Buyers no longer follow a linear process when making purchase decisions. The traditional sales funnel has become more like a plate of spaghetti -- with twists and turns throughout the website and different paths for mobile devices, print, contact centers, and now, social networks.
Successful cross-channel marketing strategies require a new approach which incorporates social networks into the marketing mix. Web Engagement Management (WEM) systems provide the foundation for delivering a successful cross-channel marketing strategy and should be extended to treat social networks as a primary customer channel, alongside websites, mobile devices, print and contact centers.
Cross-Channel Publishing Ensures a Consistent Customer Experience
The dream of single-source publishing isn’t new; marketers have striven for years to better standardize content across multiple channels. For example, multi-channel retailers often struggle to ensure that messaging is consistent across retail and online -- from the fact tag on a store shelf to the product description on the website to a call script used by a contact center representative. Mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, are an emerging new channel for marketers and will also require consistent messaging that aligns with other channels.
Ensuring messaging consistency across each customer touch point is crucial to a customer experience strategy, yet for many marketers it remains more vision than reality. Now, add social networks to the mix. As marketers, we’re trained to “fish where the fish are,” which means we must join our customers wherever they are. For B2C companies, that often means Twitter and Facebook. For B2B companies, it’s usually Twitter and LinkedIn. New entrants like Google+ may become yet another important social marketing channel.
Publishing to multiple channels requires additional structure to ensure the right content is delivered to the right channel. We will need to tag content for usage in specific channels, ranging from traditional long-form channels like the desktop web browser to short-form channels like mobile devices, product fact tags in the retail environment and Twitter.
Tagging content (or content fragments) per social channel ensures that the right message is communicated to the right channel. For example, Twitter forces brevity with its 140-character limitation. WEM systems help marketers achieve their goal of delivering the right message to the right audience by allowing targeting of specific messages for specific channels, ensuring that content is captured once and re-used appropriately. The screenshot below illustrates a structured-authoring interface where a marketer can target specific messaging to Twitter and Facebook.
Structured content authoring.
WEM systems can automate the cross-channel publishing lifecycle, automatically synchronizing the delivery of content to multiple websites and social networks.
Cross-Channel Analytics Drives Insight and Action
Understanding customer data and behavior is a fundamental tenet for data-driven, agile marketers. But adding social networks to your cross-channel marketing mix adds more complexity to an already difficult problem:
- Scale. The amount of content being generated in social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ is astounding. According to IBM, every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. People are creating much of this unstructured data in social networks in the form of tweets, status updates, videos, pictures and more. There’s a new set of “Big Data” technologies like MapReduce and Hadoop being put to use by vendors trying to help marketers gain insights into large-scale datasets.
- Speed. Speed matters. Social networks operate in real time. Marketers don’t have the luxury of time when trying to craft multi-channel marketing campaigns which involve social networks. Micro-trends come and go in a matter of minutes. To capitalize on micro-trends, marketers must be able to act on insights in real time. For example, perhaps a trending topic on Twitter related to your company or brand triggers an automated promotion on your website.
- Sentiment. Social networks present marketers with new opportunities to listen to the voice of the customer in its most natural state. Social networks function like a persistent focus group, where marketers have the ability to gain authentic insights directly from their customers. But doing so requires the ability to separate signal from noise. In particular, being able to gain insight into the good, bad and ugly of the voice of the customer requires the ability to understand the sentiment of customer conversions.
When social networks are part of a multi-channel marketing mix, companies need to augment their traditional web analytics and business intelligence platforms with dedicated social media monitoring and analytics tools, designed to operate at internet-scale and speed. Web analytics data alone gives insight into broader audience metrics like page views and bounce rates while social media analytics provides deeper understanding of customer behavior through real-time analysis of the meaning and sentiment of customers.
Social networks have emerged as a primary customer interaction channel. Marketers looking to evolve beyond the legacy sales funnel must seek to integrate social networks into a multi-channel marketing plan. WEM sits at the core of a successful multi-channel marketing strategy, and must be extended to address the new challenges of multi-channel publishing and analytics.
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