Unlike traditional media, social media is a disruptive mode of communication as it allows users to participate and have their input, no matter the conversation. Occasionally, this disrupts one-sided conversations and can take the dialogue in another direction, originally unplanned by the person that began the communication. However, as we find that social media is becoming a bigger part of how people communicate, social marketers need to recognize this and build it to its advantage.
A recent survey revealed that nearly two in five Americans (39 percent) spend more time socializing online than face-to-face. There is an increasing need for companies to engage with consumers via social media, which demands an understanding of the (dys)functions of media that allows a brand to break the silos of push marketing and build bridges using integration marketing.
Social marketing allows brands to connect other marketing channels and streamline the approach. By following what I call the five functions of social media, companies can ensure that they are effectively and efficiently reaching consumers. These elements are:
1) Listen: Prior to the launch of social networks, the only way that companies could receive feedback regarding a product, service or initiative was through proactive outreach. Sure, some consumers would write companies letters or call them to let them know what they thought of a product, but to receive wide-scale feedback, companies circulated surveys or some other organized initiative to garner consumer response.
Today with social media networks, it is much easier for companies to receive the feedback they need for their brands, products and services. Social networks thrive with conversations. It's important that brands listen in on these conversations to get an idea of what consumers need and want. An easy way to do this is to use and follow hashtags of the brand and other industry competitors, products and related keywords to search for what consumers are discussing.
It is also recommended for brands and companies to identify industry influencers and listen to their followers. There are several useful tools in market that can help track these influencers and monitor social conversations. For the most effective social monitoring, it’s wise to employ tools to ensure you are capturing all the conversations in your space. Monitoring tools often provide an analysis of conversations, including tone, sentiment and overall impressions.
2) Analyze: Monitoring social conversations, whether through monitoring tools or manually, will require detailed analysis. As every social network is structured differently, the measurement techniques are different for each network.
Foursquare, for instance, is measured by the number of check-ins while Twitter is measured by the number of re-tweets. It's important to analyze this data to ensure you are identifying key patterns, personas and profiles. This process will help you identify what your fans like to hear on social networks, which can help you to further structure your social marketing activities to be the most effective.
For instance, people are more interested in questions that are asked about their personal lives related to the product rather than historical facts. Understanding this will allow you to develop an editorial calendar of effective messages that resonate with your fans and consumers.
Further analysis can be done by classifying the conversations in various buckets i.e. product, support or recommendations/reviews. Classification of conversation will allow quicker escalation of the conversations to the respective departments within the organization.
3) Engage: A thorough analysis will be an asset to helping you engage with consumers. It can help you develop the content for your social marketing strategy and also help you establish timing and frequency.
Engagement within your social circles can be built by leveraging our three pillars of social media engagement strategy. Campaign, content and connections are the essential elements for social engagement. For instance, if you find that your fans are more technical, make sure you provide them with technical content.
For networks with high engagement, it is important to maintain the engagement through frequent campaigns and contests. Either way, the key to developing an effective social marketing strategy is to make sure your updates are frequent and relevant. Unlike traditional media, frequency is an integral part of social media.
Social media has evolved to become a system where we can communicate our thoughts as we think them. Due to this, consumers are used to getting frequent updates and expect it, from both their friends and from brands and companies that they follow. Furthermore, it's important to give consumers a reason to follow your brand. They want to learn something new about your brand, so give them what they want.
4) Influence: As you engage more consumers with your brand, you create more influencers. Through continuous interactions, your consumers can become passionate and experts about your brand and your company. They are more likely to speak to their friends and others if they are happy with the interaction that they have had with you.
Today, we know that creating a strong team of influencers is important because they are going to be the ones that spread the word about your brand and company through word-of-mouth. This is important as 54 percent of all purchase decisions are driven by word of mouth.
Both internal and external influencers can be a huge asset to the growth of your brand on social networks.
Google+ ripples is a great tool to identify influencers within your and your competitors’ networks. Ripples can be used to find the users with most viral updates. Once these users are identified you can manually reach out and ask them to blog or participate in your network.
5) Measure: Social marketing does not end with posting content and campaigns on social networks. The most important component of social media is measurement. Measurement lets you understand the success of these elements of the social marketing campaign. It allows you to see how much you engaged with consumers, and even measure how many consumers you were able to convert to influencers.
Measurement can also include the quality of conversations that you've had with consumers, such as the type of positive feedback that you received as well as how many consumers noted that they were brought to your brand by a friend. These elements are just as important as the quantitative aspects of measurement.
Some other measurement areas are –
• % Increase positive brand reference
• % Increase the social interactions
• Growth in organic search visits
These function of social marketing is what makes social a great part of overall marketing strategy. Never before have they been able to so actively influence companies and brands.