It"€™s about customers
People who influence me, people like Brian Solis
, Jay Baer
, Seth Godin
and Doc Searls
suggest that social media is best suited to engaging customers, as typically it helps develop some form of emotional connection which makes it more likely customers will form a deeper relationship with a brand. It"€™s not that social media cannot help with new customer acquisition, far from it, it"€™s how you go about it.
Have a framework that informs strategic integration
There"€™s so much advice on social media tools and tactics that it"€™s sometimes difficult to see the big picture. Our new RACE framework
defines a simplified, strategic approach to digital marketing, including social media within it as a key part of today"€™s marketing.
An Extra Dimension to RACE - Listen & Participate
RACE is similar in its approach to a Social CRM framework
in that is can be used to provide some much needed structure behind all that tactical effort. Conventional frameworks like RACE are very useful to help keep things simple, but they need an extra dimension that allows them to incorporate social CRM... each and every stage requires listening and participation:
Le"€™t"€™s drill down a little more into each step of RACE suggesting ways to structure your thinking for developing a social marketing strategy...
Reach: Grab attention and build awareness
- Research: Do your home work before you dive into new social media tools and techniques: understand who your customer and prospects are, where are they online vs offline and what they are seeking? Employ listening devices to aid the process and ensure you can get the wider team on-board with clear data, and don"€™t be afraid to survey or call some of those customer and leads and simply talk to them
- Interact: Make your brand visible in the key places where your audience participate online, monitor what is said, the sentiment and how they interact - listening for anything particularly heated or positive, respond rapidly. Participate in the core networks, blogs and forums initially and grow into it keeping an eye on the key metrics as you progress so that you can demonstrate momentum.
- Create: You"€™re going to want to originate and spread valuable content and experiences onto other web sites and even into offline environments where it feels relevant - understand what adds value to the user or customer as opposed to what helps you "€œspread the message"€ - think about videos, articles and downloads and where you may create touch-points off-line as well
- Optimise: Social media and content marketing are now significant for SEO success. Google loves content, blogs for example. It is not either or, search or social, it is both - the art now is the integration and you don"€™t need to be an SEO expert to be successful. Remember that Google also attributes "€œauthority"€ to brands that work hard to be visible, with more brand searches and more inbound links, in turn increasing PageRank.
- Network: PR integration is not about "€œpushing news to bloggers"€, it is about networking with intermediaries by finding out who else your audience is listening to? Forget using press releases and the PR approach, blogger outreach is about interacting with regular humans who are already interacting with your target audience - what are you going to do to partner them in order they are motivated to share your story - the key is content but other incentives can work too.
Act: Inspire people to interact with your web services
- Purpose: How do you get visitors to initially engage with your brand online? Turn all the researched words and understanding you have of your audience to help develop actions - recognize that purposeful, strategic communications drive interactions on your web site that are mutually beneficial. Captivating content that moves people, something that they believe in
- Humanise: Doc Searls says "€œThere is no market for messages"€. It"€™s about your brand persona being relevant and so worthy of the attention you hope for it, create a story that is believable and repeatable (Seth Godin talks a lot about this). Think about how dynamic the Internet is now, the richness of content available because of social media, and then the visitor ends up on a stale business web site which could be yours, so.... what are you going to do about it?
- Inspire: Create points of conversation and interaction, reasons to return - this requires more quality content of course, and also consider simple polls for easy to get interaction and clicks, ask site users to comment and and add value, ask for feedback. As your confidence in social media matures, launching your own community (your own site or across others) or tribe is the pinnacle of online participation for your brand, and comes at the price of investing and cultivating those relationships to earn interaction, advocacy and trust.
Convert: make sure social media leads to commercial benefits
- Value: Demonstrate value. What do you want me to do, and why would I sign up, follow or connect with you on an ongoing basis? Keep the calls to action appealing, relevant and valuable, what do I need to do - is it offline (attend an event or visit a store) or online (go to your customer community service or Facebook page)
- Promote: Make promotional offers natural and convenient, why should the user visit your Facebook Page - because you asked them to? What"€™s in it for "€œme"€? Create social media only offers - for example vouchers or special notifications only available via Twitter or Facebook - but publish and promote how to access that in emails or on brochures, Dell are masters at this, as are Zappos
- Mobilise: Bookmarking and sharing you content is important: mobilise your fans by encouraging the syndication, sharing and bookmarking of quality information and content. Anyone that is expressing an interest should be encouraged to share
- Proof: Create social proof of your value through showing the level of participation and use you have, using testimonials as appropriate. Consider contests, create buzz and registrations through free prize draws and competitions. Also, gain and share testimonials through Facebook without the brand needing to re-broadcast - way more believable that testimonials in a brochure alone
Engage: Build referral and advocacy
- Nurture: Lavish attention on the most active users, followers and customers - they love you already so reciprocate - say thanks and do the unexpected. Do test incentives with care, giving cash / vouchers can be offensive and undermine the relationship. Instead, what products or freebies could you give that might go to waste to fuel that advocacy?
- Trust: Improve what you do through listening - gain customer comments and feedback from all sources including social media - then pool and act on them to help create trust
- Empower: Get people back online to talk about purchases and offline experiences, get people buzzing and remember - why would they share? Encourage hash tags in Twitter for easy aggregations, for example, maybe open support forums around Get Satisfaction
- Connect: Your marketing and web services are not all about the initial sale, loyalty is born from joined up customer service (both online and in real world), simply helping and inspiring people at every touch point you can whether it"€™s the the telephone or Twitter based after-sales
- Social CRM: Long term success isn"€™t just about the marketing department or using RACE, to be successful it will at some point require a wider, business adoption, Social CRM. In Brian Solis"€™ own words "€œIn the end, social media is a privilege and a tool "€” one more opportunity to run a more meaningful and relevant business."€
Conclusions: Integrating social media is about people - it"€™s "€œsocial"€ before "€œmedia"€
Social media has the potential for a profound impact on your company"€™s visibility online and ultimately raises user and customer expectations. It is not about leveraging tools for you to broadcast, though it does have that benefit at the right time. If you "€œbolt on"€ social media marketing without thinking through the internal realities you are bolting on the perception that you"€™re open to interact with people, you"€™re open to dialogue and you"€™re inviting it.
Full adoption is about systems, processes and integration. For example marketing and operations departments need to co-exist around the company twitter account - to field questions and problems as well as monitor what people are saying or broadcasting the latest offers to a base of followers. Teams should at least understand the existence and purpose of the company"€™s twitter account, for example. To this end I"€™d suggest that full adoption of social media is is not very scalable, it requires new roles, processes and ways of thinking - more a shift, than an evolution. This is why a combination of early foot-in-the-water listening and participation, and developing a solid strategy and purpose is so important.
Social media integration is less about transaction (business value), and more about building trust and relationships, to power the relationship with that great content and reasons to share you brand story. The business value is created indirectly not directly which makes measuring the ROI of social media so challenging.