Social marketing: Early days
Mark Fidelman, author of Socialized!: How the Most Powerful Businesses Harness the Power of Social, has witnessed a lot of confusion in the social marketing arena, stemming mostly from an attachment to traditional marketing strategies.
Marketing gets stuck on lead generation, he says, instead of looking at the real value of social media. "Social marketing is less about converting clicks into deals and more about creating relationships. Eventually the trust built causes people to buy and that's how you monetize social marketing," Fidelman says, although there are no hard-and-fast numbers that prove that assertion.
Before that can happen, businesses must bust up internal roadblocks such as a tendency to hoard information and maintain silos. Social marketing relies on cross-departmental collaboration to extract the most value from feedback and analytics.
For social marketing to reach maximum maturity, IT must be involved in strategy, which is not standard practice in organizations today. Marketing teams either go it alone or hire outsourcers to meet IT needs.
Primarily, IT must be on board because data gathered from social media platforms must be fed into back-end systems for analysis that can be distributed throughout the organization to inform decisions. Keeping that data out of reach defeats its purpose and diminishes its power, according to Fidelman.
By partnering with IT early on, he says, companies can achieve the holy grail of social marketing: providing customers the right message at the right time on the right platform and in the right context.
For more on the marketing/IT relationship, see "Social marketing goes better with IT."
Changing content in response to data
Publishers Clearing House (PCH) shares this vision, already giving social marketing equal visibility with television and online advertising, events and direct marketing.
PCH engages its audience through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+ and other popular platforms. The company has already amassed more than 1 million fans across its multiple Facebook pages.
"Our goal is to have a large-scale, highly engaged audience," says Deborah Holland, an executive vice president at PCH. Holland and her team assess the success of social marketing via Salesforce.com's Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly Buddy Media) analytics software. Users can analyze comments, tweets and other types of posts based on pre-determined filters and tags, along with popular metrics such as Facebook likes and fans and Twitter followers.
Although PCH's social media reporting tools don't interface with other enterprise systems currently, if a social platform user registers or opts into the PCH email program, then he or she is tracked as having come from the social channel.
PCH relies on the resulting data to target content and respond to customer demand. Analytics recently revealed that consumers enjoy in-depth profiles of winners as well as behind-the-scenes glimpses with employees, so PCH beefed up that type of content.
All social media budget expenses are manually integrated with the enterprise-wide budget management system, providing a comprehensive view of total company budget reporting. Social media engagement analytics are gathered using channel-specific software such as Facebook Insights, Salesforce.com and WordPress. Managers receive a weekly comprehensive report on high-level engagement and volume, while executives receive a manually prepared monthly report that includes social media volumes and engagement levels.
Holland credits corporate structure for the amplified view of social media. Head of promotions for all of PCH, Holland has been able to seamlessly blend social marketing into every aspect of operations.
"We have four people on our social media team and they are networked to other key people throughout the organization, including designers and writers who develop content for all channels," she says. PCH, she adds, has created a fluid network of employees who help out and know that social media is part of their job.
This teamwork is tested often, as PCH awards prizes every 10 minutes. Engagement rates of Facebook fans "talking about this" average 10% to 15%, but can reach as much as 80% just before large prize announcements, such as those bestowed by the popular Prize Patrol. These events have to be coordinated across all marketing channels with social media ready to react in real time.
Divide and conquer
The spontaneous need for human interaction is one of the hardest lessons social media is delivering to companies. Four years ago, when Best Western International first established a Facebook presence, it encouraged the operators for each of its 2,200 North American properties to also set up shop on Facebook.
But the company quickly learned that not all property managers have the time or public relations savvy to handle the nuances of social media such as dealing with an upset customer's post. "If the page doesn't get managed, then you potentially turn a good experience into a bad experience that can damage the brand," says Michael Morton, vice president of member services at Best Western.
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