by social media marketers for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, Business Profile pages are now available to a limited audience (see the Coca-Cola example below).
Here are a handful of reasons to consider a Google+ marketing strategy:
- Business profile pages are now available to companies with Google Apps for Business accounts. They will roll out to the general public by the end of November 2011.
- The Circles feature offers better targeting and segmentation of fans than Facebook.
- Hangouts offer Google Doc and screenshot sharing, in addition to video chat.
- Google will allow personal profiles to be ported over to business profiles (but be sure to proceed with caution, as the data might be sensitive).
- Look for analytics and integration with search and AdWords.
- Seamless integration with Google Apps means a better experience and faster adoption by business users.
- Look for +1 buttons on all forms of content within the Google network.
- Google's massive database of content and behavior data means more opportunities for insights, connections, and monetization.
- Android phones synch seamlessly to Google+, which means greater usage and adoption.
YouTube is not being taken seriously by corporations, and I can't figure out why. Not only is YouTube the second largest search engine, but it's also a new way of selling products and services. Historically, companies have created and optimized videos to generate awareness or even thought leadership.
My latest thinking on YouTube, validated by the recent announcement of 100 channels of premium content, is that YouTube is your corporate TV network with global distribution. Check out Cisco's custom channel below. It's highly branded and immersive.
Here are a few additional thoughts regarding the value of YouTube as a marketing platform:
Market research: YouTube provides insights into trends from a variety of angles. You can see what topics are most popular, as well as the popular videos being viewed on select topics. Secondarily, you can view analytics to see which videos are garnering the highest level of engagement (from view drop-off rates)
Customer service and support: What better way to help your customers than to create a public database of "how-to" training videos for your products and services? Well-produced videos can cut down customer call times and create additional marketing opportunities by attracting curious searchers.
Sales: Do you have a traditional broadcast budget? Are your commercials already on YouTube? Have you optimized them to rank well for target terms? Did you add unique calls to action, special offers, or tracking codes to your videos to increase conversion and measurability? Regardless, consider glossy "advertorial" videos for your company, as well as key products and services. Consider it your capabilities reel for potential clients, employees, and partners. Chef Diane Morgan uses teaser videos to promote her books, which increases sales.
Advertising: YouTube offers a variety of powerful advertising options, including display (banner ads), in-video overlay, and promoted videos (example below). Test different creative, video types, and placement options, which is relatively easy to do via the Google AdWords interface.
While I've covered more advanced strategies and tactics for popular platforms, I also wanted to remind you that there are many other platforms used by millions, which might be ideal for reaching your market. One of my favorites is SlideShare, a global presentation sharing platform. Slideshare offers a host of marketing opportunities:
Search engine optimization and online reputation management: SlideShare has immense TrustRank with Google, which means presentations and profiles rank well for target search terms. Create and optimize your corporate profile to rank for your brand, which will protect it from less desirable results (bad reviews, blog posts, etc.). Additionally, creating and optimizing presentations around target search terms offers credibility and click-throughs that some corporate websites can't match. Check out the Formic Media example below.
Customer service and sales: Similar to YouTube, PowerPoint-style presentations offer unique opportunities to sell products (features and benefits) as well as provide guides and tutorials for products.
Expert communities provide unique opportunities for individuals to build reputations in areas of expertise. While Yahoo Answers was one of the first popular question-and-answer websites, many have come to market since. Google created Orkut, LinkedIn has Answers, and there are now a host of industry vertical expert communities. I selected Quora as one of the most popular independent expert sites for this article, as it exemplifies what works best about these platforms.
General awareness: Whether asking or answering a question, getting your name out there is half the battle. In some cases, asking a good question to incite conversation can be worth as much or more as any resulting answer.
Thought leadership: While the primary focus of expert sites is to generate thought leadership, it can happen at a variety of levels: asking a brilliant question, answering a question brilliantly, or even answering a sufficient number of questions brilliantly to create "expert" status within the community or category of interest. In Quora and Yahoo, you earn points, which give you additional "powers" to vote other answers up or down, as well as earn additional badges or levels. These simple elements can be significant motivators.
With north of 10 million users, Foursquare is one of the most popular "check-in" platforms available today. While Google and Facebook offer similar capabilities to check into businesses via their apps, Foursquare has emerged as a leader (beating out Gowalla and Loopt) in the location-based services category. For retail-based businesses, check-in or LBS platforms are an extension of local SEO and cannot be ignored. Here are a few reasons why:
Awareness: When I check into a restaurant, hotel, or other business location, everyone in my Foursquare network sees where I am. In addition, since I syndicate Twitter and Facebook, the effective reach is even higher. For example, when I check into Hotel Lucia, 200-plus Foursquare followers will be notified, as well as 2,800-plus Twitter followers and more than 900 Facebook friends. That adds up to nearly 4,000 impressions off of one check-in.
Sales (prevention): Checking into a business is only part of the process. Active Foursquare users typically comment about their experience (see below) or leave "tips" about the business for others to read. If the comments or tips are positive, then you'll likely see new business from the check-ins. If the posts are negative, however, be prepared to find out the hard way. Social media is a double-edged sword, in that it can build (or destroy) a brand very quickly. Manage this by claiming, optimizing, and monitoring your listing.
Advertising: Foursquare is still refining its advertising strategy, but it does offer unique opportunities, like creating custom "badges." While expensive, they can be effective branding and promotional tools (see Conan's Blimp badge).
For those of you who prefer the high-level takeaways, I've put together a few bullets as reminders for taking your social media program to the next level:
- Customize profiles using the latest tools and technology.
- Focus on R&D and customer service via social.
- Optimize profiles to increase visibility in search.
- Create educational "thought leadership" content.
- Develop sales-centric content strategies.
- Treat social fans and followers as affinity partners.
If you're still digesting the advanced social media strategies and tactics outlined in this article, I suggest checking out these articles, which will provide additional background: "How to Become a Social Media Guru in 3 Easy Steps," "5 Reasons for Brands not to Outsource Social Media Marketing," and "Why Only Idiots Promote Their Brand's Facebook Page via Traditional Media."
Whether you're just getting started or are a seasoned socially-savvy brand, the world of social media is constantly evolving and requires attention, thought, and timely action. Hopefully I've provided a handful of actionable recommendations from which you will see immediate benefit upon implementation. Feel free to leave a tip on our Foursquare page if you like what you read.