Social networking with a purpose

By Wednesday January 20th, 2010

Getting the most out of your online social media marketing dollars.

Facebook isn’t just a venue for teenage gossip anymore. I don’t think that I need to prove the lasting significance that social networking has had on corporate marketing or the customer relationship, there are plenty of articles and blog posts covering this topic in depth. Aside from a few “industry professionals”, however, it seems few understand the concepts behind such initiatives, let alone the strengths that they lend to a complete marketing plan. Following are a few points that make online social networking such a powerful tool.

Hyper-targeting – Much like target email or search engine marketing campaigns, social media marketing allows very specific targeting of individuals or groups of people. Unlike both of these marketing methods, social networking allows you to reach very specific target audiences based on personal characteristics such as sex, age, and education. For example, creating a Facebook ad entails not only writing text and uploading a picture, but choosing who will see the ad based on a variety of factors stored in Facebook’s database. This makes it easy to create a variety of different ads targeted at different social groups, for instance girls jeans to young girls and cardigans to old men, or wedding dresses to those who are engaged. Even the same product can benefit from different copy and messaging being directed at specifically targeted audiences.

The Litmus test – Compared to mailing a huge print campaign or airing a commercial during the Super Bowl, social marketing and advertising requires an incredibly low financial investment. Where it may be unacceptable to risk an edgy campaign on one of these more established mediums, Facebook ads and social networks are a great place to try new ideas, then constantly tweak them to improve results. Much like a well built search engine marketing plan, a Facebook ad campaign should have several ad groups with many variations. This provides much more data to experiment with while trying to develop the most effective campaign. Similarly, an open dialogue with your network on Twitter will provide an immediate litmus test for new initiatives at little or no cost.

Instant Macro/Micro Communication – The biggest advantage of social media marketing is its flexibility and scalability as a communication platform. Though chat rooms and services like AOL Instant Messenger have allowed instantaneous communication over the internet for quite some time now, none of these tools have allowed the mass communication that makes it useful in commercial marketing. In essence, your audience can individually reply to your marketing campaign, allowing your business to strike up rapport and build stronger relationships. Recently, a recording artist gave away free concert tickets to lucky Twitter followers who responded to him at the right time before each show. The contest created a constant dialogue with his 1.5 millions followers that supported each show for the duration of the tour.

Analytics and Tracking – Big brother is watching you. Don’t act surprised either, Orwell told you it was happening a quarter century ago. Nowadays, though, your little brother may be watching too. Tools such as Reverbnation and Spredfast allow easy access to your social networking analytics all in one place. Statistics like clicks, unique visitors, new fans, customer response and so on can be invaluable to determining how effective your campaigns are. You would track the results of your next TV ad campaign to find improvements if you could, so why wouldn’t you do the same for social media marketing? Even more helpful is tracking conversions, which allows you to set specific goals and keep track of your success in achieving them. Is the goal to sell your new CD on Myspace or drive people to sign up for your mailing list? Use analytics like Google’s or Visistat to set and track a point of conversion and you’ll really know how effective your campaigns are.

Grassroots – The ability to grow a strong grassroots following has never been as accessible as it is now through social networking. From the ground up, a strong campaign can pull people in, one-by-one if necessary, and get them involved in your network. Keep an open line of communication, show your audience the real people behind the “corporate machine.” The loyalty you can build by forming real relationships is invaluable.

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About the Author

Matthew is a partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Brolik. As CSO, he manages the digital marketing team, helping Brolik’s roster of clients achieve their online marketing goals. When he’s not coming up with his next big campaign idea, you might find him in the recording studio or enjoying an IPA with a funny name. Check him out on Twitter.