More articles by Philip Mickey
Follow That Message: Putting Social Media In Its Place
ADOTAS - Marketing used to be simply about message placement, but today it’s about engagement. Every facet of marketing must have some level of engagement attached to it in order to succeed and grow organically. Engagement revolves around reciprocation, where a viewer watches, reads, or listens to an advertiser’s placement, and they then choose to tell their friends or actively learn more. Where marketing once was, “Buy our Widget!,” it’s now a multi-tiered focus of buying, reading online, Tweeting about the widget, telling a story about the widget, and sharing content with friends.
To reach this phase in marketing, social media needs to be a significant part of the strategy, but not the entire plan. For many marketers, they push their brands to be involved in social media because they just can’t afford not to be, although they don’t really know what to do with it aside from building followers and “likes.” There is not much the marketer can do with just this piece — it’s worthless unless packaged with other messages and initiatives.
These other initiatives need to be the other weapons in the marketing arsenal. You can’t just have the social piece and expect substantial results. You need real integration, where each marketing channel coexists with, and in some way relates, the others. Your ads need to point to a social gathering place, your print ads need to point to a social gathering place, your billboards need to point to a social gathering place – it’s all about engagement and action. Don Draper on Mad Men focuses on having a great message, but in today’s market that’s not enough — it needs to extend into seeing comparatively how great the message is and if people interact strictly because of the message.
A crucial benefit of social media is it is one of the few marketing mediums that allows target with laser-like accuracy. If people like your offer and they are passionate about your brand, they will engage your with social media tools. Such willingness to engage allows you to pinpoint your most ardent fans and turn them into your biggest brand ambassadors. What companies do this well? Who takes advantage of this with success and great care? Chick-fil-A is a wonderful example — a company that uses social media to encourage fun while incentivizing and driving people to share content that is pertinent to the brand.
Social media gives marketers one tool they have never had before until the advent of the internet – the ability to measure how far a message has reached. Marketers are always a bit skittish about showing ROI, because every return you see on TV ads, radio, print, etc. is kind of voodoo analytics. Some of it is based in reality, but there is a considerable amount of guesswork. Marketers often don’t really know how many people saw their messaging, so tying an unknown number to actual revenue just isn’t valid. The same can be said for social outreach, but the returns you do get are very real and very tangible.
Social media has not only caused companies to change their messaging — it can fundamentally alter what they are doing, including how their products are made or the treatment of employees. If you make a bad claim in an ad, screw over a valuable consumer or just plainly don’t do well as a brand, people will go to the social media tools you put out there and nail you to the wall. In the old days, marketers could get out in front of the story or problem, reactively change the message and calm things down. Today, the story will always be in front of you, and all you can do is pick up the pieces and change the way you do business. Bank of America is an example of this shift in power. Commentary on social media killed them over their new monthly checking fees, so the bank’s hand was forced and the fees dropped. It’s pretty powerful stuff, where social media can keep companies in line and more honest.
The key for marketers moving forward is to figure out a way to turn social media into a form of brand currency. Consumers should be encouraged to share, like, post, or reTweet different types of content and receive some form of “brand bucks” to be spent later. Your most passionate fans need to be incentivized to push your brand into the deepest reaches of the social sphere. Don’t believe marketers can encourage this type of behavior? Consider the gamer that will spend countless hours building virtual wealth or prestige. Why wouldn’t these same people provide such a level of engagement in the social world in order to gain actual products or services from the brands they love? By turning social engagement into loyalty currency, you can create an army of brand champions that you can gently push to meet your goals. That’s true marketing power.
This post does a very good job of putting the potential of social media into perspective. I plan to use it…with acknowledgement, of course!…in my new “Social Media Communication” course at Curry College in the fall. This will help my students grasp the concept and the practical application of social media in corporate communication.
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