With the advent of variable data printing direct marketers were given the ability to create highly targeted and personalized marketing campaigns. Automating the process and tracking responses more precisely has allowed them to finely tune their databases and increase the relevancy of their marketing outreach. Finally, they were gaining the kind of accuracy and response cold callers of yore only dreamed of. Then along came social media and a whole new arena for communication erupted that marketers couldn’t ignore. Now marketers could reach into the discussions, referrals and commentary going on in previously private networks. Now everything from dinner table conversations to professional networking advice to personal journaling and more was up for public consumption. Marketers knew there was an opportunity but they weren’t sure how to access it.
Facebook and Twitter were initially designed to be social networking platforms for individuals to connect with other individuals and that began to grow into groups. Eventually marketers tapped into these channels with a message (often with a tight budget) and used the channel to connect with their customer base.
At first there was little method to the marketing madness—many will argue that’s the real wealth of viral opportunity—as brand managers began cruising Facebook, Myspace and Twitter looking for opportunities to reach their desired audience. Lessons were learned and mistakes were made but there were also a number of successful marketing efforts using these new channels of communication. After each report of a wildly successful social media marketing campaign other marketers would sit back as ask, “How did they do that?” It was entirely new territory and everyone was figuring it out as they went along.
Now, as social media continues to evolve so do the few elementary rules and best practices that have been established. In the rapidly evolving environment of social media marketing there are a few truths that can help you navigate the best way to incorporate social media marketing into your existing and future campaigns.
- There is no “one way.” The reason it has been so difficult to measure and commoditize social media marketing is the highly customized nature of a good campaign. The channels, messages, methods and strategy of each effort are tied to the goals, experience, products/services, audience etc. of the client. Every time a new campaign is created a good marketer will start from scratch—using lessons learned to prevent repeat errors—and assemble the components necessary to successfully market the brand. Don’t try to package the process. Just observe and measure what you can to find the rhythm and nuances of using social media as a marketing tool.
- Social media is a method. It should be part of a marketing plan. If you don’t have a marketing plan or it has been a long time since you’ve updated yours then take the time to explore and update your marketing objectives. Social media should be part of your marketing strategy and your day to day tactics to reach your objectives. Need a refresher on what a marketing plan could look like? A Google search on “marketing plan template” had the following top hit as of today: www.quickmba.com/marketing/plan/.
- It isn’t always about what you have to say. In fact, one of the most useful ways to use social media as a marketer is to get a glimpse at the behaviors, thoughts and trends volleying amongst your target audience. Simply "listening in" can help you better understand what they want from you and how they want it presented.
- Let them choose. Instead of trying to anticipate the best way to touch a customer give them options. People are accustomed to having everything—meals, TV programming, news—their way. They now expect to be able to choose how they want to receive your marketing message. Don’t fight them. Make sure your campaign gives the audience a choice.
- Engage. Don’t lecture. The truly unique element of social media is the “social” part. You now have direct access to your customers. Explore ways you can engage them in your brand experience. Get them to provide feedback or enable them to share their support for your cause. Social media is a two way street the faster you can embrace the potential conversations you can have the sooner you’ll find your campaign’s niche.
- The cost isn’t always about money. With social media it’s often time. Social media’s biggest source of funding is time. Setting aside the time to identify relevant content, post it on appropriate social media channels and monitor what’s being said about it is an ongoing process. Be sure to include more time in the beginning to learn what works for you and your audience.
- Remember these three words: content, channel and hook. These three have been the cornerstone of marketing efforts for years. What you want to say, the channel in which you say it and what you expect someone to do with what you’ve shared or done. Modern marketing has increased the number channels and what can be done with them. Finding out what people want and being able to deliver it in a channel or channels they want to receive it in. It’s both a mystery and an opportunity. The best way to demystify it is to try it for your organization.