For many marketers, cross-channel marketing on the social web has been a dizzying, ad hoc and all-too-often unmeasured experiment. What many don’t understand is that the social web offers the greatest marketing opportunities we have ever seen, so it’s time to get serious.
But instead, marketers are defaulting to a Facebook-only strategy -- carving out a few dollars to create a fan page, getting a college intern to manage it and telling the CEO that they’ve got social covered.
The real recipe for success isn’t as complicated as some may think, and it works equally well in the B2C space as it does in B2B business models. I’ve personally seen it have a dramatic and immediate impact across all of Marketing’s critical initiatives -- driving brand awareness and advocacy, website engagement, leads, sales, increasing loyalty and most importantly measurability to these efforts.
Ingredients to a Successful Social Web Strategy
1. One Part Facebook
With 750 million users, whether you sell to consumers or businesses, engaging on Facebook and creating a fan page or pages is a no brainer. However, just creating your fan page isn’t enough, because with hundreds of thousands of Facebook groups and fan pages already existing, there are likely many other areas on Facebook that you need to be monitoring and engaging in conversations.
Having a process and tools in place for multiple people (not just one or two) to easily monitor all these Facebook conversations and engage consistently are what your customers, prospective customers and partners are now coming to expect. In a moment I’ll describe why it’s also critical to mix this well with ingredient number three.
2. One Part Social Web
This is where social strategy can get dizzying. What about Twitter? YouTube? The blogosphere? Forums? Discussions occurring on relevant publication websites? And now Google+? Did you know that Google+ accumulated 10 million users in just a couple weeks into their closed/invite only beta!?! Ultimately, all of these conversations can be huge areas of both opportunity and risk. Ignoring these channels is equivalent to ignoring the Web itself back in the late 90’s. It’s simply a fundamental shift that demands marketing attention and strategy.
However, for most, if anything has been done in this area, the keys to the castle have been placed in the hands of a very few “specialists” -- typically the brand police. Their only thought is to manage risk. Don’t be foolish. Do you let every marketing team member do Google searches? Enabling social web monitoring should be equally ubiquitous. The only reason it isn’t is because virtually every social media-monitoring vendor today makes it cost prohibitive and too complicated for everyone on the team to be monitoring and engaging across the social web. If marketing managers are running cross-channel campaigns, tracking the effectiveness, word of mouth and staying engaged with influencers is essential. In fact, they can leverage the social web to extend the reach of campaigns, get ideas for future campaigns and more quickly make adjustments based on real-time feedback from target audiences and influencers.
3. Three Parts Community
Why is having your own community on your web property more important in your social strategy than Facebook and the social web combined? Simple, you own it. You have 100% control over the look, experience, SEO benefit and most importantly the data behind the interactions. In addition, the broader social web has one other major challenge -- it’s virtually all “short form” conversations. Brand advocates need more. People needing support help need more. Partners need more. And you should want to give prospective customers lengthier ways to engage with you and their peers.
The best way to approach your community strategy is to tightly integrate it with both your Facebook and social web strategy. Any community provider worth investing in should enable you to expose community conversations within Facebook as an app living alongside your wall. This exposes people on your fan page to your community, and in addition, when people post on the community app there’s a double bonus. First, that conversation gets exposed to your community; and second, technically speaking that thread is now helping drive your SEO. Many people don’t realize that since Facebook uses what’s known as “no-follow” links, conversations on your wall aren’t indexed by Google and therefore don’t help drive your SEO. But your community of course would be visible to Google’s crawlers so your fan page app would ultimately be helping drive SEO.
In addition, ideally your community technology should make it simple to pull conversations from the social web into the community itself. It’s a way to keep people engaged, show that you’re listening and enable people to expand on their conversations and thoughts.
4. One Part Measurement
Every part of your social strategy should be measured, just like for every other marketing program. Admittedly, Facebook’s fan page reporting is quite minimal. However, if you’re doing it right and integrating your community into the fan page experience, then your community tool should be much more robust at reporting engagement and every social interaction.
Across the social web, every person (which should be every team member) should have easy access to a set of dashboard metrics that pertain to the searches that are created, including sentiment around those conversations. Without reports and dashboards of key data, you can’t communicate results and ROI of efforts to others in the organization, and you won’t be able to know what to adjust to maximize future success.
A Recipe for Success
Just like any good recipe, if you miss one of the key ingredients, your efforts will be in vain. However, different than your kitchen recipe, if this one turns out bad, it could cost a marketer a job. So think holistically; use this recipe as your plan for success, and become a student of social because there’s no doubt that a fundamental shift has occurred in the way people connect, share and learn. If you’re not embracing it, know that for sure your competitors are. Start now in thinking big and broad when it comes to social, and your marketing results will definitely be rewarded.
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