In social media, marketers are fast learning that their brand is the sum of the conversations about their company. And the rise of social media has created yet another forum for companies to enter the conversation and communicate with their customers. While the final chapter on defining social media and how it will work for companies is yet to be written, we do know that social media cannot be ignored. The key for many marketers is to understand how to use it within their marketing mix to ensure the optimal return on investment for the entire marketing budget.
A recent InfoGroup study points out two very important facts. First, "The No. 1 reason someone follows a brand in social media is for exclusive deals and/or offers." Second, "For every customer who complains, there are 26 other customers who've had similar problems and six of these people have had serious problems. Ninety-six percent of customers who've had a bad experience will not complain, 90 percent of these customers will not return."
Clearly, these are conversations marketers cannot afford to miss.
Social media is both a marketing medium and a customer service medium, but the success criteria for social media in either effort are the same:
- Participate: If you choose to take on social media within your communications mix, you need to be present in that medium. Someone needs to be active in the communication on a regular basis for this effort to succeed within your organization.
- Be authentic: In this medium, above all, marketing messages are easily sniffed out. Use an honest voice and connect with your followers and fans. Make them feel as if they are part of a select group that gets a unique view inside your company.
- Find the influencers: These are the people who will carry your brand message for you. They tend be the most active users of social media and often retweet or post your messages to their followers and friends.
So, how does a marketer bring social media into the marketing mix? More importantly, how do you measure its efficacy? Three rules top the list:
1. Collect the information
Pull your followers list from Twitter and your fans list from Facebook and connect that to your customers within your marketing database. The easiest key to use here is email address, both of which are accessible via the application programming interfaces (APIs). That, along with other personally identifiable information data, can be used to connect your fans and followers to members within your marketing database.
2. Build social media into your cross-channel campaign management mix
You can start by direct messaging all of your followers or placing the special offers on your Facebook page. When you send a direct communication (in email or direct mail), make sure that your fans and followers get it first by using direct messaging and posting to Facebook. For those followers and fans also opted in to your email program, consider (or better yet, test) tempering your email contact strategy with social communications. Finally, always use the forward-to social features within email and highlight your social media presence within your creative and on your website.
There is myriad information available via the APIs from Facebook and Twitter that can tell you who has posted your message, who has retweeted, who has clicked on your link, and more. This information can be brought back into your marketing database and measured with the same disciplines that are used for all of your marketing communications.
In the end, we should learn from the mistakes of the past; do not treat social media as an isolated channel within your marketing mix. As the InfoGroup study also highlighted: "Customers marketed to via direct mail and email appear to be worth 3-10 times more than those reached via direct mail alone."
In the next year or two, we will see similar value-related numbers climb from the mix of social media, email, and direct mail marketing. That's not a curve you want to fall behind.
Jeff Hassemer is chief marketing officer and senior vice president of product development for Entiera.
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