Social Media Does Not Exist

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. – The Usual Suspects (1995)

I had an interesting discussion recently about Social media strategies.  When discussing inputs to a social media strategy, an admitted “social media skeptic” replied that she thought there shouldn’t be a need for them; rather that social media strategies were really just customer relationship strategies.  Frankly, well put.   MarketingSherpa recently published a study of companies that are integrating social media tactics with offline and online marketing tactics.  I’d like to see the evolution over time and agree with the premise – “The benefits of integrating social media with other marketing tactics far exceed the benefits of utilizing social media alone.”

Effective businesses manage all customer touchpoints – every customer interaction is a chance to impact the experience, whether it’s an ad, a product purchase, a customer service call, talking in the store with an associate, or replying to a post in a social network.  When companies start to realize these synergies, they will be able to achieve a lot more than focusing on pure social media tactics alone.  The customer lifecycle is a journey, and each interaction point can have multiple tactics that make it more compelling (and ultimately provide benefit) to the customer.

The technologies that are available influence traditional marketing tactics already.  In some cases, they magnify each other.  Take these examples:

  • 50% click through rate increase in paid search when consumers were exposed to influenced social media and paid search (comScore & GroupM study).
  • Email marketing approaches need to factor in calls to action in social platforms, like soliciting ratings and reviews for products and services, or asking customers to become fans on Facebook.
  • Attribution of revenue from interactive marketing tactics like paid search, display advertising and landing pages now need to factor social tactics (shared links, social content on site) to understand the impact to analytics and optimization.
  • Location based services like Foursquare and Gowalla are about understanding who is coming to your store offline, and enabling targeted promotions to reward visitors.  (Imagine that, technology that helps bring visitors in the door, and keep them coming back.)

While social media specific strategies can help companies digest and learn the technologies and approaches that build success, they aren’t the end game.  I’d like to see more companies treat social media as if it were an embedded part of building customer relationships, focusing on making the most of all relevant touchpoints they have with customers.  I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at how social technologies are changing and influencing other areas of marketing.  Despite lots of hype and lots of platforms grabbing headlines, I’m convinced that companies who truly embrace social media, by understanding and engaging, are the ones who treat it as if it doesn’t exist.

Don’t just take my word for it – there are others that think the same way.  Think we’ll see the day when “social media” isn’t a separate line item in a marketing plan?

Photo credit: niemster via Flickr

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Facebook Changes Relationship Marketing, Again

The discipline of relationship marketing is already facing waves of changes with social media providing a variety of new approaches and opportunities to communicate with customers.  Optimizing communications with email marketing alone has been an ongoing challenge for companies of all sizes.  Developing an appropriate communication strategy requires understanding the needs, attitudes and behaviors of customers, fine tuning copy and frequency that will resonate with customers a business is trying to reach.

Clearly social media is already having an impact.  Customers opting to follow Twitter streams, join community programs or become “fans” on Facebook are signaling they are opting in to some sort of communication.  I met recently with a financial services company who is leveraging these opt-in communication points to offset email marketing – literally, they are sending less email because customers are choosing to interact with their brands through different vehicles.

Facebook just threw yet another a monkey wrench into the mix. With the ability to “like” any page or content out there with a unique URL, a communication strategist has another dimension to manage.  When a customer “likes” a page, or perhaps even a specific product, the brand then has the capability to communicate directly with those fans.  For example, as a reader if you “like” this blog post (you can choose the verb “recommend” instead, in the settings for the API), I have the ability just like a normal fan page in Facebook to communicate to just the fans of this post.  Facebook creates a ‘ghost’ page only available to the admin, which will allow me to track statistics and see an explicit list of people who “like” or “recommend” the post.

Imagine the applications.  Companies in all industries could consider implications around targeting through Facebook for specific brands, product lines or individual products. A pharma company, for example, could leverage this function to communicate with Facebook users around specific conditions if they happen to “like” a specific treatment.  Retailers could too, except they need to be careful – do they really want to manage communications and fans at a SKU level?  Nike could integrate communications via Facebook likes for fans of Air Jordan, but it’s probably not sustainable for each shoe.  Bookstores could manage communications with folks who “like” historical fiction different those who “like” Manga.

At the big business level I think there is going to be an emerging emphasis on communication management, copywriters and ongoing relationship marketing strategists to digest these technologies and build case studies to drive business results.  Have a favorite example of the application of Facebook’s new “like” API and approach?  I’d love to hear it.

Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn via Flickr – who also provides a template for businesses wanting to create a similar sign