While we have officially moved past the shock of the social media Big Bang, much of social is still uncharted territory. Many marketers are still trying to “crack the code” by attempting to cram social media into a tidy E=MC2 equation that can solve their ROI questions. Truth be told, there is no magic formula for social triumph. However, one key element will never steer you wrong: customer data. And while you were frantically searching for the keys to social success, your audience was driving away without you. Ready to get on board?
Brands can spend a fortune on advertising and paying someone to manage their social content, but the secret to social ROI lies in leveraging social networks as free real-time focus groups. What are your Fans and Followers talking about, watching, reading and listening to? Did they check-in at the Cheesecake Factory last night? Were they chatting about last week’s episode of “The Bad Girls Club”? Do they share articles from Us Weekly? Paying close attention to your customers and the content that inspires them will enable you to foster engaging conversations that allow you to further gauge their opinions and preferences. Posting away with no insight into whether or not content will resonate with your audience will only reaffirm what’s not working; if you listen closely, your audience will tell you what they want to hear.
Accumulating this breadth of audience intelligence will also allow you to effectively map your off-social marketing strategies to your best and prospective customers’ real-time interests, actions and behaviors. Marketers should aim to not only capitalize on social media itself, but instead to understand how to leverage the intelligence garnered from social across other media channels. For example, by paying attention to fans’ social chatter, a restaurant brand may discover that customers miss an old menu item and dislike its replacement. A protein bar manufacturer targeting moms may find that, in fact, their best, most engaged audience is body builders. Or, a tech brand could discover that its Fans are avid watchers of “The Big Bang Theory,” and choose to showcase their product during that show. In each case, social data can be used to shape valuable marketing and product decisions that lead to increased ROI. Furthermore, social insights can be used to build out off-social data from in-store purchases, lead gen campaigns and other sources to tell a bigger and richer story about your audience and how they behave online.
Finally, by keeping a close ear to your audience, you will be able to more quickly and easily pinpoint your brand advocates. Brand advocates are those who are willing to actively share and re-tweet your message – in other words, a free marketing channel. Empower these super fans to assist with your online marketing by sharing exclusive content, posting coupons, asking for feedback and more. Leverage these brand advocates as community leaders to influence the purchasing decisions of others. And, with the right technology, targeting segments can be modeled after these power users to reach others with similar profiles that are more likely to engage with your brand.
Variables, unsolved equations, and the ROI “mystery” aside, focusing on your social audience will never steer you wrong. Best case: You’ll gain important information and data that you can leverage across channels to drive business results. Worst case: You deepen relationships with your customers through honest, respectful conversations. Really, it’s a win-win. Once you know your audience, you’ve found the keys to social success.