I spoke a few months back to a specialist service provider group about how to better use social media to support them in marketing themselves.
It was an extremely enjoyable group, really keen to investigate how they might best bend the new channels to their goals, build fan followings and start sharing content in pretty much anyway possible. Things started out much as they usually do, explanations and discussion about the risk of getting involved, how long the management of this should really be taking.
After a couple hours interacting with these guys two things occurred to me.
Firstly, they were all capable marketers. They had understood a consumer audience, engaged them with storytelling that allayed their fears and lowered barriers to purchase and/or engagement with their brands, and had been able to describe a (sometimes solid) return on investment for their activities.
Secondly, they were all building a fence around social media through the way the planned and executed activity. Campaigns were planned as facebook audience specific, with incentives that had nothing to do with their business and whose call to action didn’t make it off the platform. It manifested as a common problem with using social media as part of the marketing mix, how do you deliver a result to the business and not just the platform.
This is a big problem.
I’m going to get a little Mr Miyagi on the answer though. “Make social media perform as part of the marketing mix by making social media a part of the marketing mix.”
I’ve come up with a few questions/points.
1) What is value to you as a page owner?
I’m guessing you didn’t get into social media to develop a large fan base, to push for an incremental increase in likes each week, or to chase a higher level of engagement that would be seen favourably by the Facebook Edgerank algorithm.
Increasingly, I do a lot of work in the digital space, and I have learned to love the data. It teaches you what is working, where your traffic comes from and where they go when you leave. Digital is utterly fantastic in its ability to measure the actions of your audience but that mountain of data delivers a risk too.
As a business owner, you need to go into any marketing activity with an idea of how this will provide some value to your business and define some measures that will show that this is happening. You might want to foster a discussion around the experience people have when they do business with you. Very few businesses are ultimately guided by an ability to to build and engage a social media audience as an end, unless of course, your name is Mark Zuckerberg.
Engagement can be a fine indicator that the efforts you are making are having a connection with your audience, but it is not the overall end goal. As an industry, we should stop trying to convince clients that it is, spending some time and understanding their business would deliver stronger ideas and better campaigns.
Thinking about how your social channels form a part of your marketing mix and what role they play in moving someone through the consumer journey that ultimately makes you money is an important part of being successful in this space. It might also increase the perception of value we can articulate if we could show how many likes equal a profitable action.
2) Here’s another social media guy talking about the conversation.
Possibly the most overused few words in social media today. Everyone, from the bright eyed newbies hammering out content plans, through the the “only digital I do these days is in powerpoint” director types can agree that social media is about a conversation.
It seems interesting to me, then, that so many companies are ignoring this. It seems like many online see conversation as two or more people saying what they want to say, in the same place. That to me, sounds like a lengthy trip to the third ring of hell. Conversation at its best represents speaking, listening, learning, understanding and acting on the contents of what’s being said. I’m not really sure I can believe that asking an open question form and burying your head in the sand constitutes the same thing.
The widely hashtagged fails from Qantas, Woolies and Coles are not notable because of the LOLs they give industry observers and the echobox of the twitterverse, but that they demonstrate such poor conversations. The results highlight the fence that these brands have put around their social media efforts.
If Social was an integrated part of their businesses some of the feedback would provide actionable improvements to their products, offers and images in the market.
3) What utility are you delivering to your fans or connections?
As a page owner, decide at the start what the page will deliver for the audience and what the page will deliver for you. Use this as a lens for everything you do.
It’s probably also important to note that many people of facebook see the channel as ‘theirs’ so it’s probably wise to balance the content value equation squarely in their favour. Delivering utility is the route to building an audience that stays with you over time.