It seems that every where you turn, there is a discussion or reference to social marketing and with over 600 million profiles on Facebook, the reach is pervasive. Your staff may be clamoring for the social marketing “Silver Bullet” and they all want to climb on the bandwagon of the latest trend in marketing.
There are many good reasons that social media should be a part of your overall mix and even more reasons for a brand not to rely on social media as it’s primary marketing effort. Social media is a great way to get immediate customer feedback and insights and to provide a higher level of engagement and customer service to your fans and prospects. Evangelistic fans referring their friends to your brand are your best and most cost effective sources of new business. Who wouldn’t want that?
The common perception is that social marketing is free. Staff time isn’t free and the most effective social marketing campaigns are accompanied by online and offline spending. Think of how often you’ve seen the Facebook logo on a TV ad or an online banner. Most brands are supplementing social marketing with advertising that drives customers to their Facebook page and targeted Facebook advertising has become increasingly popular as it can be targeted geographically, demographically and pychographically.
How much of your budget should go into Social Marketing? The answer is not a one size fits all solution. Consumer brands are much more compatible with social marketing than business services and an evaluation needs to be made as to how much and how often a fan wants to hear from your brand. While there are many reasons do engage in social marketing, the activities can be segmented into content creation and listening.
To give you an idea of the content creation impact – a survey of large companies indicated that while the vast majorities of brands now have some social marketing presence, on the average, they make four Facebook posts a week, 27 tweets, 1-2 blog posts and 2-3 videos. If your brand is conducive to video, that is likely to consumer a big portion of your budget. A growing body of data is emerging that indicates brands that abuse their fans by an overwhelming amount of low interest content risk increased “unlike/unsubscribe/hide” rates. If you are making four Facebook posts per day, you need to question the value and utility to your community.
On the listening side come the activities related to determining which fans are your influencers and evangelists, reviewing user content for appropriateness, monitoring competition, addressing customer service issues, evaluating fan suggestions and engaging with the community.
In house or outsource? Larger companies have dedicated staffs and brands like Gatorade have a Social Media Command Center with multiple monitors and seating for five people. With 3.1 million Facebook fans and commercials featuring well known endorsers, Gatorade can produce a voluminous amount of content. Most brands won’t have as compelling content and an evaluation of how much community dialogue is going on can be a guide of how much resources are needed. Many brands find that outsourcing some of their needs for content creation and monitoring to an outside agency or consultant is an ideal approach to augmenting their internal staff resources. If social marketing is closely coordinated with search advertising and online marketing as it should be, outsourcing can be a scalable option to in house staff with other responsibilities.
Creative is an important element that will determine if a community will embrace the brand or if they will tune it out as another source of advertising a daily sale or special. Here’s a recent post from Jack In The box which embodies the spirit of their campaign:
JACK: If burgers could talk, they’d say “eat me.” And I’d say “that sounds dirty.” And they’d say “we’re just burgers, we don’t have the capacity for word play.”
Developing a voice and feel for an online persona that is not overly sales oriented may be very challenging for some brands and staff members.
What to expect? Reading case studies of social marketing programs for various brands may give the impression that traditional media has been replaced by the internet. It’s true that all the growth and excitement is online and mobile but only about 20% of total advertising dollars are spent on digital media.
Many well known brands are brick and mortar or location based operations. In a review of a few well know brands, the number of Facebook fans divided by the number of locations generally yielded a couple of hundred fans per location. Most Facebook pages have monthly active users that amount to 30-50% of their fan counts which may further dilute the impact of social media. While social marketing fans are likely the most enthusiastic and important customers due to their ability to generate word of mouth advertising, it’s not likely that a social marketing initiative will result in hundreds of customers at every location next week.
Building a community through social marketing is an ongoing process that will strength a brands ties with it customers, leverage existing brand users as referral sources for new business and extend the overall marketing message at an affordable rate. Each brand needs to develop a strategy for utilizing social marketing, establishing realistic goals, evaluating results and optimizing their marketing mix.
Michael Sick (www.GetTheSickness.com) is a former marketing VP with brands like Jack In The Box, Pearle Vision and Arby’s and is now an independent consultant.