Last week, I talked about how the keys for participation are authenticity, responsiveness, and personal engagement. Now let’s talk about integration, and how it’s vital to let your brand go where your consumers are. It’s equally important to bring consumers to where your brand lives, and to forge community on your site.
Why is this important? For starters, your site is a natural front door for people even remotely interested in your product or service. What’s more, your site is the center of your marketing initiatives and online strategy, and all roads need to lead back to it. Finally, online shoppers are becoming incredibly sophisticated. They expect to be able to talk back to you online. As a result, they are demanding richer, deeper interaction capabilities with your brand.
Of course, participation on other social sites is critical. But it’s equally critical for marketers to embrace social media on their own sites. Research shows that User Generated Content, User Enhanced Content and Social Networking—the three pillars of integrated social media—can help drive sales.
A recent study by market research firm Leo J. Shapiro & Associates found that user-generated content and other social media are three times more influential when making a purchase decision than conventional marketing methods such as TV advertising. And, in the past year, nearly half of Americans have consulted user-generated content while shopping.
Many marketers are getting the message and are starting to integrate social media tools, including blogs, photo galleries, forums, and ratings and reviews, on their sites. But you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Some brands and products have heavy multimedia requirements, such as user-generated photo galleries and video galleries, which can cause problems if their target audience is less technology sophisticated. For others, basic text-based ratings and reviews might be more appropriate.
Scotts Miracle-Gro is one company that’s getting it right. Scotts recognized that the gardening and lawn care market is an information-intensive category fueled by passionate consumers who are eager to learn more as well as share their knowledge with others.
The Scotts site leverages social media to elevate the consumer experience. Scotts enables consumers to participate in blogs, forums, and photo galleries that are designed to inspire and assist gardening enthusiasts. Additionally, the site allows consumers to congregate in distinct groups, including urban dwellers, pet owners, and first-time home owners. These micro-communities are tailored to the individual user, allowing them to share their experiences and offer practical gardening ideas and recommendations.
Within days of rolling out the social media features, thousands of visitors registered to create blogs, connect with other lawn care enthusiasts, and share their stories and pictures. To date, the Scotts site has hosted more than 246,000 social interactions between consumers.
The business has also seen a number of tangible benefits. Scotts has enjoyed overall web traffic growth of 18 percent year-over-year, attracting a significant number of new customers. Moreover, Scotts.com rankings have risen in organic search results on Google and Yahoo. Social media capabilities are now a fixture of Scotts’ online strategy, allowing the company to build relationships and bolster loyalty in ways not previously possible.
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