Social Media - The Holy Grail

Social media is enough to make any Marketing VP think they’ve found the Promised Land. Online global communities with easy access, no cost to participate and literally millions of people and companies joining every month, driving traffic estimates to the stratosphere. Social networks and their blistering growth is everything a marketer could ask for.


Yet is it? Companies need to stop and ask, “How can our existing marketing, selling and service processes be strengthened by social media? Can they be strengthened, or is this a distraction?” Where companies have challenges is when they jump into social-media strategies complete with Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts and executives blogging with very broad, difficult-to-measure goals, if they have any at all. With so much potential to improve each marketing, selling and service process, it is better to take the time and define a set of goals first. The following strategies have proven to be successful at helping companies do just that.


1. Dedicate a person to making social networking work for your company. It requires constant focus and ongoing strengthening of relationships—either online or in person. If you want to succeed with social media, give someone the role full time. This is not a task that can be spread across a cross-functional team or given to someone to do only part of the time. If you want measurable results, get a person dedicated full time and also give them the authority to make decisions for customers quickly. Set them up to win in this role, and as a result, your company will come across as much more focused and responsive. The bottom line is that social networking is also all about connecting with people. Make sure your company is presenting a person—not just a logo—to interact with.


2. Benchmark the strategies that you plan to integrate social networking with. This will give you a baseline of how each strategy is working prior to integrating them into social networks. Common approaches to do this include creating landing pages that have specifically been designed for social-networking sites. Isolating the effects of Facebook or Twitter, for example, on a landing page optimized for the audience your company has on these social-networking sites will quickly tell you if you are converting clicks to prospects.


3. Match up individual social networks to strategies based on compatibility with goals and markets. Twitter has found a home in many companies’ customer-service strategies due to its rapid conversational pace and ability to take discussions private through direct messages if needed. Facebook fan pages work well for those brands that have a strong fan base – like Apple for example. Services companies are using Facebook to put more of a human face on their customer service, to make themselves more approachable and easier to buy from in the future. Choose which social networks best compliment a given strategy for best results.


4. Create a social-media roadmap that shows when and how each will be used in each strategy. This is important because it will be another data point you can use to measure performance of having social media involved in each strategy. Trending of each strategy’s results will show whether or not social-media strategies are paying off.


5. Use Google Analytics to get real-time results of strategies using social media. Once a given social media platform has been chosen to match the unique needs of a given marketing strategy or campaign, it is time to measure the results. Google Analytics is excellent at this. Using this free analytics service, you can measure landing-page performance by campaign—tying back to the original social-media platform you chose to use. Google Analytics provides free codes that are inserted in websites, microsites or landing pages.


6. Never stop adding valuable content to your microsites, websites, blog and Facebook pages. Offer free advice and over-deliver value. The companies that are excelling at social-media strategies and generating prospects do this with a passion. Just as it takes a dedicated, full-time person in your company to make social networking happen, consider how you can get your most prolific writers and content providers motivated to deliver content regularly. Be generous in the content you give away, and get the annoying opt-in screens that have so many options out of the way. Be a thought-leader and freely share knowledge and insight; don’t force prospects to fill out a massive opt-in form; it no longer works.


7. Don’t fall for the popular metrics including follower counts or just looking at Web traffic alone—both are incomplete. Influence is based on trust, not popularity. The ability to change a person’s perception then action really defines the meaning of “influence.” Follower counts, if anything, are a measure of churn. Pay no attention to this metric; it is really irrelevant to actually building a connection with customers and prospects. The same is true of Web traffic. Taken in isolation, it is meaningless, but in the context of landing-page analysis based on a targeted strategy, it means much more.


8. Lead nurturing in social media needs to focus on engaging and helping a prospect to solve problems, not sending them more white papers or collateral. This is why having someone dedicated full time to social media is so critical. The segments or groups of followers your company interacts with on each social-media platform will change over time, often becoming uniquely different from each other. Staying on top of this and devising ways of keeping your company relevant can be an excellent way to keep these target segments focused on what your company has to offer.


9. Use Google Analytics link opt-in pages by strategy and campaign to lead conversion. Tracking the landing pages that are dedicated to each specific media platform being used in your strategies can in turn be linked to lead conversion rates. An example would be the Twitter-specific landing page promoting a 15% discount on any follower who downloads the coupon in 24 hours. Using lead management and escalation systems, it’s possible to make this link between landing page opt-in and lead conversion. Tracking this also shows the effectiveness of the promotion in each social-media platform. From that, it’s clear to see which social-media platforms, running which promotions, are generating the greatest potential sales.


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