The Undiscovered Value of The Social Inbox


ADOTAS — Online advertising spend is expected to reach $62 billion by 2016, according to a recent eMarketer study. Yet, if you asked GM’s former CMO, Joel Ewanick, the true effectiveness of digital advertising options like Facebook are highly questionable. Just last year, Ewanik pulled GM’s $10,000,000 advertising spend on Facebook, saying the ads it ran on the world’s No. 1 social network that had little impact on consumer car purchases.

Digital advertising was approximately a $37B business in 2012, but while ads are excellent for driving awareness, they’re not very effective at driving the bottom line (or many KPIs in-between for that matter). Plenty of marketers are looking for innovative ways to drive key performance indicators beyond just raising brand awareness, and fortunately, they’re likely already employing tactics that just need to be translated to new forms of communication.

While the email inbox may be a bit saturated, email marketing has proven time and time again to be an effective form of reaching the consumer. Additionally, tracking capabilities for such actions as open rates, click-throughs and redemptions each allow brands to develop a better understanding of what’s working and what’s not.

But what about the social inbox? Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all have powerful inboxes too, and it’s a shame brands have yet to leverage each in an optimal fashion.

There’s a reason LinkedIn values their InMail messages at $10 a pop to send messages to those outside of your network. Talk to many sales professionals on LinkedIn, though, and they’ll tell you how effective the network has been for their careers.

Have you heard about Facebook’s recent foray into the social inbox space? Late last year, Facebook introduced the ability to pay $1 to send anyone a FB message that would show up in their primary inbox. Earlier this month, Facebook expanded the program to include different price points depending on the level of notoriety of the recipient. Either way, a small investment could net a large return in the grand scheme of things here.

As much potential as there is with the Facebook and LinkedIn inboxes, it’s the power of the Twitter inbox that should get top billing.

For those that may not be aware, Twitter allows you to publicly communicate with anyone, but you can only privately communicate with those that are following you. At the same rate, consider all of the brands that have amassed gigantic followings to date.

As of May 2013, if Justin Bieber felt like privately inviting any one of his 38,000,000+ followers to a VIP performance, he could do that in a matter of seconds and make their day…if not whole year.

But let’s consider a typical business example: Take Delta and the upwards of half-million followers they’ve amassed. For the purpose of a real-life scenario, let’s just say Delta had struck a special cross-promotion with the Atlanta Falcons for the weekend they were hosting the San Francisco 49ers in this past year’s NFC Championship game.

In typical social-media-manager fashion, both Delta and the Falcons could broadcast it to the masses via a standard tweet. But consider the life of that message: Only a small fraction of either following would see it, only a small fraction of that fraction would click through to learn more, and only a small fraction of that fraction would go all the way towards redemption. Doesn’t sound nearly as powerful now.

Then again, what if both organizations were able to direct the message towards specific individuals that had the greatest propensity to redeem. Well, they can, but they just haven’t…yet.

With social data and actionability tools like Rapleaf, Fliptop or Insightpool, Delta could have easily discovered devout Falcons fans living outside the city that would have loved to make the trip. Better yet, Delta could have targeted Niners fans that were in need of a promotion to make the cross-country trip financially feasible.

Many of the world’s biggest brands have amassed followings that rival, if not surpass, their email databases. For those conscious of permission-based marketing, a Twitter follow is essentially equivalent to an email subscribe opt-in. With that being the case, why are brands not employing similar tactics they use in email and applying them to social communications?

A standard tweet is highly impersonal. If you really want the content to resonate, brands should be addressing it to specific individuals and addressing them by name. Show consumers that you value them all the way down to the individual level.

But let’s even take it a step further. If you really want to take a consumer down the path of redemption, brands should be leveraging as much data as they have on the individuals with every communication. Consumers have made an incredible amount of information publicly available. Use these data points to understand and relate to your customers on a much deeper level.

Best of all, targeting the social inbox can be great from a measurability standpoint. Equipped with these large followings and detailed information on their consumers, why would brands not choose to leverage this information to customize and personalize their messaging to optimize conversions?

Marketing to the masses is great for brand awareness, but marketing to the individual level sparks your target audience to take your desired actions.

All of these customers (or fans) have opted-in for the brand to market with them. Whether they absolutely adore the product or are just chasing the next best deal, these followers have chosen to be marketed to on their own accord. The most forward-thinking marketers are already taking advantage.


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