Social media has become the new battleground where brands have opportunities to fight for the hearts and mindshare of consumers. While social media is a relatively new phenomenon, it has been hailed as the most important shift in communications technology
and media since the advent of the Internet itself. Participation in social media has skyrocketed into the hundreds of millions of active users and is increasing and spreading into broader demographics. People are spending an increasing amount of time
(hours on average) on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and also on blogs. Social media sites are increasing and everyday people are reconnecting with old friends, finding new ones, building business relationships, sharing their photos, videos, and thoughts on their lives, the world, and even the brands that they use. Whether or not you’re tracking and following the conversations, your customers are talking about you online via their social media networks. They are writing about what they like as well as what they don’t like. The brands that are successful in this new world of social media are those with a solid social media strategy for how to actively participate in the conversation around their brand. Consumer brands like Starbucks, Webkinz, Cold Stone Creamery, and Burger King have built awareness, preference and general goodwill among consumers through active social media marketing efforts. But is social media marketing all just warm and fuzzy? Hardly! Blendtec achieved a five-fold increase in blender sales with a viral video series “Will it Blend.” Starbucks uses its “My Starbucks Idea” site (powered by the Salesforce.com Cloud) to generate and vet valuable product and promotion concepts. Dell estimates that their social media efforts create about $6 million in revenue. Comcast set up the “@comcastcares” Twitter account to actively monitor and respond to customer complaints and requests - for a vastly better customer experience - which leads to increased retention and better word of mouth. Social media efforts can generate real business value and results, and those results and be tracked and measured. But for every social media marketing success story, there are hundreds of failures. So many companies have gone to the effort of launching social media sites, but created boring, lifeless pages on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, and blogs that no-one is paying the slightest attention to. Why? Simply put: poor planning. These companies jumped on the bandwagon of social media marketing without developing an adequate plan with business goals and metrics and a relevant creative strategy, and their efforts simply died on the vine. So who wins in social media? The brands that make a big splash seem to follow a pattern: Start with a clear objective If you don’t know what you want your customers to do, then how can you expect them to do it? If you don’t know what your business goals are for your social media marketing efforts, then how can you drive toward them and how will you know when your efforts have worked? You need a social media strategy. You need to set goals, create tactics, measure, and adjust. Slapping some social media pages together is not a plan. Offer something of real value Your customers engage in social media to enrich their lives. They are happy to interact with your brand, if you’re giving them valid reasons. Starbucks has 3.7 million Facebook fans on this principle alone! They regularly offer their customer fans coupons and other cool stuff, and it absolutely works. Show your human side Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems, achieved 400,000 visits per month on his blog merely by being honest and human. He was open with his thoughts and opinions and allowed his readers to post comments with the same openness. People respond to human connections over social media. The more real and transparent and the more personable your brand can be, the more you will win in this space. Entertain Let’s face it: social media is fun. We share our wacky stories with our friends and family. Likewise, we invite companies and brands into our personal conversation if they’re fun! Burger King gets recognized for their outrageous promotions like the Whopper Sacrifice application in Facebook where users could “sacrifice” ten friends from their list in exchange for a free Whopper. Successful brands have found that they can show a more fun and edgy side in social media than in other channels, and be rewarded accordingly. Engage in the conversation Your customers are talking about your brand, and they’re doing it via social media. Shouldn’t you be a part of that conversation? Starbucks embraced this principle with MyStarbucksIdea.com, where users can submit their thoughts and ideas and see progress on what’s being done with those ideas. Many brands monitor mentions of their name online and respond to customers who need help or have a complaint. When done correctly, customers appreciate this level of support and interaction, and retention and referrals will improve accordingly! Track & Measure Sales Impact The point of social media marketing is to make money. You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so track everything and make sure you’re responding to the information you’re receiving. We’re living in real time and social media has never been so demanding of instant gratification and response. Earn while you learn If you’re not making money, then you shouldn't be in marketing. I’m not talking the hard car salesman here, but everything you do should track back to how it impacts your sales. If something's not driving sales, then figure out what needs to change. You’re never going to bat 1,000, but the more profitable your marketing efforts are, the more “at bats” you’ll get from your company. For more information on Social Marketing, please download our Free Webinar on Monetizing Social Media: How Do You Make Money with Facebook and Twitter. AlterSeekers is a brand promotions agency in New York focusing on promotions consulting and planning, web strategy, social media and social media marketing (including Twitter consulting), go to market strategy, and overall strategic planning. For more information see www.alterseekers.com.